Samuel D. Gosling, Ph.D.
I am a personality/social psychologist with three main areas of interest. First, in my work on social perception, I study fundamental issues in impression formation: How do people form impressions on the basis of how others behave, what they look like, and cues in the physical environment? In much of this work I focus on issues of consensus and accuracy; for example, I compare the cues people use to make personality inferences to the cues that are actually valid. Second, in my cross-species work, I examine how research on animals can inform theories of personality and social psychology. For example, I have studied individual differences in personality and social behaviors in several species as well as how personality traits are perceived and described in humans and other animals, such as hyenas, dogs, and cats. I use these findings as a comparative framework in which to contextualize findings from research on human personality. More generally, my research draws on evolutionary as well as ecological principles: Evolutionary because Darwin's theory provides a framework for integrating research across species boundaries, and ecological because we cannot understand organisms independent of the environments in which they live. Finally, I am interested in using empirical indices to track trends in the history of psychology.
Social Perception in Everyday Environments
Our research on social perception aims to understand basic processes of everyday impression formation. In collaboration with researchers in the School of Architecture, we are examining how individuals use cues in everyday environments to form personality impressions of others. For example, is it possible to form an impression of an individual's personality and values merely by observing their bedroom? And if so, are such impressions accurate? We are also examining impressions of personality based on targets' food preferences and musical tastes.
Comparative Research in Personality, Social, and Health Psychology
Our research on animals focuses on (a) developing animal models to inform research in personality, social, and health psychology, and (b) using perceptions of animal personality to understand general processes of personality perception.
Animal models are useful because they permit experimental studies of personality that would not be possible in humans. The first stage of our research program is to appraise the viability of assessing personality in non-human animals. The second stage is to develop appropriate assessment methods. The third stage is to implement the findings of Stages 1 and 2 to address questions in personality, social, and health psychology. Research on non-human animals is well suited to answering some longstanding questions in the field (e.g., What is the impact of early environment on personality development?). This research can also address issues in animal welfare (e.g., Can pets be effectively matched with suitable owners?). Our research suggests that it is viable to measure personality in animals and impressions of animal personality do not merely reflect anthropomorphic projections.
In a cross-species review that included studies of octopuses, guppies, rats, pigs, dogs, cats, donkeys, hyenas, monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees, we found evidence for a separate conscientiousness dimension in humans and chimpanzees but not in any of the other species reviewed.
I maintain an on-line bibliography of research on animal personality. If you would like to learn more about the field, this might be a good place to start your explorations.
Historical Trends in Psychology
Lively polemics surround debates about the relative prominence of schools of thought in psychology. Important decisions about funding, hiring, and so on are often derived from rather personal views of "what's hot" in the field. Based on the idea that such crucial decisions should be guided by empirical evidence rather than mere speculation, my collaborators and I use empirical indices to track trends in the intellectual history of psychology. We have used multiple indicators to examine trends in the scientific prominence four widely recognized schools in psychology: Psychoanalysis, behaviorism, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience. The results replicated across all three measures of prominence: (a) psychoanalytic research has been virtually ignored by mainstream scientific psychology over the past several decades; (b) behavioral psychology has declined in prominence and given way to the ascension of cognitive psychology in the 1970s; (c) cognitive psychology has sustained a steady upward trajectory and continues to be the most prominent school; and (d) surprisingly, neuroscience has seen only a modest increase in prominence in mainstream psychology, despite evidence for its conspicuous growth in general.
Gosling, S. D. (2001). From mice to men: What can we learn about personality from animal research? Psychological Bulletin, 127, 45-86. [Available in pdf]
Gosling, S. D., John, O. P., Craik, K. H., & Robins, R. W. (1998). Do people know how they behave? Self-reported act frequencies compared with on-line codings by observers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1337-1349. [Available in pdf]
Gosling, S. D., Ko, S. J., Mannarelli, T., & Morris, M. E. (2002). A Room with a cue: Judgments of personality based on offices and bedrooms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 379-398. [Available in pdf]
Gosling, S. D., Kwan, V. S. Y., & John, O. P. (2003). A dog’s got personality: A cross-species comparative approach to evaluating personality judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 1161-1169. [Available in pdf]
Gosling, S. D., & Vazire, S., Srivastava, S., & John, O. P. (2004). Should we trust Web-based studies? A comparative analysis of six preconceptions about Internet questionnaires. American Psychologist, 59, 93-104. [Available in pdf]
Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2003). The do re mi’s of everyday life: The structure and personality correlates of music preferences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1236-1256. [Available in pdf]
Srivastava, S., John, O. P., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2003). Development of personality in early and middle adulthood: Set like plaster or persistent change? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1041-1053. [available in pdf]
Swann, W. B., Jr., Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2003). The precarious couple effect: Verbally inhibited men + critical, disinhibited women = bad chemistry. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 1095-1106. [Available in pdf]
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