Margaret S. Clark
Board of
Foundation for
Margaret S. Clark
Margaret (Peggy) Clark is the John M. Musser Professor of Psychology at Yale University. She also serves as Master (the head administrative officer) of Trumbull College of Yale University. Peggy earned her BA in Government and Psychology from Franklin and Marshall College in 1973, and then completed a PhD at the University of Maryland, College Park in 1977. She began her career as an Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University that same year, where she remained until she moved to Yale University in 2005.

Peggy has been widely recognized for her scholarship. She received the Berscheid-Hatfield Mid-Career Award from the International Association for Relationships Research in 1991 and the Distinguished Career Award from the same association in 2014. She has also received several awards for excellence in teaching. Peggy has provided generous service to the field. She has served as President of Society for Personality and Social Psychology and Society of Experimental Social Psychology, and has held other leadership roles in these societies. She has served as editor of Review of Personality and Social Psychology, as senior editor of Psychological Science, and as associate editor of Emotion and Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and has been a member of numerous editorial boards. She has served on grant review panels for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Bi-national Science Foundation.

Peggy has made influential scholarly contributions in two interrelated areas: interpersonal relationships and emotion. Her early research on interpersonal relationships distinguished communal relationships, in which members provide benefits in response to a partner's needs, from exchange relationships, in which members provide benefits contingently to create or eliminate perceived debts. Peggy's work demonstrated the validity of this distinction and its implications for a variety of phenomena, such as interpersonal attraction, person perception, helping, affect, and emotional expression. This work was groundbreaking, as most researchers at that time assumed that all relationships operated on social exchange principles. Owing to these early insights, the notion that close relationships involve concern for the partner's welfare is now widely accepted by most scholars, and is featured in several other theoretical frameworks. In later work, Peggy examined the effects of communal strength, a continuous dimension of felt responsibility for a relationship partner's welfare, on interpersonal processes, and conducted research with students on a variety of other phenomena in interpersonal relationships. Peggy's research on emotion has examined the effects of emotion on cognition, relationship contexts that shape emotional processes, and the personal and interpersonal consequences of expressing emotion. Her research on relationships and emotion are interrelated in that she has been interested in the interpersonal functions of emotion, particularly how emotions impact the functioning of communal relationships.

Peggy has had a significant impact on the field, far beyond her own writing. She is an avid theoretician and experimentalist, a prolific scholar, and a dedicated mentor. She has a legion of admirers.


Peggy Clark has had a tremendous influence on relationship science for decades. Her research, including the crafting of fundamental theories supported by elegant experiments, has consistently set a high standard for the field. She has also been a wonderfully supportive mentor over the years to newer scholars learning the ropes. I count myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to benefit from her support throughout my career. Thanks, Peggy, for your many contributions to social psychology!

Chris Agnew

One of the things that I love most about working with Peggy is that it doesn’t feel like work at all because of her love of research and her enthusiasm for new directions. So many times we discussed new ideas and she showed excitement for how we would test them and what we could accomplish. As a researcher, Peggy insists upon conceptual clarity and rigorous methodology. Peggy also contributes greatly to our field through her service. As far as being my advisor, Peggy helped me through every step of my career. She was a wonderful person to learn from. Personally, I can say that Peggy has been there for me as a friend—through my years of graduate school and beyond. Peggy is certainly deserving of this honor. Congratulations!

Oriana Aragon

Margaret Clark’s work has played a giant role in shaping our understanding of close relationships and emotions. Her work is deeply theoretical, and her methodologically sophisticated to the point that her studies are widely used as examples in teaching the creative use of experimental procedures, all leading again and again to significant new understandings. Yet at the same time, she is an exemplar of service to the field, through editorships and leadership positions in our scientific organizations. Even more striking is how she lives her findings and her beliefs, as a mentor and nurturer of students, including serving as Master of one of Yale’s colleges. When we talk about it, she speaks of the intense demands and difficulties, but then radiates joy as she details the ways she finds to enrich the lives of the students in her college, from getting them to New York to the ballet, and backstage as well, to noticing and taking care of those who cannot afford a winter coat. Those who know Peggy well recognize both her knowledge about how we care for one another, and how much she lives it.

