Dr. Paul Bloom studies how children and adults make sense of the world, focusing mostly, but not exclusively, on issues revolving around moral psychology. While he has trained as a developmental psychologist, his interests tend to be inter-disciplinary, connected to disciplines such as philosophy and behavioural economics. And he loves to collaborate with social psychology faculty and students! Right now, he has collaborations and research projects planned or ongoing on topics such as the intuitive logic of ownership and possession, the paradoxical effects of boasting on social media, the appeal of evil fictional characters, the nature and development of speciesism, dehumanization, and past-future asymmetries in how we think about events and actions.
Key words: children, dehumanization, kindness, morality
Dr. Erika Carlson's research examines how well people know themselves and their reputation. Her primary line of research examines if, when, and how people figure out their reputation. In a second line of research, Dr. Carlson examines bright spots and blind spots in self-knowledge of personality traits as well as whether self-knowledge can be improved. For example, can mindfulness interventions improve self-knowledge of our patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving? Dr. Carlson also studies personality pathology in the context of self-knowledge. When is pathology related to poor insight into one’s traits versus poor insight into the impact one has on others?
Key words: judgment, personality, psychopathology, self-knowledge, self-perception, well-being
Dr. Alison Chasteen is interested in stereotyping, prejudice, and stigma across the adult lifespan. She investigates issues from both the perceiver’s and the target’s perspective. In a second line of research, Dr. Chasteen is interested in examining cognitive processes such as memory and attention within a social context.
Key words: ageing, interpersonal perception, prejudice, social cognition, stereotyping, stigma
Dr. Felix Cheung's research examines the determinants and consequences of subjective well-being across diverse populations, with a focus on addressing pressing global issues (e.g., sociopolitical unrest, income inequality, and terrorism). In a second line of research, Dr. Cheung focuses on meta-science (the scientific study of science) and examines how the reliability of scientific findings can be potentially improved by 'Big Science' (i.e., studies done by large collaborative teams), open science practices (e.g., pre-registration and data sharing), and research incentives. Together, these two lines of research seek to promote population well-being based on sound empirical research.
Key words: global issues, happiness, inequality, life satisfaction, meta-science, open science, socioeconomic status, well-being
Dr. Joanne Chung's research focuses on how aspects of people’s culture, self-concept, and emotional life interact to shape individual differences during important life transitions, especially during young adulthood. Dr. Chung was co-director of the Karakter project (www.karakterproject.nl), a longitudinal study focused on the experiences of Syrian youth resettling in the Netherlands. Here in Toronto, Dr. Chung is interested in examining personality and well-being processes in racialized emerging adults longitudinally throughout the university years. In her research, Dr. Chung uses her training and expertise in the areas of personality, social, developmental, and quantitative psychology to conduct multi-method research in partnership with members of the community.
Key words: culture, emotion, lifespan, personality, self-concept
Dr. William Cunningham studies the social cognitive and evaluative processes that facilitate and/or hinder social behaviour. Current topics being studied in the lab are the development of social biases and stereotyping, motivated biases, and social conflict. The research in his lab spans multiple levels of analysis to better understand social cognition, from deep neural net reinforcement models, to behavioural experimentation, to neuroscience.
Key words: attitudes, emotion, goals, fMRI, neuroscience, perception, personality, prejudice, self-reference, social cognition, stereotyping
Dr. Norman Farb studies the neuroscience of human identity and emotion, with a focus on how cognitive biases shape emotional reactions that determine well-being. To these ends, Dr. Farb's work draws from multiple levels of analysis, including first and third-person qualitative reports, behavioral task performance, physiological responses, and patters of neural activity and connectivity derived through functional MRI. He is particularly interested in how cognitive training practices such as mindful meditation foster resilience against stress, reducing vulnerability to affective disorders such as depression.
