William Revelle



Northwestern University

  • Chairman, Department of Psychology 1987 - 1993, 1998-2001
  • Professor of Psychology 1984 - present
  • Associate Professor of Psychology 1979 -1984
  • Assistant Professor of Psychology 1973 - 1979

University of Michigan

  • Teaching Assistant, 1972-1973
  • Research Assistant, 1968-1970
United States Peace Corps Volunteer Sarawak, Malaysia September 1965-December 1967


The study of personality is the last refuge of the generalist in psychology. As such, my interests in personality theory include the biological basis of personality and motivation, psychometric theory, the structure of daily mood and models of attention and memory.

Recent work in the Personality, Motivation, and Cognition Laboratory has focused on the interactive effects of personality (e.g., impulsivity, trait anxiety) and situational determinants of motivation (e.g., time-of-day, caffeine, films, monetary incentives, exercise) as they combine to influence motivational states (energetic and tense arousal), and how these motivational states in turn affect cognitive processes (sustained attention, working-memory capacity, long-term memory) to determine cognitive performance. The long term goal is to develop a better understanding of how individual differences interact with situational moderators to affect efficient information processing.

Additional work in personality theory has focused on the personality characteristics associated with differential sensitivities to cues for reward and punishment. Current work is being done on the personality and situational determinants of affective state and dimensional analyses of affect.

Another continuing project is refining Synthetic Aperture Personality Assessment (SAPA) methodology. SAPA takes advantage of the web to administer small subsets of personality and ability items to different participants responding over the web. By appropriate design considerations, it is possible to synthetically combine these small subsets into very large correlation matrices suitable for psychometric analysis. This is an ongoing project that has collected data from somewhat more than 260,000 participants on more than 1,200 different items. Examples of this work include an analysis of the structure of trust as well as the relationship between personality and cognition.

I am also working on the Personality Project , an attempt to bring information about current personality theory and research to the readers of the World Wide Web. Suggestions for additions to this project are very welcome.

For the past eight years I have been using the statistical analysis package, R, as a powerful descriptive and analytical tool. As have many others faced with the problem of learning R, I have developed a short tutorial to help others. A shorter form of this tutorial is devoted to basic statistical procedures for doing personality research. In addition, I have given a number of short courses on the use of R in psychology in general and in personality in particular. I have converted many of my older programs into R and continue on developing new techniques. Earlier programs now completely rewritten in R include ICLUST and VSS (Very Simple Structure). Newer programs include estimating omega, and convenient functions for working with Synthetic Aperture Personality Assessment (SAPA) data. The most recent version of my psych package may be downloaded from the depository at the personality-project, or the general CRAN repository at cran.R-project.org.

Recent Publications

Go here for a more complete list of publications in html or for a pdf of my vita

Recent presentations