Vivian Zayas

Vivian Zayas is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Cornell University. Her research examines the cognitive and affective processes that regulate behaviors within close relationships. Her research takes a multi-level, interdisciplinary perspective that bridges the study of attachment processes with research on executive control and self-regulation and blurs traditionally defined boundaries between social and personality psychology and cognitive and cognitive neuroscience.

One of her main research interests involves understanding how people represent others and themselves, and how these representations influence interpersonal judgments and behaviors. Her research is particularly interested in how past relationships with significant others, such as a parent, close friend, or even a respected boss or disliked coworker, shape expectations of likely and unlikely events, affective responses, and ultimately guide behaviors and judgments within a current interpersonal interaction. To what extent do our past relationship experiences influence who we choose as a dating partner in the future? Does meeting a person whom you’ve never met before, but who resembles your closest friend, activate feelings of liking that in turn influence behaviors about whether or not to trust the individual?

In another line of research, she has been investigating the ability to delay gratification. Why are some people able to save money for their retirement, even though it means that they will not be able to take the desired vacation to France? Why are some people better able to control their impulses, whether it be refraining from an “impulse purchase” or inhibiting an emotional outburst? Vivian has been investigating the cognitive, affective, and neural mechanisms underlying the ability to delay gratification, as well as the development and stability of this ability from early life to young adulthood.

Given that many of the processes operating within social and interpersonal domains are likely to operate automatically, effortlessly, with little conscious control, and even without any awareness, her research group draws upon a variety of methodological techniques (e.g., self-report, implicit tasks, neurophysiological, decision-making tasks), research designs (e.g., laboratory and longitudinal), and statistical procedures (e.g., multi-level and structural modeling). These techniques are used to assess, at multiple-levels of analyses, the processes guiding judgment, decision-making, and behaviors in a number of interpersonal domains.

Vivian completed her PhD (2003) at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research appears in journals such as Psychological Science, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Child Development, and Journal of Personality. She has received funding from National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.

Visit Vivian Zayas’ Lab website.

Zayas, Vivian


Department Office:
240 Uris Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853

ISS JDSB team member Vivian Zayas profile: ‘Attached’ to attachment psychology and Ultimate competitions