SETO (Self and Existential Thoughts and Observations) Lab

Director: Elizabeth Seto, Assistant Professor of Psychology


Welcome to the SETO Lab! I am Dr. Elizabeth Seto, and I am a social psychologist interested in studying a variety of topics historically found in existential philosophy. I received my B.A. in Psychology at Baylor University in 2012, and my Ph.D. in Social and Personality Psychology at Texas A&M University in 2017. I just joined the Psychology Department here at Colby in the Fall of 2017. This semester I am co-teaching Introduction to Psychology (PS111) alongside a wonderful team of psychologists and a Seminar/Collaborative Research course in Experimental Social Psychology (PS 336/337).


My research team and I are currently pursuing two lines of research. Our first line of research examines the mechanisms and psychological consequences of belief in free will. Specifically, we are interested in how belief (or disbelief) in free will influences different components of our self-concept and our social behavior. Our second line of research focuses on understanding how people experience authenticity and find true self-knowledge. In other words, under what circumstances do we find or feel closer to our true selves? I welcome the opportunity to discuss my work, and if you are interested in joining my research team, you can find me in Davis 302 or reach me at


Student Researchers


Yi-Pei Lo, ’18
I am a senior Psychology and French studies double major with a math minor. This year, I am doing an honor thesis about memory and language. Beyond my lab work, I serve as a Chinese tutor in the East Asian Department. In my spare time, I enjoy photographing, exploring museums, and eating Japanese food.



Liam Wilson ’19
I am a junior from central Massachusetts double majoring in Psychology and Education. I am particularly interested in the psychological development of children and am planning to pursue a career in the Education field. Outside the lab at Colby, I mentor a local student in the CCAK program and participate in intramural sports. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with friends and cheering for Boston sports teams.



Lauren Ruddy, ’20
I’m a sophomore from North Attleboro, Massachusetts majoring in Psychology and French and minoring in Chemistry. I fell in love with psychology when I took AP Psych in high school, and I found that I particularly enjoyed social psychology, though I am also beginning to develop an interest in forensic psychology as well. I’m on the pre-med track and am considering a career in psychiatry, though I am also open to exploring other options in medicine. On campus, I am also a research assistant in the Sociology department, and I’m involved in French Club, the French Student Advisory Board, Asian Students Association, and CCAK. In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with friends, watching Criminal Minds, and spending time with my three puppies, Toby, Teddy, and Tory.


Peer-Reviewed Publications:

Seto, E., & Schlegel, R. J. (in press). Becoming your true self: Perceptions of authenticity across the lifespan. Self and Identity.

Christy, A. G., Seto, E., Schlegel, R. J., Vess, M., & Hicks, J. A. (2016). Straying from the righteous path and from ourselves: The interplay between perceptions of morality and self-knowledge. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(11), 1538-1550.

Kim, J., Seto, E., Christy, A. G., & Hicks, J. A. (2016). Investing in the real me: Preference for experiential purchases to material purchases driven by the motivation to search for true self-knowledge. Self and Identity, 15(6), 727-747.

Seto, E., & Hicks, J. A. (2016). Disassociating the agent from the self: Undermining belief in free will diminishes true self-knowledge. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7(7), 726-734.

Seto, E., Hicks, J. A., Vess, M., & Geraci, L. (2016). The association between vivid thoughts of death and authenticity. Motivation and Emotion, 40(4), 520-540.

Seto, E., Hicks, J. A., Davis, W. E., & Smallman, R. (2015). Free will, counterfactual reflection, and the meaningfulness of life events. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(3), 243-250.


Book Chapters and Other Publications:

Hicks, J. A., Seto, E., & Kim, J. (2016). Meaning of life. In S. K. Whitbourne (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Adulthood and Aging. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

Kim, J., Seto, E., Davis, W. E., & Hicks, J. A. (2014). Positive and existential psychological approaches to the experience of meaning in life. In P. Russo-Netzer & A. Batthyany (Eds.), Meaning in Existential and Positive Psychology. New York: Springer Press.


PsyPost, Invited Interview: “Study Finds Link Between Vivid Thoughts of Death and Authenticity.”

The Conversation, Invited Article: “Believing in Free Will Makes You Feel More Like Your True Self.”

Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Press Release: “When It Comes To Knowing Yourself, Believe in Free Will.”