Broadly speaking, my research program examines the links between basic personality traits and common social psychological processes. To understand such links, I adopt an interactionist perspective that focuses on person-environment interactions and social perception. In this work, I have examined how personality is expressed in a variety of domains (e.g., music preferences, geographic regions), and how impressions of others are formed on the basis of such information.
From a theoretical perspective, I am concerned with developing an ecologically sensitive depiction of social behavior. For example, everyday people engage in a variety of activities—they listen to music, watch television, go to the cinema, tend to their gardens, and talk to one another about politics and current events, to name just a few. Yet, the psychological functions these activities serve remain unclear. What motivates people to engage in such activities? Why are the activities that are loved by some loathed by others? What can we learn about people from their preferences? Interactionist theories emphasize links between the person and the environment and suggest that people select social and physical environments that match and reinforce their dispositions and self-views (e.g., Swann, Rentfrow, & Guinn, 2002). Research on social perception indicates that observers use the information available in the physical environment to form impressions of others (Gosling, Ko, Mannarelli, & Morris, 2002). Thus, to understand why people engage in particular activities and how such information is used in social perception, my research builds on this previous work by re-conceptualizing “environment” in a very broad sense. This reinterpretation enables me to examine person-environment interactions and social perception across a new range of everyday real-world phenomena, such as the music that people listen to, the movies they watch, the places in which they live, and their political ideology.
My general approach to understanding these issues is characterized by several recurrent themes. Specifically, to ensure that the phenomena are robust, I seek convergence across a variety of research designs (e.g., descriptive, correlational, experimental), measures (e.g., behavioral codings, physiological responses, ratings), levels of analysis (e.g., individual, dyadic, national), and sources of data (e.g., self, observational, archival).