Brett Pelham
Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology AY13-14

Photo of Brett Pelham

Departments: Psychology
Office: Goodpaster Hall, Room 112
Phone: 240-895-2196


B.A., M.A., Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin

Courses Taught:

  • Research Methods

Research Interests

Social PsychologyI am interested in implicit social cognition and motivation. This mainly includes stereotypes, gender, judgmental heuristics, implicit self-evaluation, close relationships, and health psychology.  

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., people 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 people'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 participants' 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 principles (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.