I aim to answer with my research one of the most important questions humans can ask: What is the good life? My research benefited from paradigms developed in the positive psychology movement, and my primary approach to study the good life has been using self-determination theory (SDT). SDT is a theory that focuses on certain inherent human needs (especially the need to be autonomous and volitional in our experiences and behavior) as essential to living a good life. Because the subject of my research often concerns young people, many of my research also uses SDT to address the positive functioning in developmental and educational settings.


I am looking for a research assistant now. Please contact me if you are interested. In your email, please explain why you want to work with me, how this research assistantship fits in your goals, how much time you are willing to dedicate to research work, etc., and attach a CV (should include your prior research work, GPA, etc.).

Awards and honors

Selected Publication in English Peer-Reviewed Journal Papers:

Yu, S., Zhang, F., Nunes, L. D., & Levesque-Bristol, C. (2021). Doing Well vs. Doing Better: Preliminary Evidence for the Differentiation of the “Static” and “Incremental” Aspects of the Need for Competence. Journal of Happiness Studies, 1-21.

Yu, S., & Levesque-Bristol, C. (2020). A Cross-Classified Path Analysis of the Self-Determination Theory Model on the Situational, Individual and Classroom Levels in College Education. Contemporary Educational Psychology.

Yu, S., Zhang, F., Nunes, L., Deng, Y., & Levesque-Bristol, C. (2019). Basic Psychological Needs as a Predictor of Positive Affects: A Look at Peace of Mind and Vitality in Chinese and American College Students. Advance online publication. Journal of Positive Psychology.

Yu, S., Zhang, F., Nunes, L., & Levesque-Bristol, C. (2018). Self-determined motivation to choose college majors, its antecedents, and outcomes: A cross-cultural investigation. Advance online publication. Journal of Vocational Behavior.

Yu, S., & Levesque-Bristol, C. (2018). Are students in some college majors more self-determined in their studies than others? Advance online publication. Motivation and Emotion.

Yu, S., Traynor, A., & Levesque-Bristol, C. (2018). Psychometric examination of the short version of Learning Climate Questionnaire using item response theory. Advance online publication. Motivation and Emotion.

Yu, S., Deng, Y., Yu, H., & Liu, X. (2018). Attachment style moderates the effects of parental promotion of inner compass. Advance online publication. Current Psychology.

Yu, S., Levesque-Bristol, C., & Maeda, Y. (2017). General need for autonomy and subjective well-being: A meta-analysis of studies in the US and East Asia. Advance online publication. Journal of Happiness Studies.

Yu, S., Chen, B., Levesque-Bristol, C., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2018). Chinese education examined via the lens of self-determination. Educational Psychology Review, 30(1), 177-214.

Yu, S., Assor, A., & Liu, X. (2015). Perception of parents as demonstrating the inherent merit of their values: Relations with selfcongruence and subjective wellbeing. International Journal of Psychology, 50(1), 70-74.

Yu, S., Zeng, X., Wang, C., Chen, H., & Liu, X. (2013). Money-primed reactance does not help ensure autonomy. Social Behavior and Personality, 41(8), 1233-1244.

Selected Chinese Book, Chapters, & Journal Papers:

Yu, S. (2013). Happiness. Nanjing: Jiangsu Phoenix Education Publishing House.

Yu, S. (2012). High self-esteem and mental health of teachers. In X. Liu (Ed.), Teachers’ mental health education. Beijing: Kaiming Press.

Yu, S. (2012). The basics of teachers’ interpersonal communication: Empathy, genuineness and self-disclosure. In X. Liu (Ed.), Teachers’ mental health education. Beijing: Kaiming Press.

Yu, S. (2011). Rescuing the desolate heart to the oasis: Book review of Neurotic personality: the code of human mental pain. China Book Review, 2, 124-125.

Ad hoc reviewers:

Journal of Happiness Studies, British Journal of Educational PsychologyApplied Psychology: An International Review, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Learning & Individual Differences, International Journal of Psychology, Psychological Reports, Current Psychology, etc.