Associate Professor of Psychology

Social Perception, Action & Motivation Lab


I am interested in the conscious and nonconscious ways people fundamentally orient to the world. In particular, I focus on how the motivations, emotions, needs, and goals people hold impact the basic ways people perceive, interpret, and ultimately react to information around them. I advocate for an interactive cognitive system where psychological states constrain the basic manner in which we perceive and react to our worlds. My work, then, explores motivational biases in visual and social perception and the consequential effects for behavior and navigation of the social world. In doing so, my research represents an intersection among social psychology, judgment and decision-making, social cognition, and perception.



Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Cornell University (2006)
B.A. in psychology from the University of Nebraska at Kearney (2001)
B.F.A. in music performance from the University of Nebraska at Kearney (2001)



Associate Professor of Psychology, New York University
Assistant Professor of Psychology, Ohio University (2006-2009)


Selected Publications

Balcetis, E., Cole, S., Chelberg, M. B., & Alicke, M. (in press). Searching out the ideal: Awareness of ideal body standards predicts lower global self-esteem in women. Self and Identity.

Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (in press). Considering the situation: Why people are better social psychologists than self-psychologists. Self and Identity.
*Selected as the 2011 International Society for Self and Identity Best Paper

Cole, S., Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (in press). Affective signals of threat produce perceived proximity. Psychological Science.

Cole, S., Balcetis, E., & Zhang, S. (in press). Visual perception and regulatory conflict: Motivation and physiology influence distance perception. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Dunning, D., & Balcetis, E. (in press). Wishful Seeing. Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Balcetis, E., Dunning, D., & Granot, Y. (2012). Subjective value determines initial dominance in binocular rivalry. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 122-129.

Zell, E., & Balcetis, E. (2012). The influence of social comparison on visual representation of one’s face. PLoS ONE 7, (5): e36742. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036742

Alter, A., & Balcetis, E. (2011). Fondness makes the distance grow shorter: Desired locations seem closer because they seem more vivid. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 16-21.

Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (2010). Wishful seeing: Desired objects are seen as closer. Psychological Science, 21, 147-152.

Balcetis, E., & Lassiter, G. D. (eds.) (2010). The social psychology of visual perception. Psychology Press, New York, NY.

Balcetis, E., & Cole, S. (2009). Body in mind: The role of embodied cognition in self-regulation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3, 1-16.

Balcetis, E. (2009). How a biased majority claim moral minority: Tracking eye movements to base rates in social predictions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 970-973.

Balcetis, E., Dunning, D., & Miller, R. (2008). Do collectivists “know themselves” better than individualists?: Cross-cultural studies of the “holier than thou” phenomenon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1252-1267.

Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (2008). A mile in moccasins: How situational experience diminishes dispositionism in social inference. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 102-114.

Balcetis, E. (2007). Where the motivation resides and self-deception hides: How motivated cognition accomplishes self-deception. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1, 1-21.

Balcetis, E., & Dale, R. (2007). Conceptual set as a top-down constraint on visual object identification. Perception, 36, 581-595.

Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (2007). Cognitive dissonance reduction and perception of the physical world.Psychological Science, 18, 917-921.

Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (2006). See what you want to see: Motivational influences on visual perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 612-625.

Balcetis, E., & Dunning, D. (2005). Judging for two: Some connectionist proposals for how the self informs and constrains social judgment. Invited chapter for M. Alicke, D. Dunning, & J. Krueger (Eds.), Self and social judgment. New York: Psychology Press.


Emily Balcetis
Associate Professor of Psychology

Department of Psychology
New York University
6 Washington Place, Room 478
New York, NY 10003
Tel: (212) 998-3998
Fax: (212) 995-4966