I am a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and part of Laurier’s Social Psychology program. I am fascinated by people and how they behave, think, and understand themselves and their social worlds.
I am funded by SSHRC, MITACS and CFI. I am also a Fellow of the Successful Societies Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Each year I work with several graduate students, undergraduate honours students, and research assistants.
Some of my specific research interests include:
1) Identity over time: How do people construct their temporally-extended identity? In my lab, we think about identity at the level of the individual (personal identity, self), as well as relational and collective identity (the aspects of identity that come from relationships and group membership – for example, gender, ethnicity, nationality). Each of these kinds of identity cannot exist only in the present– they have a past and a future. How people reconstruct and remember their personal and collective past, and how they imagine and simulate their personal and collective future have implications for current identity. Temporally-extended identity also has implications for well-being, motivation and goal-pursuit, decision-making, and judgments of others.
2) Beliefs about the nature of change: People can be powerfully affected by their implicit beliefs, or lay theories, about how the world works. People diverge in their beliefs about whether people, groups, and particular attributes are changeable over time or are fixed and stable. Researchers in my lab are investigating how these beliefs alter people’s memories, predictions, and judgments. We are also interested in the motivational and situational factors that cause people to adopt and sometimes alter their own beliefs about change.
3) Motivation and future goal-pursuit: How do individuals' representations of the past and future influence their motivation to pursue long-term goals in the face of immediate costs or temptations? This question – how people grapple with incurring immediate costs to reap long-term benefits - applies to many domains including academic goals, health goals (exercise and healthy eating), financial planning, and making environmentally sustainable decisions. We are also investigating the factors that lead people to misperceive the subjective likelihood of future risks and benefits, which in turn can affect their willingness to take action in the present. For example, if people underestimate the likelihood or risk of climate change, they will be less inclined to take action now that could help avert worse outcomes in the future.
4) The psychology of time: People's subjective experience of time can often differ markedly from calendar or clock time. Points in time in the past or future may seem close or distant, regardless of their actual proximity. A period of time may seem to pass quickly or slowly, regardless of actual duration. Subjective time can have a powerful effect on people’s experience of events, independent of actual chronological time. Lab members are investigating factors that cause differences in subjective time perception as well as implications for identity, decisions, and social judgments. For example, people see past successes as subjectively more recent than past failures (even when they really occurred at the same time). Happy relationship partners view their relationship problems as further away than unhappy partners. People may also see future events they dread as further away than events they look forward to, which can affect their tendency to prepare for these events.
5) Sociocultural influences on the self: How does a society's cultural norms affect self-appraisals, behaviour, and relationships? In my lab we have examined sociocultural norms for ideal physical appearance and how they influence women's and men's self-image and beliefs about their social worth. For example, we find that women who are exposed to societal messages about beauty and thinness base their self-worth on appearance and are more attuned to beauty as a measure of their social worth. This can have disastrous implications for their security in close relationships.
Anne E. Wilson, PhD
(519) 884-1970 x 3037
Department of Psychology
Wilfrid Laurier University
CIFAR Fellow, Successful Societies Program