Professor of Psychology


Social Cognition

How are everyday interpersonal relations influenced by past relationships with significant others?

My research interests span a number of areas in social psychology (social cognition), personality, and clinical; and my central research focus concerns the above question.

This primary line of research examines mental representations of significant others, their structure in memory in relation to the self, and what my colleagues and I have termed the social-cognitive model of transference. The research combines idiographic (participant-sensitive) procedures with experimental designs to track the manner in which significant-other representations are activated and used in relation to new people. In particular, the research has shown that when the process of significant and other activation occurs, one makes inferences about the relevant, new person deriving from the significant-other representation. Moreover, a positive or negative evaluation of the new person also occurs, deriving from the overall affective tone of the representation. Indeed, a whole variety of complex affects, motivations, expectancies, behaviors, and self-changes may occur in relation to this new person -- based on the transference process and on the content of one’s relationship with the particular significant other. This research demonstrates the long-standing clinical concept of transference; it does so in social-cognitive terms; and it shows that the process of transference is basic and triggered in everyday interpersonal relations. It provides a road map for how past relationships influence the present, highlighting the interpersonal nature of self, and emphasizing the role of significant others in identity formation and change.

A secondary line of research involves the question: How do private and covert aspects of self -- the internal thoughts, feelings wishes, and fears experienced but not necessarily expressed -- play a role in self definition? Our research has shown that these experiences play a profound role in self-definition relative to more "objective" overt behaviors. Moreover, research examining both significant-other representations and the self in these terms shows a rather similar pattern of knowledge acquisition and use concerning significant others, presumably grounded in our motivation to know or "believe" we "know," the internal life of significant others, even with limited direct knowledge.

A tertiary line of research asks: What role do conceptions of the future suffering play in depression and hopelessness? This line of research shows that depression involves coming to believe that the future is certain to consist of continued suffering, and also the formation and use of a future-event schema that permits relatively automatic predictions about the future that are pessimistic, and which may then, perhaps, perpetuate depression. Because rumination about the future clearly occurs in depression, repeated practice in attempting to predict the future may be what solidifies into future-event schemas among depressives.

Finally, an interest in identity and potential identity change based on new significant-other relationships, such as with a new set of peers or a mentor, has culminated in a literature review on youth outcomes deriving from efforts to make a contribution to the broader common good, through working together with others, taking responsibility, and expressing caring across inter-group boundaries. The positive growth outcomes of educationally integrated experiences in social action (service learning in K-12 and higher education) are considered in terms of policy implications.

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  • Ph.D. Stanford University (Psychology) 1981
  • B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz (Psychology) 1977


  • Professor of Psychology, New York University, NYU, 1994-present
  • Coordinator, Doctoral Program in Social Psychology, 2005-2008
  • Director of Graduate Studies in Psychology, NYU, 1993-1997, 2001-2002
  • Director of Clinical Training, NYU, 1997
  • Associate Professor of Psychology, NYU, 1987-1993
  • Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB),
    1981-1987 (promoted to Associate with tenure)


  • Associate Editor, Self and Identity, 2004-2008
  • Associate Editor, Psychological Review, 1998-2000
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
    Attitudes and Social Cognition Section, 1994-1995
  • Associate Editor, Social Cognition, 1993
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 1988-1992
  • Panel Member, Standing Review Panel, Social and Group Processes IRG,
    National Institute for Mental Health, 1992-1994
  • Frequent Guest Panel Member, Cognition, Emotion and Personality Committee,
    and Social and Group Processes Committee, National Institute of Mental Health, 1980s, 1990s.
  • Panel Member, Review Panel. Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training,
    National Science Foundation, 2003. (IGERT)


  • Fellow, and Founding Member, American Psychological Society
  • Fellow, American Psychological Association
  • Fellow, Society for Personality and Social Psychology
  • Fellow, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
  • Distinguished Teaching Medal, New York University, for excellence in teaching
    and contribution to the intellectual life of the University -- across schools,
    including the Faculty of Arts and Science, the Law and Medical Schools,
    Stern School of Business, Tisch School of the Arts, and others, 1996-1997
  • Golden Dozen Award for outstanding teaching and service, Faculty of Arts and Science, NYU, 1993
  • Harold J. Plous Award for outstanding teaching and service among junior faculty, UCSB, 1986
  • Licensed in the State of New York (Clinical)
  • Licensed in the State of California (Clinical)

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Selected Publications

Significant-Other Representations and the Social-Cognitive Model of Transference

Chen, S., Boucher, H., Andersen, S.M., & Saribay, S.A. (in press).  Transference and the relational self.  In J.A. Simpson & L. Campbell (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of close relationships (pp. 000-000).  New York:  Oxford University Press.

