My research program focuses on the study of close relationships. More specifically, I have centered my investigations on the conflict people experience between the goal to seek closeness and the goal to self-protect against rejection. My work builds from the idea that people have a fundamental need for connection. To satisfy this need, people must ultimately risk rejection. For instance, creating and maintaining satisfying relationships requires people to take a leap of faith or disclose private feelings. In a perfect world, partners would always respond with acceptance and love. Unfortunately, people sometimes find that making themselves vulnerable can lead to hurt, embarrassment, or rejection. I am fascinated by how people negotiate the competing drives for connection and protection when navigating romantic life.
One line of research examines these drives in the context of partner selection and relationship initiation. Much of my research in this area focuses on who is likely to approach vs. avoid a potential romantic partner and under what conditions people may place priority on one goal over the other. Briefly, my research suggests that individuals (particularly those with more secure attachment orientations) tend to balance their competing goals through the use of strategic partner selection preferences. That is, under normal circumstances, individuals show a preference for the best possible partner. However, when concerned about the possibility of rejection, they show a preference for “safer” (slightly less attractive and slightly less self-confident) partners to optimize the likelihood of connection. Results suggest that this strategic partner selection may be driven by an automatic activation of connection drives in situations with romantic potential. Less secure participants, on the other hand, don’t seem to show the same activation of connection drives in response to available partners, and thus, fail to utilize strategic selection when in partner selection situations.
Other lines of research have investigated this goal negotiation within the context of ongoing romantic relationships (both dating and married), as well as looked specifically at the experience of romantic love, hurt feelings, and relationship rekindling.
As an Assistant Professor at High Point University, I teach Introduction to Psychology, Social Psychology, Close Relationships, and Love/Hate in Cyberspace. In 2010 I was the national receipient of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology's (STP) Wilbert J. McKeachie Teaching Excellence Award.
- Murray, S. L., Griffin, D. W., Derrick, J. L., Harris, B., Aloni, M., & Leder, S. (in press). Tempting fate or inviting happiness: Unrealistic idealization prevents the decline of marital satisfaction. Psychological Science.
- Murray, S. L., Pinkus, R. T., Holmes, J. G., Harris, B., Gomillion, S., Aloni, M., Derrick, J. L., & Leder, S. (2011). Signaling when (and when not) to be cautious and self-protective: Impulsive and reflective trust in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 485-502.
- Murray, S. L., Aloni, M., Holmes, J. G., Derrick, J. L., Anthony, D. B., & Leder, S. (2009). Fostering partner dependence as commitment insurance: The implicit contingencies of exchange in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 324-348.
- Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., Aloni, M., Pinkus, R. T., Derrick, J. L., & Leder, S. (2009). Commitment insurance: Compensating for the autonomy costs of interdependence in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 256-278.
- Murray, S. L., Leder, S., MacGregor, J. C. D., Holmes, J. G., Pinkus, R. T., & Harris, B. (2009). Becoming irreplaceable: How comparisons to the partner’s alternatives differentially affect low and high self-esteem people. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 1180-1191.
- Murray, S. L., Derrick, J. L., Leder, S., & Holmes, J. G. (2008). Balancing connectedness and self-protection goals in close relationships: A levels of processing perspective on risk regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 429-459.
- Leary, M. R., & Leder, S. (2009). The nature of hurt feelings: Emotional experience and cognitive appraisals. In A. L. Vangelisti (Ed.), Feeling Hurt in Close Relationships. New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Close Relationships
- Introduction to Psychology
- Love and Hate in Cyberspace
- Social Psychology
- Survey Research Center Practicum
High Point University
High Point, NC 27262
- Phone: (336) 841-9430