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The overarching theme of our research is "Interactionism" -- that is, the belief that human behavior is ultimately a joint function of who people are as individuals (e.g., their personality, values, interests) and the situations/environments they experience. More specifically, our work attempts to use information about individual differences and work environments to understand how different types of employees react to different types of situations in predictably unique ways. On the person-side of this perspective, Psychology has more than a century's worth of research on what makes people unique and how to conceptualize and measure relevant individual characteristics, but the situation-side of this perspective is much less well-developed. As such, much of our work also focuses on better conceptualizing, measuring, and understanding situational characteristics and their influence workplace outcomes.

Situational Strength

people gathered into the shape of a muscle man's top halfSituational strength is a rather old, but underdeveloped idea in psychology. Made popular by Walter Mischel in the 1960s and 70s, it refers to the idea that the situations we experience differ in the extent to which they restrict our behavior. The classic example of a "strong" situation is a red traffic light, which sends an unmistakable signal about the appropriate behavior (i.e., to stop and wait until it turns green). The classic example of a "weak" situation is a yellow traffic light, which sends an ambiguous message about the appropriate behavior (i.e., do you speed up or do you stop?). In strong situations, then, our behavior is primarily influenced by the situation, but in weak situations, our behavior is influenced primarily by our personality. This means that measures of personality should predict behavior substantially better in weak situations than in strong situations.

Although situational strength is an often-referenced general idea, the work of Dr. Meyer and his colleagues is the first treat it as a psychologically meaningful construct in its own right. This includes meta-analytic tests of its primary prediction (Meyer, Dalal, & Bonaccio, 2009; Bowling, Khazon, Meyer, & Burrus, 2015), a review and extension of its facet structure (Meyer, Dalal, & Hermida, 2010), the development and validation of a standardized measure -- the Situational Strength at Work Scale (Meyer, et al., 2015)

Ongoing situational strength research projects include tests of potential curvilinear moderation effects across different types of work situations and investigations into the person-level factors (e.g., gender, various personality traits, various psychological "needs") that influence people's perception of (and reactions to) situational strength both in the workplace and in their home lives.

Nonlinear Moderation Effects

Research has heretofore examined the linear moderating effects of situational strength on various personality-outcome relationships. Recent theorizing, however, suggests that this may not necessarily always be the case. Using a vignette-based study, we are presently investigating the possibility of non-linear effects, such that the effects of situational strength on behavior may vary as a function of underlying behaviorally relevant traits.

Effects of Perceptions of Situational Strength on Work-Family Conflict

Do women and men perceive situational strength differently? If so, does this have implications for their levels of experienced work-family conflict? We predict the answer to both of these questions is 'yes' -- namely, that women are more likely to view both requests for after-hours work (e.g., requests to work during times traditionally reserved for family) and actual domestic tasks (e.g., child/homecare) as stronger than men perceive these demands, thereby contributing to higher levels of work-family conflict for women than for men.