The 2017/2018 Team
Konstantyn Sharpinskyi: P3a as a marker of anxiety. Social Psychology Graduate School
Abdo completed his BSc. Honours in Human Kinetics with a minor in Psychology at University of Ottawa. He is a first-year graduate student in social psychology. Broadly, he is interested in how motivational, cognitive, and affective factors influence self-regulation and reactions to threat. Currently, he is working on research that seeks to uncover the proximal and distal influences on wise reasoning in the domain of worldview threats. When he's not working, Abdo enjoys traveling, learning, listening to music, and spending time with friends and family.
Recent Collaborators from Other Universities
Some Alumni and Collaborators
Emily completed her B.A. Honours in Psychology from Queen’s University in Kingston. She is now entering her second year of Masters in Social Psychology here at the University of Waterloo. Emily is broadly interested in exploring questions related to an individual’s motivation to pursue desired goals, seek meaning in life, construct and maintain social relationships and the role of anxiety in these processes. Her current research is focused on interventions to promote positive conflict resolution in romantic relationships, specifically among individuals with low self-esteem. Outside of school, Emily enjoys travelling, watching movies and spending time with friends and her cat.
Konstantyn completed his B.A. Honours in Psychology at York University in Toronto. He has just finished his MA in Social Psychology and is currently responsible for managing the lab. Konstantyn is broadly interested in motivational processes underlying basic goal regulation, as postulated by the general threat and defense model (Jonas et al., 2014). In addition, he is also interested in exploring the relationship between ostracism/social exclusion and aggression. His current research focuses on validating a neural measure of anxiety related processes. Konstantyn is an avid squash player and in his free time likes to cook for his friends, listen to neoclassical music and read biographies.
Curiosity about human nature came early to me as the son of a paleontologist and minister. Why are some people and groups more cold-hearted or kinder than others? Why are some people fragile and others resilient? Are there wise ways to live and love? What makes people so sure about their religious beliefs? Can people change? After pondering questions like these during a BSc in Human Biology with a wide variety of philosophy and religion courses on the side, I landed in the “real-world” of pharmaceutical sales. My job was to convince doctors to liberally prescribe our company’s brand of expensive heart and ulcer pills to more of their patients. It paid well but lacked
meaning and I kept wondering about human nature, so I quit the drug business as soon as I could afford to and completed a BA, MA, PhD, and Post-Doc in psychology. My research focused on questions about relationships, well-being, and people’s capacity for kindness, cooperation, and open-mindedness.
Past Undergraduate Research Projects, and Where They Went Afterwards
Richard Zeifman: Varieties of self-focused attention and motivation. Clinical Psychology Graduate School
Eva Sakure: Values and resilience. Law School
Omri Arbiv: Threat, reactive approach motivation, and rationality. Medical School
Sidra Kahn: Religion and meaning in life. Medical School
Ewa Piotrowska: Threat and musicophilia. Private Sector Research and Marketing
Nat Roman: Threat, emotional awareness, and revenge. Counseling Psychology, Private Practice
Sabrina Peluso: Self-construal, threat, and creativity. Counseling Psychology
Maria Kaikov: Threat, anxiety, and interpersonal attunement. Law School
Samantha Matin: Threat, fragile self-esteem, and interpersonal attunement. Medical School
Rimma Teper: Threat, empathy, and religious zeal. Post-Doctoral Fellow
Daniel Randles: Threat, perfectionism, and maladaptive independence. Post-Doctoral Fellow
Nina Han: Uncertainty, self-focus, implicit self-esteem, and defensive alcohol consumption. Law School
Berna Benhabib: An experimental investigation of how personal uncertainty and self-affirmation affect pain tolerance and body image. Medical Doctor
Chloe Leon: An experimental investigation of how personal uncertainty, self-consciousness, and ego-fatigue affect alcohol consumption and body image. Medical Doctor
Matthew Crippin: Dissonance reduction, uncertainty, arousal, and attitude hardening. Visiting Assistant Professor and Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, American University in Cairo.
Denise Marigold: What makes you so sure? Defensive conviction as an escape from personal problems. Assistant Professor of Social Psychology, Renison College, University of Waterloo
Laura Mills: What beer drinkers are all about: Liquid relief in the face of personal uncertainty.
PhD Quantitative Psychology.
Gina Szucs: Self-affirmation and cognitive accessibility of unrelated psychological threats. Unknown
Dinceralp Kocalar: Fanning the flames of arrogance: Effects of self-inflation versus self-threat on the sympathy and conviction ratings of high and low self-esteem individuals. PhD Clinical Psychology
Matthew Crippen: Effects of cognitive dissonance on compensatory conviction about unrelated attitudes: Visiting Assistant Professor and Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, American University in Cairo.
Katie Cain: Effects of conviction expression on importance and accessibility of unrelated
personal uncertainties. Unknown
Sue Clarke: Effects of success affirmations on importance and accessibility of unrelated personal uncertainties. Unknown
Stacey Espinet: Effects of personal value expression on importance and accessibility of unrelated personal uncertainties. Post-Doctoral Fellow, Schulich School of Medicine, Western University
Kevin Golson: Self-esteem and effects of personal uncertainty on implicit conviction about identity. Unknown
I was hired as an Assistant Professor by York University in 1999 and moved to a the University of Waterloo as a Full Professor in 2015. My collaborators and I have conducted experiments with over ten thousand participants probing basic dynamics of human motivations and relations. The research indulges my curiosity about mysteries of human nature and social phenomena. More importantly, it also involves empirical testing of circumstances that make people cooperative and reasonable vs. hostile and selfish, resilient and thriving vs. anxious and ineffective. Psychology is a young science and discoveries with important social implications are still out there for the finding. Some of the most serious threats to human survival seem psychological at the core, but clear answers can seem elusive. Why aren’t we responding with appropriate urgency to the climate crisis? Why is war still a prevalent threat to human survival? What causes religious and ideological extremism, and why do people blow themselves up for a cause or go on shooting rampages? Closer to home, why do neighbors and family members so often have a hard time getting along? Why do anxiety and depression so frequently blight human thriving? Might psychological science help people understand themselves and others better, for wiser and more meaningful living?
