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Thomas CostelloGraduate Fellow


  • (Expected May 2022) Ph.D., Psychology, Emory University,
  • 2018, M.A., Psychology, Emory University
  • 2016, B.A. Psychology/Philosophy, Binghamton Univeristy


Certain personality traits, thinking styles, and motivations give rise to harmful political attitudes and behaviors, such as violence, extreme partisanship, and authoritarianism. As a Ph.D. Candidate in psychology at Emory University, my research leverages the tools and expertise of personality psychology, mathematical and statistical modeling, and clinical science to accurately assess and understand the psychological causes and correlates of these attitudes and behaviors. Delving into these topics has convinced me that few skills are more important for both social scientists and informed citizens than the ability to think critically, formulate useful questions, communicate clearly, and approach those we disagree with empathetically.

During my graduate training, I have authored 16 peer-reviewed scientific publications, including first-authored articles in leading psychology journals such as the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Social Psychological and Personality Science.


My work has appeared in major media outlets such as the New York Times, the Hill, the New Statesman, Morning Consult, and the New York Post and has been viewed and discussed by many hundreds of thousands of individuals on social media (e.g., the front page of Reddit, "viral" tweet threads, and so on).

Over the course of my career, I hope to continue to build an interdisciplinary program of research devoted to understanding the psychology of political acrimony and extremism.

Selected Publications

Costello, T.H., Bowes, S.M., Stevens, S.T., Waldman, I.W., Tasimi, A., & Lilienfeld, S.O. (In press). Clarifying the structure and nature of left-wing authoritarianism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. [Preprint]


Bowes, S.M., Costello, T.H., Lee, C., Davis, D.E., McElroy-Heltzel, S., & Lilienfeld, S.O. (In press). Stepping outside the echo chamber: Is intellectual humility associated with reduced partisan bias? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.


Bowes, S.M., Costello, T.H., Ma, W., Lilienfeld, S.O. (2020). Looking under the tinfoil hat: Clarifying the personological and psychopathological correlates of conspiracy beliefs. Journal of Personality. Advance online publication. [PDF]  


Costello, T.H., & Lilienfeld, S.O. (2020). Social and economic political ideology consistently operate as mutual suppressors: Implications for personality, social, and political psychology. Social Psychological and Personality Science. Advance online publication. [PDF]


Costello, T.H., Bowes, S.M., Lilienfeld, S.O. (2020). “Escape from Freedom”: Authoritarianism-related traits, political ideology, personality, and belief in free will/determinism. Journal of Research in Personality, 86, 1-16. [PDF]


Costello, T.H., Watts, A.L., Murphy, B.A., Lilienfeld, S.O. (2020). Extending the nomological network of interpersonal sexual objectification to psychopathic and allied traits. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 11, 237-248. [PDF]


Costello, T.H., Smith, S.F., Bowes, S., Riley, S., Berns, G., Lilienfeld, S.O. (2019). Risky business: Psychopathy, framing effects, and financial outcomes. Journal of Research in Personality, 78, 125-132. [PDF]


Murphy, B.A., Costello, T.H., Lilienfeld., S.O. (2018). Is empathic contagion helpful or harmful: Overlooked heterogeneity in the Empathy Index. Psychological Assessment, 30, 1703-1708. [PDF]


Costello, T.H., Unterberger, A., Watts, A.L., & Lilienfeld, S.O. (2018). Psychopathy and pride: Testing Lykken’s hypothesis regarding the implications of fearlessness for prosocial and antisocial behavior. Frontiers in Psychology9, 185. [HTML]


Murphy, B.A., Costello, T.H., Watts, A.L., Berg, J.M., & Lilienfeld, S.O. (2018). Strengths and weaknesses of two empathy measures: A comparison of the measurement precision, construct validity, and incremental validity of two multidimensional indices. Assessment[PDF]