Research – WHIRLab


The WHIRLab research focuses on uncovering the social cognitive, affective, and biological factors that shape our closest relationships. For example, we study the benefits of prosocial cognitions, emotions, and behaviors (e.g., perspective-taking, gratitude, responsiveness), as well as how these prosocial processes are affected by internal and external forces. In particular, we focus on the ways in which unseen influences from biological dysregulation (e.g. lack of sleep, hunger, illness) to external stressors (e.g., time pressure, work stress) shape prosocial processes and relationship functioning.

Our social interactions are, by definition, social; yet, much social psychological research focuses solely on the individual. In the WHIRLab, we take a dyadic perspective. We go beyond people’s own experiences to examine how they are affected by their partner’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors and physiological responses, as well as by their perceptions and expectations of their relationship partners. An important component of our research is exploring how people influence each other both in the moment and over time. We also explore distinctively dyadic outcomes—how interactions are shaped not by each individual alone but by the unique ways in which people interact with each other.

Our research draws upon a variety of methods, including experimental, observational, naturalistic (e.g., daily experience), and physiological, to capture people at multiple levels in a variety of social situations.

The ultimate goal of research of the WHIRLab is to identify factors that help people maintain high quality relationships over time, enhancing health and well-being at the individual, dyadic, familial, and organizational levels.

Current projects include examining how sleep shapes romantic relationships, the role of gratitude in relationship quality, and understanding how couples navigate periods of time when both partners are experiencing stress.

Current Projects

Couples’ Daily Lives Study

In Summer 2022 we completed recruitment for a large multi-phase study (N = 210 couples) tracking how couples navigate the demands of daily life. Data collection included dyadic interactions in the lab (self-report, physiological, and audiovisual data), daily experience, and longitudinal assessments.

Transition to Parenthood Study

In Winter 2022, we completed a pilot study (N = 31 couples) examining how couples navigate the transition to parenthood using infant simulators. On Friday, couples took part in a number of dyadic interactions in the lab, including caring for the infant simulator. They then cared for the infant simulator from Friday night through Monday morning and took part in another lab session on Monday. We gathered self-report and physiological data in the lab and at home, as well as audiovisual data in the lab.

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