Model displaying the interaciton between emotion and cognition in the brain and through behavior.
source: Pessoa 2008
We are constantly bombarded with a myriad of different choices that we must make while simultaneously regulating our fluctuating emotions. Although emotions are often thought to hinder our ability to make rational decisions, that is not always the case[1, 2]. For example, being in a sad mood might help us process information more systematically[3]. This interaction between emotion and decision making is my primary research interest. More specifically, I am interested in how we evaluate evidence to make decisions and how our emotions alter this process.

Previously, I have done most of my research using experimental and computational methods on behavioral and survey measures. Moving forward, I would like to expand on these skills and combine them with neuroimaging techniques to answer questions like: How can we enhance our understanding of psychological theories on emotion and decision making by comparing the anatomical and functional connections in the brain that bring forth interactions between emotion and cognition?

In the future, I hope to continue to develop my current research interests and employ an interdisciplinary approach to investigate how emotion is integrated with cognition with a focus on decision making. I want to explore cognitive-emotional interactions using neuroimaging tools and recordings of participants’ physiological and behavioral responses.

Current Research Projects

“Motivational Influences on Perceptual Judgments: How What We Want Changes What We See"

We often proceed through our day believing that we see a veridical account of our world. Yet previous research suggests that our desires might shape how we interpret what we see[4]. For this project, we motivated individuals to alter their perceptual judgments using the random dot motion task. Currently, we are collecting data. I am conducting this research under the guidance of Dr. Jamil Zaki and Yuan Chang Leong as a Stanford Summer Research Early Identification (SR-EIP) Scholar.

“The Effects of Discrete Affective States on Information Processing Style, Judgment, and Decision Making"

We often acknowledge that our emotions affect how we make judgments and decisions, but the degree to which they affect us and the mechanisms that underlie these effects are unclear. This projects tests the effects of emotions on information processing, decision making, and social judgments. Based on the feelings-as-information theory[3], we hypothesize that individuals in a sad mood will engage in an analytic processing style, while individuals in happy and angry moods will engage in a heuristic-based processing style; in turn, these moods and processing styles will affect participants’ decisions and judgments in a similar pattern. Preliminary results support our hypothesis. This project constitutes my Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) thesis and was conducted under the guidance of Dr. Iris Blandón-Gitlin.

“Emotion Regulation and Well-being: A Structural Equation Model"

Our emotions frequently fluctuate throughout the day. Due to these fluctuations, we occasionally find ourselves in a situation in which we must regulate our emotions. Thus, appropriate emotion regulation is an important factor for social interactions and psychological well-being. Similarly, emotional intelligence, our ability to evaluate the present emotional context (i.e., understanding why our friends sad or why the person running towards you is angry) and react appropriately, aids us in navigating our social landscape. We proposed a model such that increased emotion regulation abilities and emotional intelligence improved psychological well-being, which in turn improves general life satisfaction. We are currently preparing a manuscript for publication. I completed this independent research project as a collaboration with Dr. Kathleen Preston.

Past Research Projects

“Exploring Differences in Posed and Genuine Emotional Expressions: A Facial Expression Database"

Much of previous research on facial expressions were conducted on posed expressions from actors. The purposed of this project was to create and validate a databased of genuine and posed expressions of the same individuals to be made freely available to researchers. Further, due to the numerous studies on other race effect, an additional goal was to collect stimuli from a diverse set of participants. The final database consists of approximately 400 valid facial expressions derived from 47 participants of vary ethnic and gender backgrounds. Currently, we are preparing a manuscript for publication. I completed this thesis under the guidance of Dr. Jessie Peissig as part of the requirement for the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Scholar's program.

“Juror Bias in Criminal Court Decision Making"

The focus of this project, conducted by Dr. Russ Espinoza, was to investigate juror biases. Due to jurors’ power to make verdicts, any biases they have about the defendant or plaintiff can have severe consequences. Specifically, this study examines how jurors’ political affiliation and their views towards the mentally ill influence verdict, sentencing, and perceptions’ of defendants’ culpability of mentally ill defendants. Data revealed partial support for our hypotheses; jurors’ political affiliation and their views towards the mentally ill influenced the jurors’ verdict and perception of defendants’ culpability but not their suggested sentence.