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Rachel Smallman

Associate Professor
Areas of Speciality
  • Social & Personality Psychology
  • (979) 845-3983
  • PSYC 243
Professional Links
Office Hours, Spring 2024
Tuesdays: 1:30-2:30p in PSYC 243
Accepting Students for 2024-2025?

Research Interests

My research focuses on the conscious and non-conscious processes involved in everyday decision-making. One line of research focuses on counterfactual thinking, or thoughts of “what might have been”. Imagining how events might have turned out differently is a typical feature of the mental landscape; research shows that these counterfactual thoughts can be both dysfunctional and functional, depending on the situation. Although it can bias blame and responsibility judgments, it can also help us learn from past mistakes. My research examines both sides of this counterfactual coin. This research has broader interdisciplinary connections to both mental health and health behavior domains. A second line of research focuses on various factors (e.g., affect and mindset) that impact decision-making and categorization processes. Of particular interest is how affective information can influence our decision-making strategies. An applied line of this research focuses on decision-making in engineering. In general, my research integrates traditional social and cognitive methodology with decision-making research.

Recent Publications

Stanley, M. L., Cabeza, R., Smallman, R., & De Brigard, F. (2021). Memory and Counterfactual Simulations for Past Wrongdoings Foster Moral Learning and Improvement. Cognitive Science 45, e13007.

De Leon, A. N., Dvorak, R. D., Smallman, R., Arthur, K., & Piercey, C. (2021). Using counterfactual thinking theory to change alcohol protective behavioral strategy use intentions. British Journal of Health Psychology.

Gamlin, J., Smallman, R., Epstude, K., & Roese, N. J. (2020). Dispositional optimism weakly predicts upward, rather than downward, counterfactual thinking: A prospective correlational study using episodic recall. Plos One, 15, e0237644.

He, Y., Payne, S. C., Yao, X., & Smallman, R. (2020). Improving workplace safety by thinking about what might have been: A first look at the role of counterfactual thinking. Journal of Safety Research, 72, 153-164. [Impact Factor: 2.825]

Smallman, R., Ramos, A., Dickey, K., Dowd, S., & Fields, S. (2018). If only I wasn’t so impulsive: Counterfactual thinking and delay-discounting. Personality and Individual Differences, 135, 212-215.

Smallman, R., & Summerville, A. (2018). Counterfactual thought in reasoning and performance. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 12, e12376.

Fields, S., Smallman, R., Hicks, J., Lange, K., & Thamotharan, S. (2017). Narrowing of attention following food cue exposure in obese emerging adults: Does impulsivity matter? Personality and Individual Differences, 108, 144-148.

Roese, N. J., Smallman, R., & Epstude, K. (2017). Do episodic counterfactual thoughts focus on personally controllable action?: The role of self-initiation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 73, 14-23.

Smallman, R., & Becker, B.(2017). Motivational differences in seeking out evaluative categorization information. Personality and Social Psychological Bulletin, 43, 1020-1032.

Vermillion, S. D., Malak, R. J., Smallman, R., Becker, B., Sferra, M., & Fields, S. (2017). An investigation on using serious gaming to study human decision-making in engineering contexts. Design Science, 3, e15.