Key words: CBT, emotion, interoception, meditation, mindfulness, neuroscience, psychopathology, regulation, self-reference
Dr. Brett Ford’s research examines emotions – common and powerful experiences that both cause us pain and help us thrive. Although people can protect their well-being by regulating their emotions, her lab’s research challenges common assumptions about which emotions are best to feel and which regulation strategies are best to employ. While it's often assumed that feeling good is best, her work finds that striving to feel happy can paradoxically promote worse well-being, that negative emotions can help us pursue our valued goals, and that regulating our emotions can backfire by fostering complacency instead of action, especially at times when action is needed most. Using multi-method and interdisciplinary approaches — including experiential, behavioural, and physiological assessments — her lab considers the benefits and the costs of striving to feel good.
Key words: culture, emotion, health, psychophysiology, well-being
Dr. Marc Fournier's research focuses on personality, person × situation interactions, and interpersonal processes. Dr. Fournier is particularly interested in both the within-person processes that give rise to the individual’s unified and integrated sense of self and the between-person processes that give rise to the hierarchical dimensions of the social order. He uses a range of methods for both naturalistic and laboratory-based personality assessment, including event-contingent recording, behavioural observation, round-robin rating, and narrative coding.
Key words: lifespan, personality, self-concept, self-determination
Dr. Cendri Hutcherson's research focuses on understanding why people make the decisions they do, why they so often make decisions they regret, and how we can help them make better choices for themselves and others. To answer these questions, Dr. Hutcherson's lab focuses on building sophisticated computational and neural models of decision making and self-control. Ultimately, this research will be used to design better interventions and technological tools to help people achieve their goals and live healthier, happier lives.
Key words: computational modeling, decision-making, emotion, fMRI, MRI, neuroscience, self-control, social cognition
Dr. Emily Impett's research is focused on topics at the intersection of relationships and well-being. In particular, Dr. Impett seeks to understand the impact of sacrifice on relationships and the power of gratitude in intimate bonds. She also aims to understand factors that enable couples to keep the sexual spark alive over the course of their relationship, as well as predictors of relationship success during important life transitions such as the transition to parenthood and partnered job relocation. Dr. Impett is highly committed to the use of rich, ecologically valid methods-including experience sampling, longitudinal, and dyadic methods, to understand how relationships shape well-being.
Key words: emotion, gratitude, life transition, motivation, romantic relationship, sacrifice, self-efficacy, sexuality, well-being
In the Morality, Affect, and Politics Lab, we are working to uncover the basic processes underlying moral judgments—and to apply this knowledge to better understand people's beliefs about consequential social questions. One primary research focus has been disgust-based moral intuitions and their relationship with political ideology and social attitudes. More broadly, we want to understand how moral intuitions interact with deliberative reasoning in people’s judgments and beliefs. In addition to basic research on these questions, the lab has also studied how people’s moral beliefs underlie attitudes towards genetically engineered food and other new technologies. In a new line of research we are using advances in natural language processing to observe the content and consequences of morality "in the wild."
Key words: cognition, decision-making, emotion, judgment, morality, personality, politics
Dr. Michael Inzlicht conducts research that sits at the boundaries of social psychology and cognitive science. Although he has published on numerous topics, his current research centers on work and play. His research on work or effort is mostly on the topics of self-control and motivation, but also includes research on the mentally demanding nature of empathy and compassion. His work on play or leisure is a relatively new direction for Dr. Inzlicht and includes research on social media, puzzles (e.g., crossword or Sudoku), and recreational drug use.
