Our research broadly centers on the interplay between emotion and cognition in the domains of mental and physical health.
Current lab projects are described below.
Stress, Emotion and Health Project: This research focuses on the ways in which individuals manage and alter their emotions to cope with stressful situations. Through a series of research studies we are examining how stress reactivity and emotion regulation ability interact to predict behavioral health outcomes, such as physical activity and diet. Recently published findings suggest that high positive reappraisal ability can buffer against the negative health consequences of stress in high stress reactive individuals, however in low stress reactive individuals, high positive reappraisal ability may remove the motivation to engage in healthier behaviors. Current efforts in this project focus on mapping the interaction between stress reactivity and other emotion regulation strategies, such as negative reappraisal and positive distraction, to more fully understand how flexible emotion regulation may support health.
This research project is led by Sara Sagui and Dr. Levens.
Emotion Regulation, Eating Behavior & Food Attitudes: This study aims to investigate how individuals regulate their emotions about food. How do emotions influence food intake and behavior? What emotion regulation strategies are associated with health eating habits and attitudes? Preliminary findings reveal that how individuals choose to regulate their emotions in response to negative stimuli predicts emotional eating behaviors and attitudes.
This research project is lead by Meagan Padro, Dr. Levens and collaborator Dr. Webb.
Emotion Regulation and Posttraumatic Growth: This research project examines the role of emotion regulation in posttraumatic growth. Specific goals of this project include investigating how emotional clarity (or lack thereof) promotes the use of certain emotion regulation strategies, and how this then impacts the cognitive components of posttraumatic growth. Findings thus far reveal that individuals with higher levels of reappraisal choice in response to negative stimuli report higher levels of posttraumatic growth, suggesting that positive reappraisal may facilitate growth following trauma.
This project is lead by Ana Orejuela and Dr. Levens
Parenting Emotion Regulation Ability and Child Health: Parenting stress and ER are important and understudied mechanisms that may influence not only childhood obesity, but adult obesity as well. Parenting stress surrounding childhood obesity may prevent parents from implementing behavior change that benefits their children and possibly themselves as well. Currently there are no adequate measures for assessing parenting stress and regulatory abilities in the context of childhood obesity, a gap the present seeks to address. This research project involves the design and of a Parental Emotion Regulation Ability (PERA) task followed by the testing of the relation between PERA, stress, and childhood obesity.
This project is lead by Sara Sagui, Dr. Levens and Collaborator Dr. Armstrong.
Executive Function and Emotion Regulation: This research examines the relation between individual differences in executive function and individual differences in emotion regulation. Both emotion regulation and executive functions are vital for daily functioning, and deficits in these constructs give rise to a host of cognitive, interpersonal and behavioral problems. Preliminary data in this project reveals an association between time to manipulate negative content in working memory and emotion regulation choice in response to negative stimuli, which supports a mechanistic link between executive function and emotion regulation. This research project, which will begin data collection in Fall 2016, will comprise a series of studies that attempt to identify the specific executive functions that underlie emotion regulation ability and strategy choice.
This project is lead by Sydney Park and Dr. Levens
Emotion Processing and Trauma: This research project aims to investigate the impact of trauma on emotion processing, attention, and working memory. This research project, which will begin in Fall 2016, will compare a Sample of veterans with and without a history of exposure to combat and non-veteran controls to determine if they differ in how they process emotional stimuli within WM. Analyses will focus on identifying whether individual differences in emotion processing within working memory interact with Trauma to predict PTSD and Depression.
This research project is lead by Tabitha Alverio and Dr. Levens
Pervasive computing technology to study smoking behavior: The relation between smoking gesture activity, stress, and emotion reactivity to aid smoking cessation: In this project, we investigate the relation between smoking behavior, stress, emotion reactivity, and the environment to identify emotional and environmental cues that predict smoking behavior. Central to our research approach is the use of pervasive and wearable computing to automatically detect smoking gestures and smoking behavior as it occurs. Using this approach we aim to provide a more complete picture of smoking behaviors within context in comparison to existing self-report study methodologies. By combining data collected using this pervasive computing tool with rigorous assessment of stress and emotion reactivity in smokers, our ultimate goal is to enable the development of individualized treatment programs that target the smoking-related behaviors and cues that a smoker is most dependent upon in order to facilitate smoking cessation. This project is supported by an interdisciplinary grant from Project Mosiac.
This project is lead by Dr. Levens, collaborators Dr. Payton and Dr. Bennett, Zaire Ali, and Lydia Roos.