Projects in Social Psychology Supervised by Jen Borton


Professor Borton will supervise projects in social psychology. Students conducting two-semester projects will conduct an empirical study; students conducting one-semester projects will conduct a literature review and write a research proposal. Senior project topics of particular interest to Professor Borton are listed below.

Discrepant Self-esteem
Most people think of self-esteem as having only a single dimension: high versus low. Recent research, however, has examined not just explicit or consciously accessible feelings of self-worth, but also implicit or relatively automatic/subconscious assessments of self. In my research, I examine the differences between people with defensive self-esteem (defined as high explicit coupled with low implicit self-esteem) and those with secure self-esteem (high explicit/high implicit), particularly following ego threat. I’ve discovered that, relative to people with secure self-esteem, those with discrepant self-esteem are more likely to suppress thoughts following failure, have clearer and more emotionally negative memories of shameful past events, pay greater attention to faces signaling social rejection, respond to a social rejection by derogating their evaluator, rate negative feedback as more negative, make more external attributions for performance, and take more risks following failure (men only). Students interested in this area could explore a variety of interesting correlates of defensive self-esteem.

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?


The Social Psychology of the Self

The self is a social product; we define ourselves in relation to the world around us. What we call our “self” has an enormous impact on how we understand and relate to our social world, and how we process information about ourselves and others. Students could conduct research on any of a variety of topics related to the social self, including how the organization of self-concept (e.g., self-schemas, self-complexity) affects information processing; the effect of self-awareness on cognition, affect, and behavior; motivated self-perception (our desire to see ourselves in certain ways); egocentric biases; and the self in social context (including effects of interpersonal relationships and culture).

Stereotyping & Prejudice
An enormous body of work in social psychology has been conducted on stereotyping and prejudice, including the topics of ingroup/outgroup bias, intergroup interactions, stereotype threat, and prejudice- reduction techniques. Students may wish to explore one of a variety of topics within this area.