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The University of Southampton
Psychology

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

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The Centre for Research on Self and Identity (headed by Professor Constantine Sedikides), seeks to understand social and societal phenomena from the prism of self and identity.

Group Overview

Research Priorities

At the individual level, we investigate theory surrounding the self-concept, self-esteem, self-evaluation, narcissism, self-related emotions (e.g., nostalgia), existentialism, self-relugation, social neuroscience, and well-being. At the relational level, we investigate how attachment experiences, as well as emotions (e.g., nostalgia) are related to, or influence, the way people view close relationships. We also study social support and bereavement. At the collective level, we investigate the interplay between self-interest and group interest, the discrepancy between person-to-person and group-to-group behaviour, the relevance of social identity, and the role of collective nostalgia. We examine the abovementioned issues from multiple perspectives: neuropsychological, physiological developmental, evolutionary.

Funding

Our research has been and is supported from many funding agencies, including British Academy, Economic and Social Research Council, Leverhulme Trust, Nuffield Foundation, and Templeton Foundation.

Collaboration and Partnership

We have collaborative bonds with colleagues from several European Union countries (e.g., Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, The Netherlands) and also from many other countries, such as Australia, Canada, China, Japan, and the United States.

Impact

Our research has had social and societal impact. For example, we have contributed to the understanding of consumers’ emotional and relational reactions using emojis. We have created new lie detection tools--Timed Antagonistic Response Alethiometer (TARA). We have showne that inductions of attachment security can increase relationship satisfaction. And we have demonstrated the relevance of nostalgia in people’s daily lives and among persons with Alzeimer’s disease.

Associated research themes

Representative questions, or themes, that we pursue, at the Centre for Research on Self and Identity are:

  • What evolutionary function does self-regard serve? Does self-esteem vary mostly as a function of social status, social inclusion, or something else? 
  • To what extent are people motivated to verify their identity as opposed to enhancing or established what it is? Could the answer be “hardly ever”? 
  • How is the concept of self-esteem defined, by experts and laypeople, and how should it best be defined 
  • What are the neural mechanisms underlying self-esteem? 
  • What are the functions of self-enhancement? 
  • How do individuals fulfil the need for meaning in life while experience stress? 
  •  How do individuals fulfil the need for self-esteem while experience annoyance and irritation? 
  • What does nostalgia fulfil the need for social connectedness and promote help seeking and empathy? 
  • What are the psychological benefits of nostalgia for people living with dementia? 
  • How does culture shape the content and functions of nostalgia? 
  • People typically have a number of close others who serve as attachment figures in their lives.  How are these attachment networks perceived, how do they change, and what are their psychological consequences? 
  • What is the nature of the links between adult attachment patterns and mental health, wellbeing, and therapy? 
  • People who are high in narcissism are characterised by dominance, superiority, entitlement, and lack of concern for others. Narcissists lack empathy for others, but this is due to a lack of motivation, rather than inability. However, empathy levels of narcissists can be increased by asking them to take the perspective of the target person. We are testing whether narcissists can display empathy when it is made desirable to them – by selling it as an agentic rather than communal trait. 
  • Workplace bullying affects around half of employees in Western organisations. Bullying impacts victims’ physical and mental health, and the organisation’s productivity and turnover. We examine narcissism’s role in bullying perpetration, identify underlying mechanisms and situational triggers, and test a novel intervention that targets the key mechanisms identified. 
  • Despite reporting high psychological wellbeing, grandiose narcissists are prone to stress. We explore how narcissists cope with stress, the mechanisms underlying their coping strategies, the effects of using different coping strategies on wellbeing, and whether their coping strategy use can be altered by self-affirming. 
  • We are interested in using targeted manipulations of the prefrontal cortex (e.g., tDCS) to enhance self-regulation. Brain stimulation targeting the prefrontal cortex may promote self-regulation and executive functioning by altering activity in and functional connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and subcortical regions involved in emotion and reward processing. We are testing these ideas by pairing tDCS with concurrent measures of brain function in both healthy and clinically relevant populations. 
  • Using highly-powered longitudinal designs, we examine the relation between individual differences in self-regulation and psychological well-being. The consequences of trait self-regulation manifest rather quickly – immediately orienting the body (e.g., visual attention) and brain (e.g., event-related potentials) toward sources of reward and positivity. These responses may, over time, lead to improved well-being, better health, and less psychopathology. This perspective shifts the focus away from the usual suspects of self-control research and theory—namely, deliberate, limited, controlled processes—toward more rapid and potentially automatic ones. 
  • Insofar as individuals strive to maintain a positive state, one consequence of exercising self-control may be a temporarily tuning toward or amplification of reward-related impulses (perhaps arising to countermand the aversive feelings that stem from self-control). We seek to test this hypothesis using both EEG and fMRI metrics of reward responsivity. Such an endeavour will help to advance research and theory on self-control by offering a more precise characterization of the dynamic interactions between control systems and reward systems.

Key Facts

For an initial contact with the Centre for Research on Self and Identity, please email Ms Gwen Gordon (the CRSI Administrator) at: gg@soton.ac.uk.

Facilities

In our observation laboratory, we have video recording equipment and a one-way mirror to view and recording of behaviours. Our psychophysiology laboratory contains equipment (BIOPAC) which allows researchers to measure participants’ physiological reactions to stimuli, including heart rate, respiration rate, and sweat production (indicators of autonomic arousal). The facial EMG sensors also allow researchers to measure participants’ minute facial reactions to stimulus materials. We have access to an fMRI machine. In addition, we have laboratories with computers to administer surveys and compute-based experiments.

Postgraduate opportunities

We value post-graduate training and have been very successful very in placing our PhD students in desirable academic or non-academic posts. We welcome applications from qualified students.

Publications

Key Publications

Articles

Research Staff

Related Projects

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