Department of  Psychology
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Dr. Brett Pelham
Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin
Office: 356 Park Hall
Phone: (716) 645-3650 x. 356
E-mail (will open in a new window)

Summary of Research Interests:

My research focuses primarily on the interplay between social beliefs and social interaction. More specifically, my work focuses on social perception, including self perception, person perception, social inference, and stereotyping.

The bulk of my most recent self-concept research has focused on what my students and I call implicit egotism, the tendency to prefer people, places, or things that remind one of oneself. Presumably, this unconscious bias occurs because most people possess highly favorable unconscious associations about themselves (e.g., positive associations about the letters in one's name or the numbers in ones birthday; see Nuttin, 1985). In this largely archival research program, Matthew Mirenberg, John Jones, Mauricio Carvallo, and I have shown that people (1) are disproportionately likely to live in states or cities resembling their names (e.g., people named Louis are especially likely to live in St. Louis). (2) are disproportionately likely to have careers that resemble their names (e.g., peop le named Dennis, Denis, Denise and Dena are all especially likely to be dentists). (3) are disproportionately likely to marry other people whose surnames begin with the same letter as their own. This last effect is independent of ethnic matching effects (e.g., it occurs in strictly Latino and Chinese-American samples). A similar, albeit weaker, matching effect also occurs for people's first names.

My most recent laboratory research on implicit self-evaluation attempts to document that people do, in fact, possess automatic, overlearned (and presumably nonconscious) positive or negative associations about themselves. John Hetts, Tracy Deha rt, Tom Dehart, Mauricio Carvallo, and I have found that implicit self-esteem can be measured by adapting both (1) response latency measures that have been used in research on the automatic activation of attitudes and (2) measures of the strength of peopleˇ¦s name and birthday number letter preferences. We have gathered evidence that implicit self-esteem is predictably related to culture, ethnicity, daily social experiences, and the reports of participantsˇ¦ mothers of how nurturing the mothers were when participants were growing up.

My work in social inference falls into two categories: (a) the contextual determinants of people's use and misuse of formal attributional princip les (e.g., discounting) and (b) the role of motivation and cognitive load in people's use of normative versus heuristic decision rules in judgments under uncertainty. In addition, I have recently begun work on an integrative model of social judgment. In this work, I have attempted to apply basic psychophysical principles of lower order judgment to the understanding of higher order social judgments.

Representative Publications:


  • Pelham, B.W., & Blanton, H. (in press). Conducting research in psychology: Measuring the weight of smoke (3rd edition). Pacific Grove, CA: International Thompson Publishing.

Journal Articles:

  • DeHart, T., Pelham, B.W., & Tennen, H. (2006). What lies beneath: Parenting style and implicit self-esteem. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 1-17.
  • Hetts, J. J., Sakuma, M., & Pelham, B. W. (1999). Two-roads to positive regard: Implicit and explicit self-evaluation and culture. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 512-559.
  • Jones, J.T., Pelham, B.W., Carvallo, M., & Mirenberg, M.C. (2004). How do I love thee?, Let me count the Js: Implicit egotism and interpersonal attraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(5), 665-683.
  • Jones, J. T., Pelham, B. W., Mirenberg, M. C., & Hetts, J. J. (2002). Name letter preferences are not merely mere exposure: Implicit egotism as self-regulation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 170-177.
  • Pelham, B. W. (1995). Self-investment and self-esteem: Evidence for a Jamesian model of self-worth. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 1141-1150.
  • Pelham, B. W., & Hetts, J. J. (2002). Underworked and overpaid: Elevated entitlement in men's self-pay. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
  • Pelham, B. W., Mirenberg, M. C., & Jones, J. K. (2002). Why Susie sells seashells by the seashore: Implicit egotism and major life decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 469-487.
  • Pelham, B. W., & Neter, E. (1995). The effect of motivation on judgment depends on the difficulty of the judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 581-594.
  • Pelham, B. W., Sumarta, T. T., & Myaskovsky, L. (1994). The easy path from many to much: The numerosity heuristic. Cognitive Psychology, 26, 103-133.
  • Pelham, B. W., & Wachsmuth, J. O. (1995). The waxing and waning of the social self: Assimilation and contrast in social comparison. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 825-838.

Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
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