Helen Boucher



Boucher, Helen C.


Professor of Psychology


Psychology 207-786-6395Pettengill Hall, Room 361

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Summary of Interests

  • The psychology of self-defense
  • 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)

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Research Interests

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).

Courses Taught

  • PSYC 101 Principles of Psychology
  • AS/PY 260 Cultural psychology
  • PY/SO 210 Social psychology
  • PSYC 218 Statistics
  • PSYC 381 The Self
  • PSYC s37 The Psychology of Humor

Selected Publications

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