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William B Swann

Associate FacultyPh. D., University of Minnesota

Professor in the Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts
William B Swann



Bill Swann is a Professor of Social and Personality Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. His primary appointment is in the Social-Personality area of the Psychology Department, but he also has appointments in Clinical Psychology and in the School of Business. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and undergraduate degree from Gettysburg College. Bill has been a Fellow at Princeton University and at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He has also been elected a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society. He has received multiple research scientist development awards from the National Institutes of Mental Health and research awards from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Mental Health.

Bill is best know for developing self-verification theory, which focuses on people’s desire to be known and understood by others. The theory assumes that once people develop firmly held beliefs about themselves, they come to prefer that others see them as they see themselves--even if their self-views are negative. For example, married people with negative self-views are more committed to the relationship if their spouse views them negatively. In fact, if such individuals are viewed positively, they run a somewhat higher risk of divorce! Recent research has applied this theory to understanding phenomena ranging from reactions to procedural justice in organizations, the productivity of members of work groups and teams, and extreme group behavior, such as fighting for one's group. Shankar Vedantam recently highlighted this work in his column in the Washington Post.

Identity negotiation theory is another focus of Bill's work. Identity negotiaion refers to the processes whereby people in relationships reach agreements regarding “who is who.” Once reached, these agreements govern the way people relate to one another, as they establish what people expect of one another. In this way, identity negotiation provide the interpersonal “glue” that holds relationships together. In recent years, Bill has become interested in how identity negotiation processes unfold in groups, especially in organizational settings.

Bill has also been active in developing several measures of indvidual differences, including measures of self-concept, self-esteem and most recently, Blirtatiousness. To find out how Blirtatious you are, click here.

Supervising the individual research projects of his undergraduate and doctoral students takes much of Bill's time. He also teaches several courses, including a graduate level course in Social Psychology and several seminars on the self, personality, relationships, groups, and social stereotypes. He teaches both graduate and undergraduate versions of all of his seminars.


Self-Traps: The Elusive Quest for Higher Self-Esteem

Curriculum Vitae

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    The University of Texas at Austin
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    2505 University Avenue, A4900
    Austin, Texas 78712