My students and I are study behaviours and concepts directly relevant to the psychological well-being of both healthy and psychiatric populations. The primary studies focus on: online communication, chronic marijuana use, approachability judgements, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) investigations for some of these topics.

Online communication

We are conducting a series of investigations into the online acquaintanceship process. Which types of statements typically are used to convey interest or disinterest during online chats? Are certain types of statements more salient (influential) than others? Which online signals point to a SHIFT in the mood of the conversations

We also are investigating how personality characteristics and interpersonal
expectations alter the online acquaintanceship process.

The larger goal is aimed at developing a comprehensive model of the online communication process to enhance understanding of other types of relationships including closer friendships, romantic connections, and pathological ones (fake, manipulative, and hurtful).

Chronic Marijuana Use – Addiction?

In another set of studies, we are examining the effects of chronic marijuana use on people’s memory functions, emotional reactivity, and interpersonal tendencies. We use computer-based cognitive and emotional experiments to provide sensitive measures of cognitive performance and emotional reactions among non-users, recreational users, and abusers of marijuana. In the near future, we are initiating a study of working memory, spatial processing, and spatial memory and marijuana use.

With a separate dataset, we are investigating subjective reports of the interpersonal consequences of marijuana use. We also are examining the neural (fMRI) correlates of marijuana use on cognitive and emotional processing.


Approachability Evaluations

A third research area available to students focuses on approachability judgements. Approachability refers to people’s subjective willingness to engage with others in casual social encounters under a social scenario. The social scenario is public, and casual, and facial photos of potential social partners are presented. Participants rate their likelihood of approaching each of potential partner in the given scenario. Our research questions focus on identifying which factors alter people’s approachability evaluations including facial characteristics, familiarity, or peer judgements. We also have fMRI data available for examining the large-scale neural responses that are activated during these judgements.

Methods and Training

We use both self-report, experimental, and neuroimaging techniques to work with psychologically healthy people, as well as people with specific mental health issues, such as social anxiety or addiction.

Students will have the opportunity to learn the research process from start to finish – study design, ethical approval, measurement development, data collection, analysis, and the presention and write-up of study results.

They also may learn about brain structure and function, as well as how to conduct functional MRI studies.