Stephen D. Benning

Associate 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

KLAS-TV: 8 News Now
February 26, 2021
When you are watching yet another crime show on TV, do ever think to yourself, “why am I so obsessed with this?”
KLAS-TV: 8 News Now
February 12, 2021
What does it take to catch a killer? In some cases, it involves getting inside the mind of a murderer.
Las Vegas Weekly
February 8, 2021
For most of us, the concept of hoarding brings to mind one of two things: 1. The 11-season A&E reality show Hoarders, which “features a team of experts working to tackle some of the biggest, most extreme and most challenging hoards in America,” or 2. Friends who remark of their organized collections—vinyl records or Barbie dolls or whatever—“I’m such a hoarder.”
KSNV-TV: News 3
January 22, 2021
It's what one viewer knows all too well.

Articles Featuring Stephen D. Benning

Campus News | February 3, 2021
A collection of news stories from the new year highlighting the experts and events at UNLV.
"I Voted" stickers
Campus News | January 5, 2021
A collection of stories highlighting UNLV experts and their analysis of all things politics in 2020.
medical worker in full protective suit making "LV" sign with hands
Business and Community | December 31, 2020
As the pandemic tightened its grip on Nevada, the nation, and the world, UNLV responded in ways big and small. Members of the media also turned to UNLV's faculty experts for answers.
Campus News | December 10, 2020
A collection of news stories highlighting the election, COVID-19, and scientific discovery at UNLV.