Thorpe, J., & Andersen, S.M.  (in press).  Transference.  In R. Baumeister (Ed.), Encyclopedia of personality and social psychology.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage.

Andersen, S.M., & Przybylinski, E. (2013).  The relational self:  Transference as a meaning-making mechanism.  In D. Cervone, M. Fajkowska, M.W. Eysenck, and T. Maruszewski (Eds.), Warsaw lectures on personality and social psychology:  Embodiment, meaning construction, and the social     world. (Vol. 3, pp. 69-91).  New York: Eliot Werner Publications. 

Przybylinski, S.M., & Andersen, S.M. (2012).  Making interpersonal meaning:  Significant others in mind in transference.  Personality and Social Psychology Compass, 10, 746-759.   doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2012.00460.x

Przybylinski, E., & Andersen, S.M. (2012).  Short-circuiting transference using implementation intentions.  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.  doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.09.003

Andersen, S.M., & Przybylinski, E. (2012).  Experiments on transference in interpersonal relations:  Implications for treatment.  Psychotherapy, 49, 370-383.  doi:10.1037/a0029116

Andersen, S.M., Saribay, S.A., & Przybylinski, E. (2012).  Social cognition in close relationships.  In S.T. Fiske & C.N. Macrae (Eds.), Handbook of social cognition (pp. 350-371).  Thousand Oaks, CA:   Sage.

Andersen, S.M., & Saribay, S.A. (2012).  Brainwashing and totalitarian influence.  Encyclopedia of human behaviour. (2nd Ed., Vol. 1, pp. 406-412)  Oxford, UK:  Elsevier.

Miranda, R., Andersen, S.M., & Edwards, T. (2011).  The relational self and pre-existing depression:  Implicit activation of significant-other representations exacerbates dysphoria and evokes rejection in the working self-concept.  Self and Identity.  doi:10.1080/15298868.2011.636504

Miranda, R., & Andersen, S.M. (2010).  The social psychology of transference.  In J.P. Tangney & J.E. Maddux (Eds.), Social psychological foundations of clinical psychology (pp. 476-496).  New York:  Guilford Publications.

Andersen, S.M., & Thorpe, J. (2009).  An if-then theory of personality:  Significant others and the relational self.  Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 163-170.

Andersen, S.M., Saribay, S.A., & Kooij, C.S. (2008).  Contextual variability in personality:  The case of the relational self and transference.  In F. Rhodewalt (Ed.), Personality and social behavior (pp. 97-116).  New York:  Psychology Press.

Chen, S., & Andersen, S.M. (2008).  Transference and the relational self:  Intrapersonal and interpersonal consequences in everyday social life.  In J.V. Wood, A. Tesser, & J.G. Holmes (Eds.), The self and relationships (pp. 231-253).  New York:  Psychology Press.

Berk, M.S., & Andersen, S.M. (2008).  The sting of lack of affection:  Chronic goal dissatisfaction in transference.  Self and Identity, 7, 393-412. 

Andersen, S.M., & Saribay, SA., & Thorpe, J. (2008). Simple kindness can go a long way:  Relationships, social identity, and engagement.  Social Psychology, 39, 59-69. (Journal formerly known as:   Zeitschrift fur Sozialpsychologie.)

Saribay, S.A., & Andersen, S.M. (2007).  Relational to collective:  Significant-other representations, ethnic categories, and intergroup perceptions.  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 1714-1726.

Davis-Lipman, A., Tyler, T.R., & Andersen, S.M. (2007). Building community one relationship at a time: Consequences for the seeking and acceptance of help. Social Justice Research, 20, 181-206.

Andersen, S.M., & Kooij, C. (2007). Adult literacy education and human rights: A view from Afghanistan. Globalisation, Education and Society, 5, 315-331.

Saribay , S.A. , & Andersen, S.M. (2007). Are past relationships at the heart of attachment dynamics?: What love has to do with it. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 183-192.

Reznik, I., & Andersen, S.M. (2007). Agitation and despair in relation to parents: Activating emotional suffering in transference.  European Journal of Personality, 21, 281-301.

