Some of our current projects are outlined below. Opportunities exist for undergraduate and graduate students to participate in our ongoing research activities or to develop new research studies in these areas.
Emotion regulation choice in direct and indirect self-injury
Individuals who engage in self-injury experience a range of emotional difficulties, including an impaired ability to identify and label emotions, a tendency to ruminate on negative experiences, and a difficulty regulating intense negative emotion. Accordingly, individuals who engage in self-injury often use self-injury as a way to ameliorate negative or generate positive affect. However, apart from the self-injurious behavior itself, little is known about the emotion regulation strategies that individuals who engage in self-injury initially attempt to use in the face of negative and positive experiences. By focusing on emotion regulatory capacity, research examining emotion regulation in self-injury has neglected tendency: what emotion regulation strategies individuals with self-injury prefer to use, in what contexts these strategies tend to be implemented (e.g., positive versus negative events), and the role of individual factors (e.g., the beliefs people hold about specific emotions, such as sadness) in these tendencies. Lab-based and online projects in this domain have examined how individuals who engage in direct or indirect forms of self-injury (e.g., non-suicidal self-injury and disordered eating, respectively) tend to respond to personalized and non-personalized emotional stimuli.
The "self" in self-injury: The roles of self-focus, self-concept, and self-presentation
A wealth of empirical evidence indicates that difficulties with identity--such as having a predominantly negative sense of self, or a sense of self that fluctuates rapidly--contribute to a range of self-injurious behaviors. Both the content (e.g., negative self-esteem) and structure (e.g., consistent versus inconsistent) of one's self-concept influence one's likelihood of engaging in self-injury. Yet, we tend to study these aspects of self-concept separately, such that we focus either on how negatively or positively someone tends to view themselves, or on how consistent and clear one's sense of self tends to be. Work in the lab has focused on studying different aspects of self jointly, such that we could better understand how experiencing an inconsistent or unclear sense of self may be related to a heightened negative view of self for individuals with self-injury.
More broadly, additional work in the lab examines the malleability of self-concept--that is, the ability for individuals to access different components of themselves across different situations, places, people, and online platforms. By focusing on the importance of the stability of the self, clinical research on self has neglected a thorough examination of humans' ability to flexibly shift across aspects of self. We therefore know very little about when and for whom this flexibility is helpful or disorienting.
Exploring the relationship between narcissism and experience of pain
Narcissism is a multidimensional concept that spans the fields of both personality and clinical psychology. Characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance and unstable self-esteem, narcissism manifests through feeling of both grandiose self-enhancement (e.g. entitlement, arrogance) and vulnerability (e.g. feelings of inferiority, fear of failing and losing control). Individuals with pervasive narcissism that leads to dysfunction may meet diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), a common but poorly understood mental illness. We seek to better understand how narcissism manifests and is maintained by examining how individuals high in narcissism relate to experiences of pain, both social pain (e.g., rejection and physical pain (e.g., broken arm).