My central line of research investigates the experience of being mentally in sync with others. Specifically, I explore the role of shared reality — the perceived commonality of thoughts and feelings — in interpersonal relationships. I examine how shared reality fosters the experience of clicking between strangers and blurs self-other boundaries between close partners. Further, I investigate the role of shared reality in the phenomenology of having “merged minds”: the experience of exchanging knowing glances, finishing each other’s sentences, and thinking of things at the same time. You can read a recent conceptual piece on this topic here.
I have developed a measure of shared reality in interpersonal relationships (currently in prep), with versions for use between close partners and between strangers. Please email me if you are interested in using this scale.
I am also extending this work to explore the ways in which constructing a shared reality enhances certainty and sensory perceptions of realness. Ultimately, I am interested in the ways that humans turn to each other to make sense of the world and to co-construct the “truth”.
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In other lines of work, I have examined the role of truth-seeking in both intra- and interpersonal processes. My colleagues and I have found that at the intra-personal level, excessive truth-concerns can increase stress during decision-making [pdf]. We have also found that interpersonally, mismanaged truth-seeking can hinder reconciliation processes in relationship conflicts [pdf]. In a recent paper, I argue that classic consistency effects can be explained by interpersonal truth-seeking – specifically by the motivation to achieve a shared reality [pdf]. Each of these lines of work points to the importance of managing the need for truth, especially through interpersonal means.
Further, I have examined conflicts between different realities and how these can be reconciled. My colleagues and I have explored how walking together – especially in synchrony – may be an effective way to resolve interpersonal conflicts and disagreements [pdf], and may be linked with affiliative group behaviors more generally [pdf]. In another collaboration, I have explored how intra-personal conflicts, specifically in the form of discrepancies between one’s group identity and one’s desired self, can pose risks to mental health [pdf] and academic engagement. These lines of work highlight the challenges of and potential avenues for reconciling different realities, both within- and between-person.