Tory Higgins

Stanley Schachter Professor of Psychology

Professor Higgins works at the intersection of motivation and cognition and is most recently interested by the general question, “Where does value come from?”, and the more specific question, “What makes a decision good?” Higgins received the Donald T. Campbell Award in Social Psychology in 1996, and the Thomas M. Ostrom Award in Social Cognition  in 1999. In 2000, he was the recipient of both the William James Fellow Award from the American Psychological Society and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Psychological Association Award. He has been an editorial consultant to several professional journals, and he has served as an advisor and consultant to many governmental and academic organizations. In 2000, he was chosen to present Columbia’s University Lecture. In 2004, he was the recipient of the Presidential Teaching Award.

Affiliated Faculty

Svetlana Komissarouk, Ph.D.

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Columbia and Barnard College

Svetlana Komissarouk conducts research in three fields of social psychology – culture, motivation and prosocial behavior. In the cultural social psychological domain, she is interested in how an individual’s type of attachment to their home country can impact their ability to take risks and to form new trust bonds with strangers. In motivational social psychology, her research applies Regulatory Mode Theory to basic social psychological questions of collaboration and creativity, such as: How does self-regulation influence the life-changing decisions people make and the ways they interact and affiliate with others? What kind of help do people prefer to give and receive according to their dominant motivational systems? Svetlana Komissarouk is also known as a popularizer of psychological science. She appears in media and gives lectures to the general public all over the world.

Courses Taught:

  • Fall 2015: PSYC UN2630. Social Psychology. 3 points.
  • Spring 2015 – Fall 2019: PSYC GU4645. Culture, Motivation and Prosocial Behavior. 4 points.
  • Fall 2019: PSYC BC1020. Behavioral Research Methods and Analysis. 3 points.
  • Fall 2018 and Spring 2020: PSYC GU4630. Advanced Seminar in Current Personality Theory and Research. 3 points.

Select Publications:

  • Komissarouk, S., Chernikova, M., Kruglanski, A. W., & Higgins, E. T. (2019). Who is most likely to wear rose-colored glasses? How regulatory mode moderates self-flattery. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 45(3), 327-341.
  • Komissarouk, S., Harpaz, G., & Nadler, A. (2017). Dispositional differences in seeking autonomy- or dependency-oriented help: Conceptual development and scale validation. Personality and Individual Differences, 108, 103-112.
  • Komissarouk, S., & Nadler, A. (2014). “I” seek autonomy, “we” rely on each other: Self-construal and regulatory focus as determinants of autonomy- and dependency-oriented help-seeking behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(6), 726-738.

Postdoctoral Scholars

Maya Rossignac-Milon, Ph.D.

Maya’s research investigates the experience of being mentally in sync with others. Specifically, she examines the role of shared reality–the experience of having the same thoughts and feelings about the world–in interpersonal relationships. She explores how shared reality contributes to the feeling of “clicking” between new acquaintances and the feeling of having “merged minds” between close partners. Further, she examines how shared reality can enhance the experience of certainty and perceptual realness. More broadly, she is interested in the ways that humans turn to each other to make sense of the world and to co-construct the “truth.” Maya was recently interviewed about this work by the BBC. You can read more about her research here.

Select Publications:

  • Higgins, E. T.*, Rossignac-Milon, M.*, & Echterhoff, G. (in press). Shared reality: From sharing-is-believing to merging minds. Current Directions in Psychological Science. [* first authorship shared]
  • Rossignac-Milon, M., Bolger, N., Zee, K. S., Boothby, E. J., & Higgins, E. T. (2020). Merged minds: Generalized shared reality in dyadic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Advance online publication.
  • Rossignac-Milon, M., & Higgins, E. T. (2018). Epistemic companions: Shared reality development in close relationships. Current Opinion in Psychology, 23, 66-71.

Graduate Students

Katherine Zee

6th Year Ph.D. Student

Katherine Zee is interested in the ways that self-regulation influences relationships with the people closest to an individual, particularly in the social support process. Her research currently examines whether social support affords important self-regulatory benefits, and how social support influences intrapersonal as well as interpersonal outcomes.

