Labs

With over 55 laboratories, research centres and interdisciplinary hubs of collaboration, UBC Psychology is home to numerous ground breaking research programs.

Research Labs

Behavioural Neuroscience

Principal Investigator: Dr. Liisa Galea

Our laboratory is interested in how hormones affect brain and behaviour.

We are currently investigating four main areas of research:

  • effects of gonadal hormones on neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of adults
  • effects of hormones on learning and memory
  • effects of pregnancy and mothering on brain function and morphology
  • animal models of postpartum depression and sex differences in behavioural and neural consequences of stress

Our laboratory is associated with the Neuroscience Program at UBC and the Brain Research Centre. Students interested in graduate studies can apply through either Psychology or the Neuroscience Program.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Stanley Floresco

Our research focuses on neural circuits that facilitate different forms of learning and cognition using rodents as a model system.

We are particularly interested in the interactions between different brain regions within the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system (i.e.; prefrontal cortex, ventral striatum, amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus) that facilitate cognitive processes, such as behavioural flexibility, cost/benefit decision making and reward-related learning.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Catherine Rankin

Research in our laboratory is focused on behavioural, cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in learning and memory.

We are currently using an invertebrate preparation, the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, to examine both non-associative and associative forms of learning.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jason Snyder

The lab’s goal is to identify the role of adult neurogenesis in memory and stress-related behaviours.

We inhibit neurogenesis with transgenic animals in order to understand how they contribute to these behaviours, viral tools for labelling and modifying neurons, immunohistochemistry to quantify and characterize the neurogenesis process, and in vitro electrophysiology to understand the circuit mechanisms by which these new neurons regulate behaviour.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Kiran Soma

Our research focuses on the regulation of behaviour and immunity in songbirds and rodents using a variety of behavioral, endocrine, neurobiological and immunological techniques.

More specifically, we study the effects of stress or early life stressors on behaviour, neuroanatomy and immune function in songbirds and rodents; and the regulation of steroids synthesis in the brain, so called “neurosteroids”, and how this process is connected to behaviour and well-being.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Catharine Winstanley

We are interested in exploring the neural, neurochemical and molecular basis of higher-order cognitive processes such as impulse control and gambling.

A better understanding of the biological mechanisms underpinning these processes will lead to new and improved treatments for psychiatric disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, personality disorders and drug addiction, all of which are associated with deficits in impulse control.

Clinical

Principal Investigator: Connor Kerns

We're exploring the overlap, assessment and treatment of anxiety, trauma and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In addition to our work in anxiety disorders, we also have several projects focused on better characterizing, measuring and understanding the impact of childhood adversity and traumatic stress on individuals with ASD.

Principal Investigator: Sheila Woody

What makes compulsive hoarding such a difficult problem? What are the best methods to help individuals with this problem?

To help answer these questions, our research lab studies cognitive, social, emotional, and community aspects of compulsive hoarding.

Principal Investigator: Joelle LeMoult

We are working to better understand the onset, presentation, and course of depression and anxiety disorders in adolescents and adults.

We are particularly interested in why some individuals experience depression and anxiety in response to stress and why others do not.

We have a number of projects underway designed to answer these questions by investigating cognitive, emotional, and biological responses to stress and negative affect.

Principal Investigator: Lynn Alden

Our research focuses on a number of topics related to anxiety and depression.

The goal in our current research is to gain a better understanding of the problems and processes associated with several anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

We are also interested in research that will lead to the ongoing development of psychological treatments for anxiety disorders.

Principal Investigator: Kenneth Craig

Pain is the most pervasive and universal form of human distress, yet under-management is a serious problem for individuals, those who care for them, and the public at large.

This lab aims to target weaknesses in pain management by investigating how social and psychological factors influence the expression and recognition of pain.

In doing so, we seek out opportunities to collaborate with medical professionals and research scientists from a broad range of specialties, in order to improve upon current pain evaluation strategies in the healthcare field, and to build a more complete understanding of the experience of pain.

