Emotion and Social Interaction
Historically, researchers have concentrated on the intrapersonal characteristics and functions of emotion. My own studies have focused on the social functions of emotion, arguing that emotions enable individuals to respond adaptively to the problems and opportunities that define human social living. Based on this approach to emotion, I have documented the appeasement functions of embarrassment, the commitment enhancing properties of love and desire, and how awe motivates attachment to leaders and principles that transcend the self.
In related studies of emotional disorders, I have documented relations between anger and embarrassment and juvenile delinquency, laughter and anger and problematic outcomes during bereavement and sexual abuse, and deficits in self-conscious emotion and autism and patients with frontal lobe damage. In terms of personality, I have shown that individual differences in positive expressivity, captured from senior yearbook photographs, predict certain personality traits across time, well-being, and marital satisfaction up to 30 years later. We currently are looking at how individual differences in positive emotions, such as awe, compassion, desire, and pride, shape the individual’s relationships, physical environment, and sources of pleasure.
Power and Social Perception and Behavior
Power and status imbue almost every facet of social interaction, from linguistic convention to the economy of emotional expression. I have theorized that elevated power leads to behavioral disinhibition and reduced vigilance. I have found that ideological partisans with power construe their dispute in more stereotypical, polarized fashion, that elevated social status leads to disinhibited social behavior, and that power, whether derived from group status or experimental manipulation, relates to the experience of increased positive emotion and reduced negative emotion.
I am also exploring the determinants of power and status. Here we have found that certain personality traits, namely extraversion for women and men, and low neuroticism for men, related to attained status in social groups. We have developed a self-report measure of the experience and use of power, and are exploring how these two factors are distinct, and how they relate to ethnicity, social class, personality, and social outcome.
My final research interest lies in the study of how humans negotiate moral concerns. Here I have examined how opposing partisans tend to assume that they alone see the issues objectively and in principled fashion, a tendency we call "naive realism". We have shown that opposing partisans attribute extremism and bias to their opponents.
In studies of moral judgment, I have shown how emotions such as anger, sadness, and fear influence judgments of causality, fairness, and risk. More recently, I have begun to study the contents of three moral domains — autonomy, community, and purity — and how these domains relate to emotion and prejudice.
Finally, I have looked more directly at the social practices by which we negotiate norms and morals, relationships, and interpersonal conflict. I have theorized that teasing is one process by which individuals socialize, moralize, negotiate status hierarchies and conflicts, and express potentially embarrassing affections. My studies of teasing have shown how teasing varies according to social status and romantic satisfaction, development, culture, and in children with autism. I have also begun studies of gossip and reputation amongst friends.
In the News
Taking in such spine-tingling wonders as the Grand Canyon, Sistine Chapel ceiling or Schubert’s “Ave Maria” may give a boost to the body’s defense system.
Poor sleep can sour relationships. Powerful people are better at shaking off rebuffs. Moms who run the household are less concerned with rising to power in the workplace. And people who gaze at the vastness of nature tend to be less self-centered.
UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center is providing an easy way to give thanks and, at the same time, contribute to a national research project on the power of gratitude
While chaos drives some to seek comfort in friends and family, others gravitate toward money and material possessions, new UC Berkeley study finds.
“Love thy neighbor” is preached from many a pulpit. But new research from UC Berkeley suggests the devoutly religious are less motivated by compassion when helping a stranger than are atheists, agnostics and less religious people.
The upper class has a higher propensity for cheating, driving illegally and endorsing unethical behavior in the workplace , believing that “greed is good,” according to a new UC Berkeley study.
A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests rumor-mongering can have positive outcomes such as helping us police bad behavior, prevent exploitation and lower stress.
Emotional differences between the rich and poor, as depicted in such Charles Dickens classics as “A Christmas Carol” and “A Tale of Two Cities,” may have a scientific basis. Researchers at UC Berkeley have found that people in the lower socio-economic classes are more physiologically attuned to suffering, and quicker to express compassion than their more affluent counterparts.
There’s definitely something to be said for first impressions. New research from UC Berkeley suggests it can take just 20 seconds to detect whether a stranger is genetically inclined to being trustworthy, kind or compassionate. See if you can guess which people shown in the video have the empathy gene.
If tripping in public or mistaking an overweight woman for a mother-to-be leaves you red-faced, don’t feel bad. A new UC Berkeley study suggests that people who are easily embarrassed are also more trustworthy, and more generous. In short, embarrassment can be a good thing.
As the ranks of China's millionaires continue to grow, the pursuit of wealth in the nation is fast outpacing mental health and wellbeing, according to psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, who are seeking to correct that imbalance and spread the science of happiness in China.