Research programs


Social and Personal Relationships

Social relationships are a crucial ingredient of a happy and healthy life. Our lab is asking what types of relationships are particularly conductive to well-being, whether there can be “too much” of social interactions, whether there are circumstances under which sociality is no longer beneficial and how romantic life events (e.g., experiencing infidelity or parenthood) shape well-being development.

We are also interested in sociality in a broader sense, including interpersonal effects in romantic relationships (e.g., the consequences of one’s spouse’s personality for one’s life outcomes)­­, social perception and reputational consequences of personality and other individual differences.

Featured projects and publications:

"The Transition to Parenthood: Individual Variability in Well-Being". The transition to parenthood is a major life event associated with happiness in some individuals and unhappiness in others. This project will use longitudinal and experience sampling methods to study the sources and processes underlying individual differences in psychological well-being trajectories during the transition to parenthood. The project is financed by the Herbert Simon Research Institute: Project’s homepage.

Stavrova,  O., Pronk, T., Denissen, J. (2022). Estranged and unhappy? Examining the dynamics of personal and relationship well-being surrounding infidelity. Psychological Science, 34(2),143–169.

Ren, D., Stavrova, O., & Wei Loh, W. (2022). Nonlinear effect of social interaction quantity on psychological well-being: Diminishing Returns or Inverted U? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 122(6), 1056-1074. pdf.

Stavrova, O. & Ren, D. (2020). Is more always better? Examining the nonlinear association of social contact frequency with physical health and longevity. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 12(6), 1058-1070.

Stavrova, O. (2019). Having a happy spouse is associated with lower risk of mortality. Psychological Science, 30(5), 798-803.


Cynicism and Trust

Are most people honest, trustworthy, and good, or are they dishonest, egoistic, and self-interested? Our research suggests that people differ in how they answer this question and these differences – referred to as cynicism – play a potentially important role in their well-being, occupational success, social relationships and physical health.

Featured projects and publications:

"Measuring Cynicism and Trust Using Text Data to Predict Information Diffusion, Polarization and Incivility on Digital Platforms". In this project, we 1) use techniques from Natural Language Processing and machine learning to develop a tool that measures Cynicism and Trust (CaT tool) in text data, and 2) apply the CaT tool to better understand information diffusion, polarization, and incivility on social media platforms.The project is financed by the Herbert Simon Research Institute: Project’s homepage.

Stavrova, O., Evans, A.M., & Brandt, M.J. (2021). Ecological dimensions explain the past but do not predict future changes in trust. American Psychologist, 76(1), 983-996. pdf.

Stavrova, O., Ehlebracht, D., & Vohs, K. D. (2020). Victims, perpetrators, or both? The vicious cycle of disrespect and cynical beliefs about human nature. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 149(9), 1736–1754. pdf.

Stavrova, O., & Ehlebracht, D. (2019). The cynical genius illusion: Exploring and debunking lay beliefs about cynicism and competence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 45(2), 254-269.

Stavrova, O., & Ehlebracht, D. (2016). Cynical beliefs about human nature and income: Longitudinal and cross-cultural analyses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110(1), 116-132. pdf.