Andersen, S.M., Thorpe, J.S., & Kooij, C.S. (2007). Character in context: The relational self and transference. In Y. Shoda, D. Cervone, & G. Downey, (Eds.), Persons in context: Constructing a science of the individual. (pp. 169-200). New York: Guilford Publications.

Andersen, S.M., Moskowitz, D.B., Blair, I.V., & Nosek, B.A. (2007). Automatic thought. In E. T. Higgins & A. W. Kruglanski (Eds.), Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles (2nd Edition, pp.133-172). New York : Guilford Publications.

Chen, S., Fitzsimons, G.M., & Andersen, S.M. (2007). Automaticity in close relationships. In J.A. Bargh (Ed.), Automatic processes in social thinking and behavior (pp. 133-172). New York: Psychology Press.

Miranda, R., & Andersen, S.M. (2007). The therapeutic relationship: Implications from the social-cognitive process of transference. In P. Gilbert & R. Leahy (Eds.), The therapeutic relationship in the cognitive behavioural psychotherapies (pp. 63-89). London: Routledge.

Berenson, K. R., & Andersen, S.M. (2006). Childhood physical and emotional abuse by a parent: Transference effects in adult interpersonal relationships.  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 1509-1522.

Andersen, S.M., & Miranda, R. (2006). Through the lens of the relational self: Triggering psychopathology and emotional suffering in the social-cognitive process of transference. In R. Kreuger & J. Tackett (Eds.), Personality and psychopathology: Building bridges. New York: Guilford Publications.

Andersen, S.M., & Saribay, S.A. (2006). Thinking integratively about social psychology: The example of the relational self and the social-cognitive process of transference. In P.A.M. van Lange (Ed.), Bridging social psychology (199-206). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Andersen, S.M., Downey, G., Tyler, T. (2005). Becoming engaged in community: Personal relationships foster social identity. In G. Downey, C. Dweck, J. Eccles, & C. Chatman, Social identity, coping, and life tasks (pp. 210-251). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Andersen, S.M., Reznik, I., & Glassman, N.S. (2005). The unconscious relational self. In R. Hassin, & J.S. Uleman, & J.A. Bargh (Eds.), The new unconscious (pp. 421-481). New York: Oxford University Press.

Andersen, S.M., & Chen, S. (2002). The relational self: An interpersonal social-cognitive theory. Psychological Review, 109, 619-645.

Andersen, S.M., Chen, S., & Miranda, R. (2002). Significant others and the self. Self and Identity, 1, 159-168.

Andersen, S.M., & Berenson, K.R. (2001). Perceiving, feeling, and wanting: Motivation and affect deriving from significant-other representations and transference. In J.P. Forgas, K.D. Williams, & L. Wheeler (Eds.), The social mind: Cognitive and motivational aspects of interpersonal behavior (pp. 231-256). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Andersen, S.M., Miranda, R., & Edwards, T. (2001). When self-enhancement knows no bounds: Are past relationships with significant others at the heart of narcissism? Psychological Inquiry, 12, 197-202.

Berk, M.S., & Andersen, S.M. (2000). The impact of past relationships on interpersonal behavior: Behavioral confirmation in the social-cognitive process of transference. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 546-562.

Andersen, S.M., Chen, S., & Carter, C. (2000). Fundamental human needs: Making social cognition relevant. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 269-275.

Chen, S., & Andersen, S.M. (1999). Relationships from the past in the present: Significant-other representations and transference in interpersonal life. In M.P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 31, pp. 123-190). San Diego: Academic Press.

Glassman , N.S. , & Andersen, S.M. (1999c). Streams of thought about the self and significant others: Transference as the construction of interpersonal meaning. In J.A. Singer & P. Salovey (Eds.), At play in the fields of consciousness (pp. 103-140). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Baum, A., & Andersen, S.M. (1999). Interpersonal roles in transference: Transient mood states under the condition of significant-other activation. Social Cognition, 17, 161-185.

Glassman , N.S. , & Andersen, S.M. (1999a). Activating transference without consciousness: Using significant-other representations to go beyond subliminally given information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1146-1162.

Glassman , N.S. , & Andersen, S.M. (1999b). Transference in social cognition: Persistence and exacerbation of significant-other based inferences over time. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 23, 75-91.

Chen, S., Andersen, S.M., & Hinkley, K. (1999). Triggering transference: Examining the role of applicability in the activation and use of significant-other representations in social perception. Social Cognition, 17, 332-365.

