Research in the Self and Motivation Lab at the University at Buffalo focuses broadly on questions pertaining to the self, motivation, and interpersonal processes. In particular, we examine how aspects of the self – such as self-esteem, contingencies of self-worth, rejection sensitivity, and social identities – interact with the social environment to affect intrapersonal and interpersonal outcomes. Overall, our lab investigates how fundamental aspects of the self – self-evaluation, the self in social context, and beliefs about what will bring happiness – shape responses to self-threat, motivation, well-being, and how people relate to others.
The core themes of our research are:
(a) Self-evaluation and the pursuit of self-esteem. In this line of research, we examine how threats to domains of contingent self-worth, such as experiencing failure, disapproval from others, or feeling financially insecure trigger the pursuit of self-esteem and affect subsequent motivation, well-being, and interpersonal outcomes. Furthermore, we examine reasons why people come to base their self-esteem in certain domains, and ways to alleviate the effects of threats to self-worth and well-being.
b) The self in social context. In this area, we study the consequences of people’s concerns about how they appear in the eyes of others. For example, we have examined antecedents and consequences of Appearance-based Rejection Sensitivity – a personality processing system characterized by anxious concerns and expectations of being rejected based on one’s physical appearance. With funding from the National Science Foundation, we have examined how concerns about appearing romantically desirable to others shapes women’s attitudes and interest in STEM fields. We have also examined how receiving different types of feedback from majority (vs. minority) group members affects women’s STEM outcomes.
(c) Beliefs about the nature of happiness. In this line of research, we examine the consequences of people’s beliefs about Delaying Happiness versus Living in the Moment, and their connections to goal pursuit, affective forecasts, and well-being.