placeholder image

Jack C. Wright Associate Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences

Jack Wright received his PhD in Psychology from Stanford University and his BA from Princeton University. He served as Chair of the Psychology Department at Brown from 1990-93, and since 1990 has been the Research Director of Wediko Children's Services in Boston, Massachusetts, a not-for-profit agency that provides residential and school-based consulting services for at-risk youth. His research interests include the assessment and perception of personality and individual differences in social behavior, with an emphasis on developmental psychopathology, espcecially aggression, withdrawal, and anti-social behavior in middle childhood.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

scholarly work

Ayduk, O., Rodriguez, M., Mischel, W., and Wright, J. C. (in press). Joint effect of verbal intelligence and self-regulatory competencies in adolescent boys' aggression. Journal of Research on Personality.

Zakriski, A. L., Wright, J. C., & Parad, H. W. (2006). Intensive short-term residential treatment: A contextual evaluation of the "Stop-Gap" model. Child and adolescent behavior newsletter, 3, xxx-xxx.

Krueger, J. I., & Wright, J. C. (2006). On the assessment of national character: Comment on Terracciano et al. Science, 311, 776.

Zakriski, A. L., Wright, J. C., & Underwood, M. K. (2005). Gender Similarities and Differences in Children's Social Behavior: Finding Personality in Contextualized Patterns of Adaptation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 844-855.

Wright, J. C., & Zakriski, A. L. (2003). When syndromal similarity obscures functional dissimilarity: Distinctive evoked environments of externalizing and mixed syndrome children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 516-527.

Wright, J. C., & Zakriski, A. L. (2003). A contextual analysis of externalizing and mixed syndrome boys: When syndromal similarity obscures functional dissimilarity. In J. A. Talbott, J. C. Ballenger, R. J. Frances, H. Y. Meltzer, P. J. Jensen, G. S. Simpson, and J. C. Markowitz (Eds.) Year Book of Psychiatry and Applied Mental Health, St. Louis: Elsevier. (Reprint of Wright & Zakriski, 2003, with peer commentary.)

Zakriski, A. L., & Wright, J. C. (2001). Standardized checklists obscure contextual determinants of child behavior. In G. Fritz (Ed.), The reference guide to counselling children and adolescents: Prevention, treatment, outcomes (3rd ed.), Providence: Manisses.

Wright, J. C., & Zakriski, A. L. (2001). A contextual analysis of externalizing and mixed syndrome boys: When syndromal similarity obscures functional dissimilarity. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69, 457-470.

Wright, J. C., Lindgren, K. P., & Zakriski, A. L. (2001). Syndromal versus contextualized assessment of childhood psychopathology: Differentiating environmental and dispositional determinants of behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1176-1189.

Wright, J.C., Zakriski, A. L., & Drinkwater, M. (1999). Developmental psychopathology and the reciprocal patterning of behavior and environment: Distinctive situational and behavioral signatures of "internalizing," "externalizing," and "mixed" syndrome children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 95-107.

Zakriski, A.L., & Wright, J.C. (1999). Standardized checklists obscure contextual determinants of child behavior. Child and Adolescent Behavior Newsletter, 15, 1, 6-7.

Wright, J.C., & Drinkwater, M. (1997). Rationality vs. accuracy of social judgment. Social Cognition, 15, 245-273.

Wright, J.C., Zakriski, A. L., & Fisher, P. A. (1996). Age differences in the correlates of perceived dominance. Social Development, 5, 24-40.

Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., & Wright, J. C. (1994). Intra-individual stability in the organization and patterning of behavior: Incorporating psychological situations into the idiographic analysis of personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 674-687.

Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., & Wright, J. C. (1993a). The role of situational demands and cognitive competencies in behavioral organization and personality coherence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 1023-1035.

Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., & Wright, J. C. (1993b). Links between personality judgments and contextualized behavior patterns: Situation-behavior profiles of personality prototypes. Social Cognition, 11, 399-429.

Wright, J. C. (1990). An alternative paradigm for studying person perception accuracy: Simulated personalities. In N. Cantor & D. Buss (Eds.), Emerging Issues in Personality Psychology, New York: Springer-Verlag.

Shoda, Y., Mischel, W., & Wright, J. C. (1989). Intuitive interactionism and person perception: Effects of context-behavior relations on dispositional judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 41-53.

Dawson, V. L., Zeitz, C., & Wright, J. C. (1989). Expert-novice differences in person perception: Evidence of experts' sensitivities to the organization of social behavior. Social Cognition, 7, 1-30.

Wright, J. C., & Mischel, W. (1988). Conditional hedges and the intuitive psychology of traits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 454-469.

Wright, J. C. (1988). Social acceptance and rejection in childhood: On being a social "misfit." Child Behavior and Development Letter, 4, 1-2.

Wright, J. C., & Dawson, V. L. (1988). Person perception and the bounded rationality of social judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 780-794.

Wright, J. C., & Mischel, W. (1987). A conditional approach to dispositional constructs: The local predictability of social behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 1159-1177.

