Personality and social psychology are both concerned with the study of individual and social behavior, although each approaches this domain from a different perspective.

Personality psychology emphasizes the role of intrapersonal factors (within the person), whereas social psychology emphasizes interpersonal ones (between people). Of course, there is a dynamic interrelation between these perspectives, since people with different personalities may behave differently when subjected to social or group forces.

The interests of the faculty include a variety of topics within these domains. In addition, a number of different research methods are used, including both experimental and correlational techniques. Though there is diversity in both research topics and methods, our efforts stem from a common core of interest in individual and social behavior, which forms the focus of weekly research meetings of the faculty and graduate students in the area.


A wide range of facilities is available for conducting research in personality and social psychology, including facilities for the study of group as well as individual behavior.


Lisa Feldman Barrett
Specialization: Affective Science
Laboratory: Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory

Dr. Barrett’s research focuses on the nature of emotion from the perspectives of both psychology and neuroscience, and takes inspiration from anthropology, philosophy, and linguistics.

C. Randall Colvin
Specialization: Social Perception and Personality
Laboratory: Personality
Dr. Colvin’s research interests focus on several related topics. One area of research pertains to the factors that influence the accuracy of personality judgments of both self and others. Research in the second area focuses on the personality processes and characteristics associated with positive psychological functioning. The third area of research integrates the first two, investigating how individual differences in social perception influence psychological adaptation across social settings.

David DeSteno
Specialization: Emotion and Social Cognition
Laboratory: ESC Lab
Dr. DeSteno’s research focuses on the role of emotion in social cognition and behavior. His lab takes a multilevel and multiprocess approach to examining the psychological functions, phenomenologies, and sequelae that are associated with discrete emotional states. Current projects focus on the effects of emotions on several types of social judgment (e.g., moral decision making, risk assessment, prejudice) as well as on behaviors fundamental to social living (e.g., trust and cooperation, prosocial action, organizational behavior, altruism, aggression).

Judith A. Hall
Specialization: Interpersonal Processes
Laboratory: Social Interaction Lab
Dr. Hall’s laboratory studies verbal and nonverbal communication, and accuracy of interpersonal perception, in relation to many themes. These include connections between emotion perception and personality perception, the relative impact of knowledge versus motivation in interpersonal accuracy, how physicians communicate with patients, how social attitudes such as sexism are communicated and perceived, and how people behave in conflict. Dr. Hall also develops new tests for measuring accuracy of interpersonal perception.

Stephen G. Harkins
Specialization: Group Processes
Laboratory: MAP Lab
Dr. Harkins is currently testing a model that is aimed at accounting for the effect of threat on task performance, the Threat-Induced Potentiation of Prepotent Reponses (TIPPR) Model. This model builds on Harkins and his colleagues’ (Harkins, 2006; McFall, et al., 2009) mere effort account of the potential for evaluation on task performance, which was then extended to stereotype threat (Jamieson & Harkins, 2007; Jamieson & Harkins, 2009). Subsequent work (e.g., Jamieson et al., 2010) suggests that the mere effort account is best understood in the broader context provided by the TIPPR Model.

The TIPPR Model argues that threat potentiates prepotent responses. This potentiation could have been adaptive in our ancestral past because responses to threat would likely require “flight or fight” or some other relatively simple behavior that would be facilitated by such potentiation. However, given the range of tasks that now confront us, this potentiation may help or hurt performance. We are currently conducting research that tests core claims of this model, and pits it against the working memory depletion account, an explanation that is currently in vogue.

Derek M. Isaacowitz
Specialization: Lifespan Developmental Psychology
Laboratory: Lifespan Emotional Development Laboratory
Dr. Isaacowitz investigates the links between attention and emotion throughout the adult lifespan. He is interested in how individuals of different ages, from the teens to the 90s, manage their own emotions and recognize emotions in others, and he tries to understand the role of visual attention in producing age differences both in the regulation and recognition of emotions.

Stacy Marsella
Specialization: Human Behavior Modeling
Laboratory: CESAR Lab
Professor Marsella’s multidisciplinary research is grounded in the computational modeling of human cognition, emotion and social behavior as well as the evaluation of those models. Beyond its relevance to understanding human behavior, the work has seen numerous applications, including health interventions, social skills training and planning operations. His more applied work includes frameworks for large-scale social simulations of towns and a range of techniques and tools for creating virtual humans, facsimiles of people that can engage people in face-to-face interactions.