Dr Erica Hepper

Research Interests

My research is located in the area of quantitative social/personality psychology. I examine individual differences in self-relevant emotions and motivation in social context, focusing on three major themes.

First, I study individual differences in self-evaluation motives (e.g., self-enhancement, and its personality correlate, narcissism) and their social/cultural moderators and consequences.

Second, I research the self-conscious and social emotion of nostalgia, and its implications for intra- and interpersonal wellbeing for different individuals across the lifespan.

Third, I examine the interplay between attachment relationships and attachment styles, and regulation of the self and emotions.

For more info and PDFs, see my webpage at http://surrey.academia.edu/EricaHepper

Research Collaborations

Centre for Research on Self & Identity, University of Southampton

Dr Richard Gramzow, Syracuse University, NY

Dr Jessica Kingston, Royal Holloway 

Dr Michelle Luke, University of Sussex

Prof Rosie Meek, Royal Holloway

Dr Abi Millings, University of Sheffield

Dr Erin O’Mara, University of Dayton, OH

Dr Tim Ritchie, Saint Xavier University

Dr Angela Rowe, University of Bristol

Dr Judi Walsh, University of East Anglia


PSY3109 / PSYM102 The Self and Relationships (module convenor)

PSY2020 / PSYM084 Personality, Intelligence & Psychopathology (module convenor)

PSY2019 Professional Skills and Applied Psychology

Undergraduate, MSc and DClinPsy Dissertation Supervision

Departmental Duties

Senior Professional Training Year Tutor


Visiting Fellow, University of Southampton

PhD Supervision

I am open to supervising PhD theses that fit my areas of quantitative research above. I am particularly interested in supervising PhDs on the interpersonal or social aspects of self-enhancement, narcissism or nostalgia. Please contact me to discuss your possible project ideas.

Current Students:

Sapphira Thorne

Shannon Hirst

Karlien Paas (University of Southampton)

Contact Me

Phone: 01483 68 6864

Find me on campus
Room: 11 AD 02

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My office hours

Semester 2: Tuesdays 1-3pm during term time. If my door is open, feel free to pop in at any time for quick queries. Alternatively, please email me for an appointment. 


Journal articles

  • Sedikides C, Wildschut T, Cheung WY, Routledge C, Hepper E, Arndt J, Vail K, Zhou X, Brackstone K, Vingerhoets AJJM. (2016) 'Nostalgia Fosters Self-Continuity: Uncovering the Mechanism (Social Connectedness) and Consequence (Eudaimonic Wellbeing)'. Emotion,
    [ Status: Accepted ]


    Nostalgia, a sentimental longing for one’s past, is an emotion that arises from self-relevant and social memories. Nostalgia functions, in part, to foster self-continuity, that is, a sense of connection between one’s past and one’s present. This article examined, in six experiments, how nostalgia fosters self-continuity and the implications of that process for wellbeing. Nostalgia fosters self-continuity by augmenting social connectedness, that is, a sense of belongingness and acceptance (Experiments 1-4). Nostalgia-induced self-continuity, in turn, confers eudaimonic wellbeing, operationalized as subjective vitality (i.e., a feeling of aliveness and energy; Experiments 5-6). The findings clarify and expand the benefits of nostalgia for both the self-system and psychological adjustment.

  • Hart CM, Ritchie TD, Hepper E, Gebauer J. (2015) 'The Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding Short Form (BIDR-16)'. SAGE Publications SAGE Open, 5 (4), pp. 1-9.
    [ Status: Accepted ]
  • Carnelley KB, Hepper EG. (2015) 'Stigma, Attachment, and Relationship Dissolution: Commentary on Meanings of Intimacy'. WILEY-BLACKWELL ANALYSES OF SOCIAL ISSUES AND PUBLIC POLICY, 15 (1), pp. 401-405.
  • Sedikides C, Wildschut T, Routledge C, Arndt J, Hepper EG, Zhou X. (2015) 'To nostalgize: Mixing memory with affect and desire'. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 51 (1), pp. 189-273.