Arthur and Elaine Aron

Peggy Clark was a pioneer in using experimental methods to study meaningful interactions, key interpersonal emotions, and core ideas that shape what we know about close relationships. This is noteworthy because when she began her work on communal and exchange relationships, many scholars believed (implicitly or explicitly) that relationships could not be studied with experimental designs. As a journal editor, she has been masterful in providing invisible support, infusing clarity and integrity into manuscripts and magically making it seem as if others did all the work. Thank you, Peggy, for being a leader and role model, supporting so many of us, and giving generously to others without expecting the same in return.

Ximena Arriaga

I've had the good fortune of knowing Professor Margaret S. Clark nearly all of my professional life, and the even greater privilege of being in the same social psychology program with her now these past 10 years. You don't need me to sing Peggy's praises -- there are dozens if not hundreds of others who will tell you the same thing: There is not a more self-less, caring person on this planet. It is no wonder that she, with her mentor Judd Mills, discovered communal relationship orientations. Before they did, everyone just assumed all relationships were equity or exchange based, but Clark and Mills taught us that there are some people at least who characteristically put the other person's needs and goals before their own. It takes one to know one, Peggy! Congratulations on this well deserved honor.

John Bargh

Margaret Clark’s career is marked by innovative and methodologically rigorous research. She helped to define one field of study (close relationships) and innovated another that was in desperate need of transformation (the field of emotion). In doing so, she set a generation of researchers on several paths that she forged. These research domains are still thriving today, in large part because of her discoveries, as well as her unrelenting generativity in supporting the fields she helped to shape.

Margaret Clark is not only an exemplary and impeccable scientist. She is also a mensch. Margaret had given more in the service of our field than most senior scientists we know (holding many, frankly thankless jobs, for the good of the field). She has held nearly every original office in the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and Society for Experimental Social Psychology. She served as Associate Editor of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (twice), as Editor of the Review of Personality and Social Psychology (which she helped transform into the theoretical journal Personality and Social Psychology Review). She has held associated editor and senior editor positions at Psychological Science. Margaret does all this because she is living proof of one of her own discoveries: Healthy communal relationships do not work by strict reciprocity (keeping count of who does what for whom, as in an exchange relationship). One gives, with the expectation that at some point, one will receive. In the long run, it all works out for the best.

Lisa Feldman Barrett

“No matter how your results turn out, always remember that they’re helping you get closer to the truth.” I still remember Peggy sharing this philosophy with me years ago, as I was about to analyze the data for my first-year project in graduate school. Since then, I’ve continued to be grateful for Peggy’s wisdom, integrity, support, and insight. Although she may be best known among the academic community for her ground-breaking research on close relationships and emotion, I believe she may be best known among her current and former students, collaborators, and colleagues for her embodiment of the very characteristics of the communal relationships she studies. I appreciate her generosity and enthusiasm in sharing her expertise in so many areas, from her clear and nuanced theory development to her clever and elegant study designs to her thoughtful and engaging research presentations. She has been an unwavering source of support and inspiration throughout my professional career, first as my graduate school mentor and now as my collaborator and friend.

Lindsey Beck

Peggy was a remarkable mentor. She would always challenge her students to place ideas, empirical findings or research projects in the context of a particular theory or theoretical approach. She was also a skilled and creative methodologist, always eager to talk about how a concept could be operationalized in an experiment or a particular result could translate into a sequence of studies. It is no surprise to me that she is receiving this award. Although Peggy will be long recognized for her theoretical and methodological contributions to the study of relationships, emotions and their intersection, those that know her understand her true legacy will be what she passed on to her students, family and close friends. Congratulations Peggy, I can think of no other individual who could deserve this more than you.

Ian Brissette

Peggy was my colleague at Carnegie Mellon for over 20 years. My own interests included how our social relationships influence our health, and Peggy was my go to expert on dyadic relationships. She is, as much as anyone I know, passionate about her work. Generally, laid back and softly spoken, ask her about an issue in the relationships literature, and she moves into high gear. Her work is theoretical and at the same time has applications interesting to most. She was a great colleague and in her time at CMU trained a series of productive and creative graduate students. It is my pleasure to congratulate her on her placement on the Heritage Wall of Fame. She has clearly been a leading intellectual leader in social psychology and deserving of this honor.

