My research generally examines how the motivations to (1) feel safe and protected against harm and (2) perceive meaning and value in the partner shape affect, cognition, and behavior in adult close relationships. Using the lens afforded by motivated cognition, I examine both the automatic and controlled processes implicated in the pursuit of safety and value goals. I take a person by situation perspective, examining how features of the person (e.g., self-esteem, trust) and features of the situation (e.g., risk) interact to guide perception, inference, and behavior. I am interested in the mechanisms that govern behavior in specific situations (e.g., a conflict, a support encounter) as well as the processes that forecast the relationship’s eventual fate.
My current research integrates relationship goal pursuits with the broader existential goal to perceive life as meaningful. This research assumes that perceptions of meaning in life depend on experiences inside and outside the relationship making sense. But because random everyday events can violate such expectations, people flexibly shift bases of meaning, finding compensatory order in the world when relationship experiences are nonsensical and finding compensatory order in the relationship when events in the world are nonsensical. These sense-making dynamics have fascinating and paradoxical implications for personal and relationship resilience that my laboratory will be exploring.