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Department of Psychology

College of Arts & Sciences

Emotion and Cognition Laboratory

Principal Investigator: Dr. Benjamin Wilkowski


University of Wyoming

Department of Psychology, Dept. 3415

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071


Phone: 307-223-5239


Research Focus

In recent years, our lab has moved to focus on three inter-related topics – goal self-regulation, emotion, and personality. Our current research is largely, but not exclusively, geared toward examining each of these topics in participants’ daily lives --- i.e., outside of the laboratory using daily diary & experience-sampling methodology.

  1. Goal Self-Regulation: How do people achieve their goals? Self-regulatory processes are the processes that allow a person to do just that, and they include such processes as planning, monitoring, putting plans into action (‘operating’), and resisting temptation. A central focus of our lab is examining each of these processes in our participants’ day-to-day goal pursuits. Beyond this, we are interested in identifying the major long-term goals that people pursue (e.g., social belonging; achievement, etc.); whether some goals are more “fundamental” or “intrinsic” than others; different characteristics of goals (e.g., approach vs. avoidance goals; attainment vs. maintenance goals, etc.), and how different emotions affect goal pursuit (e.g., general positive affect; fatigue).

  2. Emotions: According to many theories, our emotions play an important role in motivating and guiding us toward our goals and to evolutionarily adaptive outcomes (e.g., mutually beneficial social relationships). Dimensional theories of emotion suggest that two broad dimensions of positive affect & negative affect explain most emotional experiences. They encourage approach toward rewards & avoidance of punishments, respectively. Theories of basic emotion generally put forward a much longer list of more specific emotions like anger, guilt, sadness, disgust, etc., which serve more specific functions. A broad interest of ours is whether these two views can be reconciled by suggesting that the “basic” emotions are more specific factors that lie underneath broader dimensions like positive and negative affect. In testing this view, we ask questions like: Can the “basic” emotions be distinguished from each other in factor analyses of emotions experienced during social interactions in daily life? Do different basic emotions emerge in different situations? Do they predict different behavioral responses? This is of course a very broad question which could be applied to many different emotions, so this research is on-going.

  3. Personality: Personality trait researchers now largely agree that five traits (i.e., openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, & neuroticism) describe the broadest dimensions of personality in most cultures. Historically, though, this trait perspective has been heavily criticized by personality researchers who take a more process-oriented or social-cognitive perspective and emphasize how people can behave quite differently in different situations. A final interest in our laboratory is examining how findings from these two different traditions can be reconciled. We take the approach that individual differences in situational interpretation, goal activation, response generation, and response evaluation can help determine whether a person will behave in an open, conscientious, extraverted, agreeable, or neurotic fashion at a specific point in time.

Lab Members:

Benjamin Wilkowski, Ph.D.

Primary Investigator

Ben Wilkowski Ben grew up outside of Columbus, Ohio. He earned his B.A. in psychology and philosophy from Ohio University in 2002, and his Ph.D. in social/personality psychology from North Dakota in 2008. He came to the University of Wyoming in 2008 and has been here ever since.




Zach Williamson

4th year graduate student

Zach Williamson Originally from Mountain View, Wyoming, Zach obtained his BA in psychology with from the University of Wyoming in 2015. Zach joined the Emotion and Cognition lab as a graduate student in 2016. Zach is primarily interested in the influence of goal specific motivation on various self-regulatory processes and how this impacts the attainment of long-term goals.



Representative Publications

Denson, T., Wilkowski, B.M., DeWall, C.N., Friese, M., Hoffman, W., Ferguson, E.L.*, Chester, D.S., Capper, M.M., Yu, L., Garradd, A., & Kasumovic, M.M. (2017). Boosting self-control capacity supports the aggressive and non-aggressive pursuit of distal goals. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69, 71-78. [preprint pdf]

 Wilkowski, B.M., & Ferguson, E.L.* (2016). The steps that can take us miles: Examining the short-term dynamics of long-term daily goal pursuit. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145, 516-529. [preprint pdf]

 Wilkowski, B.M., & Robinson, M.D. (2016). Cognitive control processes underlying individual differences in self-control. In E.R. Hirt, J.J. Clarkson, & L. Jia (Eds), Self-regulation and ego-control (pp. 301-324). San Diego, CA: Academic Press. [preprint pdf]

Wilkowski, B.M., Crowe, S.E.*, & Ferguson, E.L.* (2015). Learning to keep your cool: Reducing aggression through the experimental modification of cognitive control. Cognition and Emotion, 13, 774-781. [preprint pdf]

 Wilkowski, B.M., & Ferguson, E.L.* (2014). Just loving these people: Extraverts implicitly associate people with reward. Journal of Research in Personality, 54, 93-102. [preprint pdf]

 Meier, B.P., & Wilkowski, B.M. (2013). Reducing the tendency to aggress: Insights from social and personality psychology. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7, 343-354. [preprint pdf]

 Wilkowski, B.M. & Robinson, M.D. (2010). Associative and spontaneous appraisal processes independently contribute to anger-elicitation in daily life. Emotion, 10, 181-189. [preprint pdf]

 Wilkowski, B.M., Robinson, M.D., & Troop-Gordon, W. (2010). How does cognitive control reduce anger and aggression?: The role of conflict monitoring and forgiveness processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 830-840. [preprint pdf]

 Wilkowski, B.M. & Robinson, M.D. (2008). The cognitive basis of trait anger and reactive aggression: An integrative analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 12, 3-28. [preprint pdf]

*Denotes graduate student author

Prospective Graduate Students:

The Emotion and Cognition Laboratory is currently accepting applications for graduate students who plan to enroll in the Fall of 2020. Applicants at both the Bachelor’s and Master’s level are encouraged to apply. Please see the Department of Psychology’s information page for more information on how to apply. In addition to the requirements stipulated by the University of Wyoming and the Department of Psychology, applicants to the Emotion and Cognition Laboratory are expected to have a primary research focus aligned with at least one of the laboratory focuses described above.

Contact Us

Department of Psychology

1000 E University Ave.

Dept. 3415

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: 307-766-6303

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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