Sandra Murray


Sandra Murray.

Sandra Murray


Sandra Murray


Associate Chair
Social-Personality Area Head

Research Interests

Close relationships; self-esteem; motivated cognition

Contact Information

364 Park Hall

Buffalo NY, 14260-4110

Phone: (716) 645-0242


  • PhD, University of Waterloo

Current Research

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.

Selected Publications


  • Murray, S. L. & Holmes, J. G. (2017). Motivated cognition in relationships: The pursuit of belonging. New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.
  • Murray, S. L. & Holmes, J. G. (2011). Interdependent minds: The dynamics of close relationships. New York: Guilford.

Journal Articles

  • Murray, S. L., Seery, M. D., Lamarche, V., Gomillion, S., & Kondrak, C. (in press).  Implicitly imprinting the past on the present:  Automatic partner attitudes and the transition to parenthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
  • Murray, S. L., Lamarche, V., & Seery, M. D. (2018). Romantic relationships as shared reality defense. Current Opinion in Psychology, 23, 34-37.
  • Murray, S. L., Lamarche, V., Gomillion, S., Seery, M. D., & Kondrak, C. (2017). In defense of commitment:  The curative power of violated expectations in relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113, 697-729.
  • Murray, S. L., Gomillion, S., Holmes, J. G., & Harris, B. L. (2015). Inhibiting self-protection in romantic relationships: Automatic partner attitudes as a resource for low self-esteem people. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6, 173-182.
  • Murray, S. L., Holmes, J., G., Griffin, D. W., & Derrick, J. L. (2015). The equilibrium model of relationship maintenance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108, 93-113.
  • Murray, S.L., Griffin, D. W., Derrick, J., Harris, B., Aloni, M., & Leder, S. (2011). Tempting fate or inviting happiness:  Unrealistic idealization prevents the decline of marital satisfaction in newlyweds. Psychological Science, 22, 619-626.
  • Murray, S. L., & Holmes, J. G. (2009). The architecture of interdependent minds:  A motivation-management theory of mutual responsiveness. Psychological Review, 116, 908-928.
  • Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Collins, N. L. (2006). Optimizing assurance:  The risk regulation system in relationships.  Psychological Bulletin, 132, 641-666.