Select Publications:

  • Rossignac-Milon, M., Bolger, N., Zee, K. S., Boothby, E. J., & Higgins, E. T. (2020). Merged minds: Generalized shared reality in dyadic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Advance online publication.
  • Zee, K. S., Bolger, N., & Higgins, E. T. (2020). Regulatory effectiveness of social support. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Advance online publication.
  • Zee, K. S., Cavallo, J. V., Flores, A. J., Bolger, N., & Higgins, E. T. (2018). Motivation moderates the effects of social support visibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 114(5), 735-765.

Federica Pinelli

4th Year Ph.D. Student

Federica’s research investigates the conditions under which humans are motivated to share their understanding of the world and share their reality with others. Furthermore, her work aims at investigating how both successful as well as ineffective examples of social sharing affect people’s understanding of the world around them and their motivations, their intentions and attitudes. Prior to joining the Ph.D. program Federica spent 10 years working in fixed income, currencies and commodities for a major US Investment Bank covering a variety of roles, most recently as a Chief of Staff of one its Subdivisions. Federica holds a Law degree from Università Cattolica in Milan (Italy), an MSc in Economics from London University (UK) and an MBA from Columbia University.

Emily Nakkawita

3rd Year Ph.D. Student

Emily is interested in understanding the factors that lead to effective goal pursuit processes, with effectiveness defined in terms of both achievement and well-being. As a PhD student, she studies the motivational underpinnings of different kinds of goal pursuit activities. In particular, she examines how the goal pursuit process is affected by individual differences in the strength of fundamental motives for truth and control, combined with a focus on gains and non-gains (promotion value) versus non-losses and losses (prevention value). Prior to her graduate studies, Emily examined what motivates people through a career in brand marketing and advertising.

Select Publications:

  • Higgins, E. T., Nakkawita, E., Rossignac-Milon, M., Pinelli, F., & Jun, Y. (2020). Making the right decision: Intensifying the worth of a chosen option. Journal of Consumer Psychology, Advance online publication.
  • Nakkawita, E., Mathmann, F., & Higgins, E. T. (2020). Does your gain define my loss?: Socially-defined counterfactual loss and prevention-focused decision-making. Personality and Individual Differences, 160, 1–6.
  • Higgins, E. T., Nakkawita, E., & Cornwell, J. F. M. (2020). Beyond outcomes: How regulatory focus motivates consumer goal pursuit processes. Consumer Psychology Review, 3(1), 76-90.

Margaux Wienk

2nd Year Ph.D. Student

Margaux’s research is organized around the themes of inequality, social mobility, and justice, and generally looks at these topics from a socioecological and social psychological lens. Within the Higgins Lab, she investigates how motivation influences how people perceive, understand, and want to address economic inequality, social mobility, and restore justice. Prior to coming to Columbia, Margaux obtained a MSc. in Social Psychology and BSc. in Psychology from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and spent some time exploring different parts of the world.


Kirstin Appelt: Center for Decision Sciences (CDS), Columbia Business School
Poonam Arora: Manhattan College & CRED, Columbia University
Billur Avlar: Columbia University
Allison Bajger: Blueliner, LLC
Vanessa Bohns: Cornell University
Miguel Brendl: University of Basel
Jeff Brodscholl: BioVid Corp
Justin Cavallo: Wilfrid Laurier University
Joe Cesario: Michigan State University
Lorraine Chen Idson
Mark Conley: Stockholm School of Economics
James Cornwell: U.S. Military Academy at West Point
Ellen Crowe: KTNS
Baruch Eitam: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Jens Förster
Becca Franks: University of British Columbia
Ilona Fridman: Fuqua, Duke University
Ron Friedman: ignite80
Heidi Grant: NeuroLeadership Institute, Columbia University Motivation Science Center
Curtis Hardin: Brooklyn College
Adena Klem
Nira Liberman: Tel Aviv University
Mirei Matsuoka-Umeda: Aichi Gakuin University
Kerry Milch: CRED, Columbia University
Daniel Molden: Northwestern University
Jason Plaks: University of Toronto
Marta Roczniewska: Karolinska Institutet
Chris Roney: King’s University College at Western University Canada
Diane Safer: Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Abigail Scholer: University of Waterloo
James Shah: Duke University
Scott Spiegel: The College Board
Amy Taylor-Bianco: Ohio University
Christine Webb: Utrecht University
Xi (Canny) Zou: Nanyang Technological University


Gerald Echterhoff: Westfälische Wilhelms University Münster
Arie Kruglanski: University of Maryland
Frank Mathmann: Queensland University of Technology
Antonio Pierro: Sapienza University of Rome

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