Projects in Social Psychology

Supervised by Jennifer Borton

(jborton@hamilton.edu)

Professor Borton will supervise projects in social psychology. Senior project topics of particular interest to Professor Borton are listed below.

Thought suppression
What happens when we try not to think about something? Inevitably, the thoughts we suppress return with vigor. In my research, I have examined the effects of suppressing negative self-referent thoughts on mood and self-esteem, both in the lab and in the field. Potentially interesting questions include the following:

Fragile self-esteem
Most people think about self-esteem as having only a single dimension: high vs. low. Research has uncovered several other important dimensions of self-esteem, such as the extent to which it is stable or unstable over time, contingent or noncontingent on certain objective outcomes, and defensive (defined as high explicit coupled with low implicit self-esteem) versus secure (high explicit/high implicit). In my research, I have examined the extent to which these three markers of fragile self-esteem (unstable, contingent, defensive) predict the likelihood with which people suppress negative thoughts following failure. What other important outcomes might fragile self-esteem predict? Does fragile self-esteem make people less able to weather threats to the self?

Self-esteem maintenance & threats to self-esteem
People's desire to maintain a sense of self-worth leads them to engage in a variety of interesting behaviors, such as self-handicapping, making self-serving attributions, affirming important areas of the self, and so forth. What are the unconscious (or conscious?) strategies people use to maintain or enhance their self-esteem, under what conditions are they used, and what are the positive and negative effects of these strategies?