Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

James McNulty

James McNulty

I examine how strong beliefs change or remain stable over time. Thus far, I have investigated this issue mostly in the context of marriage, where changes in such beliefs are unfortunately common. That nearly half of all U.S marriages end in divorce, and that spouses in the majority of intact marriages do not maintain their initial levels of satisfaction, suggests there are limits to social psychological theories of belief stability. Given people’s propensities toward perceptual and behavioral confirmation, belief perseverance, confirmation biases, and motivated reasoning, why do these important beliefs so frequently change over time?

My program of research suggests that the broader context of the relationship is one overlooked factor that explains such change. The important role of context in determining the expression and implications of various psychological traits and processes was a central lesson taught by social influence research that dominated early social psychology. Yet, this lesson has been all but lost among many researchers who now study the more cognitive aspects of social psychology. My research highlights the importance of the broader context to current theories of social cognition by showing that the broader context of the close relationships in which we so frequently interact moderates the extent to which various psychological traits and processes are associated with stable or unstable social beliefs.

I have published my research in, among other journals, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, Current Directions in Psychological Science, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Social Psychological and Personality Science, and the Journal of Family Psychology. I was awarded with the 2009 Early Career Award in Close Relationships, by the Relationship Researchers Interest Group of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. I was also awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Child Health and Development to study the implications of positive expectancies for global and specific marital outcomes.

Primary Interests:

  • Close Relationships
  • Interpersonal Processes
  • Life Satisfaction, Well-Being
  • Personality, Individual Differences
  • Sexuality, Sexual Orientation
  • Social Cognition

Research Group or Laboratory:

Journal Articles:

Courses Taught:

  • Advanced Social Psychology
  • Close Relationships
  • General Psychology
  • Multilevel Modeling
  • Psychology of Intimate Relationships
  • Research Methods
  • Social Psychology
  • Stereotyping and Prejudice

James McNulty
Department of Psychology
Florida State University
1107 W. Call Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306-4301
United States

  • Work: (850) 644-6065
  • Mobile: (865) 548-2780

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