Sadie Leder, assistant professor of psychology, specializes in love

By Savannah Simons, Staff Writer

February 6, 2013

Sadie LederSadie Leder, an assistant professor of psychology, is currently working on her third full year of teaching at High Point University. Leder came to HPU in the fall of 2010 after receiving a Ph.D. in social personality psychology from the University of Buffalo in New York. Leder’s expertise focuses on the study of romantic relationships, centering on conflict and closeness between partners.

As an undergrad at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Leder was majoring in biology in hopes of being either a surgeon or a doctor. While in her last year of her work towards her biology degree, Leder volunteered in a hospital for the first time. It was at the hospital that she realized being a doctor may not have been the best fit. Upon the completion of her biology degree, Leder realized that she only needed three more classes to finish a psychology degree.

In that last year, Leder ended up working at a lab as a relationship researcher under a social psychologist studying romantic relationships.

“I loved it,” said Leder. “We worked with trust and disclosure within the context of marriage relationships, and it was just unbelievable to see all the principles I learned about the scientific method in play in the psychology world.”

Upon receiving her undergraduate degree from UNC Chapel Hill, Leder received a master’s degree at Wake Forest University and then earned her Ph.D. from the University of Buffalo.

As a professor of psychology here at HPU, Leder teaches multiple psychology classes including entry-level classes like introduction to psychology and social psychology. Leder’s upper-level classes include both close relationships, and love and hate and cyberspace.

“It’s very different to see how the first-year students respond to the material as opposed to people who are in the junior or senior level,” said Leder.

Here at HPU, most of Leder’s research has focused on partner selection. Leder studies who single people tend to draw close to. Leder refers to her study of work as apart of a risk regulation model, focusing on the fundamental need for connection and that everyone has evolved this desire to have close friend relationships, close relationships with family and romantic relationships.

“This line of research looks at how it’s a double edge sword to have the closeness and intimacy that you want to fulfill your needs because that also opens up the possibility of rejection,” said Leder. “We look at how people approach versus avoid.”

Leder studies how one person may select a partner over another, and under what conditions one may want the best possible partner versus one seeking a partner who is good, yet not perfect.

“A lot of literature says we want the best possible partner,” said Leder. “A lot of my research says yes to that, but if we’re worried about the possibility of rejection, then we might change our preferences to be more in-line with how we’re feeling.”

Leder concludes these studies are a bridge between match and hypothesis and evolution theories of attraction.

While the saying “opposites attract” may be common, Leder disagrees by saying that those types of relationships do not always tend to work out.

“It tends to be that the opposite is very exciting,” said Leder. “It’s novel, it’s different, it exposes you to things that you may never have thought of, seen or felt before, but it seems to be what stands the test of time is similarity.”

Leder explains that all types of relationships have conflict, even really strong relationships, but relationships between partners who have similar beliefs and ideas turn out to be more rewarding, which is what partners seek out in relationships.

“We want to be around people who make us feel good,” said Leder. “So, if you’re constantly being challenged, or feel as if your beliefs are wrong or don’t matter, that kind of wears on us and it doesn’t tend to stand the test of time the same way the reinforcement of someone who agrees with us does.”

As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, some students cringe at the thought while anxiously waiting for the holiday to arrive. Leder emphasizes what a great holiday Valentine’s Day is because it reminds people to take a break from other important agendas someone may have going on and to take the time to cherish their partner.

“The longer we’re with a partner, the more we begin to take them for granted, the more we begin to stop doing those special, kind things we did in the beginning, only because we get used to them,” said Leder.

Leder explains that research shows that romantic holidays such as Valentine’s Day are good for relationships because they remind people to do something special for their significant other and not to take them for granted.

While Valentine’s Day tends to celebrate the relationships between two people, Leder says the holiday is not just for people committed to another.

“It’s a great time to celebrate your other relationships,” said Leder.

Leder highlights staying positive and being thankful for what relationships you do have, whether it is with friends or family.

“I genuinely believe, particularly if you’re in college and if you haven’t found the right person, it’s just a matter of time until you do,” said Leder.