Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Paul Silvia

Paul Silvia

  • Media Contact
  • SPN Mentor

I'm interested in the intersection of motivation and cognition, particularly how people guide their thoughts and how emotional states motivate thinking.

My research on self-awareness examines how self-focused attention influences self-evaluation. Recent work has explored the role of conscious awareness in the self-evaluation process and how self-awareness influences the self-regulation of effort-related cardiovascular responses. This research has been supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

In ongoing work, we are examining anhedonia in adults with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Using mainstream models of effort from motivation science, we can unpack the psychological factors that give rise to depressive anhedonia. An ongoing NIMH grant is funding a project that uses cardiac psychophysiology and experience sampling to examine effort deficits in both the ab and daily life.

Another line of work concerns the emotion of interest, particularly the vexing problem of what makes things interesting, boring, and confusing. Most of this work is carried out in the domain of aesthetics and the arts, such as visual art, poetry, and film. My work on interest and aesthetic emotions received the Berlyne Award, an early career award given by APA Division 10. My work is summarized in a 2006 book, Exploring the Psychology of Interest, and a 2008 article in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Finally, we have an active program of work on creativity, particularly how people come up with creative ideas. In addition to developing new methods of assessment and scoring, we have developed a model of creative thought that emphasizes executive and strategic aspects of cognition. A line of behavioral and neuroimaging studies has offered strong support for our approach. Our work is currently funded by a grant from the Imagination Institute, and a recent article in Trends in Cognitive Sciences summarizes our work to date.

Regarding methods, I'm interested in experience-sampling techniques for studying the psychology of everyday life. We've used ESM to study a range of problems, such as mindwandering, musical imagery, aberrant perceptual experiences, everyday creativity, and social disinterest. Integrating ESM into intervention research is a particular interest of mine. My collaborators and I have applied experience sampling designs to a range of clinical and at-risk populations, including adults with MDD in a psychotherapy trial and college students with ADHD taking part in an intervention intended to improve college success.

Some years ago I wrote a short book called "How To Write A Lot": it describes how to overcome the motivational and self-regulatory problems involved in academic writing. If you find writing difficult, struggle with "finding time to write," or believe that psychology books should have a lot of distracting, irrelevant remarks about coffee, Icelandic, and Bernese mountain dogs, then you might find the book helpful. My latest book, "Write It Up," focuses on how to write and publish empirical articles. It discusses strategies for crafting influential articles, navigating the journal process, cultivating a strong writing style, and deciding what work is worth our limited writing time.

Primary Interests:

  • Emotion, Mood, Affect
  • Motivation, Goal Setting
  • Research Methods, Assessment
  • Self and Identity
  • Social Cognition


Journal Articles:

Courses Taught:

  • Academic Writing and Publishing
  • Advanced Research Methods
  • Advanced Social Psychology
  • Attitudes and Social Influence
  • Careers in Psychology
  • Cognition & Emotion
  • Interest, Curiosity, and Intrinsic Motivation
  • Motivation & Emotion
  • Psychology of Art, Creativity, & Genius
  • Social Psychology
  • Theories of Personality

Paul Silvia
Department of Psychology
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
P.O. Box 26170
Greensboro, North Carolina 27402-6170
United States

  • Phone: (336) 256-0007
  • Fax: (336) 334-5066

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