John Petrocelli
Assoc. Professor of Psychology
(336) 758-4171
Greene Hall 459

I am a social psychologist and my research involves experimental social cognition and judgment and decision making. My specific research interests include counterfactual thinking, attitude strength and persuasion, metacognition, and group-based emotions.

Counterfactual Thinking. Counterfactual thinking involves mentally simulating alternatives to reality and playing out the consequences of those alternatives (i.e., “could have,” “would have,” “should have,” or “if only” thinking). What role does counterfactual thinking play in reactions to general and specific cases? How does it affect memory for previous events? What role does it play in learning and performance on tasks? How does counterfactual thinking affect a physician’s diagnostic and treatment selection decisions?

Attitude Strength and Persuasion. How do various components of attitude strength (e.g., attitude certainty, attitudinal ambivalence, and attitude accessibility) affect attitude change and resistance to persuasive attempts? How do sub-components of such attitude attributes influence the attitude-behavior link, attitude stability, persistence, and resistance to persuasive attempts?

Metacognition. Metacognition involves thinking about one’s thoughts and thought processes. How do metacognitive components of attitude strength affect attitude change? How does a metacognitive aspect of counterfactual thinking (i.e., counterfactual potency) influence affect, judgments of social targets, and decisions?

Group-Based Emotions. Some of my work has focused on the relationship between group-based emotions and the attributions that people construct regarding their group’s status. My earlier research showed that Higgins’ self-discrepancy theory can be extended to predicting and explaining group-based emotions. My focus in this area of study has shifted to how group-based emotions may provide a deeper understanding of implicit inter-group approach/avoid action tendencies. Currently, my colleagues and I are using a minimal-groups paradigm to focus on the cognitive processes that underlie these tendencies. We are currently formalizing new ways to more effectively manipulate basic emotions so that we may study these effects more efficiently. This work is likely to have important implications for inter-group relations, stereotypes, and prejudice.

  • Petrocelli, J. V., & Harris, A. K. (2011). Learning inhibition in the Monty Hall Problem: The role of dysfunctional counterfactual prescriptions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 1297-1311.

  • Petrocelli, J. V., Percy, E. J., Sherman, S. J., & Tormala, Z. L. (2011). Counterfactual potency. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 30-46.
  • Petrocelli, J. V., Clarkson, J. J., Tormala, Z. L., & Hendrix, K. S. (2010). Perceiving stability as a means to attitude certainty: The role of implicit theories of attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 874-883.
  • Petrocelli, J. V., & Sherman, S. J. (2010). Event detail and confidence in gambling: The role of counterfactual thought reactions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 61-72.
  • Petrocelli, J. V., & Crysel, L. C. (2009). Counterfactual thinking and confidence in blackjack: A test of the counterfactual inflation hypothesis. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 1312-1315.
  • Petrocelli, J. V., & Dowd, K. (2009). Ease of counterfactual thought generation moderates the relationship between need for cognition and punitive responses to crime. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1179-1192.
  • Sherman, J. W., Kruschke, J. K., Sherman, S. J., Percy, E. J., Petrocelli, J. V., & Conrey, F. R. (2009). Attentional processes in stereotype formation: A common model for category accentuation and illusory correlation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 305-323.
  • Petrocelli, J. V., Tormala, Z. L., & Rucker, D. D. (2007). Unpacking attitude certainty: Attitude clarity and attitude correctness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 30-41.
  • Johnson, A. L., Crawford, M. T., Sherman, S. J., Rutchick, A. M., Hamilton, D. L., Ferreira, M., & Petrocelli, J. V. (2006). A functional perspective on group memberships: Differential need fulfillment in a group typology. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 707-719.
  • Petrocelli, J. V., & Smith, E. R. (2005). Who I am, who we are, and why: Links between emotions and causal attributions for self and group-discrepancies. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 1628-1642.
  • PSY 355 Research in Social Psychology
  • PSY 392 Contemporary Issues in Psychology: Mental Simulation
  • PSY 392 Contemporary Issues in Psychology: Implicit Social Cognition
  • PSY 311 Research Methods in Psychology I
  • PSY 260 Social Psychology