Sheldon Cohen

Peggy has been a significant role model for me as I’ve proceeded through my career. As a graduate student, I remember being enormously impressed with her as I read her excellent work on communal and exchange relationships and saw her present her work at conferences…Peggy is an engaging speaker, and her creative studies and enthusiasm for relationships research made me excited to be a relationship scientist as well. I never thought (at the time I was a graduate student watching her present her work) that one day I would have an office next to hers as her colleague at Carnegie Mellon University -- the place where she conducted her famous light-box study and assessed “attention to need” in such a clever way (among many other studies of hers that I had read and loved). I felt that I had won the lottery to be in a tenure track position at CMU with Peggy Clark as my colleague. It was certainly a dream-come-true. Although Peggy has since moved to Yale, I am honored to be walking in her footsteps at CMU and continuing the strong tradition of relationships research that she established there. Peggy is certainly a pillar of our field: Our field and the people in it have benefited in countless ways from her excellent research, creativity, teaching, guidance, mentorship, and example. I continue to be inspired by her and her innumerable contributions to social psychology and relationship science.

Brooke Feeney

Peggy’s 1979 article (with Jud Mills) establishing the distinction between communal and exchange relationships helped set the stage for the emergence of relationship science in the 1980s. This landmark article demonstrated that people who don’t expect a future relationship with an interaction partner like the partner more when she repays a favor by giving them a standard sort of reward (extra credit points) than when she doesn’t. No surprise there. The crucial finding was that this effect reversed when people wanted to have a future relationship with the interaction partner. In the latter case, people liked her more when she didn’t repay the favor than when she did. This counterintuitive but widely replicated finding underscores the importance of symbolic rewards in relationship development and maintenance. Having somebody accept a favor without reciprocating can signal that the recipient feels communally about the relationship—feels like benefits and costs should be allocated according to needs rather than according to reciprocity.

In the ensuing decades, Peggy has (along with her collaborators) extended this initial insight in many directions. The field now knows, for example, that we are much more receptive to others’ expressions of sadness when we have a communal rather than an exchange relationship with them. The field now knows that we like to keep track of our unique contributions to joint tasks when we have an exchange relationship with our coworker, but not when we have a communal relationship with him. The field now knows that, over the first two years of marriage, people who are low in attachment avoidance increasingly disavow exchange norms in their marriage, whereas people who are high in attachment avoidance adhere more closely to exchange norms, a potential harbinger of marital problems down the road.

For these reasons, and many others, the communal/exchange distinction has become an organizing principle of relationship science, especially as the field has become increasingly tuned in to the importance of responsiveness in promoting healthy relationship functioning. That Peggy achieved this major theoretical achievement while simultaneously developing many of the field’s cleverest and most compelling research paradigms speaks to the depth and breadth of her remarkable skill set.

Eli Finkel

From the moment we first discussed Peggy Clark's ideas on communal and exchange relationships in my social psychology course, I knew that I wanted to study with her. From reading her work it was clear that she is a brilliant scientist and, in subsequent years, I had the opportunity to discover that she is a wonderful human being as well. For all of her contributions to the science of close relationships and human emotion, Peggy is always warmly accessible to students, colleagues, and friends. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have worked with her.

Steve Graham

Peggy was a wonderful mentor to me when I had a 4-year postdoc fellowship with her at CMU. She taught me a lot about close relationships and lived out this wisdom in her relationship with me, both within and beyond the postdoc experience. As a close relationship scholar, her work exemplifies that wisdom for the field.

Nancy Grote

I had the great fortune to collaborate with Peggy as a graduate student, and time has only made me appreciate more her unique combination of intelligence, wisdom, humor, and kindness. Peggy taught those in her lab about the value of collaboration, theory-based research, and imagination within the scientific process.

She’s also the consummate champion of clean study design, and demonstrated time and time again how one begins with a theory and elegantly translates its abstract elements into clear independent and dependent variables. The manipulation she created for communal/exchange relationships (letting participants casually know that their interaction partner is there to meet people, vs. make money) remains one of my favorite social psychology manipulations-- and Peggy remains one of my favorite social psychologists.

