General Research Interests
Perspective taking and empathy: What does it mean to take another person's
perspective? We are interested in both cognitive outcomes of perspective taking as
well as affective ones (for example, how perspective taking affects relationships).
Most recently, we have been looking at how similarity of experience and motivation
affect empathic accuracy (the ability to accurately infer another person's thoughts).
We have found that when people try to infer someone else's thoughts, they
integrate information from a variety of sources, including outside information (e.g.,
schemas and stereotypes). One interesting twist on this work has been to explore
how fiction writers take their characters' perspectives, which can be viewed as a
special case of perspective taking, in which the perspective must be totally
constructed, rather than simply "taken."
Self-other overlap: When people are close to each other, or if they find
themselves taking each other's perspective, they start to feel "overlap" with each
other - their fates feel more entwined, their representations of the self and the other
merge, and thinking about one brings to mind the other. Although self-other
overlap is often found in successful relationships, we have also found it interesting
to explore in less prototypical relationships, including those with deities or abusive
partners. Furthermore, a number of ways have been proposed to measure self-other
overlap - but are they all measuring the same thing?
Feature matching in judgment and decision making: Another line of research
investigates how people make decisions between options with shared and unique
characteristics, specifically examining how people treat these two kinds of
characteristics differently, and how this affects their comparisons. When people try
to decide between two options that have both shared and unique characteristics,
they match up the shared attributes and concentrate on the unique ones to make
their choice. What happens when they are subsequently given a third option?
People appear to cancel out the shared features in earlier options, and do not use
them in making subsequent decisions. We have also explored decision contexts that
may inhibit or prevent the use of feature matching as a judgment strategy, and
whether feature matching is used in self/other comparisons.
Some Current Projects in the Lab
Context, disclosure, and empathic accuracy
Using stereotypes to infer other people's thoughts
How gender, nonverbal sensitivity, and personality affect empathic accuracy
The self in social comparisons
Perceptions of environmentally related behaviors