Principal Investigator: Amori Mikami

Our lab aims to understand why some children have trouble with making friends, keeping friends, and being accepted by their peer group, as well as what the consequences of these peer problems might be.

Some of our research focuses on youth with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) because this population provides fertile ground to study peer difficulties, while other research concerns how typical kids interact.

Principal Investigator: Paul Hewitt

Dr. Paul L. Hewitt’s research focuses primarily on personality vulnerabilities and their implications for psychological difficulties among adults, adolescents, and children.

In particular, he has conducted extensive research on the construct of perfectionism as a maladaptive and multidimensional personality trait and interpersonal style that is related to problems such as suicide, depression, personality disorders, and relationship, achievement, and health problems.

He is also conducting research on the treatment of perfectionism and provides assessment and treatment for individuals with perfectionism problems.

Principal Investigator: E. David Klonsky

The PEB Lab examines aspects of emotion and personality that dispose individuals to engage in maladaptive behaviours such as non-suicidal self-injury and suicide.

The lab utilizes self-report questionnaires, clinical interviews, and measures of central and autonomic nervous system activity.

Cognitive Science

Principal Investigator: Alan Kingstone

The overarching purpose of our lab is similar to most labs in that goal is to better understand and predict human cognition and behavior. However, Alan Kingstone has taken a different approach to the study of human cognition.

Alan argues that the findings of research done in artificial and deprived environments by nature do not generalize well to the complex and stimulus-rich real world that we live in.

In 2005, he introduced the term “cognitive ethology” to describe his work, which can be roughly summarized as using real world observations to generate research questions that then can be addressed in the lab.

Principal Investigator: Jiaying Zhao

Our lab is broadly interested in how resource scarcity impacts cognition and behavior, and how to promote resource conservation and pro-environmental behavior through simple interventions.

Principal Investigator: Luke Clark

The Centre for Gambling Research investigates the psychology and the neuroscience of gambling behaviour, with the goal of reducing the harms associated with problem gambling and improving evidence-based gambling policy.

Principal Investigator: Kalina Christoff

Research in our lab investigates the neural and cognitive mechanisms of human thought and mental functions.

We examine goal-directed thought processes such as introspection and self-awareness, as well as spontaneous thought processes such as mind-wandering.

We use a combination of functional neuroimaging (fMRI) and behavioural testing. We are also developing novel neuroimaging techniques such as real-time fMRI for clinical applications in psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

Principal Investigator: Peter Graf

The main goal of the lab is to increase understanding of human memory and related cognitive functions, how these functions vary across individuals, how they change across the adult lifespan, and how those age-related changes affect people’s use of moderns computing technologies.

Principal Investigator: Daniela Palombo

Although humans encounter countless novel experiences, many of these are not retained. Our research focuses on behavioural and neural factors associated with how we form and retain autobiographical memories. We are particularly interested in the effects of emotion on memory. A branch of this research explores how memory varies across individuals. We approach this topic in a multifaceted manner, combining behavioural research with structural and functional neuroimaging.

Principal Investigator: Rebecca Todd

Our research interests lie at the interface between emotion and cognition. Specifically, we investigate neural and genetic mechanisms that underlie the influence of emotion on what we attend to and later remember.

Principal Investigator: Todd Handy

What leads us to pay attention to some things in the visual world and ignore others?

Attention is literally our window onto the world, and my lab’s efforts center on understanding how we use attention to guide our actions in daily life and why these processes may have evolved.

To address these questions we use both ERP and fMRI methodologies, while adopting analytic procedures that allow for examination of individual differences in attentional performance.

The overarching goal is to not only increase our knowledge of attentional function, but to develop methods appropriate for diagnosing individual attentional capacities in the clinical domain.

Principal Investigator: Lawrence Ward

At the Psychophysics and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, we use a multitude of research paradigms to elucidate basic brain mechanisms and cognitive processes.

We currently have several research studies underway examining Neural Synchrony, Stochastic Resonance, Visual and Auditory Attention, Mismatch Negativity and Stimulus Independent Thought.

