New Researcher Focuses on Interpersonal Relationships

Interpersonal relationships, and how they are influenced by developmental experiences and individual differences, are the primary focuses of Dr. Robert Ackerman’s research.

Ackerman joined the faculty of UT Dallas’ School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences this fall and will teach graduate-level classes dealing with the analysis of non-independent data. He said he took the opportunity to move to UT Dallas for several reasons.

Dr. Robert Ackerman

Dr. Robert Ackerman

“It was appealing that a number of the faculty in the psychological sciences department work with relationship data in one form or another,” he said. “In addition, I found the students at the University to be especially bright and motivated. I also believe it is exciting to belong to a university that is aspiring to achieve Tier One status.”  

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from New Jersey’s Monmouth University, Ackerman earned his PhD in social and personality psychology in 2011 at Michigan State. His assistant professor position at UT Dallas is his first faculty post.

Ackerman said he looks forward to getting to know more of his new students. As a teacher who was so recently a student, he is eager to share his research interests with enthusiastic young learners. He describes the students he’s encountered at UT Dallas as “incredibly bright and curious.”

Ackerman said he was drawn to his field of research because of a fascination with the importance of close relationships and how they develop.

“I can’t think of many other experiences that bring us more joy and pain,” he said. “Better understanding how the characteristics of the two people involved in the relationship contribute to those experiences is an important mission.”

Ackerman’s research interests entail better understanding how the quality of interpersonal relationships is influenced by the developmental experiences (such as frequent exposure to supportive behavior from family members) and individual differences (traits such as narcissistic entitlement) of the two people involved. To address these issues, he has corresponding quantitative interests in dyadic data analysis and psychological measurement.

“I am interested in how romantic relationships are influenced by both partners’ levels of narcissistic attributes. I evaluated whether such traits are associated with romantic attraction towards particular targets.”

Dr. Robert Ackerman

Narcissism and the role it plays within the initiation and maintenance of close relationships is currently Ackerman’s chief focus.

“My past research has examined the role of different narcissistic tendencies in the initiation of romantic relationships. In particular,
I evaluated whether such traits are associated with romantic attraction towards particular targets and whether they are related
to deliberate strategies involving self-presentation during first dates.”

Dr. Bert Moore, dean of BBS, said Ackerman is an engaged teacher and an ambitious researcher.

“Dr. Ackerman brings an interesting focus on how we better understand close relationships developmentally, conceptually and methodologically,” he said. “This multifaceted approach broadens a long-term focus in the school, and we are very pleased to have him join the faculty.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].