How does the quality of our attention in day-to-day life support personal and collective well-being?

Major theoretical approaches have proposed that personal and collective well-being is optimized to the extent that individuals are attentive to their subjective experience, behavior, and 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. The Lab's research addresses this topic through an investigation of the nature and consequences of a particular kind of attention called mindfulness, classically described as 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, the Lab has a number of active research interests. At a global level, we address: 

  • Mindfulness theory
  • The development of mindfulness
  • Mechanisms of mindfulness training 

The Lab's specific interests concern the consequences of mindfulness in the personal, interpersonal, and larger sociocultural systems in which humans are embedded. We study the impact of mindfulness on: 

  • Mental health and well-being 
  • Emotion regulation 
  • Behavior regulation 
  • Social relationships
  • Ecological behavior

The breadth of these areas of interest is a direct reflection of the fact that attention is a fundamental feature of the human organism that in one way or another impacts many aspects of psychological and social functioning.

How We Go About Our Work

Our research questions are most fruitfully and thoroughly addressed using multiple methodologies. Our laboratory primarily relies on experiments that use neurophysiological assessments of cognitive, affective, and stress responses in an attempt to provide convergent findings based on evidence from multiple response systems. More and more, our laboratory is using  neuroscientific methods, including brain imaging (fMRI) and electrocortical measurement (EEG/ERP) to address questions of interest to the social and affective sciences. Our neuroscientific 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. 

How We are Funded

Our  research is funded by the National Institutes of Health; the Mind and Life Institute and other fine non-profit foundations; and Virginia Commonwealth University, 

 

Image Credits

Diffusion Tensor Image by Vishal Patel, PhD from the Human Connectome Project