    © 2015 Elsevier Inc. Nostalgia is a self-conscious, bittersweet but predominantly positive and fundamentally social emotion. It arises from fond memories mixed with yearning about one's childhood, close relationships, or atypically positive events, and it entails a redemption trajectory. It is triggered by a variety of external stimuli or internal states, is prevalent, is universal, and is experienced across ages. Nostalgia serves a self-oriented function (by raising self-positivity and facilitating perceptions of a positive future), an existential function (by increasing perceptions of life as meaningful), and a sociality function (by increasing social connectedness, reinforcing socially oriented action tendencies, and promoting prosocial behavior). These functions are independent of the positive affect that nostalgia may incite. Also, nostalgia-elicited sociality often mediates the self-positivity and existential functions. In addition, nostalgia maintains psychological and physiological homeostasis along the following regulatory cycle: (i) Noxious stimuli, as general as avoidance motivation and as specific as self-threat (negative performance feedback), existential threat (meaninglessness, mortality awareness), social threat (loneliness, social exclusion), well-being threat (stress, boredom), or, perhaps surprisingly, physical coldness intensify felt nostalgia; (ii) in turn, nostalgia (measured or manipulated) alleviates the impact of threat by curtailing the influence of avoidance motivation on approach motivation, buttressing the self from threat, limiting defensive responding to meaninglessness, assuaging existential anxiety, repairing interpersonal isolation, diminishing the blow of stress, relieving boredom through meaning reestablishment, or producing the sensation of physical warmth. Nostalgia has a checkered history, but is now rehabilitated as an adaptive psychological resource.

  • Walsh J, Hepper E, Marshall B. (2014) 'Investigating attachment, caregiving, and mental health: A model of maternal-fetal relationships'. BioMed Central BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 14, pp. 383-383.
  • Hepper E, Hart CM, Sedikides C. (2014) 'Moving Narcissus: Can narcissists be empathic?'. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40 (9), pp. 1079-1079.
  • Hepper E, Wildschut T, Sedikides C, Ritchie TD, Yung Y-F, Hansen N, Abakoumkin G, Arikan G, Cisek SZ, Demasosso DB, Gebauer JE, Gerber JP, Gonzalez R, Kusumi T, Misra G, Rusu M, Ryan O, Stephan E, Vingerhoets AJJM, Zhou X. (2014) 'Pancultural Nostalgia: Prototypical Conceptions Across Cultures'. American Psychological Association Emotion, 14 (4), pp. 733-747.
  • Hepper E, Hart CM, Meek R, Cisek SZ, Sedikides C. (2014) 'Narcissism and empathy in young offenders and non-offenders'. Wiley European Journal of Personality, 28 (2), pp. 201-210.
  • Walsh J, Hepper E, Bagge S, Wadephul F, Jomeen J. (2013) 'Maternal-fetal relationships and psychological health: Emerging research directions'. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 31 (5), pp. 490-499.
  • Cheung WY, Wildschut T, Sedikides C, Hepper E, Arndt J, Vingerhoets AJJM. (2013) 'Back to the future: Nostalgia increases optimism'. Sage Publications Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39 (11), pp. 1484-1496.


    This research examined the proposition that nostalgia is not simply a past-oriented emotion, but its scope extends into the future, and, in particular, a positive future. We adopted a convergent validation approach, using multiple methods to assess the relation between nostalgia and optimism. Study 1 tested whether nostalgic narratives entail traces of optimism; indeed, nostalgic (compared to ordinary) narratives contained more expressions of optimism. Study 2 manipulated nostalgia through the recollection of nostalgic (vs. ordinary) events, and showed that nostalgia boosts optimism. Study 3 demonstrated that the effect of nostalgia (induced with nomothetically-relevant songs) on optimism is mediated by self-esteem. Finally, Study 4 established that nostalgia (induced with idiographically-relevant lyrics) fosters social connectedness, which subsequently increases self-esteem, which then boosts optimism. The nostalgic experience is inherently optimistic and paints a subjectively rosier future.

  • Millings A, Walsh J, Hepper E, O'Brien M. (2013) 'Good partner, good parent: Caregiving mediates the link between romantic attachment and parenting style'. Sage publications Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39 (2), pp. 170-180.


