Several major theoretical approaches have proposed that the regulation of psychological states and behavior is optimized to the extent that individuals are attentive to their subjective experience, behavior, and immediate environment. Yet attention is known to vary considerably in both quality and quantity, and there has been little investigation of such attentional variations and their consequences for day-to-day human functioning. My program of research addresses this topic through an investigation of the nature and consequences of a particular kind of attention called mindfulness, a sustained, receptive attention to what is occurring within oneself, in one's behavior, and in one's external circumstances in the present. Within this domain of inquiry, I have a number of active research interests. At a global level, I am interested in:
- Mindfulness theory
- Neurophenomenology of mindfulness
- Mechanisms of mindfulness training
My remaining interests in this area concern the consequences of mindfulness in key areas of human experience and functioning, including:
- mental health and well-being
- emotion regulation
- behavior regulation
- social relationships
- physical health
Methods of Investigation
These research questions are most fruitfully and thoroughly addressed using multiple methodologies. Our laboratory uses experimental methodologies and neurophysiological assessments of cognitive, affective, and stress-related responses in an attempt to provide convergent findings on our phenomena under study with evidence from multiple response systems. Our lab has a particular investment in neuroimaging methods, including fMRI and EEG/ERP to address our questions of interest. Our social and affective neuroscience approach reflects an integration of social psychological and biological theories and methods.
Our laboratory also conducts a significant portion of its research in natural settings using ecological momentary assessment, particularly event- and experience-sampling strategies, in which individuals collect data as they move through their day-to-day lives. This “process approach” seeks to understand the prevalence and temporal patterning of naturally-occurring behavior, temporal interactions between different behaviors, and other phenomena that promote an understanding of behavior from within a social ecological framework.
Our research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Administration on Aging, the Mind and Life Institute, Virginia Commonwealth University, and several fine non-profit foundations.