Posted on 11/10/2016

Ozlem Ayduk is a Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests include the role of negative interpersonal schemas as a social-cognitive mediator of personal and interpersonal adjustment; the role of self-distancing in enabling emotional regulation; and the precursors, correlates, and consequences of children’s ability to delay gratification.

Employer: University of California, Berkeley
Job Title:  Professor

Highest Degree: PhD
Institution Providing Degree: Columbia University

What led you to choose a career in personality and social psychology?
The origins of my interest in personality and social psychology can be traced back to middle school, which is when I started reading books on personality and psychopathology. This exposure triggered my broader interest in understanding human behavior. And I always knew I wanted to be scientist. So from an early age, I aspired to pursue an academic career in psychology.

Briefly summarize your current research, and any future research interests you plan to pursue. 
Broadly, I am interested in understanding cognitive and affective processes that underlie reactivity, as well as regulation, in response to a wide-range of stressors including social rejection, provocation, and negative autobiographical memories. I have been particularly interested in understanding why some people react to such stressors more strongly and less adaptively, and how these reactions can be down-regulated. The personality dynamic that has taken a center stage in my earlier work is referred to as rejection sensitivity (RS) which captures people’s fears and expectations of rejection. My work and that of others on RS have documented how and why being high in RS leads to both personal and interpersonal difficulties. On the regulation side, I have long been interested in how cognitive construals of a situation impact our emotions and behavior. Particularly I have been interested in how construing stressors from a psychologically distanced perspective impacts emotion regulation. Psychological distancing refers to the process of moving away from the immediate situation at hand, which is by default anchored in the present state of the self. Together with my long-term collaborator Ethan Kross, and our students, we have shown how various cognitive strategies that increase psychological distance from the self reduces negative affect and enables people to cope better with stressors, whether these are things that have already happened in the past leading to rumination, or things that are yet to happen leading to anxiety and worry. Currently, I am really interested in developing interventions that can translate these lab findings to important real-world outcomes such as improving ingroup-outgroup interactions.

Why did you join SPSP?
I joined SPSP to be part of the Social-Personality Psychology community and to support it as an organization, which plays an important function in advancing psychological science beyond the narrow limits of our discipline.

What is your most memorable SPSP Annual Convention experience?
The very first SPSP conference in 2000, where I gave my first ever symposia presentation on my Ph.D. dissertation!

How has being a member of SPSP helped to advance your career? 
SPSP has been my default conference for many years. It provides many opportunities for career advancement, including disseminating one’s work, learning about cutting-edge research, making social connections, and, of course, catching up with friends! And my own career has benefitted significantly from all of these opportunities.

Do you have any advice for individuals who wish to pursue a career in personality and social psychology?
Study what you are passionate about, not what you think you ought to study because of what seems popular at any given point in time.

Outside of psychology, how do you spend your free time?
I have two boys, 11 and 7 years old, so most of my time outside of work is spent chasing my kids! I am also a gym-rat and I love cooking.