The Self and Motivation Lab at the University at Buffalo, directed by Dr. Lora Park, 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 current and future selves – shape responses to self-threat, motivation, well-being, and how people relate to others.
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, rejection, or financial insecurity affects people’s desire to protect, maintain, and enhance their self-esteem, with implications for motivation, well-being, and interpersonal relationships. We also examine 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 examine 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 previous funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), we examined how concerns about appearing romantically desirable to others affects women’s attitudes and interest in STEM fields. With current funding from NSF, we study the effects of receiving different types of feedback in college STEM courses on students’ self-efficacy, belonging, and STEM-related outcomes.
(c) Beliefs about current and future selves. In this line of work, we examine how people’s temporal beliefs about personal happiness (Delaying Happiness versus Living in the Moment beliefs) influence their goal pursuits, affective responses, and well-being.
CORE VALUES of our lab are:
To generate new knowledge and advance understanding of how aspects of the self shape motivation and behavior using a range of scientific methods.
To create a culture of collaboration and growth by supporting curiosity, connection, and openness to learning.
To contribute to broader societal issues by applying research theories and findings to help solve real-world problems.
Our lab is committed to values of equity, diversity and inclusion. We welcome students and collaborators from all backgrounds regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, religion, or physical ability. We recognize the intrinsic value of every human being and strive to promote an inclusive environment where people feel psychologically safe to share and discuss their ideas.