Research

Current projects in the MU Social Cognitive and Addiction Neuroscience Lab are focused on two broad but related areas. First, we are interested in basic aspects of social cognition including person perception (e.g., stereotyping, prejudice, impression-formation and change) and aggression, and in how these processes are affected by alcohol consumption. In order to understand how alcohol influences cognition and perception, it is crucial to first understand how these processes operate normally. To this end, much of our experimental research is characterized by studies that examine how people make sense of and respond to others’ behavior, and studies in which these processes are examined while participants are under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol is known to cause a number of cognitive impairments that lead to deficits in behavioral control, many of which have implications for social behaviors (e.g., aggression, risk-taking). Contemporary models of many social-cognitive phenomena emphasize the role of cognitive and behavioral control in adaptive social functioning. Thus, studying the effects of alcohol on social cognition provides a way to understand not only the implications of intoxication, but also the function of various cognitive mechanisms that are important for flexible social cognition.

The second broad line of research in the lab examines how social/environmental factors (e.g., peer influences, drinking context) and individual differences (e.g., personality, alcohol expectancies) contribute to alcohol involvement among young adults, and how neurocognitive reactivity to alcohol-related cues might predict vulnerability to alcohol abuse and related disorders. In most of our research, we employ a combination of behavioral and psychophysiological measures to provide a broad basis for understanding how environmental contingencies and stimulus events are interpreted and processed at a basic neurocognitive level, and how these basic processes mediate or explain overt behaviors.

The main areas of emphasis in the lab currently include:

In addition to these main emphasis areas, some current projects are focused on the use of ERPs as an index of implicit attitudes toward condoms, and on the influence of mortality salience (i.e., bringing to mind thoughts of death) on neurocognitive responses to faces.