Leah Dickens joined the Kenyon faculty in 2017, after receiving her doctorate from Northeastern University in 2015 and teaching as a visiting professor at Mount Holyoke and Bowdoin Colleges. As a social psychologist specializing in the functions of emotions in everyday life, Dickens’s work extends beyond the positive/negative dichotomy of affect to investigate the nuanced complexity of emotional experience. Her current research centers on pride and gratitude, and how these can be beneficial to the self and relationships. As a passion project, she is also trying to invalidate a prevailing theory in the pride literature, which she believes has an unfortunate stranglehold on pride research.

Dickens teaches courses in social psychology, environmental psychology, emotions and positive psychology — the psychology of “the good life.”

Dickens lives in Gambier with her husband, Kevan, and accidental cat, Cassie.

Areas of Expertise

Social psychology, positive psychology, emotions


2015 — Doctor of Philosophy from Northeastern University

2012 — Master of Arts from Northeastern University

2009 — Bachelor of Arts from Connecticut College, summa cum laude

Courses Recently Taught

Psychology is the study of behavior and mental processes. In this introductory course, we explore a variety of areas in which psychologists conduct research: the biological foundations of behavior, sensory and perceptual processes, cognition, learning and memory, developmental psychology, personality and social psychology, psychological disorders, and variability in behavior related to culture. This course is open only to first-year and sophomore students. This counts toward the foundations requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every semester.

Social psychology is the systematic study of social behavior. In general, it examines how we are affected by our social environment: how we perceive and interpret the behavior of others and the social situation, how we respond to others and they to us, and the nature of social relationships. Application of social psychological theory and methodology is encouraged through participation in small-scale laboratory or field observational studies. This counts toward the person and society requirement for the major. Prerequisite: PSYC 100 or 110 or AP score of 5. Generally offered every year.

Although much of psychology’s past has been spent investigating the problems facing human beings, the field and people in general are coming to realize that a life devoid of the negative is not synonymous with a life well-lived. This course focuses on the aspects of life that tend to help individuals and communities flourish. We discuss emotions (past-, present- and future-oriented), character traits (strengths and virtues) and institutions (work, school, family), and how these influence the good life. Through lecture, readings, discussions and hands-on activities, we investigate the empirical literature on positive psychology, including points of conflict and avenues for future research. This counts toward the clinical issues and health requirement for the major. Prerequisite: PSYC 100 or 110 or AP score of 5. Generally offered every year.

Every day, we exist in a world that combines nature and buildings, open sky and low ceilings, supreme quiet and intense sound. This course considers how human beings interact with (and impact) their environment, both the natural world and human-built. What improves our well-being? What influences our performance or behaviors? And, if this Earth is all we have, how can we have a positive impact and how should be best protect it? We cover topics such as urban planning, principles of design, pro-environmental behavior and restorative spaces. This counts toward the person and society requirement for the major. Prerequisite: PSYC 100 or 110.

This is the first semester of the two-part sequence required for senior psychology majors. Each section has a different topic, but in every seminar, students read and discuss psychological literature, write and discuss critiques of research articles, review the literature and develop a research proposal on a topic related to the seminar's topic, and make a formal oral presentation to the class. This theoretical framework lays the groundwork for the execution of a project in the second half of the practicum. This counts toward the Senior Capstone requirement for the major. Senior standing and psychology major. Offered every fall.

This is the second semester of the two-part sequence required for senior psychology majors. This class features hands-on experience in creating and conducting research to allow students to learn by doing. We investigate the procedure of generating research from start to finish through the lens of theory learned in the first semester. This course strongly and equally emphasizes strengthening scientific writing skills, generating research designs and quantitative reasoning and application. Along the way we practice evaluating research designs and perfecting APA style. This course is designed to prepare students for a career in research in psychology. This counts toward the Senior Capstone requirement for the major. Prerequisite: PSYC 475. Senior standing, psychology major. Offered every spring

Individual study in psychology allows students the opportunity to pursue research on a topic of special interest. The course is designed in consultation with a faculty mentor. The level of credit can range from 0.25 to 0.5 unit, and students may take more than one semester of individual study. Typically, only juniors or seniors may pursue this option. To enroll, a student must first identify a member of the psychology department who is willing to mentor the project. The student must give the department chair a written description of the project, including the nature of the proposed work and a list of references. The project should include reading and reviewing scientific literature and likely entail a research project in which original data are collected. The student and faculty member are expected to meet, on average, once a week. The final project likely a paper written in the style of the American Psychological Association. Additional assignments may be required, including a public presentation. The amount of work required for the individual study should approximate that required of other 400-level psychology courses. It is possible for students to pursue a group project, but more work is expected for the completed project and each student writes her or his own individual paper. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study by the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval.