Mark J. Landau

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - Psychology
Associate Professor
Primary office:
Fraser Hall
Room 445
University of Kansas
1415 Jayhawk Boulevard
Lawrence, KS 66045-7556

Mark J. Landau is an Associate Professor at the University of Kansas. He received his doctorate from the University of Arizona in 2007. Dr. Landau has published many articles and chapters on metaphor’s influence on social cognition and behavior as well as the role of existential motives in diverse aspects of social behavior. He has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health.


Dr. Landau teaches undergraduate courses in social psychology, human motivation, and the self. In recent years he has led an intensive, 6-credit course on research methods that actively engages undergraduates in every phase of the research process. At the graduate level, he teaches social psychology, language, and the self. Across courses, he emphasizes how everyday life, broad theories of social behavior, and research findings mutually inform one another in a cyclical manner, deepening our understanding of human nature.


Our lab’s research interests generally revolve around two major themes within the fields of social and cognitive psychology. One focuses on the cognitive mechanisms through which people make meaningful sense of themselves and their social world. Using conceptual metaphor theory as a framework, we investigate how people use metaphors at a conceptual level (and not merely a linguistic level) to understand abstract aspects of their social world (e.g., authenticity) in terms of dissimilar, relatively more concrete concepts (e.g., physical expansion), as well the consequences of metaphoric cognition for people's social attitudes, behavior, and functioning.

The second line of research focuses on the psychological roots of human motivation. Inspired by perspectives in experimental existential psychology, particularly terror management theory and attachment theory, we investigate how deep-seated existential concerns fuel people's efforts to construct and maintain meaningful conceptions of the social world and their own lives, and the impact of existential motivations on social attitudes and achievement.

Selected Grants

Landau, Mark J., (Principal), Cognitive and emotional processes of metaphoric cancer communications., R01 CA185378, NIH / National Cancer Institute (R01), $1,400,000, (01/01/2014 - 12/31/2018) . Federal. Status: Funded.

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