Much of psychology is concerned with the universal laws that govern behavior. The study of individual differences complements the search for general principles by investigating how people differ from one another. Investigators of individual differences attempt to measure, predict, modify, and understand the causal influences on traits that are relatively stable over time and across situations. Such traits may fall in the normal or abnormal range and cover domains as diverse as personality, ability, motivation, and psychopathology.
Penn faculty who study individual differences are particularly interested in the following research topics (please see individual faculty member sites below for more information):
• What genetic and environmental causal factors contribute to the development of traits?
• Which traits predict important positive and negative psychosocial and neurobiological outcomes?
• What interventions enhance traits that lead to positive outcomes and reduce traits that lead to negative outcomes?
• How do people differ in their basic approaches to reasoning and moral judgment?