Helen Boucher

Associate Professor

 

Summary of Interests

  • The psychology of self-defense
  • Positive psychology and meaning in life
  • Cultural influences on self-knowledge, self-evaluation, and self-regulation

Education

  • B.A., University of Illinois at Chicago (1998)
  • M.A., University of California, Berkeley (2001)
  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley (2005)

Letters of Recommendation Policy

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Research Interests

Broadly speaking, Prof. Boucher is a social psychologist and studies self-regulation; that is, how we adapt and modify ourselves in response to both environmental demands and internal factors like our physical state and mood. A central question I have been answering in the past several years is how do people respond to threatening self-relevant information? We have all experienced poor evaluations, break-ups, health scares, and so on, but how do we deal with these setbacks? Humans have a drive to perceive the world and themselves as meaningful and comprehensible, and events such as these can make one question what the meaning of life is all about. One strategy is to buttress the self by expressing confidence or certitude in something that has nothing to do with the original threat; that way, a sense of meaning can be restored. For example, participants who thought about their death became more certain about their own personalities (Boucher, 2011, Study 2). This is a relatively new line of research and there are many exciting directions Prof. Boucher would like to pursue.

More generally, Prof. Boucher is interested in the interface of research on positive psychology and meaning in life. How does the experience of meaning in life contribute to subjective well-being? How do we come to see our lives as meaningful? What psychological interventions can increase a sense of meaning and/or well-being, and why do they work? This is a hot area in social psychology and Prof. Boucher is eager to explore these topics.

Finally, Prof. Boucher has long been interested in cultural influences on self-concept, self-esteem, and self-regulation. For example, members of East Asian cultures tend to describe themselves less consistently, and less positively, than European-Americans (e.g., Boucher, Peng, Shi, & Wang, 2009). Also, they seem to have less of a need to feel unique than European-Americans (Boucher & Maslach, 2009). While she is not actively pursuing any cross-cultural projects, students are welcome to discuss their ideas with her; for example, a recent thesis project examined cultural differences in the belief in emotional residue (i.e., the idea that emotions experienced in a physical space linger there and can potentially affect a new person entering that space).

Courses Taught

  • PSYC 101 Principles of Psychology
  • AS/PY 260 Cultural psychology
  • PY/SO 210 Social psychology
  • PSYC 381 The Self
  • PSYC s33 Self-Insight
  • PSYC s37 The Psychology of Humor

Selected Publications

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