Helen C. Boucher
Professor of Psychology
Pettengill Hall, Room 361
Broadly speaking, I am a social psychologist and study 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 certainty 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 being uncertain showed more loyalty to an important group (Boucher, Bloch, & Pelletier, 2016). This is a relatively new line of research and there are many exciting directions I would like to pursue.
I am also interested in the psychology of money and social class. Some research indicates that when people think about money, they become more self-sufficient and efficacious. For example, after being reminded of money, participants showed greater persistence (and thus better performance) on a challenging task (Boucher & Kofos, 2012). Another area I am interested in is social class, and how social class influences cognition, emotion, motivation, and behavior. Since high-SES individuals do not need to rely on others to accomplish their goals, they do not need to attend to others as much as lower-SES individuals. This is a hot area in social psychology right now and there are many directions I would like to pursue.
I am also 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 another hot area in social psychology and I am eager to explore these topics.
Finally, I have 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 I am not actively pursuing any cross-cultural projects, students are welcome to discuss their ideas with me; 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; Boucher & Vile, 2014).
Summary of Interests
- The psychology of self-defense
- The psychology of money and social class
- Positive psychology and meaning in life
- Cultural influences on self-knowledge, self-evaluation, and self-regulation
- 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
Interested in a letter of recommendation? Please review my Letters of Recommendation Policy before contacting me!
- AS/PY 260 Cultural psychology
- PSYC 101 Principles of psychology
- PSYC 218 Statistics
- PSYC 381 The self
- PSYC s37 The psychology of humor
- PY/SO 210 Social psychology
* indicates Bates student
Boucher, H. C., & Millard, M. A.* (2016). Belief in foreign supernatural agents as an alternate source of control when personal control is threatened. In press, The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion.
Boucher, H. C., Bloch, T.*, & Pelletier, A.* (2016). Fluid compensation following threats to self-concept clarity. Self and Identity, 15, 152-172.
Boucher, H. C., & Vile, M.* (2014). Beliefs in emotional residue in Japan and the United States. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45, 986-991.
Boucher, H. C. (2014). The Relational-Interdependent Self-Construal and positive illusions in friendship. Self and Identity, 13, 460-476.
Boucher, H. C., & Kofos, M. N.* (2012). The idea of money counteracts ego depletion effects. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 804-810.
Boucher, H. C. (2011). The dialectical self-concept II: Cross-role and within-role consistency, well-being, self-certainty, and authenticity. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 42, 1251-1271.
Boucher, H. C. (2011). Self-knowledge defenses to self-threats. Journal of Research in Personality, 45, 165-174.
Boucher, H. C., & O’Dowd, M. C.* (2011). Language and the bicultural dialectical self. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17, 211-216.
Boucher, H. C. (2010). Understanding Western-East Asian differences and similarities in self-enhancement. Personality and Social Psychology Compass, 4, 304-317.
Boucher, H. C., & Maslach, C. (2009). Culture and individuation: The role of norms and self-construals. Journal of Social Psychology, 149, 677-693.
Boucher, H. C., Peng, K., Shi, J., & Wang, L. (2009). Culture and implicit self-esteem: Chinese are “good” and “bad” at the same time. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 40, 24-45.
Spencer-Rodgers, J., Boucher, H. C., Mori, S., Wang, L., & Peng, K. (2009). The dialectical self-concept: Contradiction, change, and holism in East Asian cultures. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 29-44.
Chen, S., & Boucher, H. C. (2008). Relational selves as self-affirmational resources. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 716-733.
Chen, S., Boucher, H. C., & Tapias, M. P. (2006). The relational self revealed: Integrative conceptualization and implications for interpersonal life. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 151-179.
Kwan, V. S. Y., Bond, M. H., Boucher, H. C., Maslach, C., & Gan, Y. (2002). Individuation: More complex in collectivist than individualistic cultures. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 300-310.