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Bryan Koenig - Southern Utah University. Cedar City, UT, US

Bryan Koenig

Associate Professor of Psychology | Southern Utah University


Specializing in social and evolutionary psychology


Dr. Bryan Koenig is an associate professor in the Psychology Department at Southern Utah University. Dr. Koenig is passionate about engaged learning and enjoys teaching about statistics, research, and evolutionary psychology. He specializes in social and evolutionary psychology, especially as related to morality and social relationships, with a developing interest in suicidality.

Dr. Koenig has 32 peer-reviewed publications and has presented at many conferences. Before coming to SUU, Dr. Koenig taught for five years at Lindenwood University and Washington University in St. Louis. Before that, he worked for three years as a research scientist in the Institute of High Performance Computing in Singapore.

Dr. Koenig earned a Ph.D. in social psychology with a minor in statistics from New Mexico State University, an M.A. in general/experimental psychology from the College of William and Mary, and a BA in psychology with a minor in Latin from St. John's University/College of St. Benedict.

Industry Expertise (3)



Writing and Editing

Areas of Expertise (8)

Social Relationships


Social Psychology

Research Methods

Moral Psychology

Human Behavior and Evolution

Evolutionary Psychology


Education (3)

New Mexico State University: Ph.D., Social Psychology

College of William and Mary: M.A, General / Experimental Psychology

St. Johns University: B.A, Psychology

Affiliations (6)

  • Association for Psychological Science
  • Cognitive Science Society
  • Human Behavior and Evolution Society
  • International Society for Research on Emotion
  • Society for Personality and Social Psychology
  • Society for Social Neuroscience

Media Appearances (3)

Inside & Outside the Classroom with Bryan Koenig and Jayci Hacker

SUU's Center for Teaching Innovation  radio


Tony Pellegrini returns in a new episode of SUU's Teaching & Innovation Podcast series to discuss how to assist students inside and outside the classroom. His two guests are Dr. Bryan Koenig and Dr. Jayci Hacker. Throughout their discussion, they look at research and resources available to SUU faculty and staff to help the learners at SUU.

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Applying for an SPSP Small Research Grant: Questions the Reviewers Consider and Exemplary Applications

Society for Personality and Social Psychology  online


Small Research Grant Program

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Solved: The Mystery of the Miserable Models

The New York Times  online


As some of you divined, the models for the higher-priced brands looked the least happy, and the bigger football players were the ones without smiles on their faces.

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Research Grants (3)

Moral Punishment: How much is enough?

Society for Personality and Social Psychology's Small Research Grant $1,500


People want wrongdoers to be punished, but how severe a punishment do they want— and why that amount? In the proposed research, a series of experiments compare people’s preferred punishment fines for a thief with that thief’s gain and his victim’s losses, all in US dollars. We will use these comparisons to evaluate among punishment calibration points predicted by traditional deterrence theory, traditional retribution theory (just deserts), welfare tradeoff theory, and fitness differential theory.

Merit-based Enhancement Fellowship

New Mexico State University $4,000

To help departments reward outstanding graduate assistants, the Graduate School offers Merit-Based Enhancement Fellowships to graduate assistants who are engaged in the teaching or research mission of New Mexico State University. The amount of the awards is $4,000 for an academic year.

Reve’s Center for International Studies Research Travel Grant

William & Mary 

The Reves Center for International Studies offers grants of up to $500 for W&M faculty who are presenting papers at international conferences or presenting papers on international, global, or trans-national topics at conferences in the U.S. The Reves Center typically awards $30,000 in international conference grants per academic year, with roughly half set aside for fall/winter and half for spring/summer.

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Articles (6)

Regional variation in pathogen prevalence predicts endorsement of group-focused moral concerns

Evolution & Human Behavior

Florian Van Leeuwen, Justin Park, Bryan Koenig, Jesse Graham

According to Moral Foundations Theory, people endorse “individualizing” foundations (Harm/care, Fairness/reciprocity) or “binding” foundations (Ingroup/loyalty, Authority/respect, Purity/sanctity) to varying degrees. As societies with higher pathogen prevalence have been found to exhibit more pronounced antipathogen psychological tendencies and cultural practices (e.g., conformity, collectivism), we hypothesized that pathogen prevalence may predict endorsement of the binding moral foundations, which may also serve to minimize pathogen transmission. We examined associations between historical and contemporary pathogen prevalence and endorsement of the moral foundations via multilevel analyses. Country-level analyses showed that even when controlling for gross domestic product per capita, historical (but not contemporary) pathogen prevalence significantly predicted endorsement of the binding foundations, but not individualizing foundations. Multilevel analyses showed that this pattern held even when controlling for individual-level variation in political orientation, gender, education, and age. These results highlight the utility of a functional–evolutionary approach to understanding patterns of morals across societies and individuals.

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Misperception of sexual and romantic interests in opposite-sex friendships: Four hypotheses

Wiley Online Library


Two online studies evaluated the misperception of sexual and romantic interests in established relationships and tested four hypotheses: a simple sex-difference hypothesis, a projection hypothesis, a mate value hypothesis, and a mediation hypothesis. Two hundred thirty-eight (Study 1) and 198 (Study 2) members of young adult opposite-sex friendship dyads indicated their sexual and romantic interests in their friend and their perceptions of their friend’s sexual and romantic interests in them. Participants projected their own levels of sexual and romantic interests onto their opposite-sex friend, mediating the following effects: males overperceived and females underperceived their friends’ sexual (but not romantic) interest, and participants of both sexes misperceived the sexual (but not romantic) interest of friends depending on the friends’ mate value.