Andersen, S.M., & Berk, M.S. (1998a). Transference in everyday experience: Implications of experimental research for relevant clinical phenomena. Review of General Psychology, 2, 81-120.

Andersen, S.M., & Berk, M.S. (1998b). The social-cognitive model of transference: Experiencing past relationships in the present. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 7, 1-7.

Andersen, S.M., Reznik, I., & Chen, S. (1997). The self in relation to others: Cognitive and motivational underpinnings. In J.G. Snodgrass & R.L. Thompson (Eds.), The self across psychology: Self- recognition, self-awareness, and the self-concept (pp. 233-275). New York: New York Academy of Science.

Andersen, S.M., & Glassman, N.S. (1996). Responding to significant others when they are not there: Effects on interpersonal inference, motivation, and affect. In R. Sorrentino & E.T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of motivation and cognition (Vol. 3, pp. 272-331). New York: Guilford.

Andersen, S.M., Reznik, I., & Manzella, L.M. (1996). Eliciting facial affect, motivation, and expectancies in transference: Significant-other representations in social relations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 1108-1129.

Hinkley, K., & Andersen, S.M. (1996). The working self-concept in transference: Significant-other activation and self-change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 1279-1295.

Andersen, S.M., Glassman, N.S., Chen, S., & Cole, S.W. (1995). Transference in social perception: The role of the chronic accessibility of significant-other representations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 41-57.

Andersen, S.M., & Baum, A. (1994). Transference in interpersonal relations: Schema-triggered inferences and affect based on significant-other representations. Journal of Personality, 62, 459-498.

Andersen, S.M., & Cole, S. (1990). Do I know you?: The role of significant others in general social perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 384-399.

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Self-Definition and the Bases of Self-Knowledge

Andersen, S.M., Glassman, N.S., & Gold, D. (1998). Mental representations of the self, significant others, and nonsignificant others: Structure and processing of private and public aspects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 845-861.

Andersen, S.M. (1987). The role of cultural assumptions in self-concept development. In K. Yardley & T.M. Honess (Eds.), Self and Identity: Psychosocial Perspectives (pp. 231-246). London: Wiley.

Andersen, S.M., Lazowski, L.E., & Donisi, M. (1986). Salience and self-inference: The role of biased recollections in self-inference processes. Social Cognition, 4, 75-95.

Andersen, S.M., & Williams, M. (1985). Cognitive/affective reactions in the improvement of self-esteem: When thoughts and feelings make a difference. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 1086-1097.

Andersen, S.M., & Ross, L. (1984). Self-knowledge and social inference: I. The impact of cognitive/ affective and behavioral data. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 280-293.

Andersen, S.M. (1984). Self-knowledge and social inference: II. The diagnosticity of cognitive/affective and behavioral data. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 294-307.

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Hopelessness about the Future in Depression

Andersen, S.M., & Limpert, C. (2001). Future-event schemas: Automaticity and rumination in major depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 25, 311-333.

Andersen, S.M., Spielman, L.A., & Bargh, J.A. (1992). Future-event schemas and certainty about the future: Automaticity in depressives' future-event predictions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 711-723.

Andersen, S.M., & Schwartz, A.H. (1992). Intolerance of ambiguity and depression: A cognitive vulnerability factor linked to hopelessness. Social Cognition, 10, 271-298.

Andersen, S.M. (1990). The inevitability of future suffering: The role of depressive predictive certainty in depression. Social Cognition, 8, 203-228.

Andersen, S.M., & Lyon, J.C. (1987). Anticipating undesired outcomes: The role of outcome certainty in the onset of depressive affect. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 23, 428-443.

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Andersen, S.M., Klatzky, R.L., & Murray, J. (1990). Traits and social stereotypes: Efficiency differences in social information processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 192-201.

Andersen, S.M., & Klatzky, R.L. (1987). Traits and social stereotypes: Levels of categorization in person perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 235-246.

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Public Policy and Research on Educationally Integrated Service Learning

Andersen, S.M. (1998). Service Learning: A National Strategy for Youth Development. A Position Paper issued by the Task Force on Education Policy. Washington, DC: Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies, George Washington University.

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Susan M. Andersen
Professor of Psychology

Department of Psychology
New York University
6 Washington Place, Room 522
New York, NY 10003
Tel: (212) 998-7799
Fax: (212) 995-4966

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