Here at Law & Mind, we are having a great time blogging about different areas of psychological research and its implications for the law. While the key to Law & Mind is both law and mind, today I want to focus only on mind sciences. Specifically, I want to take a look at three psychologists who have been researching fascinating issues. Here they are . . . .
1. Serena Chen, University of California – Berkeley, Department of Psychology
Dr. Chen focuses her research on self and identity. She wants to understand how our conceptions of self change and adapt, particularly in light of social contexts. In her view, identity is fundamental to our understanding our cognitive processes and interaction. She argues that “merging social cognition with the self, close relationships, and intergroup relations is useful because it highlights the fundamentally social nature of perceiving, interpreting, judging, and behaving.”
When examining questions of identity and social relationships, Dr. Chen also encounters “power asymmetries”: relations where one party exercises more power over the other. She wants to understand the “conitive, motivational, and behavioral effects of power.” This entails looking at “both personality and situational variables.” Tying identity into the equation, Dr. Chen has examined how self-constructs and individual differences can moderate the effects of situational power.
To further explore her research, I read Relationship Orientation as a Moderator of the Effects of Social Power, which Chen co-authored with Annette Y. Lee-Chai and John Bargh. In this article, Chen investigated how individual associations with power can affect behavior. The study described three experiments designed to test this hypothesis. I want to focus on the first one. In this experiment, the authors had students take a test that rated them for proclivity to either a “communal” or “exchange” orientation. “Communalists . . . benefit one another in response to each other’s needs.” Members in “exchange relationships,” however, “benefit one another with the specific expectation of receiving comparable benefits in return.” Continue reading