Stephen D. Benning

Assistant Professor, Psychology
Expertise: Clinical psychology, Psychopathy, Emotion, Personality

Biography

Stephen Benning's research focuses on the personality disorder of psychopathy. He explains psychopathy as the combinations of two extremes of normal-range personality traits, not as a separate category of monstrous people who are completely different from everyone else. The part of psychopathy he calls fearless dominance captures the charm, anxiety-free, and thrill-seeking features of psychopathy that make individuals with psychopathic traits seem so interesting. Impulsive antisociality is the part that is responsible for the aggression, lack of planfulness, and mistrust of others that causes so many behavioral and social problems in this disorder.

Additionally, Benning researches basic emotional processes using biological measures. To measure positive emotions, he developed the postauricular reflex to assess wanting, liking, and reward-learning across a number of psychological disorders (including psychopathy). He uses the startle-blink reflex to measure negative emotions, particularly those related to protecting one's self from physical threat. These two measures are unrelated to each other, suggesting that positive and negative emotions arise from fundamentally separate systems instead of a single pleasant-unpleasant dimension of emotional experience.

His interests in psychopathy and positive emotion, led to further investigation of how basic emotional processes and personality traits affect the willingness of people to take risks. His lab has developed a computerized task to assess how willing people are to continue in physically risky activities. Performance in this task is related to how risky people perceive various kinds of behavior to be, suggesting that it may tap a basic preference for risk independent of how often people actually do risky things.

Education

  • Ph.D., Clinical Science and Psychopathology Research, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
  • M.A., Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
  • B.A., Psychology, Biology, and Religious Studies, Rice University

Stephen D. Benning In The News

KSNV-TV: News 3
September 10, 2020
September is suicide prevention awareness month and mental health experts say the COVID-19 pandemic has left many anxious and on edge.
KSNV-TV: News 3
August 21, 2020
Monday marks the beginning of what will be a new, and very different school year for the Clark County School District, as it will begin from a distance.
Resident Weekly
August 18, 2020
The psychological influences brought about by the pandemic keep on affecting individuals in their day by day lives.
KSNV-TV: News 3
August 18, 2020
The mental affects caused by the pandemic continue to impact people in their daily lives.

Articles Featuring Stephen D. Benning

Campus NewsSeptember 15, 2020
UNLV takes on another school semester with precaution and discovery.
Campus NewsApril 9, 2020
A collection of news stories highlighting UNLV’s response to COVID-19 and faculty experts who have helped the community make sense of the pandemic and its impact to daily life.
woman rubbing eyes
ResearchMarch 19, 2020
Advice from UNLV experts on breaking the itch-scratch cycle that leads to the spread of germs.
two people sitting on couch interact with someone via video call on a laptop
Business and CommunityMarch 17, 2020
UNLV psychology professor Stephen D. Benning offers tips on staying safe and sane during the coronavirus pandemic.