Broadly speaking, research in the SIR lab focuses on two general areas:
(1) Self, identity, and close relationships
Research in this area has three main strands. The first focuses on social bases of the self and identity. That is, SIR lab members study how people’s close relationships (e.g., with romantic partners, friends, and parents) and group memberships (e.g., membership in an ethnic group or campus organization) influence the nature of the self-concept, as well as the nature of self-evaluative and self-regulatory processes. The second strand focuses on transference, the phenomenon whereby elements of people’s past or current relationships with significant others (e.g., expectations, goals, behavioral tendencies) re-emerge in their interactions with newly encountered others. The third strand in this broad area of research focuses on determinants of relationship well-being (e.g., relationship satisfaction). For example, we are studying the role of sleep in relationship health.
(2) Social power
Our research on social power examines the impact of possessing or lacking power on cognition, motivation, and behavior. An ongoing theme of our research is a recognition that the effects of power are likely to hinge on a host of personality and situational factors. Thus, predictions regarding these effects must consider aspects of the person who wields or lacks the power, as well as aspects of the context surrounding this power. A more recent emphasis in the lab is the role of the self in power-related processes and consequences. In a final related vein, we have begun to study the psychological underpinnings and consequences of income inequality.
Across research areas, most of the research in the SIR lab is conducted at a social-cognitive level of analysis, embracing assumptions regarding underlying cognitive structures and processes, or directly testing them. Accordingly, we typically utilize paradigms and techniques designed to manipulate or tap these structures and processes. However, unlike the vast majority of social-cognitive research, which is characterized by the use of nomothetic stimuli in highly-controlled designs, much of our work uses a combination of idiographic (i.e., unique to the person) and nomothetic (i.e., general across people) methods. Put another way, we incorporate idiographic elements without sacrificing the rigor offered by experimental designs. As such, our research can shed light on basic processes across people, while capturing the idiosyncratic, personal nature of the self and daily social experience. A second, defining feature of research in the SIR lab is that most of it lies at the intersection of sub-areas in our discipline. For example, our work on the legacy of past relationships bridges the social cognition and close relationships literatures, while our latest research on social power brings together theorizing on power with longstanding theories of the self and personality.
For more specific information on each of these broad areas, see Publications.