Stephen D. Benning

Associate Professor, Psychology
Director, Psychophysiology of Emotion and Personality Laboratory (PEPlab)
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

Germanic
December 22, 2021
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator , known as the Myers-Briggs Personality Test , or MBTI, is one of the most widely used personality tests in the world.
Discover Magazine
December 21, 2021
The MTBI type indicator is one of the most popular personality tests around the world. But its original design and the results it produces lack scientific support.
Lipstiq
December 20, 2021
In modern astrology, until the late 2000s, astrology was reduced to a column in a women’s health magazine to give guidance or advice on how different types of personality would experience their upcoming day or week. That’s until the rise of mobile technology and the internet – which allowed Millennials and Gen Zs to engage in astrology.
December 20, 2021
It’s amazing what a handful of pocket change can do.

Articles Featuring Stephen D. Benning

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Campus News | December 29, 2021

A collection of news stories from 2021 highlighting UNLV’s continuing response to COVID-19 and faculty experts who have helped make sense of the pandemic and its impact to daily life. 

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Campus News | October 7, 2021

A collection of news stories featuring collaboration and reflection at UNLV.

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Campus News | September 7, 2021

A collection of news stories highlighting community and perseverance at UNLV.

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Campus News | June 8, 2021

A collection of news stories highlighting celebration, health, and progress at UNLV.