Key words: effort, empathy, motivation, leisure, recreational drug use, self-control, social media, work-life balance
Dr. Spike Lee's research is motivated by several major problems in our contemporary society, including political polarization, class differences, moral debates, antiscience attitudes, and technological disruptions. To address these challenges, his ongoing projects are disentangling the psychological roots of ideology, partisanship, social class, moral intuitions, and science denialism. He is also unpacking the impact of digital technology, such as easy access to smart devices and artificial intelligence, on our desire and ability to think. Overall, his work uses multiple methods (e.g., meta-analysis, computational analysis, experimental and correlational designs) to provide scientific answers to an overarching question in the philosophy of mind: How do human beings accomplish abstract thinking? He is especially eager to understand how people process various abstract thoughts that matter in sociopolitical conflicts (e.g., morality, antiscience attitudes), that are common in daily life (e.g., stress, love), that are culturally enshrined (e.g., independence), that emerge early in human development (e.g., gender), or that have significant consequences in real-world contexts (e.g., decision making, economic behaviour).
Key words: antiscience, cognitive science, culture, grounded cognition, judgment and decision making, language, mind-body relations, morality, philosophy of mind, politics, social class, social cognition, technology, unconscious processes
Geoffrey J. Leonardelli (Ph.D. in social psychology) is Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and cross-appointed in the Department of Psychology. He seeks research discoveries that assist people in their personal growth, assist businesses in diversifying their leadership, and help organizations, communities and society at large become a better "Us". He also translates social-science insights into how people can improve their interpersonal skills (e.g., leadership, teamwork, and negotiations) and create organizational change. Among his published discoveries, he has revealed that people prefer optimally-distinctive groups, that people associate effective leadership with “being White,” that social exclusion makes people feel physically cold, the people negotiate more effectively when adopting a “prospecting mindset”, and that perceiving employees as foreigners is associated with a greater likelihood that locals will help them. He is currently working on whether people can be an “us” without a “them”, and how complexly people can see intergroup relations. For those seeking training in doing research, lab members learn research skills usually involving practices from social psychology, behavioral economics, and organizational behavior. He is available for dissertation committees and collaborative research projects.
Dr. Penelope Lockwood’s research focuses on individuals’ responses to social comparisons, comparisons to better-off and worse-off others. In particular, she has focused on the ways in which people can be motivated by positive role models, individuals who have achieved stellar success, and negative role models, individuals who have experienced failure in some domain. She has also examined comparisons in the context of close relationships, including comparisons between romantic partners. Her most recent research deals with comparisons in the context of social media.
Key words: close relationship, environment, motivation, romantic relationship, social comparison, social media
The primary aim in the MacLab right now is to better understand well-being in singlehood. Our research so far has started to paint a portrait of the happy single person; a happy single person is more likely to be happy with their friendships (Park et al., 2021), to be happy with their sex life (either by being low in sexual desire or by having relatively frequent partnered sex; Park & MacDonald, 2022), to be older than 40 (Park et al., in press), to be low in desire for a partner (Hill Roy et al., under review), to be strongly motivated by independence (Park et al., under review), and to be high in secure attachment (MacDonald & Park, 2022). If understanding single people is a puzzle, we don’t think it’s one we’re ready to solve because we’re still in the process of finding all the pieces. There’s a lot of exciting work to do in this direction!
Key words: attachment, intimacy, motivation, rejection, self-esteem, sexuality, singlehood, social pain
Dr. Rebecca Neel’s research seeks to understand how our beliefs (e.g., stereotypes about who is dangerous or powerful, beliefs about whether people can change) and motivations (e.g., to protect ourselves, to be a part of social groups, to find romantic partners, to care for family members) shape who we value, fear, or ignore. Much of her current work focuses on understanding social invisibility: why and when are some people ignored and treated with indifference? What is it like to feel invisible to others?
Key words: beliefs, evaluation, motivation, prejudice, stigma
Dr. Elizabeth Page-Gould's research focuses on how social interactions between strangers and friends affect the way people think about and approach the world, particularly within the domain of intergroup relations. Dr. Page-Gould's lab specializes in multi-person, longitudinal, psychophysiological, and behavioural data collection across both laboratory and field settings. The lab also specializes in advanced statistical analysis and quantitative innovation. Both the research conducted in Dr. Page-Gould's lab and the training environment the lab offers represent a unique combination of advanced research methods from social psychology, psychophysiology, and statistics.
