Faculty Research

Marry Lewis, Ph.D.

"My primary interest focuses on adolescent moral development, generally, and adolescents' prosocial behavior toward parents as a function of qualities in their relationships, more specifically. My interests focus on the way in which morality and prosocial behavior is socialized in the framework of the family environment and ways in which variation in adolescent prosocial behavior occurs as a function in the changing nature of parent-adolescent conflict, warmth, cohesion, and communication patterns."

CONTACT: eberly@oakland.edu

Melissa M. McDonald, Ph.D.

"My primary research area lies, broadly, in the field of intergroup relations. My approach to studying this topic is diverse in a variety of ways. First, the questions I ask are both basic and applied. For example, I am interested in understanding the evolved function of intergroup bias, as well as developing practical interventions to reduce bias between groups in real conflict. My research also integrates findings from many different fields within psychology as well as from other disciplines, such as anthropology, evolutionary biology, and economics. Finally, I am interested both in theory-building via the integration of findings from diverse fields, as well as conducting programmatic empirical studies to test the tenets of theories of intergroup bias."


CONTACT: mmmcdonald@oakland.edu

Matthew McLarnon, Ph.D.

Matthew McLarnon's research addresses a wide variety of questions pertinent to industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology. One component of this research focuses on investigating the dynamic functioning of individuals' resiliency resources and self-regulatory processes following the experience of a challenging event. 

A second component of this research program focuses on the interdependent nature of individuals assigned to work teams. This research has examined the benefits of implementing an intra-team peer feedback program to improve team performance, and has also identified when and why teams actually benefit from interpersonal conflict!

Throughout each of these research areas there is also an underlying motivation to apply sophisticated statistical tools. In particular, these research areas are also characterized by advanced applications of confirmatory factor analysis, structural equation models, multilevel and longitudinal models, and mixture models, which are commonly referred to as latent profile analyses.

CONTACT: mclarnon@oakland.edu

Todd K. Shackelford, Ph.D.

"The Evolutionary Psychology Lab is currently pursuing several programmatic lines of research. This research has the overarching goal of gaining a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of human sexual psychology and behavior. A special focus of research in the Lab is on sexual conflict between men and women. Additional research addresses religion and religious belief from an evolutionary psychological perspective."


CONTACT: shackelf@oakland.edu

Kanako Taku, Ph.D.

"My name is Kanako Taku. I am an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. I am teaching several courses, such as personality and statistics, in the Department of Psychology and I have a research lab that studies posttraumatic growth. For the last eleven years, I have conducted research on how people change psychologically, cognitively, socially, and spiritually after trauma and stressful life events. Although I have engaged in a comprehensive study of the process occurring in the aftermath of trauma, my line of research has centered on the construct of posttraumatic growth, positive psychological changes experienced as the result of the struggle with major life crises or traumatic event."



CONTACT: taku@oakland.edu

Jennifer Vonk, Ph.D.

"My lab, Laboratory of Cognitive Origins, studies the social and physical cognition and behavior of a variety of animal species, including humans. I am broadly interested in the origins of unique cognitive processes. I also study religiosity, theory of mind, and decision-making in humans. In addition, we are committed to studying and improving animal welfare through collaborations with the Detroit Zoo and the Organization of Bat Conservation, and other local organizations."


CONTACT: vonk@oakland.edu

Lisa LM Welling

Grounded in evolutionary reasoning, our research generally surrounds three inter-related areas:

1. Hormonal influences on behavior

In addition to being responsible for differences between the sexes, hormones govern and define the major developmental stages in our lives, from prenatal development, puberty, pregnancy, and childbirth, all the way to menopause/andropause. Still, many people are unaware of the important, active role hormones play in our daily lives. Whether it is having a baby, related to menstrual cycle phase, or hormonal disorders like complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, changes or differences in our hormonal profiles can influence our psychology. Specific interests in this area include work on menstrual cycle effects, effects of hormonal contraceptive use and other exogenous hormones, between-subject trait differences, other within-subject (e.g., diurnal) variation in hormone levels, comparative effects in humans and nonhuman primates, and the influence of hormones during critical developmental periods (e.g., puberty).

2. Sources of variation in adaptive preferences

Like a peacock's tail, certain human features, such as sexually dimorphic features (i.e., masculine features in men and feminine features in women), are thought to signal underlying genetic quality. However, while preferences for these and other features should be high under specific circumstances, fondness for certain cues varies from person to person and can change depending on environmental and individual conditions. Sources of variation and situational changes in adaptive preferences can potentially tell us about ancestral pressures on our species. Moreover, research in this area demonstrates how preferences are systematic, rather than arbitrary. Specific interests in this area include preferences for sexually dimorphic cues, cues to kinship/relatedness, dominance, health, condition-dependent preferences, and salience of emotional expressions.

3. Mate choice and interpersonal relationships

Why do we marry the people we do? What causes us to be attracted to some people and repulsed by others? Why do some relationships succeed while others fail? Human mating and pair-bonds are the foundation of reproduction and child-rearing. After all, our ability to attract and retain a mate has direct implications for whether or not we reproduce and the likelihood of our offspring surviving into adulthood. As such, factors affecting mate choice and interpersonal relationships are tremendously important in determining the evolutionary path of our species. Specific interests in this area include work on mate selection, human sexual behavior, infidelity, jealousy/mate retention, mate choice copying, and factors affecting attractiveness.


CONTACT: welling@oakland.edu

Keith L. Williams, Ph.D.

"Alcoholism and drug addiction continue to plague society despite recent progress in the treatment of these problems and the understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms. Research has shown that behavioral and biological factors influence drug consumption. My focus is on bridging the gap between the behavioral and biological components that modulate drug-taking behavior and addiction. My interests include the pharmacological and behavioral mechanisms of drug reinforcement and craving, drug discriminative stimulus properties, hormonal influences on drug self-administration, and contribution of food intake mechanisms on drug consumption."

CONTACT: william9@oakland.edu

Cynthia Sifonis, Ph.D.

"My research focuses on the relationship between category representation and category use. Specifically, the manner in which the use of category knowledge affects the representation of that knowledge and how the category representation affects category use.
Current lines of research include examinining how exposure to examples prior to a task that requires the individual to be creative, constrains the creativity of the resultants product. My research also includes research on applied analogical reasoning that examines the effects of conceptual distance between analogy source and target domains on the quality of solutions generated for the target domain."



CONTACT: sifonis@oakland.edu

Debra McGinnis, Ph.D.

Language and Aging Research Projects : Currently I am conducting several studies exploring age differences in text comprehension and explanations for those changes. In particular, I would like to understand why some adults over 75 are proficient comprehenders, while others exhibit dramatic deficits.
Epistemic Cognition Research Projects : This program of research addresses how people justify conclusions (epistemic cognition).

CONTACT: mcginnis@oakland.edu

Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Ph.D.

My primary research interests are in three interrelated areas: (1) self-esteem, (2) dark personality features (e.g., narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism, spitefulness), and (3) interpersonal relationships. Though divergent at times, these substantive areas often overlap in my research so that much of my work reflects an integration of these topics. In my research concerning self-esteem, I have focused primarily on the causes and consequences of fragile high self-esteem as well as the development of the status-signaling model of self-esteem. My research concerning dark personality features is focused on identifying potentially aversive aspects of personality and examining their connections with important life outcomes (e.g., psychological adjustment). Finally, in the area of interpersonal relationships, I examine how personality features as well as beliefs about the self and one’s romantic partner influence intimacy, relationship satisfaction, jealousy, infidelity, and longevity in close relationships.