David Chester, Ph.D.

Dave Chester smiling.

Associate Professor
Social Psychology
808 W Franklin, rm 302
(804) 828-7624

Associate Professor (tenure-track)
Ph.D. (2016), University of Kentucky

Doctoral Program Affiliation

Social Psychology


Social Psychology and Neuroscience Lab

Research Interests

Human aggression is a costly and complex phenomenon. My research seeks to understand the psychological and biological processes that motivate and constrain aggressive behavior. For example, I am interested in how the brain’s reward circuitry promotes and reinforces aggressive responses to threat, provocation and rejection.

Select Publications

Lasko, E.N., & Chester, D.S. (in press). What makes a ‘successful’ psychopath? Longitudinal trajectories of offenders’ antisocial behavior and impulse control as a function of psychopathy. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment.
Chester, D.S., Clark, M.A., & DeWall, C.N. (in press). The flux, pulse, and spin of aggression-related affect. Emotion.
Chester, D.S., DeWall, C.N., & Enjaian, B. (2019). Sadism and aggressive behavior: Inflicting pain to feel pleasure. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 45(8), 1252-1268.
Chester, D.S., Lynam, D.R., Milich, R., & DeWall, C.N. (2018). Neural mechanisms of the rejection-aggression link. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 13(5), 501-512.
Chester, D. S., Lynam, D. R., Milich, R., & DeWall, C. N. (in press). Physical aggressiveness and gray matter deficits in ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Cortex.
Chester, D. S. (2017). The role of positive affect in aggression. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 26, 366-370.
Chester, D. S., & DeWall, C. N. (2017). Combating the sting of rejection with the pleasure of revenge: A new look at how emotion shapes aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112, 413-430.
Chester, D. S., Whitt, Z. T., Davis, T. S., & DeWall, C. N. (2017). The Voodoo Doll Self-Injury Task: A new measure of sub-clinical self-harm tendencies. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 36, 554-578.
Chester, D. S., & DeWall, C. N. (2016). The pleasure of revenge: Retaliatory aggression arises from a neural imbalance toward reward. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11, 1173-1182.

Recent Courses

  • Personality Psychology, undergraduate level
  • Social Psychology, undergraduate level
  • Advanced Social Psychology, graduate level

Recent Grants

K01 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award

Genetic and Neural Factors in Alcohol-Influenced Aggression

Amount: $713,100
Role: Principal Investigator
Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Period: 2018-2023

The Neural Mechanisms Underlying Antisocial Empathy and Psychopathic Aggression

Amount: $25,000
Role: Principle Investigator
Source: VCU Center for Clinical and Translational Research
Period: 2019-2021

Testing a Cyclical Model of Aggression and Alcohol Abuse: An fMRI Study

Amount: $3,100
Role: Principal Investigator
Source: R.S. Lipman Research Fund for the Prevention of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Period: 2014-2016

The Rewarding Nature of Angry Rumination in Borderline Personality Disorder: An fMRI Investigation

Amount: $7,575
Role: Co-Investigator
Source: University of Kentucky’s Office of the Vice President for Research
Period: 2013-2014

Recent Awards

  • 2019, Dept. of Psychology Outstanding Faculty Scholarship Award, VCU
  • 2018, Preregistration Challenge Winner, Center for Open Science
  • 2017, Rising Star, Association for Psychological Science
  • 2016, Young Investigator Program Award, International Society for Research on Aggression
  • 2015, Dissertation Research Award, Heritage Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology
  • 2015, Dissertation Year Fellowship, University of Kentucky
  • 2012, Outstanding Research Award, Society for Personality and Social Psychology

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