Key words: cross-group friendship, intergroup contact, intergroup relations, psychophysiology
Dr. Jason Plaks is interested in the links between cognition and motivation. Much of the research in his laboratory focuses on laypeople's theories about human nature. Currently, there are three main lines of research: (1) Beliefs about morality (When do people focus on following rules versus maximizing positive outcomes?). (2) Beliefs about intentionality (What are the ingredients that make an act seem intentional?), and (3) Beliefs about anthropomorphism (What are the ingredients that make a robot seem human?).
Key words: lay theories, morality, motivated cognition
Dr. Nick Rule's research primarily focuses on how, and how well, people categorize others in perceptually ambiguous groups (i.e., groups without obvious perceptual markers). Studies from Dr. Rule's lab show that people can accurately categorize others based on their sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation, social class, health, personality traits, and leadership success. More surprising, people can do this rapidly, nonconsciously, and with minimal information (e.g., nonverbal or appearance cues). Dr. Rule's lab takes creative and unique approaches to studying social perception and cognition in order to achieve a better understanding of how individuals perceive, categorize, and make sense of the world.
Key words: attractiveness, judgment, politics, relationships
Dr. Li Shu's research aims to enable 1) productive creativity in engineering design and 2) effective interventions that encourage pro-environmental and pro-social behavior. Dr. Shu's laboratory is interested in the psychological processes relevant to creativity and behavior change, to develop interventions that incorporate these processes. These interventions will be iteratively developed, prototyped and tested to assess their effectiveness.
Key words: motivation, decision-making, social cognition
Dr. Christina Starmans studies how children and adults reason about the social and moral world, and her research draws on methods and ideas from both philosophy and psychology to explore topics such as morality, free will, other minds, ownership, fairness, and knowledge.
Key words: fairness, mind perception, moral decision-making, moral judgment, ownership, self-perception
Dr. Jennifer Stellar's research examines the forces that drive prosociality and morality to understand how people transcend their own self-focus to care about other people, groups, and society as a whole. Specifically, Dr. Stellar investigates how self-transcendent emotions (e.g., compassion, awe, etc.) promote empathy and altruism toward another person, encourage cooperation and cohesion within groups, and enhance the health and well-being of the individual. Dr. Stellar also explores how individuals encourage moral behavior and uphold moral norms through expressing moral outrage toward transgressors, relying on moral character to inform other impressions, and allowing others to regain moral status through redemption.
Key words: emotion, health, morality, prosociality, psychophysiology, well-being
Dr. Andre Wang’s research incorporates insights and methods from social, cognitive, and quantitative psychology to better understand how people connect abstract ideas to concrete experiences. One of the human mind’s most impressive feats is to think beyond the here and now: People can generate predictions about the future, make inferences about their general preferences from specific experiences, and reason about broad moral values. Where do these abstract ideas come from? What happens when people’s abstract ideas—about themselves, other people, and the world—become disconnected from actual, context-specific experiences? These questions motivate Dr. Wang’s research.
Key words: attitudes, empathy and perspective-taking, interpersonal processes, quantitative methods, social cognition
Dr. Joseph Jay Williams' research agenda is to transform components of any real-world user interfaces into adaptive systems that are perpetually enhancing and personalizing interventions to help people. For example, his lab has published papers on technology for education, learning, mental health, by testing competing ideas about how to design components of online homework, apps, text messaging interventions, and other interface components. A distinctive focus is micro-experimentation 'in the wild', where we conduct and build tools for randomized A/B comparisons that can be used by practitioners and scientists to test design decisions and hypotheses about how to help people. Another focus is adaptive experimentation – applying and modifying machine learning algorithms and statistical tests for more rapidly yet reliably using data from experiments to change which interventions future participants receive.
Key words: computer science, machine learning, optimization, technology