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

Yahoo!
April 20, 2021
AnnaLynn McCord revealed that she has dissociative identity disorder (DID), previously known as multiple personality disorder, a diagnosis the 90210 star feels no “shame” in sharing.
KSNV-TV: News 3
April 14, 2021
Many Nevadans are seeing loved ones and friends for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit worldwide. That face-to-face interaction is now strongly encouraged by mental health professionals.
KSNV-TV: News 3
April 6, 2021
The Silver State ranks first in the country for stress in 2021, according to a new WalletHub study.
The Nevada Independent
April 6, 2021
We tried, at first, to shake the uncanniness of it all.

Articles Featuring Stephen D. Benning

vice president kamala harris watches unlv student administer COVID vaccine to another local college student
Campus News | April 14, 2021
A collection of news stories highlighting health, recovery, and celebration at UNLV.
Campus News | March 11, 2021
A collection of news stories highlighting the experts and events at UNLV.
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.