Principal Investigator: James T. Enns

Our lab studies how the human mind selects information. This selectivity is what is meant by attention, which involves a dynamic interplay among biological (neural), experiential (learning), and intentional (goals) factors.

Principal Investigator: Ron Rensink

The goal of the UBC Visual Cognition Lab is to investigate visual intelligence – the way in which the human visual system uses the light entering the eyes to create a variety of perceptual experiences. We are interested both in exploring the mechanisms that carry this out, and the ways in which this knowledge can help with the design of effective visual displays.

Principal Investigator: Debbie Giaschi

Developmental

Principal Investigators: Andrew Baron, Susan Birch, Geoff Hall, Kiley Hamlin, Darko Odic, and Janet Werker

The Early Development Research Group consists of a group of researchers in the UBC Psychology department dedicated to the development of language, learning, and social understanding in infants and children.

Principal Investigator: Darko Odic

The Centre for Cognitive Development studies the origin of number, time, and space representations and how their interaction with language plays a role in higher-order reasoning, including mathematics, confidence, and communication.

We combine tools from traditional cognitive development, visual cognition and psychophysics, formal linguistics, and computational modeling to understand how children and adults reason and learn to talk about quantity, and why children are not uniformly successful in learning mathematics and related higher-level concepts.

More recently, we have been investigating the origins of our sense of confidence and how it is communicated to others during learning and cooperation.

Principal Investigator: Kiley Hamlin

At the Centre for Infant Cognition we study infants’ and young toddlers’ everyday cognitions about the world, with a particular focus on social-cognitive and moral-cognitive processing and evaluation in the first two years of life.

This developmental approach allows us to (1) examine the roots of these basic processes before more complex cognitive abilities (such as language and inhibitory control) fully develop and prior to extensive cultural influence and (2) track how they change over time.

Principal Investigator: Janet Werker

Our research focuses on understanding the first steps in infancy that launch the process of language acquisition. We study infants growing up in different language communities, including infants growing up bilingual.

We present infants with different types of language and non-language sound stimuli, often accompanied by pictures, and record their sucking, looking, reaching, or brain activity.

We apply our knowledge of typical development to populations of infants at risk for a language delay.

Principal Investigator: Susan Birch

We research Knowledge, Imagination, and Development (i.e. K.I.D.). Our research focuses on a wide-range of topics related to children and adults ability to reason about someone else’s perspective.

Principal Investigator: Geoff Hall

Our lab seeks to understand children’s lexical development by examining the types of information they recruit to acquire the meanings of new words.

Principal Investigator: Larry Walker

Researchers in the Moral Development Lab focus on aspects of the psychology of moral development, especially moral personality and identity. We are fundamentally interested in exploring the factors that contribute to exemplary moral action.

Principal Investigator: Andrew Baron

The Social Cognitive Development lab explores how children (from infancy through early teenage years) establish preferences for and beliefs about other people.

Research involves understanding how preferences for and stereotypes about people are acquired and change across development on both a conscious and an unconscious level of processing.

Principal Investigator: Ann Cameron

The researchers in the Child Study Labs are included in all aspects of the research process, from library searches, through research design, to actual participant interface, data reduction, and analysis, and on to scholarly presentations.

Ethical considerations and comportment in the field, and participant rapport building are also part of necessary training. Students are also trained in careful data recording and in many cases, audio- and audio-visual records require time-consuming transcription before analyses can start.

Health

Principal Investigator: Anita DeLongis

The Centre for Health and Coping Studies is involved in understanding the psychosocial aspects to adapting to stress. Current research projects include:

  • Managing daily family stress
  • The role of social support in managing stress
  • Coping with Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Coping with infectious diseases (e.g., Avian Flu, SARS, West Nile)
  • Coping with spinal cord injury
  • Stress spillover/crossover in paramedics and their spouses

Principal Investigator: Christiane Hoppmann

Our lab conducts research that examines the influences of social relationships and motivational processes for well-being and health across the adult lifespan.

Current projects focus on the role of goals and motivational processes for adaptive functioning in daily life (emotion regulation; stress; health behaviors).

In addition, we examine how health trajectories influence and are influenced by close others such as spouses.

