Zachary Rothschild

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Teaching this semester

PSYC 2030. Social Psychology

A survey of theory and research on individual social behavior. Topics include self-concept, social cognition, affect, attitudes, social influence, interpersonal relationships, and cultural variations in social behavior.

PSYC 3035. Existential Social Psychology

An examination of how human concerns about death, meaning, isolation, and freedom influence and motivate a wide array of human behavior. Readings and discussions address empirical research on different theories of human motivation (e.g., terror management, meaning maintenance, attachment, compensatory control, and self-determination) that enrich our understanding of topics such as intergroup conflict, religious belief, prosocial behavior, interpersonal relationships, and materialism.

Teaching next semester

PSYC 2510. Research Design in Psychology

A systematic study of the scientific method as it underlies psychological research. Topics include prominent methods used in studying human and animal behavior, the logic of causal analysis, experimental and non-experimental designs, issues in internal and external validity, pragmatics of careful research, and technical writing of research reports.

PSYC 2735. Laboratory in Social Psychology

An examination of different research methodologies used by social psychologists, including archival research, observation, questionnaires, lab experiments, and online data collection. Students learn about the relative strengths and weaknesses of these different methodological approaches, both by reading research reports and by designing and conducting original research.

My research interests focus on the psychological defenses people employ to maintain a meaningful and controllable conception of reality and a positive moral identity when faced with circumstances that threaten to undermine these perceptions. I am particularly interested in the destructive consequences these defensive processes have on interpersonal and intergroup relationships. For example, one recent line of research examines how people engage in scapegoating to protect their perceived personal control or moral identity when confronted with large-scale negative events (e.g., climate change, economic turmoil). In a related line of research, I am exploring how feelings of guilt over personal/collective harm-doing can drive defensive expressions of moral outrage at other perceived harm-doers in the name of justice.


  • Ph.D. , University of Kansas
  • M.A. , University of Colorado - Colorado Springs
  • B.A. , Knox College

Selected Publications

Rothschild, Z. K., & Keefer, L. A. (2018). Righteous or self-righteous anger? Justice sensitivity moderates defensive outrage at a third-party harm-doer. European Journal of Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.2349

Rothschild, Z. K. & Keefer, L. A. (2017). A cleansing fire: Moral outrage alleviates guilt and buffers threats to one’s moral identity. Motivation and Emotion. DOI: 10.1007/s11031-017-9601-2 

Rothschild, Z. K., Landau, M. J., Keefer, L. A., & Sullivan, D. (2015). Another’s punishment cleanses the self: Evidence for the moral cleansing function of punishing transgressors. Motivation and Emotion, 39, 722-741.

Sullivan, D., Landau, M. J., Rothschild, Z. K., Keefer, L. A. (2014). Searching for the root of all evil: An existential-sociological perspective on political enemyship and scapegoating. Invited Chapter in J. van Prooijen & P. A. M. van Lang (Eds.), Power, Politics and Paranoia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Press.

Rothschild, Z. K., Landau, M. J., Molina, L. K, Branscombe, N., & Sullivan, D. (2013). Displacing blame over the ingroup's harming of a disadvantaged group can fuel moral outrage at a third-party scapegoat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 898-906.

Rothschild, Z. K., Landau, M. J., Sullivan, D., & Keefer, L. A. (2012). A dual-motive model of scapegoating: Displacing blame to reduce guilt or increase control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 1148-1163.

Landau, M. J., Sullivan, D., Keefer, L. A., & Rothschild, Z. K. (2012). Subjectivity uncertainty theory of objectification: Compensating for uncertainty about how to positively relate to others by downplaying their subjective attributes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 1234-1246.

Keefer, L. A., Landau, M. J., Rothschild, Z. K., & Sullivan, D. (2012). Attachment to objects as compensation for close others' perceived unreliability. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 912-917.

Landau, M. J., Sullivan, D., Rothschild, Z. K., & Keefer, L. A. (2012). Deriving solace from a nemesis: Having scapegoats and enemies buffers the threat of meaninglessness. In P. R. Shaver & M. Mikulincer (Eds.), Meaning, mortality, and choice: The social psychology of existential concerns. (pp. 183-202). American Psychological Association.

Sullivan, D., Landau, M. J., Branscombe, N. B., & Rothschild, Z. K. (2012). Competitive victimhood as a response to accusations of ingroup harm doing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 778-795. *Winner of the Otto Klineberg Intercultural and International Relations Award

Rothschild, Z. K., Landau, M. J., & Sullivan, D. (2011). By the numbers: Structure-seeking individuals prefer quantitative over qualitative representations of personal value to compensate for the threat of unclear performance contingencies. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 1508-1521.

Landau, M. J., Rothschild, Z. K., & Sullivan, D. (2011). The extremism of everyday life: Fetishism as a defense against existential uncertainty. In M. A. Hogg & D. L. Blaylock (Eds.), Extremism and the psychology of uncertainty. (pp. 131-146). West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Vail, K. E., Rothschild, Z. K., Weise, D. R., Solomon, S., Pyszczynski, T., & Greenberg, J. (2010). A terror management analysis of the psychological function of religion. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14, 84-94.

Sullivan, D., Landau, M. J., & Rothschild, Z. K. (2010). An existential function of enemyship: Evidence that people attribute influence to personal and political enemies to compensate for threats to control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 434-439.

Rothschild, Z. K., Abdollahi, A., & Pyszczynski, T. (2009). Does peace have a prayer? The effect of mortality salience, compassionate values, and religious fundamentalism on hostility toward out-groups. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 816-827.

Pyszczynski, T., Rothschild, Z. K., & Abdollahi, A. (2008). Terrorism, violence, and hope peace a terror management perspective. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 318-322.