Dr. Lauren Cattaneo's Lab for Social Justice Research focuses on the relevance of psychology for addressing pressing social issues. Current projects center in two areas. First, Dr. Cattaneo and her students study the ways that survivors of intimate partner violence interact with the systems that are designed to help them, with a particular focus on the justice system and the key construct of empowerment. Second, the lab integrates teaching and research to explore methods of increasing civic engagement through higher education. With a grant from the Spencer Foundation, the lab is studying the influence of service learning on students' civic attitudes and behaviors over time.
Dr. Esposito-Smythers’ Adolescent Mental Health Promotion Lab focuses on the advancement of healthy adolescent cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral development. The primary emphasis is on the development and testing of family-based cognitive-behavioral prevention and treatment programs for adolescent mental health problems and high-risk behaviors, with a particular focus on adolescent suicidal behavior and substance abuse. Also studied are the mechanisms through which adolescents develop suicidal behavior and substance abuse, as well as factors that protect against these outcomes.
The Impulse Lab at George Mason University conducts research studies on binge eating, purging, and alcohol abuse. We examine how personality traits influence these behaviors through deficits in emotion regulation, impulse control, and reward seeking. We are currently conducting studies on: 1) the influence of personality traits on bulimic symptoms, substance abuse, and self-injury; 2) gender differences in the influence of personality traits on disordered eating and substance abuse over time; and 3) how the brain's reward system processing of appetitive food cues influences craving under various mood conditions.
The Anxiety, Stress, & Relationships Lab focuses on the interpersonal context of anxiety and response to stress and trauma. The primary emphasis is on understanding how PTSD affects and is affected by romantic relationships, with a particular emphasis on military couples. However, we have multiple ongoing research projects, such as understanding individual predictors of trauma response, couples' communication and perceptions of criticism, effects of anxiety on relationship processes, and risk factors for specific OC spectrum disorders.
Dr. John Riskind and his graduate and undergraduate assistants are currently working on several different projects. A major thrust of the research is to develop a better understanding of cognitive vulnerability and mechanisms for anxiety and anxiety disorders. Riskind’s “looming vulnerability” model assumes that cognitively vulnerable individuals have a tendency to perceive threats as rapidly escalating and coming closer in space and time. The research is also focused on the role of cognitive vulnerabilities in biased information-processing and in several areas related to anxiety, including stress generation, suicidality, and the intergenerational transmission of anxiety. Several studies in another recent line of research are underway that examine embodied cognition as it relates to cognitive clinical processes. The goal of this research is to determine whether negative cognitions are grounded in bodily states of posture, movement and perception, as has been increasingly demonstrated for cognition in the social cognitive and cognitive psychology literatures.
Dr. Jerome Short and his graduate student advisees focus on the prevention of psychological problems and promotion of physical and mental health for adolescents and adults. Current research includes examining longitudinal predictors and processes of wellbeing including optimism, gratitude, grit, relaxation, social support, and meaningful behaviors for college students and other adults. Related research focuses on examining longitudinal predictors and processes of physical health and longevity among older adults. Knowledge of these health processes is used to develop and evaluate psychological fitness programs for people of various ages.
Dr. June Tangney and Dr. Jeff Stuewig work at the interface of clinical psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology and criminology. Our lives are consumed with two longitudinal studies of jail inmates, focusing on moral emotions and cognitions associated with crime, substance abuse, HIV risk behavior, and rehabilitation, and the dynamic interplay of these factors over the life course. In addition, we develop and evaluate novel interventions for 'general population' jail inmates drawing on restorative justice, mindfulness, and motivational interviewing principles. Our goal is to contribute to basic and translational research on human emotions, and to positively influence both practices and policies in the criminal justice system.
With a large number of student and faculty collaborators, Dr. Todd Kashdan's research program is centered on the thesis that a comprehensive understanding of human behavior, and the development of interventions to enhance individuals’ lives, requires attention to both positive and negative experiences and events. His research has been directed to understanding why people suffer, with an emphasis on social anxiety and other emotional difficulties, and what is the nature of well-being, with an emphasis on how people think, feel, and behave in response to daily, naturalistic events. His findings have challenged the stereotype that socially anxious individuals are inherently shy and inhibited, and added to conceptual models by emphasizing the contributions of ineffective emotion regulation strategies and positivity deficits in the transition from normative to pathological social anxiety. Other work has revealed the critical functions of curiosity, meaning and purpose in life, and psychological flexibility to health; psychological constructs that tend to be neglected. This research has been multi-disciplinary in nature, using a range of methodological approaches (e.g., experience sampling in everyday life, laboratory-based experiments, field studies) to better understand how suffering and well-being develop, how to predict them, what situational contexts alter their occurrence, and how to improve people’s quality of life.