About Kayla

I am a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Notre Dame. As a mixed-methods social psychologist, my research focuses on cognition and emotion, group processes, and social and computer-mediated interaction.

Currently, I am working on three main projects. First, through my dissertation research, I investigate how social status affects emotional contagion and use my findings to produce actionable recommendations for how groups and organizations can prevent the spread of harmful emotions. In a second project, I am researching the cognitive mechanisms undergirding clickbait to understand what produces motivation for engaging with clickbait and the variation in judgements after consuming clickbait. In my third project, I am researching motivation and social interaction through online support communities, particularly communities providing social support during moments of grief.

I have instructed Introduction to Social Psychology and assisted with courses on the Sociology of Mental Health, the Sociology of Work, and Social Psychology. My published research appears in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships and a book entitled Identities in Everyday Life. I have presented my research to a variety of academic and non-academic audiences. I am also a University Presidential Fellow at the University of Notre Dame and a doctoral affiliate of Kellogg Institute for International Studies.

Current Projects

Emotional Contagion in Status Hierarchies

We know that emotions spread, but it is unclear who in a group is most likely to be a carrier or catcher of contagion.  In my dissertation, I investigate whether some emotions are more contagious than others, depending on the relative status of the person emitting the emotion. I also investigate how specific emotions–happiness, sadness, and anger–might matter in this process. When this work is complete, I can use it to help organizations guard against toxic emotion environments, particularly in team-based task groups such as with EMTs, pilots and police officers.

You can read more about this work in a recent interview.

Clickbait and Cognitive Processes

Clickbait often has missing information, and I am interested in how people fill in these gaps.  More importantly, I am interested in understanding the patterns of these cognitive processes.  How is a person’s race and political affiliation related to these cognitive processes?  When clickbait produces emotional discomfort, what strategies do people use to reduce it? My research will answer these questions, which will help us understand what drives clicks, how people fill in cognitive gaps, and how different people process startling information.

Online Grief Among Strangers

What motivates strangers to come together to grieve for someone they never met? How do they navigate collective grieving for someone who died a stigmatized death? I answer these questions by analyzing a Reddit forum that was created in response to Robin Williams’s suicide. Using these data, I first identify the emotional and social functions that optional grief expressions serve. Second, I identify characteristics of successful conversational attempts in online forums.


PhD, Expected 2020

PhD in Sociology, University of Notre Dame

MA, 2015

Master’s in Sociology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

BA, 2013

BA in Sociology, Auburn University


Instructor, 2018

Intro to Social Psychology, Dept. of Sociology, University of Notre Dame

Graduate Research Assistant, 2015-2018

Dr. Jessica Collett, Dept. of Sociology,                   University of Notre Dame

Group Processes Lab Manager, 2013-2015

Dept. of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Teaching Assistant and Guest Lecturer, 2014

Sociology of Organizations, Dept. of Sociology,   University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Teaching Assistant, 2014

Sociology of Mental Health, Dept. of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Research Assistant, 2012-2013

Dr. Gregory Pettit, Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University