Overview of the Cultural-Existential Psychology Lab

We are interested in the intersection between culture and human suffering, broadly construed.

In other words, our lab pursues questions centered on how a wide variety of cultural factors - such as social class, religion, and everyday patterns of activity - influence an equally wide variety of negative experiences - such as unpleasant emotions, illness, and natural disasters.

Most immediately, our research questions and methodology stem from a fruitful dialogue between two of the fastest-growing subfields in social psychology: experimental existential psychology and cultural psychology. However, we maintain a strong commitment to fostering a truly interdisciplinary spirit in the social sciences. This means that we endeavor to use a variety of methods, ranging from quantitative to qualitative, including laboratory experiments, case studies of particular cultural groups, analysis of large-scale survey data, community action research, and qualitative investigations of clinically relevant populations.

We are also committed to the development of theory, and to a healthy (if tense) exchange between theory and empirical research. Understanding the links and divergences between the micro level of individual suffering experience and the macro level of culture and social structure requires expertise in and development of the major traditions of social scientific theory. Some of the theories, areas, and approaches that are most relevant to our framework are: terror management theory (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 2015), socioecological psychology (Oishi, 2014), existentialist philosophy (Nietzsche, Sartre), psychoanalytic thought (Freud, Otto Rank), biopolitical philosophy (Esposito, 2013; Lazzarato, 2014), existential anthropology (M. Jackson,  2013), and the Frankfurt School.

If you are interested in learning more about the lab, or joining as an undergraduate research assistant or graduate student, please navigate to the "Lab Members" link.