Larson Lab

In the Larson Lab, we investigate how self determination theory (SDT) applies to vocational psychology. SDT asserts that people’s sense of their competence, autonomy to make their own choices, and their sense of relatedness directly affects their well-being. SDT also asserts that the environment can either help or hinder people’s well-being directly or indirectly by strengthening or weakening their competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

  • Student samples: (1) We examined the extent to which students’ need for autonomy, academic competence directly predicted their career well-being and how mother’s and father’s support of the student’s autonomy helped students’ career well-being both directly and indirectly.  (2) We found that students’ need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness mediated the relation between faculty and student integration and academic major satisfaction. (3) Mary's thesis examined how peer support and faculty support relate to academic major satisfaction and the extent to which the SDT needs of volitional autonomy, perceived competence, and relatedness mediate those relationships. (4) Elly's thesis is examining how interpersonal sensitivity, a personality trait linked to depression and anxiety, affects well-being directly and indirectly through the need to connect with others (relatedness satisfaction), the need to not be rejected by others (relatedness thwarting), and the need to not be distant or isolated from others (relatedness dissatisfaction).
  • Faculty samples: (1) We found that tenure-track faculty’s need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness mediated the relation between the faculty’s campus environment (e.g., chair support, promotion and tenure support) and faculty wellbeing. (2) Matt's thesis found that for non tenure track faculty or term faculty, need for relatedness mediated the relation between department support, administrative support, and personal/family support and faculty wellbeing. (3) Kent's thesis examined mean differences of a racially diverse national sample of term faculty and examined the cross racial validity of the SDT model for four distinct racial term faculty groups. (4) We found that the SDT needs of relatedness and volitional autonomy fully mediated the relation between campus environmental supports and term faculty well-being in a large national sample. 

​In the lab we also examined the inclusive classrooms. In particular, Spurty and I examined a sample of international and racial and ethnic minority students’ discomfort due to inappropriate comments made to them by faculty and other students both inside and outside the classroom. We also examined comments made by female students as well. 

We  also have examined other avenues of vocational psychology: (a) Spurty's dissertation examined public and private stigma as well as parental stigma and the differential effect of parental stigma on Asian international students compared to Asian American students and European American students, (b) Katie's dissertation examined the social cost of career undecidedness;  and (c) Dusty's dissertation examined how punishment and reward seeking may influence career choice.

The Larson Lab currently includes four graduate students and two undergraduate research assistants.

Elly Frickey is our 2018-2019 lab coordinator originally from Minnetonka, MN 

Kent Crick was our 2017-2018 lab coordinator and is currently the RA for one of our NSF ESCEL grants originally from Evansville, Indiana.

Matt Seipel, a 4th year student, ran the lab in 202015-2017   Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Matt Seipel, is a third year counseling psychology student and served as the lab coordinator for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 academic year.

Spurty, Dusty, and Mary are celebrating and sending off our prdoctoral interns at Dr. Meifen Wei’s house who graciously hosted the event. Spurty Surapaneni, originally from Riverside, California, is on post doc at University of California - Davis and served as our lab coordinator from 2013 – 2015.  Dusty Baker is currently a staff psychologist at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington and is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mary Schenkenfelder, a 5th year student, is originally from a suburb south of Chicago was the ISU ADVANCE graduate assistant in 2015-2016.

Mary, Dr. Larson, Dusty, Spurty, and Katie are celebrating end of year at The Spice in downtown Ames. Katie Pesch is a psychologist for SKS Consulting Psychologists in Minneapolis, MN and is originally from Madison, Wisconsin. She served as the lab coordinator from 2011 to 2013.

Dr. Verena Bonitz comes from Germany, served as the lab coordinator from 2009 to 2011 and is was on the psychology faculty at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois and is currently residing in Germany .


Tsui-Feng Wu originally from Taiwan was the lab coordinator from 2006 to 2009. She is a social psychologist currently living in Cincinatti, Ohio.