Julie Huang

I have been very fortunate to have Peggy as a mentor. In graduate school, Peggy spent countless hours talking with me about theory and study design. We occasionally still have these talks. They are so intellectually stimulating that they are among the few things that make me want to return to graduate school. She taught me many valuable lessons, such as the importance of a good theory, rigorous methods, and programmatic research. She also taught me about the importance of scientific integrity and good academic citizenship. She is a role model in every sense of the word. Following her example results in better science, better teaching, better mentoring, better citizenship, and a better person.

Peggy, you are an extraordinary person. Having the opportunity to work with you has been, and will always be, the biggest lucky break of my career. You have been a truly wonderful mentor, collaborator, and friend, and have had an immense positive impact on my life. Thank you.

Edward Lemay

Peggy is a superb scientist and academic. She has amazing intellectual and analytic skills, builds her research on her acute observations of people in the formative and later stages of close relationships, and combines theoretical and experimental approaches. She is highly committed to training new scholars, who have gone on to have independent careers. She is trusted by colleagues to be fair and wise in handling thorny situations and controversies. I have had the good fortune to spend many hours with her discussing kids, ideas, sports, plays, and life goals when she was in Pittsburgh. She has the gift of being named “best friend” by many of us. Congratulations Peggy on being on the Heritage Wall of Fame!

Karen Matthews

Peggy Clark is one of the most brilliant thinkers I know. You can sit and talk with her for hours forgetting about the time, and when you leave you have at least one hundred exciting new ideas about relationship science. Her kindness, warmth, and fun-loving nature also make her the dearest of friends not only to me but to all who know her. She continues to inspire me everyday.

Joan Monin

In 2004, after being mentored for many years by Peggy as both a graduate student and a post-doc, I left Carnegie Mellon University to begin my first faculty position. Twelve years later I still have a copy of the letter I wrote to her upon leaving. I have carried it with me ever since as a sentimental reminder of my academic roots and my graduate experience. I am happy to offer a part of that letter written to Peggy over a decade ago that I can now share as a personal tribute to my mentor many years later:

“I just wanted to take this opportunity to let you know how thankful I am for having had the opportunity to work with you all of these years. You really have made a tremendous difference in my life ever since I walked through the doors of the Psychology Department at CMU. You are truly an exceptional person and mentor with the rare gift of being able to achieve at such a high level while still caring about and supporting those around you. I will always value the lessons you have passed on to me as both a psychologist and a person. You have given me such a gift and I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am and how much I admire you… As I leave CMU, I just wanted you to know that my most positive and rewarding memories here will always revolve around you.”

Sherri P. Pataki

Peggy’s signature close relationships contribution is her formulation of the distinction between communal and exchange relationships. These two types of relationships differ in the rules that govern giving and receiving benefits. In communal relationships, the basis of benefit is concern for the other's welfare. In exchange relationships, members benefit each other to incur or repay obligation, quid pro quo. Peggy’s program of communal vs. exchange research is clearly one of the most important contributions to the personal relationship field of her generation. But this is only part of why she is so outstanding. In the research domain her publications on emotion are equally important. And she is a person for many seasons: an award winning teacher and a wonderful professional citizen, having been Editor of Psychological Science, President of Society for the Experimental Study of Social Psychology, etc.

Dan Perlman

Peggy has made foundational theoretical and empirical contributions to relationship science. Her early seminal work on communal and exchange relationships transformed how relationship scientists understand precisely what contributes to relationship closeness and intimacy. She has continued to shape relationship science in many ways, including by clarifying how adherence to communal and exchange norms contribute to relationship satisfaction, perceptions of partner responsiveness, fairness and equity in relationships, and the expression of emotion. In addition to her tremendous scholarly contributions, Peggy is a generous and inspiring mentor to younger relationship scientists as well as to those at later stages of their careers. We are fortunate to have such an outstanding scholar, wonderful and effective role model and mentor, and all-around good person in our field.

Paula Pietromonao

Peggy Clark is an extraordinarily talented, internationally respected, and highly influential scholar, one of the field's foremost leaders. Her many important contributions to relationship science have significantly and profoundly shaped the field from its earliest days, and continuing today. It takes no great insight to see why Peggy's work continues to be required reading for students and scholars in the field. Her theorizing combines rich insights about real-world close relationships with rigorous, deep conceptual analyses. At a time when everyone construed relationships in exchange terms, Peggy proposed the communal-exchange distinction, a distinction that is now foundational in the field. Her studies are thoughtful, creative, and multi-method – she is equally adept at experimentation, surveys, and multilevel studies.

