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Antonio Freitas, Ph.D. 

Yale University (2002)
Associate Professor, Social and Health Psychology
Co-Director of Social and Health Program
Dr. Freitas plans to admit  a new graduate student pending approval of funding.  


Office: Psychology B-203

Phone: (631) 632-7818

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Research Interests:

Motivation-cognition interactions and their implications for social behavior.

Current Research:

My research on the psychology of motivation and self-regulation examines determinants of people's goals and the processes by which people then orient their attention and action to goal-relevant information. My work spans levels of analysis including broad bases of motivation, goal initiation, goal-related affect and affect regulation, and fine-grained modulation of cognitive control.

In studies of motivational states and orientations, one contribution of my work has been the conceptualization of abstract and concrete mindsets (Freitas, Gollwitzer, and Trope, 2004), the manipulation of which has been used in many independent laboratories. The key insight of this work is that motivational states activated in a particular context can carry over to affect how people construe new information, which can affect a variety of goal-related processes, including perceived goal substitutability (Clark & Freitas, 2013), self-reported completion of physical-exercise goals (Sweeney & Freitas, 2016), and motivation for healthy eating (Sweeney & Freitas, 2018).

In studies of lower-level mechanisms of cognitive control, I have made contributions to understanding how people adapt the control of action and cognition to fluctuating environmental demands. For example, sometimes environmental demands are relatively low, and we can allow our actions to unfold relatively automatically, whereas other times we need to exercise much more selectivity in what we attend to and what we do. Our research suggests that people address these shifting demands through engaging mechanisms of cognitive control, such as selective attention, that then facilitate how they handle newly encountered events (Feldman & Freitas, 2016; Freitas, Bahar, Yang, & Banai, 2007; Freitas & Clark, 2015). Methodologically, my research examines goal-related phenomena by using multiple levels of analysis, including intensive-longitudinal designs (Sweeney & Freitas, 2019), short-term interventions (Sweeney & Freitas, 2016), laboratory studies of memory (Culcea & Freitas, 2017), emotion-regulation-choice protocols (Feldman & Freitas, in press), and studies of electrocortical responses (e.g., Freitas, Azizian, Leung, & Squires, 2007; Feldman, Clark, & Freitas, 2015; Weimer, Clark, & Freitas, 2019). More broadly, I hope that this work helps illustrate the vibrant and generative nature of psychological science as the boundaries between its sub-disciplines become increasingly permeable. 

Recent Publications:

Note: Asterisk* connotes Stony Brook student co-author.

Feldman, J.L., & Freitas, A. L. (in press). The generality of effects of emotional experience on emotion-regulation choice.   Emotion.

Araiza, A. M., Freitas, A. L., & Klein, D. N. (2020). Social-experience and temperamental predictors of rejection aensitivity: A prospective study.   Social Psychological and Personality Science, 11, 733-742.

Araiza, A. M., & Freitas, A. L. (2020). Do people devalue sources of threatening health feedback particularly when its criteria are ambiguous and its consequences enduring?   Collabra: Psychology, 6, 17.

Araiza, A. M., & Freitas, A. L. (2019). Self-esteem relates to expecting others to see us how we see ourselves.   Social Psychological Bulletin, 14, 1-19.  [This paper won for Ashley Araiza the   2020 Solomon Asch Early Career Prize, which “is annually awarded to early career researchers who have published their papers in Social Psychological Bulletin before or up to 3 years after completion of their Ph.D. The candidate for the award should be either the only author or the first co-author of the article. The winner of the Asch Award is selected by the SPB Editorial Board on the basis of critical assessment of all qualified papers.”]

Weimer, N. R., Clark*, S. L., & Freitas, A. L. (2019). Distinct neural responses to social and semantic violations: An N400 study.   International Journal of Psychophysiology, 137, 72–81.

Sweeney, A. M., & Freitas, A. L. (2019). When Do Intended Performance Standards Predict Goal-Related Affect? A Motivated-Reasoning Perspective.   Social Psychological and Personality Science,   10, 295-306

Feldman*, J.L., Clark*, S. L., & Freitas, A. L. (Invited revision under review). Conflict Adaptation within but not across NoGo Decision Criteria: Event-Related-Potential Evidence of Specificity in the Contextual Modulation of Cognitive Control. Biological Psychology.

Sweeney*, A. M., & Freitas, A. L. (Invited revision under review). Mistakes Pertaining to Undesired (relative to Desired) Self-Standards Elicit Immediate Enhanced Electrocortical Signals of Error Processing. Motivation and Emotion.

Freitas, A. L., & Clark, S. L. (2015). Generality and specificity in cognitive control: Conflict adaptation within and across selective-attention tasks but not across selective-attention and simon tasks. Psychological Research, doi:10.1007/s00426-014-0540-1 

Sweeney*, A. M., & Freitas, A. L. (2014). Relating action to abstract goals increases physical activity reported a week later. Psychology Of Sport And Exercise, 15(4), 364-373. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2014.03.009 

Clark*, S. L., & Freitas, A. L. (2013). Construing action abstractly and perceiving consonance among goal pursuits: Implications for activity substitutability and the accessibility of activity-goal links. Motivation And Emotion, 37(3), 537-549. doi:10.1007/s11031-012-9334-1