The Lydon Lab in the Psychology Department at McGill University in Montreal is devoted to the study of interpersonal relationships from a motivated cognition approach. As social psychologists, we are interested in how aspects of the social environment are processed, resulting in thoughts and feelings that influence behavior and well-being. Our research examines the formation and maintenance of intimate social bonds.
A core idea is that people commit to identities that meaningfully define who they are and, because of a fundamental need to belong, these identities are often social/relational identities. People pursue goals relevant to their identities, they persist longer at identity relevant goals, resist threats or challenges to such goals and are especially distressed about severe threats to or loss of a committed identity.
Relationship Initiation to Maintenance to Loss
Initiation: We study factors that promote and interfere with the formation and early development of intimate relationships. For example, how do chronic interpersonal insecurities undermine one’s presentation to others and one’s ability to accurately perceive others at Speed Dating.
Maintenance: Even people in satisfying relationships face a variety of challenges to their relationships. For example, how do people respond to a partner transgression or to meeting an attractive flirtatious person?
Loss: Relationships may end for a variety of reasons. What impact does this have on a person? For example, what circumstances lead one to remain mentally stuck on the relationship and unable to disengage?
Bias and Accuracy in Close Relationships
A person may have a positive view of their partner while overlooking or minimizing their partner’s shortcomings. However, some types of judgments in some contexts can lead a person to see their partner with some degree of accuracy. Whereas our previous research focused on the perceiver being able to regulate needs for esteem and accuracy, our current research also considers the impact of such perceptions on one’s partner.
Maternal well being and infant development [Archival Studies]
A subset of women from the Montreal Prematurity Study were recruited and enrolled in the New Mothers Study (N = 553). Women who had infants born with significant health problems were targeted for recruitment and overrepresented in the sample, providing a prospective study of women’s responses to a stressful life event. Initial analyses have revealed that maternal felt security and pregnancy commitment serve as protective factors against post-partum increases in depression. In the Maternal Adversity, Vulnerability, and Neurodevelopment (MAVAN) Project, which utilizes data from the Prematurity and New Mothers Studies, we examine maternal adversity and identify potential moderators of the effects of maternal adversity on the cognitive and emotional development of children assessed at 6, 12, 18, 24 and 36 months of age.
We are deeply committed to the experimental method as a way to optimize the internal validity of our research. This requires creativity and care in designing experiments testing important questions about identity and interpersonal relationships. We also use longitudinal, diary, experience sampling and speed dating designs that provide within person data assessed in a more ‘in vivo’ environment. Cross cutting our designs is a constant interest in ways to assess processes at an implicit as well as explicit level.