Helen C. Boucher
Professor of Psychology
Pettengill Hall, Room 361
Broadly speaking, I am a social psychologist whose expertise is in self-related topics, including:
- self-concept (what we think about ourselves)
- self-esteem (how we feel about ourselves)
- self-regulation (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. For example, high-SES individuals report fewer changes in their self-concept across relationship contexts than lower-SES individuals (Boucher, 2021). 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
- Self-concept, self-esteem, self-regulation
- 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
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- AS/PY 260 Cultural psychology
- PSYC 101 Principles of psychology
- PSYC 218 Statistics
- PSYC 306 Positive psychology
- PSYC 381 The self
- PSYC s37 The psychology of humor
- PY/SO 210 Social psychology
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* indicates Bates student
Boucher, H. C. (2021). Social class and self-concept consistency: Implications for subjective well-being and felt authenticity. Self and Identity, 20(3), 406-422. doi:10.1080/15298868.2020.1726443
Boucher, H. C., & English, T. (2017). The yin-yang of personality: Implications of naive dialecticism for social cognition, the self-concept, and well-being. In A. T. Church (Ed.), The Praeger Handbook of Personality Across Cultures (Vol. 3, pp. 179-206). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.
Boucher, H. C., Bloch, T.*, & Pelletier, A.* (2016). Fluid compensation following threats to self-concept clarity. Self and Identity, 15, 152-172. doi:10.1080/15298868.2015.1094405
Boucher, H. C., & Millard, M. A.* (2016). Belief in foreign supernatural agents as an alternate source of control when personal control is threatened. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 26, 193-211. doi:10.1080/10508619.2015.1092847
Boucher, H. C. (2014). The Relational-Interdependent Self-Construal and positive illusions in friendship. Self and Identity, 13, 460-476. doi:10.1080/15298868.2013.843472
Boucher, H. C., & Vile, M.* (2014). Beliefs in emotional residue in Japan and the United States. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45, 986-991. doi:10.1177/0022022114532355
Chen, S., Boucher, H. C., Andersen, S. M., & Saribay, S. A. (2013). Transference and the relational self. In J. Simpson & L. Campbell (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Close Relationships. Oxford University Press.
Boucher, H. C., & Kofos, M. N.* (2012). The idea of money counteracts ego depletion effects. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 804-810. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.02.003
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. doi:10.1177/0022022110383316
Boucher, H. C. (2011). Self-knowledge defenses to self-threats. Journal of Research in Personality, 45, 165-174. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2010.12.006
Boucher, H. C., & O’Dowd, M. C.* (2011). Language and the bicultural dialectical self. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17, 211-216. doi:10.1037/a0023686
Chen, S., Boucher, H. C., & Kraus, M. W. (2011). The relational self: Emerging theory and evidence. In S. J. Schwartz, K. Luyckx, & V. L. Vignoles (Eds.), Handbook of identity theory and research (pp. 149-175). New York: Springer Publishing.
Boucher, H. C. (2010). Understanding Western-East Asian differences and similarities in self-enhancement. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4, 304-317. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00266.x
Boucher, H. C., & Maslach, C. (2009). Culture and individuation: The role of norms and self-construals. Journal of Social Psychology, 149, 677-693. doi:10.1037/t04594-000
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. doi:10.1177/0022022108326195
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. doi:10.1177/0146167208325772
Spencer-Rodgers, J., Boucher, H. C., Peng, K., & Wang, L. (2009). Cultural differences in self-verification: The role of naïve dialecticism. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 860-866. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2009.03.004
Chen, S., & Boucher, H. C. (2008). Relational selves as self-affirmational resources. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 716-733. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2007.09.006
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. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.132.2.151
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. doi:10.1177/0146167202286002