Psychology Department

Joshua Hart

Job Title
Professor of Psychology
Bailey Hall 302

Research interests

Personality and social psychology, with an emphasis on close relationships, self-esteem, worldviews (i.e., belief systems), and their interplay.

Professor Hart’s research program grew out of his interest in the psychological consequences of humans’ sophisticated cognitive abilities and conscious self-awareness. Intelligence and self-awareness allow people to acquire vast knowledge and understanding, and to appreciate being alive. At the same time, expansive consciousness burdens people with knowledge of all the awful things about existence—perhaps most notably, loss and death—making for a precarious emotional life that exposes people to psychological turmoil and dysfunction.

Hart’s research, initially inspired by terror management theory, explores how we manage (or mismanage) this predicament, with a special focus on close relationships (e.g., romantic relationships), self-esteem, and worldviews (i.e., belief systems, such as religion and political ideology). His work integrates attachment theory and other theories that view people as perpetually motivated by the need to feel secure. The idea is that many of our goals—large and small, individual and social—are ultimately rooted in the need to feel loved, worthwhile, and to imbue life with meaning; and that relationships, self-esteem, and worldviews work together to maintain emotional security. Some recent/ongoing projects apply these ideas to current events in politics and religion.



(Note. *Denotes Union College Student)

Hart, J. & *Stekler, N. (2022). Does personality “Trump” ideology? narcissism predicts support for Trump via ideological tendencies. The Journal of Social Psychology, 162, 386-392. PDF

Hart, J. (2019b). What’s death got to do with it? Controversies and alternative theories. In C. Routledge & M. Vess (Eds.). Handbook of Terror Management Theory. Elsevier. PDF

Hart, J. (2019a). The influence of psychological security maintenance on political decision making. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Oxford University Press. PDF

Hart, J., & *Graether, M. (2018). Something’s going on here: Psychological predictors of belief in conspiracy theories. Journal of Individual Differences, 39, 229-237. PDF

Hart, J., & Chabris, C. F. (2016). Does A “Triple Package” of Traits Predict Success? Personality and Individual Differences, 94, 216-222. PDF

Hart, J., & *Howard, R. M. (2016). I want her to want me: Sexual misperception as a function of heterosexual men’s romantic attachment style. Personality and Individual Differences, 92, 97-103. PDF

Hart, J. (2015). The psychology of defensiveness: An integrative security system model of attachment, self-esteem, and worldviews. In P. J. Carroll, R. M., Arkin, & A. Wichman (Eds.), The handbook of personal security. New York: Psychology Press. PDF

Hart, J., *Nailling, E., Bizer, G. Y., & *Collins, C. K. (2015). Attachment theory as a framework for explaining engagement with Facebook. Personality and Individual Differences, 77, 33-40. PDF

Hart, J. (2014). Did Hurricane Sandy influence the 2012 US Presidential election? Social Science Research, 46, 1-8. PDF

Hart, J. (2014). Toward an integrative theory of psychological defense. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9, 19-39. PDF

Burns, D. J., Hart, J., *Kramer, M. E., & Burns, A. D. (2014). Dying to remember, remembering to survive: Mortality salience and survival processing. Memory, 22, 36-50.

*Contelmo, G., Hart, J., & Levine, E. H. (2013). Dream orientation as a function of hyperactivating and deactivating attachment strategies. Self and Identity, 12, 357-369.

Motyl, M., Hart, J., Cooper, D., Heflick, N., Goldenberg, J., & Pyszczynski, T. (2013). Creatureliness priming reduces aggression and support for war. British Journal of Social Psychology, 52, 648-666.

Hart, J., & Burns, D. J. (2012). Nothing concentrates the mind: Thoughts of death improve recall. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 19, 264-269.

Hart, J., *Hung, J. A., Glick, P., & Dinero, R. E. (2012). He loves her, he loves her not: Attachment style as a personality antecedent to men’s ambivalent sexism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 1495-1504.

Tracy, J. L., Hart, J., & Martens, J. P. (2011) Death and Science: The existential underpinnings of belief in intelligent design and discomfort with evolution. PLoS ONE, 6: e17349.

Gillath, O., & Hart, J. (2010). The effects of emotional security and insecurity on political attitudes and leadership preferences. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 122-134.

Hart, J., *Schwabach, J. A., & Solomon, S. (2010). Going for broke: Mortality salience increases risky decision-making on the Iowa gambling task. British Journal of Social Psychology, 49, 425-432.

Gillath, O., Hart, J., Noftle, E. E., & Stockdale, G. (2009). Development and validation of a state measure of attachment anxiety and avoidance. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 362-373.

Hart, J., & Goldenberg, J. L. (2008). A terror management perspective on spirituality and the problem of the body. In A. Tomer, G. T. Eliason, and P. T. P. Wong (Eds.), Existential and spiritual issues in death attitudes. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Goldenberg, J. L., Hart, J., Pyszczynski, T., Warnica, G. M., Landau, M., & Thomas, L. (2006). Ambivalence toward the body: Death, neuroticism, and the flight from physical sensation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 1264-1277.

Hart, J., Shaver, P. R., & Goldenberg, J. L. (2005). Attachment, self-esteem, worldviews, and terror management: Evidence for a tripartite security system. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 999-1013.

Additional media

Academic credentials

B.A., Skidmore College; M.A., Ph.D., University of California, Davis