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PsychologyOur research

Research Group: Centre for Research on Self and Identity (CRSI)

Currently Active: 

We are firmly committed to the process of constructing, empirically testing, and revising personality and social psychological theory in the area of self and identity. At the individual level, we address issues such as the structure of the self-concept, self-evaluation, self-esteem, narcissism, and self-related emotions (e.g., nostalgia). At the relational level, we examine how attachment experiences influence the way people view the self, others, and close relationships. At the collective level, we study the interplay between self-interest and group interest, and the discrepancy between person-to-person and group-to-group behaviour. Finally, we approach these issues from a developmental and life-span perspective.

Group Overview

Research Themes

Theme 1: Self-Evaluation

Three research projects examine how individuals evaluate their traits and attributes. These projects are concerned with the interplay of four motives: self-assessment (appraising the self accurately), self-enhancement (elevating the positivity of the self-concept), self-improvement (bettering aspects of the self), and self-verification (confirming existing self-conceptions). The first project focuses on self-improvement, asking whether self-assessment is prerequisite for self-improvement: Does a person need to have an accurate self-image in order improve? The second project takes a skeptical look at self-verification, currently widely accepted with social/personality psychology. The third project seeks to develop measures of the four motives.

Theme 2: Self-Esteem

Three research projects investigate issues related to self-esteem. The first project tests whether the self-esteem of narcissists is robust or fragile compared to the self-esteem of "normals." This project assesses the fragility of narcissistic self-esteem with several computer-based measures of automatic (or implicit) self-evaluation. The second project builds on the function of self-esteem as a buffer against existential threat in order to examine the role of self-esteem in risky and unhealthy behaviours and in social or cultural conflict. The third project investigates whether the self-conscious emotion of nostalgia serves to boost self-esteem.

Theme 3: Self in Relational Context

Three research projects explore issues related to self in relational context. The first project tests whether people's responses to the fairness of organisational procedures depends on their desire to belong and on the degree to which belongingness affirms the self. The second project investigates the ways in which attachment experiences with parents and romantic partners influence how people view the self, others, and relationships. How do models of self and others (i.e., attachment models) influence people's thoughts, emotions, and behaviours in romantic relationships? The third research project investigates the psychological consequences (i.e., bereavement) of losing a relationship (i.e., spouse) who has firmly been incorporated into one's self-concept.

Theme 4: Self in Group Context

Three research projects explore issues related to self in group context. These projects focus on the transformation in social perception and social behaviour that accompany group membership (i.e., the self becoming moving from an individual to a member of a group). The first project seeks to identify antecedents of intergroup conflict by investigating what differences between intergroup and interindividual relations can account for the fact that intergroup relations are often more conflict prone. The second project asks how death-related thoughts increase ingroup bias and elucidates conditions that can reduce such biases and increase open-mindedness. Laboratory Facilities/Equipment

The third project (in collaboration with Alison Lenton and Letitia Slabu of the University of Edinburgh) is concerned with self-authenticity.


The Social Psychophysiology Laboratory

The Social Psychophysiology Laboratory (SPL) contains equipment for monitoring a variety of physiological measures. Cardiovascular and electrodermal reactivity are measured using the MP150 system (BioPac, Goleta, CA), with modules for ECG, bioimpedance, blood pressure, and galvanic skin response. Two LifeShirt Clinical systems (Vivometrics, CA) provide ambulatory monitoring of cardiovascular reactivity, respiration, posture, and movement, as well as computerized diaries for collecting subjective reports. The SPL also has video and audio recording capabilities, allowing synchronization with data collected from the physiological and computer equipment.

The Social Cognition Laboratory

The Social Cognition Laboratory (SCL) comprises two rooms for computer-administered experiments and surveys. One room contains six individual cubicles that line a common hallway. The second room contains eight computer workstations that are separated by movable dividers. The computers in both rooms were recently acquired (March 2008) and run a variety of software for experiment generation and stimulus presentation, including MediaLab, DirectRT, Presentation, EPrime, and Authorware.

The Relationships Processes Laboratory

The Relationships Processes Laboratory (RPL) contains two remote control video cameras for recording interactions between persons or small groups. The video equipment can be monitored in a separate control room. Both the RPL and the SPL contain large one-way mirrors for unobtrusive observation.

Our projects focus on

The emotion of nostalgia

Attachment styles

The personality trait of narcissism

The development of the self

Implicit social


Key Publication(s)


Research Staff

Related Projects

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