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

Las Vegas Sun
May 22, 2022
Perry Woodward was gathering his belongings after officiating a recreational basketball game between teenagers on Tuesday night when he peeked onto the adjacent court at Doolittle Community Center to see the status of another game.
K.S.N.V. T.V. News 3
April 20, 2022
At the RTC bus stop in downtown Las Vegas, it's a sight not seen in nearly two years: Travelers without masks.
Newswise
March 3, 2022
The conflict in Ukraine continues to change on a minute-by-minute basis, and journalists who are seeking context into the myriad political, historical, social, and economic issues that have arisen as a result of the Russian invasion can turn to the following UNLV experts for insight.
K.T.N.V. T.V. ABC 13
March 1, 2022
In a time when there is a lot of uncertainty and confusion, people are understandably worried but there are ways you can deal with the stress.

Articles Featuring Stephen D. Benning

nurse administers shot to woman
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. 

D73760_054 Kinney Lab-Chambers Grundy.JPG
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.