Overall, the long-term goal of our research is to better understand the social and motivational resources that contribute to the successful mastery of challenges and foster healthy functioning in different phases of the lifespan.

Principal Investigator: Frances Chen

The Social Health Lab investigates how people establish, negotiate, and sustain social relationships.

Some of our lab’s current research questions include:

  • How do different neuroendocrine systems and hormones (including oxytocin, testosterone, estradiol and progesterone) regulate and influence social cognition and behaviour?
  • Why do some first-year students and new immigrants in Vancouver have more difficulty making friends than others, and what effects do friendship formation have on health?
  • Can smartphone user behaviour can be used to predict well-being and health outcomes such as social connection, loneliness, and sleep quality?
  • Can social support be communicated through olfactory cues?

Principal Investigator: Nancy Sin

Our lab focuses on Understanding Pathways Linking Inter- and Intraindividual Factors To (UPLIFT) Health. We examine biological and behavioural mechanisms underlying the associations of stress and positive experiences with long-term health and aging.

We are particularly interested in the roles of positive experiences in stress processes. The overarching goal of our research is to identify aspects of everyday life that can be targeted in interventions to promote healthy aging.

Quantitative Methods

Principal Investigator: Jeremy Biesanz

Broadly, work in the Social Accuracy Lab examines the process of interpersonal impressions, exploring the impressions we form about the stable and global personality traits of others and the self.

Utilizing the Social Accuracy Model (SAM) we are able to explore overall levels and variability in accuracy and bias in impressions, as well as examine various factors that impact these perceptual tendencies.

Principal Investigator: Victoria Savalei

Our research interests lie primarily in the field of structural equation modeling (SEM)–a powerful statistical modeling tool that allows psychologists to test complicated theories involving multiple observed and latent variables.

Our main line of research has to do model evaluation and testing for difficult kinds of data, such as incomplete data, non-normal data, and categorical data. We have been developing and studying approaches for reliable analysis of data that have one or more of these characteristics.

Recently, we have also begun studying the behavior approximate indices of fit in SEM. Finally, we are also interested in using SEM to model response biases in personality data.

Social & Personality

Principal Investigators: Steve Heine, Joseph Henrich, Ara Norenzayan

Our purpose in establishing the Centre for Human Evolution, Cognition, and Culture (HECC) is to create a research and training hub that will simultaneously advance understanding of the human species within the framework of Darwinian evolutionary theory, and encourage evolutionary scientists to incorporate cultural learning and cultural evolution in explanations of human thought and behavior.

Principal Investigator: Azim Shariff

Our research focuses on where morality intersects with religion, cultural attitudes and economics. Another rapidly expanding part of our research looks at human-technology interactions and the ethics of automation, including self-driving cars.

Principal Investigator: Steve Heine

Our primary research focus is on cultural psychology, exploring the ways in which culture and self mutually constitute each other.

We have a very active lab and many of our projects are conducted with collaborators around the world. Our ongoing projects include research on the cultural underpinnings of motivation (e.g., self-improvement, face-maintenance, prevention), the self-concept (e.g., self-awareness, self-consistency, ingroup-boundaries), relationships (e.g., attraction, romantic love), psychopathology (e.g., depression), the pursuit of meaning (e.g., terror management theory), cognition (e.g., dialectical thinking).

Many of these projects involve cross-cultural comparisons, especially involving Japanese, Canadian, Chilean, and American samples.

Principal Investigator: Jessica Tracy

We study the process, structure, expression, and regulation of emotions and self. Much of our research is focused on self-conscious emotions (pride, shame, embarrassment, and guilt)—emotions that are intricately entwined with complex self-evaluative processes. We also study more “basic” level emotions, such as anger, fear, sadness, and happiness.

We use a wide range of methods to study emotional processes, including behavioral observation and coding, social-cognitive techniques, cross-cultural comparisons, cross-sectional and longitudinal designs, factor analysis, cluster analysis, and content-coding.