Psychological science is beginning to reveal answers to these kinds of questions. For example, we are discovering that basic processes related to anxiety are deeply embedded in diverse manifestations of human motivation, and often lie in disguise at the heart of important social phenomena. Consider the puzzling question of why people so readily become closed-minded and blind to others’ perspectives in conflicts? Our research has found that just spending two minutes reflecting on a troubled close relationship or struggling with a difficult math assignment is enough to make some people become belligerent and convinced that their opinions about contentious social issues are better than others’. We have also found that anxious arousal from the same seemingly trivial personal uncertainties can make some people significantly more closed-minded and willing to strive, kill, and die for their religious convictions. People usually do not recognize such seemingly minor experiences as anxiety-provoking, but we repeatedly find that they cause physiological signs of anxiety and defensively rigid reactions, nonetheless.
If such minor anxiety manipulations in the laboratory can cause socially consequential outcomes, how might the more serious and chronic anxieties in many people’s real lives affect their well-being and capacities to relate constructively and openly with others? How might the chronic anxieties associated with abuse, poverty, or geopolitical conflict affect people’s ability to think clearly, act wisely, and love compassionately? These questions become all the more pressing when one considers that even though anxiety-related manipulations in our experiments reliably bias people’s judgments and make them closed-minded, individual participants almost always laugh off the possibility that their
own judgments could have been skewed by such simple little experimental manipulations. Thus, as Freud noticed over 100 years ago, it seems that anxiety-related processes can bias judgments and defensive reactions beneath conscious
The new, wireless, electroencephalographic (EEG) technology (pictured on the website home-page) we have recently begun to use in our laboratory allows us to tap directly into the underlying physiological processes and motivations. Our EEG neuroheadsets are far quicker and easier to use than conventional EEG caps (see METHODS link for description of the huge increase in efficiency), and so they enable high powered social neuroscience research beyond what has previously been possible. Used together with true experiments that allow for conclusions about causality (i.e., experiments that randomly assign participants to conditions), the headsets enable unprecedentedly powerful social neuroscience
experiments. We expect this power to reveal new insights into non-conscious dynamics of human nature and social phenomena. In addition to being scientifically exciting, this new technology is also personally exciting because it allows for a return to my biomedical science roots while asking big questions about motivational mechanics of human relations.
We recently used them to collect data from over 1000 participants in studies of basic neural processes related to anxiety, excitement, helplessness, power, compassion, religious devotion, inspiration, and self-control. The results show the basic neural processes that drive diverse social phenomena, and suggest avenues for adaptive interventions. I find these new discoveries exciting because my research is guided not only by curiosity about why we humans are capable of both magnanimity and malevolence, but also by a hopeful hunch that illuminating basic dynamics of human motivations and relations might help improve our human capacity to thrive and survive.
When not working I like being in nature with my children (8, 6, and 3), partner (also a psychology professor), and our extended families. In all the free time I keep being surprised at not having, I plan to improve our garden and upgrade my guitar skill beyond its current capacity to amuse small children with the same 10 songs I’ve been playing for the past 20 years. We are also about to get a fluffy kitten named Sophie.
Aaron Kay ( Duke University )
Kristin Laurin (Stanford University)
Michael Prentice (University of Missouri)
Michael Inzlicht (University of Toronto)
Kyle Nash (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)
Eva Jonas (University of Salzburg, Austria)
Joseph Hayes (University of Acadia, Canada)
Johannes Klackl (University of Salzburg, Austria)
Dmitrij Agroskin (University of Salzburg, Austria)
Monika Janus (York University)
Ellen Bialystok (York University)
Paula DiNoto (York University)
Joe DeSouza (York University)
Nikan Eghbali (York University)
Joni Sasaki (York University)
Joseph Hayes (Acadia University)
Past Graduate Students
Eldar Eftekhari: Medical School bound
Kyle Nash: Assistant Professor, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Mike Prentice: Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Salzburg
Chelsea Ferriday: Senior Analyst, Discount Analytics & Insightsat Loblaw Companies Limited
Mike Logue: Applied PhD Program Brock University
Reeshma Haji: Assistant Professor, Laurentian University,
Sojin Kang: Unknown
If you think you might like to join our lab as a volunteer or honors thesis student, please email Dr. McGregor (firstname.lastname@example.org) an unofficial copy of your transcript, a statement about your research interests and goals, and email addresses for two references who have supervised you in academic or other work-related projects and who could comment on your work habits.
If you would like to join our lab as a graduate student, feel free to email the above information along with GRE scores if you have them, to introduce yourself and alert us to expect your formal application. Please note that no decisions about graduate school can be made until your complete, formal application package is received by University of Waterloo Graduate Studies (December 15th deadline; https://uwaterloo.ca/discover-graduate-studies/). Your application will be jointly reviewed by all of our Social Psychology faculty members early in the Winter term.
Lab Director, Dr. Ian McGregor (email@example.com)