The Motivation and Social Cognition Laboratory conducts basic and applied social psychological research that examines the interplay between motivation and social cognition.
Current lines of research are:
- Moral judgment. We are conducting studies examining processes that lead people to moral decisions that focus on following rules (deontology) versus maximizing positive outcomes (utilitarianism). A second line of research investigates lay beliefs about intentionality. In other words, what do laypeople believe to be the key ingredients that make an act ‘intentional’? This work stands at the nexus of psychology, philosophy, and law.
A sampling of relevant articles:
- Plaks, J.E., Bustos-Rodriguez, L. & Ayad, R. (2022). Identifying psychological features of robots that encourage and discourage trust. Computers in Human Behavior, 134,107301.
- Aberman, Y. & Plaks, J.E. (2022). When less is better: Messages that present dietary carbon emissions data at the individual (vs. aggregate) level increase commitment to sustainable beef consumption. Appetite, 174, 105980.
- Plaks, J.E, Robinson, J.S., & Forbes, R. (2022). Anger and sadness as moral signals. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 13, 362-371.
- Plaks, J.E., Lu, J., Zhao, M., Staples, W., & Robinson, J.S. (2021). Using conflict negativity to index psychological tension between impartiality and status-upholding principles. Social Neuroscience, 16, 500-512.
- Robinson, J.S., Xu, X. & Plaks, J.E. (2019). Disgust and deontology: Trait sensitivity to pathogens promotes a preference for clarity, hierarchy, and rule-based moral judgment. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 10, 3-14.
- Plaks, J.E. & Robinson, J.S. (2017). Proximal and distal intent: Toward a new folk theory of intentional action. Review of General Psychology, 21, 242-254.
- Robinson, J.S., Page-Gould, E, & Plaks, J.E. (2017). I appreciate your effort: Asymmetric effects of actors’ exertion on observers’ consequentialist versus deontological judgments. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 73, 50-64.
- Plaks, J.E., Fortune, J.L., Liang, L., & Robinson, J. (2016). Effects of culture and gender on judgments of intent and responsibility. PLOS ONE, 11(4), e0154467.
- Robinson, J.S., Joel, S., & Plaks, J.E. (2015). Empathy for the group versus indifference to the victim: Effects of anxious and avoidant attachment on moral judgment. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 56, 139-152.
- Laurin, K. & Plaks, J.E. (2014). Religion and punishment: Opposing influences of orthopraxy and orthodoxy on reactions to unintentional acts. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5, 835-843.
- Plaks, J.E., McNichols, N.K., & Fortune, J.L. (2009). Thoughts versus deeds: Distal and proximal intent in lay judgments of moral responsibility. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1687-1701.
- Political Psychology. This is a line of studies that investigates dispositional and motivational processes that move people to different ends of the political spectrum.
- Xu, X. & Plaks, J.E. (2023). Aspect-level personality characteristics of U.S. Presidential candidate supporters in 2016 and 2020. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 14, 588–598.
- Xu, X., Burton, C., & Plaks, J.E. (2022). Three dimensions of American conservative political orientation differentially predict negativity bias and satisfaction with life. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 13, 1230-1245.
- Xu, X, Soto, C., & Plaks, J.E. (2021). Beyond Openness to Experience and Conscientiousness: Testing links between lower-level personality traits and American political orientation. Journal of Personality, 89, 754-773.
- Xu, X., Burton, C., Plaks, J.E. (2021). Distinct types of conservative attitudes mediate the link between media preferences and presidential candidate endorsement. Media Psychology, 24, 190-213.
- Xu, X., Chapman, H., Karinen, M., Peterson, J.B., & Plaks, J.E. (2020). An orderly personality partially explains the link between trait disgust and political conservatism. Cognition and Emotion, 34, 302-315.
- Xu, X., Plaks, J.E., & Peterson, J.B. (2016). From dispositions to goals to ideology: Toward a synthesis of personality and social psychological approaches to political orientation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 10, 267-280.
- Joel, S., Burton, C., & Plaks, J.E. (2014). Conservatives anticipate and experience stronger emotional reactions to negative outcomes. Journal of Personality, 82, 32-43.
- Lay theories about the fixedness or malleability of personality. For over 20 years, we have consistently found that people who believe that personality is fixed (“entity theorists”) tend to understand people’s actions (including their own) in terms of broad, underlying traits or stereotypes. Several studies have shown that these people engage in selective attention and memory distortion to screen out information that contradicts their trait-based views other people or themselves. In contrast, people who believe that personality is malleable (“incremental theorists”) show greater openness to such unexpected information. In current research, we are examining how older adults’ lay theories influence their memory performance and motivation. We have also begun to explore neural process associated with these phenomena, using the lab’s electroencephalography (EEG) equipment. A sampling of relevant articles:
- Marquet, M., Plaks, J.E., Balasubramaniam, L., Brunet, S., & Chasteen, A.L. (2021). Older adults’ lay theories predict their willingness to engage in preventive health behaviors. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 93, 104291.
- Plaks, J.E. (2017). Implicit theories: Assumptions that shape social and moral cognition. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 56, 259-310.
- Tullett, A. & Plaks, J.E. (2016). Testing the link between empathy and lay theories of happiness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42, 1505-1521.
- Xu, X. & Plaks, J.E. (2015). The neural correlates of implicit theory violation. Social Neuroscience, 10, 431-447.
- Plaks, J.E. & Chasteen, A. (2013). Entity versus incremental theories predict older adults’ memory performance. Psychology and Aging, 28, 948-957.