On the broadest level, I study stress and coping. Potentially stressful situations — for example, test taking, interviewing for a job, competing against others, approaching potential romantic partners, and public speaking — can represent some of the most important moments that people face in life. Situations that may appear to be similar, however, can be experienced quite differently by different individuals. A central question that guides my work is: What factors contribute to resilience versus vulnerability to potential stressors?
In my current research, I focus on three core topics: (1) examining when and how high self-esteem serves as a resource versus a vulnerability, and the associated consequences for potentially destructive behavior; (2) investigating how past experience of adverse life events can contribute to developing a propensity for future resilience; and (3) exploring the role of individuals’ relationships with other people and entities (e.g., romantic partners, social movements, things that inspire awe) in resilience versus vulnerability. The research conducted in my laboratory incorporates a range of methodological approaches, including theoretically based psychophysiological measures, and examines common social stressors (e.g., experiencing prejudice and discrimination). Funding from the National Science Foundation has supported this work.