Research in our lab integrates social, cognitive, and adaptationist approaches to explore the dynamics of fundamental social motives, in particular power, mating, and social affiliation.
The Psychology of Power
Power is a fascinating construct with a long history in the social sciences. In psychology, we typically think of power as the ability to control resources and influence the outcomes of others. In this sense, a babysitter, little league coach, and Fortune 500 CEO all have power. Our lab seeks to understand the cognitive, motivational, and behavioral dynamics of having (or lacking) power. We're also interested in two distinct paths to attaining social status: dominance and prestige. Some of our work has shown, for example, that power fundamentally changes the way people think about, and sacrifice for, the preservation of natural resources. My colleague Paul Rose and I found that the psychological experience of power decreases people’s environmental attitudes and willingness to sacrifice for the environment, but only in private.
The Psychology of Mating
Love, they say, is a battlefield, which raises several interesting questions: What qualities do men and women look for in a potential mate? Why do men and women tend to get jealous in different ways? How do people keep their relationships intact and fend off romantic rivals? These questions reflect recurring adaptive problems throughout human history. Our lab incorporates adaptationist theories and research to understand principles of mate attraction and mate retention. For example, our work has shown that men and women engage in strategic mate retention efforts corresponding with their levels of dominance and prestige motivation.
The Psychology of Affiliation
Human beings are social animals driven by a strong need to establish and maintain close relationships. In fact, considerable research has shown that failing to fulfill one's need to belong is associated with a wide range of negative physical and mental health consequences. So, affiliation is really important. But how do people connect with others, gain social approval, and respond after being rejected? Research in our lab explores the mechanisms underlying social acceptance and rejection. For example, my colleagues Charleen Case, Jon Maner, and I found that people who lack power express an increased desire for affiliation and seek greater physical proximity to others.