Interpersonal Processes

What makes strangers feel like they ‘click’ with each other? What are the motivational processes underlying the initiation and maintenance of romantic relationships? How do partners provide effective social support to one another in relationships? How do motivational orientations influence perceptions of the social support received? In our lab, we take a motivational approach to understanding interpersonal processes. We study how fundamental needs influence dyadic interactions across a range of contexts, and using several theoretical frameworks.

In the context of romantic relationship initiation, Katherine Zee studies whether people are more attracted to potential romantic partners whom they perceive will address their motivational needs. Maya Rossignac-Milon examines the role of shared reality—feeling that one experiences the world in the same way as another—in making strangers feel like they immediately connect with each other.

In the context of existing close relationships, Maya Rossignac-Milon also studies how the meaningful conversations people have with those they are close to can lead us to developing shared reality over time. Further, she explores how shared reality changes the way people experience the world—specifically, how it intensifies sensory perceptions—and how close and committed people feel to relationship partners. She also examines the role of shared reality in conflict-resolution. Katherine Zee studies how individual differences in motivation—such as regulatory mode, or emphasis on getting things done vs. doing things right—shape the ways in which people provide social support to their partners. Further, she examines how these differences influence people’s preferences for receiving support.

In the context of general dyadic interactions, Svetlana Komissarouk examines how motivational orientations change the way people seek and give help to others.

Motivational Effectiveness and Goal Pursuit

What makes people effective at what they do? What makes them likely to succeed, or likely to fail? How do the ways in which individuals engage in goal pursuit influence effectiveness? What role do chronic and state-induced regulatory focus and regulatory mode play in strategic and tactical choices? How do different primary motives work together to promote a broader sense of well-being and “the good life”?

Our research investigates the motivational underpinnings of goal pursuit in different contexts. We examine how a promotion-oriented individual—generally preferring to use eager strategies—might differ from a prevention-oriented person, who prefers vigilant strategies. Similarly, we explore how a locomotion-oriented person with a high concern for control—a “just do it” attitude—might prefer different strategies from an assessment-oriented person with a high concern for truth—a “do it right” mentality. In other words, we study goal selection and goal pursuit. We also examine how balancing needs for truth, value, and control allows people to optimize decision-making and behavior.

Katherine Zee studies the motivational ingredients of beneficial social support. She examines how receiving such support enables people to feel more effective by fulfilling their needs for value (getting the outcomes they desire), truth (establishing what is real or enhancing their understanding), and control (managing what happens and boosting self-efficacy).

Svetlana Komissarouk studies how people from different cultures approach problem-solving, and how creative problem-solving differs. She also examines how self-regulation influences decision-making in life-changing situations.

Emily Nakkawita studies how goal pursuit processes reflecting fundamental motives for control and truth vary when they are aimed at a promotion versus prevention goal. She also investigates how individual differences in regulatory focus influence risky decision-making.