Ongoing Projects

Loneliness Effects on the Body and Mind

Loneliness increases the risks of many adverse health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease and early death. But how does loneliness—a subjective feeling—get under the skin to impact physiology and well-being? The Social Health Lab is investigating this question by examining how the psychological experience of loneliness influences heart rate variability (HRV), a physiological marker of cardiovascular health, as well as of emotional regulation and capacity for social engagement. Furthermore, loneliness is linked to differences in cognitive function and perceptions of others. However, loneliness is also a multifaceted experience that can last for moments or years. Do brief, transient experiences of loneliness have the same negative effects on cognition as chronic, persistent loneliness? Our lab is examining whether short-term and possibly situationally-induced loneliness—”state loneliness”—influences cognitive performance and social judgments in the same way as long-term, dispositional loneliness—”chronic loneliness”.


Empathic Disengagement

Humans have a natural capacity for empathy, leading us to experience distress when confronted by the suffering of others. However, instead of responding to those in need, we often deliberately turn away. We cross the street to avoid an interaction with a homeless person, or we scroll away from the tragic photos that appear in our news feed. Our lab explores this phenomenon, examining two central questions: When and why people turn away from others' suffering and what are the psychological and physical outcomes of doing so? Ultimately, our lab seeks to provide information on how people can cope effectively in the face of constant exposure to the suffering of others.  

Hormones and Emotions in Adolescence

The teenage years can be a confusing and challenging time for a variety of biological, psychological, and social reasons. The Social Health Lab is investigating how hormonal changes during adolescence can affect teenagers’ emotions, social interactions, and mental health in a longitudinal study over the course of three years. We are currently recruiting young women ages 13 to 15 to participate in the study, which will involve completing a series of online tasks and the collection of saliva samples to measure levels of hormones. To learn more or express interest in participating, visit our website.

Scent and Communication

Scent is a vital form of communication for animals and humans alike. Using scent, we communicate information to one another ranging from health status, to attractiveness and fertility levels, to emotions such as anxiety and fear. The Social Health Lab is exploring how the scent of a loved one may reduce stress and improve sleep.

Prosociality and Health

Can the prosocial side of our nature promote well-being and health? The Social Health Lab examines how prosocial behaviours (acts undertaken to benefit others) are linked to different dimensions of well-being (e.g., short-term and long-term hedonic and eudaimonic well-being) and health-related outcomes (e.g., stress reactivity and sleep quality), and further explores underlying mechanisms for these links. For instance, we are investigating whether giving support to a stranger can reduce one’s stress by changing a person’s perceptions about stress, other people, and the social environment. Ultimately, we seek to maximize the benefits of prosocial behaviours on health in the form of an effective intervention.