Principal Investigator:  Andrew Baron

The Living Lab is a partnership between Science World and UBC Psychology. In the Living Lab, Science World visitors get to work directly with UBC researchers who are studying cognitive development.

Children from infancy through adolescence can participate in research projects that explore their social reasoning (e.g., empathy, perspective taking, moral reasoning, stereotyping and cooperation).

Principal Investigator: Kristin Laurin

The lab investigates how people’s goals and motivations interact with their beliefs and ideologies – about politics, about religion, or about the nature of the world.

We are especially interested in how beliefs about societal, organizational and interpersonal structures can affect people’s ability to self-regulate in pursuit of their important goals. We also study how various motivations can shape people’s beliefs and ideologies.

Principal Investigator: Larry Walker

Researchers in the Moral Development Lab focus on aspects of the psychology of moral development, especially moral personality and identity. We are fundamentally interested in exploring the factors that contribute to exemplary moral action.

Principal Investigator: Del Paulhus

Although the personality constructs of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and subclinical psychopathy originated in different fields of research, there are striking similarities.

To varying degrees, all three constructs entail a dark, socially destructive character with behavior tendencies such as grandiosity, emotional coldness, manipulation and aggressiveness.

In the clinical literature, the link between narcissism and psychopathy has been noted for some time. The recent development of sub-clinical measures of narcissism and psychopathy has permitted direct comparison of the three dark traits in normal populations. Some researchers have argued that, in non-clinical populations, the three constructs may be one and the same.

Principal Investigator: Peter Suedfeld

Dedicated to studying the positive as well as negative aspects of environments and experiences that are generally considered to be stressful, the REST Lab continues to do research in three major areas:

Political Psychology: Ongoing projects are studying international confrontations around the world (the Midd1e East, Asia, Europe). We analyze the speeches and writings of major political figures to conduct leader assessment at a distance, using psychological markers to forecast important policy including whether the government will negotiate with rivals rather than going to war.

Persecution and Genocide: This research stream consists primarily of studies of survivors, perpetrators, and bystanders during the Nazi Holocaust and the Armenian, Rwandan and Yugoslavian genocides, using autobiographical materials and questionnaires, interviews and narratives. Our interest is in how people coped with the severe stresses of their experiences, and the impact of these experiences on their subsequent life.

Extreme Environments Studies: These studies look at resilience under the stress of long-duration assignments in extreme and unusual environments such as polar and space stations. The work involves research on astronauts and explorers.

Principal Investigator: Jeremy Biesanz

Work in the Social Accuracy Lab examines the process of interpersonal impressions, exploring the impressions we form about the stable and global personality traits of others and the self.

Utilizing the Social Accuracy Model (SAM) we are able to explore overall levels and variability in accuracy and bias in impressions, as well as examine various factors that impact these perceptual tendencies.

Principal Investigator: Andrew Baron

The Social Cognitive Development lab explores how children (from infancy through early teenage years) establish preferences for and beliefs about other people.

Research involves understanding how preferences for and stereotypes about people are acquired and change across development on both a conscious and an unconscious level of processing.

Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Dunn

This lab’s research focuses on happiness, money and spending decisions, self-knowledge, affective forecasting and implicit social cognition.

Principal Investigator: Mark Schaller

Our research addresses questions about how people think about other people, and the implications that these cognitions have for social behavior.

In a lot of work, we draw on an evolutionary perspective to deduce – and then test – hypotheses about these social psychological processes. In some of our research, we examine additional cultural consequences of these psychological processes.

Principal Investigator: Toni Schmader

Social groups profoundly define who we are and how we view others. What happens when those groups are thought to have negative qualities or characteristics?

The research in our lab examines how people are affected by and cope with being negatively stereotyped. We examine social prejudice from the point of view both of perceivers and those who are targeted by stigmatization. We also study the role of emotion and cognition in self-regulation.

Principal Investigator: Ara Norenzayan

We are interested in examining the mutual interactions between the functioning of individual minds and widely shared beliefs and their material effects, that is, cultures.

Research in the lab spans a wide range of topics, including cultural variability and universality in cognition, the psychological foundations of culture, and religious cognition.