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Teaching anthropology with primate films: Investigating instructors’ use of films and introducing the Primate Film Database.

American Anthropologist

Riley Koenig, C. M., Koenig, B. L., & Sanz, C.

The Primate Films Database includes information about films featuring wild primates produced since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Human-analogous perception for image visual realism: A perception decomposition approach.

IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence

Fan, S., Ng, T.-T., Koenig, B. L., Herberg, J. S., M. Jiang, Leman, K., Q. Zhao, & Wang, R.

Visual realism is defined as the extent to which an image appears to people as a photo rather than computer generated. Assessing visual realism is important in applications like computer graphics rendering and photo retouching. However, current realism evaluation approaches use either labor-intensive human judgments or automated algorithms largely dependent on comparing renderings to reference images. We develop a reference-free computational framework for visual realism prediction to overcome these constraints. First, we construct a benchmark dataset of 2520 images with comprehensive human annotated attributes. From statistical modeling on this data, we identify image attributes most relevant for visual realism. We propose both empirically-based (guided by our statistical modeling of human data) and CNN-learned features to predict visual realism of images. Our framework has the following advantages: (1) it creates an interpretable and concise empirical model that characterizes human perception of visual realism; (2) it links computational features to latent factors of human image perception.

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To what reference point do people calibrate cost-free third-party punishment?

Personality and Individual Differences

Koenig, B. L., & Riley, C. M.

To what reference point(s) do third parties calibrate punishments to be inflicted upon unknown wrongdoers? We introduce a novel method that allows direct comparison of preferred punishments (and compensations) to victim loss and perpetrator gain. In two experiments, minimalist scenarios indicated various monetary gains for a thief and costs for a victim. Participants indicated a fine for the thief (the victim was uncompensated). We found that victim loss and perpetrator gain had about equal influence on punishment preferences. However, analysis of individual differences indicated a substantial number of participants (about 25% to 40%) preferred relatively large punishments (i.e., greater than the outcome differential—the sum of perpetrator gain and victim loss), and in both experiments the mean of preferred punishments was greater than the outcome differential. A third experiment used identical scenarios but instead had participants indicate a compensation for the victim. In contrast to punishment preferences, only about 2% of participants preferred victim compensation greater than the outcome differential and the mean compensation was less than the outcome differential.

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Cross-race misaggregation: Its detection, a mathematical decomposition, and Simpson's paradox.

Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences,

Koenig, B. L., van Leeuwen, F., & Park, J. H.

Researchers sometimes aggregate data, such as combining resident data into state-level means. Doing so can sometimes cause valid individual-level data to be invalid at the group level. We focus on cross-race misaggregation, which can occur when individual-level data are confounded with race. We discuss such misaggregation in the context of Simpson’s Paradox and identify 4 diagnostic indicators: aggregated rates that correlate strongly with the relative size of one or more subgroup(s), unequal sample sizes across subgroups, unequal rates or mean values across subgroups, and aggregated rates that do not correlate with subgroup rates. To illustrate these diagnostic indicators, we decomposed data on the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to confirm cross-race misaggregation in Parasite Stress U.S.A., an ostensible index of parasite prevalence known to be confounded with the proportion of African American residents per state

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Courses (7)

PSY 1100 Lifespan Development

Lifespan Development is concerned with the biosocial, cognitive/emotional, and psychosocial development of individuals across the lifespan. The course begins examination of human life with conception and continues to examine interactive influences until death. This course focuses on theory, research, and application.

PSY 2010 Psychology as a Science and Profession

This course applies psychology to life. It also lays the foundation for further studies in psychology. Self-discovery; paradigm exploration; life, career, and education planning; professional organizations; research opportunities; graduate school; APA writing format; goal setting; decision making; life and stress management; learning and memory skills; diversity; and psychology department resources are among the topics addressed.

PSY 3010 Statistics in Psychology

A presentation of statistical concepts of particular relevance to psychologists. Topics include: descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing, t tests, ANOVA, correlation, regression, and Chi-square.

PSY 3370 Social Psychology

This course explores the social nature of individual behavior. Focus of the course is on how the individual perceives the social group and interacts in social situations. Topics to be covered include social perception and cognition, interpersonal attraction, aggression, conformity, group processes, and applied aspects of social psychology.

PSY 3410 Research Design

A consideration of issues in the design and interpretation of research in psychology. Topics include: research ethics, validity and reliability, internal and external validity, within and between subject designs, single and multifactor experiments, correlational and survey designs.

PSY 4500 Evolutionary Psychology

This course consists of special areas of interest to the faculty member.

PSY 4940 Senior Project

Ideally suited to students wishing to pursue a graduate degree in psychology. This course allows students to conduct research for which they have received IRB approval. Students will complete their research project and submit an APA style professional paper. Though not required, it is anticipated that many students will submit their research for presentation and/or publication.