Charles B. Knapp Early Career Scholar Award 2016
Michelle vanDellen, assistant professor of psychology, is a highly productive and engaged scholar who studies the psychological and social aspects of self-regulation—the means by which people order their lives and control their behavior. Her dissertation research was the first to show that causing people to think about others they know who are good or bad at self-control leads to improvement or decline in their own ability to control their behavior when confronted with temptations. Her more recent work focuses on self-regulation in the context of close relationships. With colleagues, vanDellen has developed a novel theoretical framework that defines all goal pursuits as inherently interpersonal. Whereas current research thinks of relationship satisfaction as primarily involving affective and emotional processes, this theory suggests it is the practicalities of figuring out how to pursue goals in collaboration with others that lead to long-lasting, happy and productive relationships.