Abigail Scholer

Abigail Scholer

Batten Family Bicentennial Distinguished Leadership Professor of Public Policy

Education & Training
PhD, Social Psychology, Columbia University
MA, Social Psychology, Columbia University
BA, Psychology, Gettysburg College

Abigail Scholer is Batten Family Bicentennial Distinguished Leadership Professor of Public Policy at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia. Broadly, she researches the dynamic, complex, and often confounding world of human motivation and self-regulation: What makes us reach for the stars, huddle in a corner, get out of bed, help others, break our diets, save for retirement, follow rules, and color outside the lines?

Scholer takes a social psychological approach to explore how situational and individual factors lead people to both manage and mismanage life’s challenges and opportunities. Her research investigates the trade-offs related to different motivational states and goals (e.g., when does looking on the bright side help versus hurt us? When does seeing the glass as half-empty support versus hinder our goals?) and examines the critical role of self-regulatory flexibility in navigating the world. Scholer studies fundamental and basic processes related to goal pursuit, decision-making, social regulation, motivated social cognition, and behavior change, with an aim for understanding how these basic processes can be leveraged to address societal challenges and improve people’s lives.

Scholer’s work has appeared in academic journals such as Psychological Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Review, and Personality and Social Psychology Review. She was named a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science in 2021, a Fellow of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in 2022, and received an early career award from the Society for the Science of Motivation in 2021.

Scholer received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College. She taught for many years at the University of Waterloo, where she held the Canada Research Chair in Motivated Social Cognition. She teaches a course on behavioral science.