IPSR was founded in 1949 as IPAR (the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research). IPAR's early research focused on the relations between personality and performance, with forays into higher levels of human performance such as creativity, aesthetics, leadership, and profession-specific accomplishments. IPSR pioneered the notion that a full understanding of personality requires viewing the individual in a number of different situations. This was accomplished through intensive multi-day assessments, which included administration of self-report inventories, careful observation of behavior in structured and unstructured situations, and detailed in-depth interviews. The highly innovative IPAR approach made it a magnet for visitors who came to learn its methods and work with its data sets, and who went on to pursue research that clearly carried the IPAR stamp. Because of the enormous influence it had on the field, any genealogy of personality research in the decades following World War II would find almost all of the prominent researchers in the field to be connected in some tangible way to the IPAR lineage.

Starting in the 1980s, social scientists began moving away from "trait" approaches that highlighted the distinctions among individuals and moved more toward the study of basic processes that were common to all people such as learning, cognition, and socialization. Although Berkeley was one of the last bastions of traditional personality research in this country, it became clear that IPAR needed to be based on a broader foundation. In 1992, IPAR addressed this issue by changing its name to IPSR (the Institute of Personality and Social Research), embracing the study of social processes as well as the study of individual differences. This change in name and focus provided IPSR with an opportunity to revitalize, reenergize, and reinvent itself.

IPSR Colloquium Room

IPSR's five focal research areas are:


This area continues the Institute's historical focus on personality assessment, personality development, and the implications of personality for performance and adjustment. Moreover, it embraces new approaches toward the assessment and conceptualization of personality (e.g., multi-method assessment, the "big five" dimensions of personality)

Emotion and Affect

This area addresses the fundamental nature of emotion, the assessment of emotion, the role that emotion plays as a motivator of behavior, the centrality of emotional expression and regulation in development, the ways that emotions differentiate people and cultures, the critical role that emotion plays in social processes (e.g., affiliation, attachment, conflict, mating), the biological substrates of emotion, and the role that emotions play in health and illness.


This area addresses the influences of culture on fundamental social and behavioral processes such as cognition, emotion, affiliation, identity, development, and personality.

Health and health systems

This area addresses the role of stress and basic behavioral processes (e.g., appraisal, emotion, coping) in health and illness). Emphases include individual and cultural differences in health behavior and symptomatology; the physiological underpinnings of health and disease; and the reciprocal influences between health systems and the individual.

Social and organizational processes

This area addresses the ways that personality, emotion, culture, and health impact on and are impacted by social and organizational processes. This includes work on intimate relationships, organizational behavior, environmental influences on behavior, and political influences on behavior

Programs and facilities

IPSR provides office space, meeting rooms, and a colloquium and conference facility. Research resources include a library, a data archive room, small and large group testing rooms, a video coding facility, a video recording and editing studio, a facility for computer-assisted testing, and a computing center. IPSR houses a number of archival data sets concerned with the assessment and development of personality that have been collected over the past half century. IPSR administers and houses a multi-university training grant in the area of Affective Science and is the home of the Behavior Change Research Network, an interdisciplinary group of Berkeley scholars representing business, demography, economics, psychology, public health, and public policy. IPSR sponsors a weekly colloquium series as well as numerous conferences and special events that are open to the Berkeley community.


Robert Levenson

(510) 642-5050

Staff Contact

Elizabeth Peele

(510) 642-5050

Mailing Address

4143 Tolman, Berkeley, CA 94720 - 5050