My research is grounded in the neuropsychology of motivation and goal-regulation. People feel distress when two goals or impulses come into conflict. Distress promotes disengagement from the conflicted goal and subsides when a viable goal is pursued or the conflict is actively resolved. Goals focused on moving towards positive outcomes (i.e., approach-motivated goals) are particularly effective at regulating distress. Approach-motivated goals initiate a kind of ‘tunnel-vision’ or focus that increases the salience of rewarding stimuli and decreases the salience of irrelevant, potentially obstructive stimuli. Conflict may also be resolved through self-control—the process in which thoughts, emotions, or impulses are inhibited to pursue a more focal goal.
From this perspective, I investigate the interface between basic neural, motivational, and affective mechanisms with personal convictions, social decision-making, and intergroup behaviors. I currently have four related lines of research. First, I examine individual differences in distress and conflict. Second, I examine social decision-making and self-control. Third, I examine individual differences in intergroup bias. Fourth, I examine the neuropsychology of threat and ideological convictions.