Nancy Collins

Nancy Collins


Research Area

Social Psychology


After receiving her BA in Psychology from UCLA, Professor Collins completed her PhD in Social Psychology at the University of Southern California. She returned to UCLA for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Health Psychology and then served as a professor of Social Psychology at the State University of New at Buffalo from 1993 to 1997. Dr. Collins joined the Psychology Department at UCSB in 1997. Dr. Collins includes among her professional honors the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Theoretical Innovation Prize (2007), the Harold J. Plous Award for outstanding contributions to teaching and research at UCSB (2002), and the Young Investigator Award from the Close Relationships group of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology (1991). Dr. Collins has also received numerous honors for excellence in teaching and service at UCSB including the Academic Senate Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award (2017), the Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award (2004), three Outstanding Teaching Awards from the UCSB Residence Halls Association (1998, 2010, 2011), and the Sarah Miller McCune Service
Award (2013). Dr. Collins is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the Society of Experimental Social Psychology (SESP), and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). Dr. Collins is currently Chair of the university Human Subjects Committee and the Quantitative Methods in Social Sciences (QMSS) program. She teaches courses in close relationships, research methods, introductory statistics, multivariate statistics, and structural equation modeling. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Fetzer Institute.

Dr. Collins will not be accepting students into her lab for the 2023-2024 academic year.


Dr. Collins' research and theoretical interests lie at the interface of close relationships, social cognition, and health psychology. More specifically, her research explores the social and cognitive processes that shape close relationships in adulthood, and the impact that these processes have on health and well-being across the lifespan. Within these broad domains, her current research activities are focused on three main topics: (1) social support and caregiving processes in couples, with special emphasis on the factors that predict effective support-seeking and caregiving behavior in intimate relationships, (2) psychosocial predictors of health and well-being, with special emphasis on the psychological and biological mechanisms through which close relationships foster resilience and thriving across the lifespan, and (3) social perception processes in close relationships, with special emphasis on the ways in which working models (mental representations) of attachment shape how individuals construe their relationship experiences. Her research program includes the application of innovative statistical techniques for exploring basic processes in social psychology, and the use of multiple methodologies including experimental studies, observational studies of dyadic interaction, daily diary methods, immersive virtual environments (virtual reality), neuroendocrine assessments (e.g., cortisol, progesterone), brain imaging, and longitudinal field research. Dr. Collins' research program has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Fetzer Institute. Dr. Collins is currently conducting a clinical trial on the impact of virtual reality technology as a tool for enhancing social connections and quality of life in older adults. This project is funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in collaboration with Dr. Tamara Afifi in the Department of Communication and Kyle Rand of Rendever, Inc. Please click here for more details

Selected Publications

Afifi, T. D., Collins, N., Rand, K., Otmar, C., Mazur, A.,Dunbar, N., Fujiwara, K., Harrison, K., & Logsdon, R. (2022).  Using virtual reality to improve the quality of life of older adults with cognitive impairments and their family members who live at a distance.  Health Communication.

Wu, D.C., Kim, H.S., & Collins, N.L. (2021). Perceived Responsiveness across Cultures: The role of Cultural fit in social support use. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 15(9):e12634.

Afifi, T. D., Collins, N., Rand, K., Fujiwara, K., Mazur, A., Otmar, C., Dunbar, N., Harrison, K., & Logsdon, R. (2021). Testing the feasibility of virtual reality with older adults with cognitive impairments and their family members who live at a distance. Innovation in Aging, 5(2), 1-14.

Feeney, B. C., & Collins, N. L. (2019). The importance of relational support for attachment and exploration needs. Current Opinion in Psychology, 25, 182-186.

Pietromonico, P., & Collins, N. L. (2017).  Interpersonal mechanisms linking close relationships to health. American Psychologist, 72531-542. 

Winczewski, L. A., Bowen, J. D., & Collins, N. L. (2016).  Is empathic accuracy enough to facilitate responsive behavior in dyadic interaction: Distinguishing ability from motivation. Psychological Science, 27, 394-404. 

Feeney, B. C., & Collins, N. L.  (2015).  Thriving through relationships.  Current Opinion in Psychology, 1, 22-28.  

Feeney, B. C. & Collins, N. L. (2014). A new look at social support: A theoretical perspective on thriving through relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Review.

Collins, N., Kane, H., Metz, M., Cleveland, C., Khan, C., Winczewski, L., Bowen, J., & Prok, T. (2014). Psychological, physiological, and behavioral responses to a partner in need: The role of compassionate love.Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 31, 601-629

Acevedo, B., Aron, E., Aron, A., Sangster, M., Collins, N. L., & Brown, L. (2014). The highly sensitive brain: An fMRI study of sensory processing sensitivity and responses to others’ emotions. Brain and Behavior, 4, 580-594.

Feeney, B. C., & Collins, N. L., Van Vleet, & Tomlinson, J. M. (2013). Motivations for providing a secure base: Links with attachment orientation and secure base support behavior. Attachment and Human Development, 15, 261-280.

Ford, M. B. & Collins, N. L. (2013). Self-esteem moderates the effects of daily rejection on health and well-being.Self and Identity, 12, 16-38.

Kane, H., McCall, C., Collins, N. L., & Blascovich (2012). Mere presence is not enough: Responsive support in a virtual world. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 37-44.

Jaremka, L. M., Bunyan, D. P., Collins, N. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2010). Reducing defensive distancing: Self-affirmation and risk regulation in response to relationship threats. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 264-268.

Ford, M. B., & Collins, N. L. (2010). Self-esteem moderates neuroendocrine and psychological responses to interpersonal rejection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 405-419.

Collins, N. L., Ford, M. (2010). Responding to the needs of others: The interplay of the attachment and caregiving systems in adult intimate relationships. Journal of Social and -Personal Relationships, 27, 235-244.

Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Collins, N. L. (2006). Optimizing assurance: The risk regulation system in relationships. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 641-666. (This paper was awarded the 2007 SPSP Theoretical Innovation Prize)

Collins, N. L., Ford, M. B., Guichard, A. C., & Allard, L. M. (2006). Working models of attachment and attribution processes in intimate relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 201-219.

Collins, N. L., & Feeney, B. C. (2004). Working models of attachment shape perceptions of social support: Evidence from experimental and observational studies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 363-383.

Feeney, B. C., & Collins, N. L. (2003). Motivations for caregiving in adult intimate relationships: Influences on caregiving behavior and relationship functioning. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 950-968.

Feeney, B. C., & Collins, N. L. (2001) Predictors of caregiving in adult Intimate relationships: An attachment theoretical perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 972-994.

Collins, N. L., & Feeney, B. C. (2000). A safe haven: Support-seeking and caregiving processes in intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1053-1073.