Just as noteworthy are Peggy's extraordinary contributions to the field as a leader and mentor. I've known Peggy since we met at the Nags Head Conference Center in 1981, when we were both newbies struggling to make our mark on the field. Her ability to inspire was immediately evident and persists to this day – being able to call her a friend and colleague has been a high point of my career and life. Social psychology's version of the popular TV show "Everyone Loves Raymond" might well be called "Everyone Loves Peggy," because we do.

Harry Reis

I met Peggy in the late 1970’s. I was on the faculty in the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University when she joined us after getting her degree at Maryland. We have been colleagues and friends for over 35 years. Peggy is a wonderful person, who has excelled at every aspect of academic life. Her students love her and have been successful on their own. She has been an active member of every department she has been in. Perhaps more importantly, I have had the occasion to read letters that people in the field have written about her research. After reading these letters over the years, and reading her own work directly, I’m convinced that there is no other person who has contributed to the field of close relationships more than has Peggy Clark. And those contributions continue. She is a gem of a person, and an amazing scientist to boot. Peggy, warmest congratulations!

Michael Scheier

Peggy Clark is a foundational pillar of the exciting and still fairly young close-relationships research field; throughout her career she has been theoretically innovative and methodologically creative. She has found ways to study aspects and kinds of relationships that few other scholars have matched. And in addition to being a supremely insightful and super-productive scientist and author, she has been a major contributor to all of the activities that allow a field to thrive: editing books and journals, reviewing grant proposals, leading professional organizations, and teaching and mentoring at a very high level. She is an outstanding model for her peers and for all younger members of the social/personality research field.

Phil Shaver

Peggy Clark’s seminal work on communal and exchange relationships has changed the way relationship researchers think about the nature of helping and support in intimate relationships as well as families and friends. This work inspired work on norms and expectations within relationships and laid out a theory of how communal norms vary with social connections and contexts. In addition to making her own scientific contributions, Peggy is an extraordinary mentor for persons at all levels of their careers. It is more than appropriate that she is listed as a Heritage Honoree, inspiring support for new waves of students finishing their dissertations in personality and social psychology.

Patrick E. Shrout

Thank you, Peggy, for all you have done over the years to help develop and nurture the field of interpersonal relationships. Without you and your groundbreaking research, our field would be less rich and vibrant than it is today. In addition, thank you for being such a wonderful role model to so many scholars, including me. There are very few people in our field who have taken on as many important service roles as you have, ranging from multiple stints of journal editing, to major committee work, to leading our key organizations, to actively engaging in "behind-the-scenes support" for so many of our colleagues. Your career has been an inspiration, you truly are a complete academic!

Jeff Simpson

I am extremely fortunate to have Peggy as a mentor and a role-model. Peggy is an incredibly supportive and generous advisor. In graduate school, I was always amazed and grateful, not only for Peggy’s expertise and wonderful advice about my research, but also for her willingness to meet with me for many hours (despite her busy schedule) to help me with my research and writing. During our individual and lab meetings, Peggy would challenge her students' thinking about theoretical and methodological research issues. Her teachings and dedication to our learning helped her students become better researchers and thinkers. Her passion for research and teaching has inspired many of us to pursue an academic career. As I navigate the challenging world of academia, I apply the lessons that Peggy taught me about being a good researcher, teacher and mentor. Thank you Peggy for being an amazing mentor and for your continued support. You have been an inspiration to all of your students and I am extremely honored that you are my mentor.

Seung Hee Yoo

Margaret Clark has been a very major figure in shaping our field. Going against the Zeitgeist emphasizing social exchange perspectives, she developed the novel idea of communal relationships. And at a time when most studies were correlational in nature, she pioneered an experimental approach to studying interpersonal relations. She has gone on to create a rich body of work on emotions, developing relationships and intimacy processes. Her research methodology has been especially creative and responsive to the issues. Peggy is theoretically very sophisticated, but above all, she is quite simply, wise. When Peggy speaks, we know to listen.

John Holmes

Further Donations are always welcome, whether to honor Margaret S. Clark or another psychologist. Be sure to leave a note regarding which mentor you would like to donate for and any testimonial you might like to give.