Wright, J. C., Giammarino, M., & Parad, H. W. (1986). Social status in small groups: Individual-group similarity and the social "misfit." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 523-536.

Murphy, G. L., & Wright, J. C. (1984). Changes in conceptual structure with expertise: Differences between real-world experts and novices. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 10, 144-155.

Wright, J. C., & Murphy, G. L. (1984). The utility of theories in intuitive statistics: The robustness of theory-based judgments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 113, 311-322.

Wright, J. C. (1983). The structure and perception of behavioral consistency. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University.

Wright, J. C., & Mischel, W. (1982). The influence of affect on cognitive social learning person variables. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 901-914.

Horowitz, L. M., Wright, J. C., Lowenstein, E., & Parad, H. W. (1981). The prototype as a construct in abnormal psychology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 90, 568-574.

Wright, J. C., & Horowitz, L. M. (1980). Special needs children and their development during short-term residential care. Seventh Annual Report, Boys' Town Center for the Study of Youth Development at Stanford University, 64-70.

Wright, J. C., & Maccoby, E. E. (1979). Behavioral consistency and change in emotionally disturbed children. Sixth Annual Report, Boys' Town Center for the Study of Youth Development at Stanford University, 79-84.

research overview

My research is on the assessment and perception of personality and individual differences in childhood. Current work focuses on developmental psychopathology, stability and change in personality, and the effects of psychosocial interventions on at-risk youth. Laboratory studies examine how laypeople perceive personality and how their perceptions relate to standardized assessment methods that are widely used in research and clinical practice.

research statement

My research is on the assessment and perception of personality and individual differences in childhood. Current research focuses on developmental psychopathology, especially aggression, withdrawal, and anti-social behavior in middle childhood. In contrast to widely used diagnostic and syndromal approaches that emphasize the overall frequency of children's behavior problems, our contextualist framework examines the social environments children encounter in their interactions with adults and peers, how these environments influence children's reactions, and how children's reactions reciprocally influence their immediate social ecology.

Field studies use extensive observations of children's social interactions clarify how children change in response

with topographically-similar overall behavior rates nevertheless differ both in their immediate social ecologies and how they respond to the interpersonal stimuli they encounter. Laboratory experiments, using computer-simulated analogue children, examine how children and adults encode and interpret target's social environments and the cross-situational patterning of their responses to specific social situations. Related research examines the discrepancies between standardized assessment methods, which de-emphasize contextual influences, and personality impressions by laypeople and clinicians, which often appear to be more sensitive to the cross-situational organization of behavior.

Our field research takes advantage of a collaboration, now spanning two decades, with a summer residential treatment program for at-risk youth in New Hampshire. Each summer, approximately 150 children with emotional and behavior programs are enrolled in the 45-day program, served by a staff of more than 100 counselors and teachers. Daily classroom instruction focuses on academic mastery and a structured activity schedule fosters age-appropriate interests and social interaction. Individualized treatment plans identify each child's problem behaviors, defined behavioral goals, and set forth cognitive-behavioral interventions to promote affective self-regulation and adaptive social functioning. The setting has provided unique opportunities for extensive behavioral observations throughout each day of the session and in a wide range of social and academic settings, allowing in-depth, fine-grained analyses of the social interactional processes that contribute to children's problem and prosocial behaviors.

Supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, a three-year project beginning in the summer of 2006 will obtain detailed assessments from parents and teachers of the children before they enter the program, fine-grained observations of the children's social interactions during the residential session, and multiple follow-up assessments after children return to home and school in the fall. Building on previous studies on the contextual patterning of behavior, this research will develop a contextualist framework for studying behavior change and the evaluation of treatment effectiveness. Rather than operationalizing change in terms of overall reductions in symptom frequency, change is operationalized in terms of the distinct social interactional processes that contribute to symptom reduction, including changes in the social environment, changes in the patterning of children's reactions to their environments, or both. In this way the research aims to clarify why treatment effects often fail to generalize from the intervention setting to other settings, why some children show "worsening" or "deviancy training" during interventions, and how outcome research can benefit from incorporating process-oriented, context-sensitive measures of the changes children undergo during treatment.

funded research

"Contextual versus sysndromal assessment of behavior change in at-risk youth." (National Institutes of Health R15 MH076787-01). (4.1.06-4.1.09). Amount funded $184,000. (Audrey Zakriski, PI; Jack Wright, Co-PI).

"Contextualized Assessment of Antisocial and Withdrawn Behavior in Special Education Classrooms" (11.01.00-11.01.02). Springfield Public Schools, Springfield, Massachusetts. ($74,650). (Dr. Harry Parad, Co-investigator).

"Context-Sensitive Assessment of Childhood Psychopathology and Behavior Change," 9.1.97-9.1.99. Department of Special Education Services, Worcester Public Schools, Worcester, Massachusetts. ($78,560). (Dr. Harry Parad, Co-investigator).