    This cross-sectional, dyadic questionnaire study examined the contribution of romantic attachment and responsive caregiving to parenting style, investigating both gender and partner effects. One hundred and twenty-five couples with children aged 7 to 8 years completed measures of attachment styles, responsive caregiving toward partner, and parenting styles. Structural Equation Modeling was used to examine the intra- and interpersonal associations between romantic attachment, caregiving responsiveness, and parenting styles. Attachment avoidance and anxiety were both negatively associated with responsive caregiving to partner, which in turn was positively associated with authoritative (optimal) parenting styles and negatively associated with authoritarian and permissive (nonoptimal) parenting styles. Responsive caregiving mediated all links between attachment and parenting, with an additional direct association between attachment anxiety and nonoptimal parenting styles that was not explained by caregiving responsiveness. Findings are discussed with reference to attachment theory.

  • Lockwood P, Millings A, Hepper E, Rowe AC. (2013) 'If I cry, do you care? Individual differences in empathy moderate the facilitation of caregiving words after exposure to crying faces'. Hogrefe Publishing Journal of Individual Differences, 34 (1), pp. 41-47.


    Crying is a powerful solicitation of caregiving, yet little is known about the cognitive processes underpinning caring responses to crying others. This study examined (1) whether crying (compared to sad and happy) faces differentially elicited semantic activation of caregiving, and (2) whether individual differences in cognitive and emotional empathy moderated this activation. Ninety participants completed a lexical decision task in which caregiving, neutral, and non-words were presented after subliminal exposure (24ms.) to crying, sad, and happy faces. Individuals low in cognitive empathy had slower reaction times to caregiving (vs. neutral) words after exposure to crying faces, but not after sad or happy faces. Results are discussed in relation to the role of empathy in response to crying others.

  • Hepper E, Sedikides C, Cai H. (2013) 'Self-enhancement and self-protection strategies in China: Cultural expressions of a fundamental human motive'. Sage Publications Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 44 (1), pp. 5-23.


    The motive to enhance and protect positive views of the self manifests in a variety of cognitive and behavioral strategies but its universality versus cultural specificity is debated by scholars. We sought to inform this debate by soliciting self-reports of the four principal types of self-enhancement and self-protection strategy (positivity embracement, favorable construals, self-affirming reflections, defensiveness) from a Chinese sample and comparing their structure, levels, and correlates to a Western sample. The Chinese data fit the same factor structure, and were subject to the same individual differences in regulatory focus, self-esteem, and narcissism, as the Western data. Chinese participants reported lower levels of (enhancement-oriented) positivity embracement but higher levels of (protection-oriented) defensiveness than Western participants. Levels of favorable construals were also higher in the Chinese sample, with no differences in self-affirming reflections. These findings support and extend the universalist perspective on the self by demonstrating the cross-cultural structure, yet culturally sensitive manifestation, of self-enhancement motivation.

  • Hepper E, Carnelley KB. (2012) 'The self-esteem roller coaster: Adult attachment moderates the impact of daily feedback'. Wiley Personal Relationships, 19 (3), pp. 504-520.


    People with different attachment orientations rely on different sources of self-esteem. This 14-day diary study examined the impact of different types of feedback on self-esteem for adults of different attachment orientations. Consistent with theory, higher (vs. lower) anxious participants’ daily self-esteem fluctuated more with daily interpersonal feedback conveying rejection or coming from a romantic partner; they also self-reported stronger reactions to idiosyncratic negative interpersonal feedback. Higher (vs. lower) avoidant participants showed weaker daily self-esteem fluctuation with positive interpersonal feedback, and those with a fearful-avoidant attachment pattern reported stronger reactions to positive agentic feedback. Self-reported emotional reactions mediated links between attachment dimensions and self-reported impact of feedback on self-evaluations. Results highlight the importance of affect-regulation strategies in influencing regulation of self-esteem.

