Existential Social Psychology

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Joseph Hayes Visiting Assistant Professor

I received my B.A. in Psychology from St. Francis Xavier University in 2004, and my Ph.D. in Social/Cultural Psychology from the University of Alberta in 2011. My teaching interests are in the area of Social and Personality Psychology. Before coming to Colby, I taught Social and Personality Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University. Here at Colby, in the Fall and Spring terms I am teaching the Social Psychology section of Introduction to Psychology (PS 111) and the Statistics & Research Methods Labs (PS 214L and PS 215L). I am also teaching a Seminar in Social Psychology (PS 336) with a Collaborative Research component (PS 337) in the fall, and will teach Personality Psychology (PS 251) in the spring.

In my research, I take an existential approach to understanding social psychological phenomena. More specifically, I investigate how social interactions are shaped by the need to make meaning of our lives and to cope with the inevitability of death. Much of my research is conducted from the perspective of terror management theory, and is focused on the death-anxiety buffering function of culture, ideological belief systems, social connections, and personal achievements. I am interested in how we respond to threats and challenges to our beliefs about the world and about ourselves. I am also examining the conditions under which we are willing to change these beliefs, and the consequence that such change has on our ability to manage existential anxiety.


Student Collaborators


Danielle Dellarco, '13

I’m a senior at Colby this year, pursuing a  major in Psychology.  I’m from Silver Spring, MD, and over the summer I was fortunate to work as an intern for Children's National Medical Center with their Diabetes Research Team. Working as a summer research assistant at Children's got me interested in pursuing more laboratory work. I love research and am really happy to be working with Professor Hayes this year with his research. In my free time at Colby, I play rugby, go hiking or skiing depending on the season, and I am involved in various clubs and campus groups such as CCOR and the Bridge.


Emma Klein '13

I am a senior Psychology and Anthropology double major from Longmeadow, Massachusetts.  This past summer I worked at a Summer Treatment Program at the Judge Baker Children's Center in Boston for children with ADHD and other behavioral disorders.  I had such a rewarding experience this summer that I hope to eventually go on to do clinical work in psychology.  After working with children with anxiety disorders as well as being an Anthropology major I was extremely excited to see the research that Professor Hayes was doing here at Colby! In my spare time I am a Community Advisor here on campus as well as a mentor for CCAK.  I also love to run and swim!