Research Happening in the Social Behavior Lab

Dr. Jesse Graham & the VIM Lab

Dr. Graham’s VIM Lab is interested in investigating how political ideology can influence both the content of moral concerns (e.g., social equality, sexual purity) and the processes of moral decision-making (e.g., judging actions based on rules vs. consequences).  Much of their work is based on Moral Foundations Theory, which posits several universally available but cultural variable moral intuitions, including sensitivities to harm, cheating, group betrayal, subversion, and degradation.  Thanks to a grant from the Templeton Foundation, we have begun work on mapping and ultimately reducing moral hypocrisy -- that is, holding others to a higher moral standard than one holds oneself.  Additionally, several projects are underway looking at moral persuasion, trying to chart how it differs from persuasion in non-moralized domains.

More information about Dr. Jesse Graham and his lab can be found at his Lab Website, at his USC Faculty Website, and at

Dr. John Monterosso's Self-Control Neuroscience Research Lab

John Monterosso studies mechanisms underlying human self-control from the combined perspectives of behavioral economics and cognitive neuroscience (sometimes collectively referred to as “neuroeconomics”). He has co-authored 40 journal articles and book chapters. His research is currently supported through two R01 grants from the National Institute on Drug Addiction.

More information about Dr. John Monterosso and his lab can be found at his Lab Website, and at his USC Faculty Website.

Dr. Steve Read's Lab

His primary area of interest is in computational models of social reasoning and social behavior. He focuses on neural network models of personality and social behavior, legal and everyday decision making, causal reasoning, and causal learning. He is also interested in models of human motivation.

Additional research done in his lab include:

  • The creation of realistic personality in computer based intelligent agents in virtual reality training systems.
  • Coherence based, constraint satisfaction based models of decision making and impression formation.
  • The structure and dynamics of human personality.
  • The use of interactive media in changing risky sexual behavior.  
  • The neurobiological bases of risky sexual decision making.

More information about Dr. Stephen Read and his lab can be found at his USC Faculty Website.

Dr. Wendy Wood's Lab

Wendy Wood’s research lab focuses primarily on issues of habit performance, social influence, and gender differences in social behavior.

The research on habits addresses everyday behaviors such as exercise, eating, and energy use, along with consumer purchase and consumption patterns. Habits develop as people repeatedly give a response in a stable performance context. Once habits form, perception of the context automatically brings to mind the habitual response. Typically, it’s easier to carry out the response in mind than to make a decision to do something else.  Members of the lab study:

  • How people suffer action slips by falling back into old habits.
  • How some (good) habits promote goal attainment.
  • How to change unwanted habits?
  • The neural mechanisms associated with habit formation and performance
  • Social stereotypes

Social influence occurs between groups, as group members construe issues in ways that make sense based on their ideological beliefs. Thus, Democrats might view welfare programs as humanitarian assistance, whereas Republicans might view them as creating dependencies on government. In the lab, we study how people’s attitudes depend on such construals.

With respect to gender, Wendy Wood works with Alice Eagly at Northwestern University to develop and test a biosocial construction model of the biological and social mechanisms that underlie sex differences and similarities.  The model outlines how nature and nurture causes interact to shape men’s and women’s social roles within a society.  These gender roles then influence behavior through hormonal, self-regulatory, and social regulatory processes.

More information about Wendy Wood and her lab can be found at her USC Faculty Website.

Graduate Students in Social Psychology

Click here to read more about our Graduate Students' Research Interests

Beall, Erica (

Meindl, Peter (

Johnson, Kate (

Droutman, Vita (

Hayes, Tim (

Labrecque, Jennifer (

Lin, Pei-Ying (Peggy) (

Onuki, Mayuko (

Post-Doctoral Scholars in Social Psychology

Click here to read more about our Post-Doctoral Fellows' Research Interests

Iyer, Ravi (

Koleva, Sena (

Talevich, Jennifer (

Ruenger, Dennis (

Xue, Feng (

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