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

September 23, 2021
Elizabeth Holmes called herself the 'best businessperson of the year' and worried about luxury 'distractions' from her work in newly released messages to ex-boyfriend Ramesh Balwani before their blood testing company Theranos imploded in 2018.
September 22, 2021
Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, has gained a wave of new supporters calling her “#girlboss” on social media, despite being tried for fraud over her Silicon Valley blood test business. bottom.
September 22, 2021
Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, has gained a wave of new supporters calling her “#girlboss” on social media, despite being tried for fraud over her Silicon Valley blood test business. bottom.
September 22, 2021
Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes, has received a wave of new supporters calling her the “#girlboss” on social media — despite being on trial for fraud with her Silicon Valley blood testing company.

Articles Featuring Stephen D. Benning

Campus News | September 7, 2021
A collection of news stories highlighting community and perseverance at UNLV.
Campus News | June 8, 2021
A collection of news stories highlighting celebration, health, and progress at UNLV.
students dance outdoors on UNLV's campus
Campus News | May 11, 2021
A collection of news stories highlighting remembrance, recovery, and progress at UNLV.
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.