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

Las Vegas Review Journal
October 30, 2020
The first meeting held by the 1 October Memorial Committee offered a glimpse into an unexpected controversy that has surfaced around the 2017 massacre’s official death toll.
El Tiempo
October 30, 2020
The first meeting held by the October 1 Memorial Committee offered a glimpse into an unexpected controversy that has arisen over the official death toll from the 2017 massacre.
KSNV-TV: News 3
October 30, 2020
The last day of early voting is traditionally one of the busiest in Clark County.
Desert Companion
October 27, 2020
Stephen Benning, a UNLV psychology professor, directs the school’s Psychophysiology of Emotion and Personality laboratory, which looks at the intersection of emotional processes and bodily responses. Who better to query about the fluctuating satisfaction of online togetherness during quarantine?

Articles Featuring Stephen D. Benning

Campus NewsNovember 5, 2020
A collection of news stories highlighting UNLV’s commitment to community, health care, and research.
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.