  • Hepper E, Ritchie TD, Sedikides C, Wildschut T. (2012) 'Odyssey’s end: Lay conceptions of nostalgia reflect its original Homeric meaning'. American Psychological Association (APA) Emotion, 12 (1), pp. 102-119.
  • Gregg A, Hepper E, Sedikides C. (2011) 'Quantifying self-motives: Functional links between dispositional desires.'. Wiley-Blackwell European Journal of Social Psychology, 41 (7), pp. 840-852.
  • Hepper E, Hart CM, Gregg AP, Sedikides C. (2011) 'Motivated expectations of positive feedback in social interactions'. Taylor & Francis Journal of Social Psychology, 151 (4), pp. 455-477.
  • Carnelley KB, Hepper E, Hicks C, Turner W. (2011) 'Perceived parental reactions to coming out, attachment, and romantic relationship views'. Taylor & Francis Attachment and Human Development, 13 (3), pp. 217-236.
  • Hepper E, Gramzow R, Sedikides C . (2010) 'Individual differences in self-enhancement and self-protection strategies: An integrative analysis'. Wiley Journal of Personality, 78 (2), pp. 781-814.


    Research has identified a large number of strategies that people use to self-enhance or self-protect. We aimed for an empirical integration of these strategies. Two studies used self-report items to assess all commonly recognized self-enhancement or self-protection strategies. In Study 1 (N = 345), exploratory factor analysis identified four reliable factors. In Study 2 (N = 416), this model was validated using confirmatory factor analysis. The factors related differentially to the key personality variables of regulatory focus, self-esteem, and narcissism. Expanding this integrative approach in the future can reveal a great deal about the structure and dynamics of self-enhancement and self-protection motivation.

  • Hepper E, Carnelley KB. (2010) 'Adult attachment and feedback-seeking patterns in relationships and work'. Wiley European Journal of Social Psychology, 40 (3), pp. 448-464.
  • Sedikides C, Hepper E. (2009) 'Self-improvement.'. Wiley Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3 (6), pp. 899-917.

Book chapters

  • Hepper E, Sedikides C. (2012) 'Self-enhancing feedback'. in Sutton R, Hornsey M, Douglas K (eds.) Feedback: The communication of praise, criticism, and advice Oxford : Peter Lang Article number 4 , pp. 43-56.


    The social world is rife with opportunities for feedback. People are surrounded with evaluative information from the moment they awake, through a day that may include any number of social interactions and displays of mastery (or lack of), to the moment they hit the pillow to sleep (Sutton, Hornsey, & Douglas, this volume). However, despite this wealth of available personal data, most healthy adults do not possess commendably accurate or objective views of themselves (Dunning, 2005). Moreover, this inaccuracy is not random: it is systematically biased in a self-flattering manner. Put another way, people usually see themselves through rose-colored glasses (Alicke & Sedikides, 2009; Taylor & Brown, 1988). At least three key questions are raised by this observation. First, why do people possess a positivity bias? Second, how do they maintain this bias despite the seemingly contradictory feedback available to them? And third, why does it matter: what consequences does this bias have for psychological and behavioral functioning? In this chapter, we will address all three questions, but will dedicate most of our attention to the second one. In so doing, we hope to illustrate the inventive ways that people use (and sometimes abuse) feedback for the sake of self-positivity.

  • Hepper E, Carnelley KB. (2012) 'Attachment and romantic relationships: The role of models of self and other'. in Paludi M (ed.) The psychology of love USA : Praeger 1, pp. 133-154.


    Romantic love relationships are among the most endlessly fascinating, yet frustratingly complex, parts of life: inspiring more art, literature, and music than any other topic. Making sense of how and why romantic relationships function the way they do is, therefore, a research endeavour at once most rewarding and yet never-ending. Why do some relationships sail through everything that life throws at them, when others flounder at the first hiccup? Why does one friend experience drama after tumultuous drama with each new boyfriend, when another can’t trust or open up to anyone enough to get beyond a second date? Attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969, 1973, 1980) draws on clinical, developmental, social, personality, and cognitive psychology and provides a rich theoretical framework for examining and answering such perennial questions. Although it was developed originally in the context of infants and their caregivers, in recent decades the theory has also provided insight into the development and functioning of romantic relationships. This chapter describes romantic relationship processes from an attachment perspective. We highlight in particular the cognitive models of self and others that form a person’s attachment pattern or orientation. These models colour the lens with which he or she views the self and the social world, and in turn underlie individual differences in romantic relationship functioning.

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