Post Doctoral


James Cornwell, Ph.D.

James Picture

My primary research interest is investigating the motivational processes that underlie our moral judgments and ethical decision-making, in an attempt to clarify how we make those decisions and what goals are being met when we make them. I'm particularly interested in how motivation science can help us get at the concept of virtue, and how it behaves interactively and independently with respect to moral value understood as either ideals or obligations. I am also interested in how these concepts of virtue or "the good life" relate to happiness and well-being.

Graduate Students



Christine Webb, 6th Year PhD

Christine Webb

How do humans and other animals resolve conflict? My research questions take an evolutionary approach to the study of conflict management and resolution. In the Higgins lab, I am interested in exploring the role of motivational processes in reconciliation behavior. I am particularly interested in how the different ways in which people seek to resolve conflicts and the quality of their social relationships influence the reconciliation process. I look forward to seeing how studies of conflict resolution in non-human primates can inform similar research on human social behavior and cognition, and how an understanding of motivational underpinnings can improve our study of both.


Billur Avlar, 5th Year PhD

Billur Avlar

How can we better understand the interaction between the motivational states and cognition? My research is aimed to understand this interaction by collecting evidence from animal models of mental disorders and also from studying the motivational states in disorders of motivation and cognition in Parkinson's disease patients. In the Higgins lab, I am focused on applying the regulatory mode theory on different type of cognitive functions and assess how those are affected in the disease state.


Maya Rossignac-Milon, 2nd Year PhD

Maya Rossignac-Milon

I am primarily interested in the motivational processes involved in the development of shared reality, specifically in close relationships. I hope to investigate how we develop shared reality through our interactions with others, with an emphasis on the implicit cognitive mechanisms underlying these processes. I also want to explore how regulatory mode moderates our perceptions of interpersonal closeness. More broadly, I am interested in investigating the role of shared reality in the social construction of culture and “truth”.


Mark Conley, 2nd Year PhD

Mark Conley

I am interested in maladaptive behavior, performance under enduring stressful conditions, and the risk factors that lead to chronic mental health problems. Further along that thread I am interested in the motivational and regulatory fit tools that are effective in preventing performance burnout, substance abuse, and abusive relationships. Lastly, when appropriate, I want to consider research topics through the lens of evolutionary psychology.


Katherine Zee, 1st Year PhD

Katherine Zee

I am interested in the ways that self-regulation influences our relationships with the people closest to us. My research primarily explores how individual differences in motivation affect the social support process and, consequently, shape outcomes on both the individual and the dyadic level.


Undergraduate Thesis Students


Sahng-Ah Yoo, Senior

Sahng-Ah Yoo

I am interested in studying the cognitive effects relationships can have on memory formation and recall, especially regarding motivational processes involved in the development of shared reality in close relationships. Currently, I am investigating to see whether shared reality can be developed through one's existing relationship rather than through the explicit new formation of one. More broadly, however, I am interested in investigating the intersection of psychology and law and how our (sub)conscious affects the way we interact with others inside and out of the criminal justice system.


Lauren Tomasulo, Senior

Lauren T

I am interested in how people's persistent motivational states influence their interactions with other people. I am particularly concerned with understanding what motivations lead to inaction and action in particular circumstances. My current research explores people's varying self-regulatory motivations and their influence on successful conflict resolution.


Farah Tamizuddin, Senior

Farah T

I'm interested in motivation and couples research. Primarily, I want to study why couples are attracted to each other and what pushes them to make long term commitments. Couples who are happier often have complementary regulatory focuses, and I want to investigate how individual values and characteristics can affect a two-person relationship.


Youjung Jun, Senior


I am interested in the mechanisms of creating and managing our shared reality as a useful tool to understand those around us as well as ourselves. My project explores how meaningful relationships affect these mechanisms. I hope to continue studying the broad implications of shared reality on our behaviors beyond the realm of interpersonal relationships.


E. Tory Higgins

Lab Members