At the College of Liberal Arts, psychology research is geared towards finding vital answers to the big questions in our modern research laboratories and clinics. Non Temple University students are also eligible to participate in our research.
Big Questions, Vital Answers
Our award-winning faculty is at the heart of our program. Nationally recognized scientists and practicing psychologists investigate how people think, feel and develop using state-of-the-art methods in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience, and clinical, developmental and social psychology.
The research conducted in our world-renowned laboratories addresses a wide-range of human conditions and behaviors. There are many opportunities for students to participate in faculty research or conduct independent study under faculty supervision.
Psychology Research Laboratories
Adaptive Memory Lab
The Adaptive Memory Lab (PI: Murty) focuses on how engagement of neuromodulatory systems, particularly the mesolimbic dopamine system, influences memory and memory-guided behavior in order to help individuals’ achieve their goals. We investigate these systems in a variety of affective and motivational states including reward, novelty and threat. Additionally, we probe these systems in individuals with or at-risk for psychosis to better understand the role of episodic memory in adaptive behavior.
Adolescent Development and Decision-Making
Why do teens engage in risky behavior? Is it driven by peer pressure or a simple lack of maturity? Is there something else at play? This lab, directed by Laurence Steinberg, studies various aspects of adolescent development and decision-making with a special focus on understanding why adolescents often engage in risky and reckless behavior. The lab uses a variety of methods, including behavioral tests, brain imaging and questionnaires.
Adolescent Social Adjustment
What factors contribute to the psychological well-being of economically disadvantaged, ethnic minority adolescents? In the Adolescent Social Adjustment lab, Ronald Taylor and his students examine how family and kin relations, neighborhood conditions and family economic resources are linked to the social and emotional adjustment of urban, disadvantaged, ethnic minority youths. This lab also studies how family and kin and socio-economic factors are associated with the college adjustment of ethnic minority students.
Behavioral Neurophysiology Lab
Why do some people who experiment drugs of abuse go on to become addicts? Why is it so hard for individuals with substance use disorder to quit? The Behavioral Neurophysiology Lab, directed by Lisa Briand, studies the neurobiological underpinnings of vulnerability to addiction. Early life stress experience increases vulnerability to substance use and one goal of our work in the lab is to understand the molecular and electrophysiological changes underlying this increase. To answer these questions, we utilize behavioral neuroscience, cellular and molecular biology, and optogenetic and electrophysiological techniques.
Child and Adolescent Development of Emotion and Personality Laboratory
How does emotional processing and personality confer risk to and protection from developing problem behaviors? How do we best assess psychological constructs using multiple measures and methods? Under the direction of Thomas Olino, this lab examines how reward-related behaviors and neural processes is associated with risk for multiple forms of psychopathology.
Child Health and Behavior
How can a disadvantaged youth improve his or her chances for success? Do family, peers and neighborhood play a role? Under the direction of Deborah Drabick, this lab identifies factors associated with risk or resilience for emotional and behavioral problems among disadvantaged youths. The lab has a program to help youths improve their emotion regulation, problem-solving skills and interpersonal behavior.
What happens to a person’s ability to do everyday tasks following brain damage or disease? What determines error detection and correction in everyday life? The goals of the Cognitive Neuropsychology Laboratory at Temple University, led by Tania Giovannetti, are to develop and refine our understanding of the neurocognitive processes necessary for optimal everyday functioning in healthy people; understand the breakdown of everyday functioning following brain damage or disease; and develop and evaluate rehabilitation strategies.
How does memory relate to people establishing successful relationships with society? How is it connected to abstract concepts such as “truth,” decision making and development? Under the direction of Ingrid Olson, this lab studies neural structure-function relationships, especially in regard to episodic memory networks and social perception networks. The lab conducts experiments that use non-invasive brain stimulation techniques and treats memory dysfunction.
Determinants of Major Psychopathology
What factors contribute to risk for mental disorders? In the Determinants of Major Psychopathology Lab (DMPL), Lauren Ellman and her students investigate the environmental and biological contributions to development of schizophrenia and related disorders, such as other psychotic disorders and depression. As understanding of disorder trajectories increases, so does the potential for earlier identification and treatment of at-risk individuals.
Developmental Science Lab
This lab group researches the development of the processes involved in social understanding and interaction with others. Under the direction of Peter Marshall, lab members use various behavioral and neuroscientific methods to examine the connections between self and other, beginning in infancy and extending into adulthood. Current research projects include examining how the body is represented in the developing brain and how such representations might provide a building block for imitation and other important cognitive capacities.
Mechanisms of Affect Dysregulation
How do we control our emotions? What causes sudden bursts of aggression and how can we manage anger? This lab considers biological, psychological (cognitive-affective) and environmental mechanisms underlying difficulties in affect regulation (control of one’s emotional state). The lab, under the direction of Michael McCloskey, conducts a combination of behavioral and neuroimaging studies among individuals with and without difficulties in affect dysregulation.
Memory Epigenetics and Addiction Laboratory
Our lab combines animal models of addiction with molecular biological techniques to study epigenetic mechanisms underlying addiction susceptibility. Why are some individuals more susceptible to abuse drugs? The interaction between genome (genetic makeup) and environment shapes the development of psychiatric diseases, including Substance Use Disorder. The etiology of addiction has a large genetic component and epidemiological studies suggest that Substance Use Disorder is heritable. The other side of that coin are epigenetic processes, which can be broadly defined as environmental influences on gene expression. We have developed a multigenerational model to study the influence of drug exposure on future generations. We are interested in two major questions:
1) How is the information passed on from fathers to their offspring? How can paternal drug taking alter the germline epigenome (sperm)? Which germline epigenetic reprogramming events are critical for shaping development toward addiction vulnerability in the next generation?
2) What has changed in the brain of the offspring produced by drug-treated fathers? What are the functionally relevant neuro-epigenetic processes that increase addiction-like behavior in the first generation progeny?
Mood and Cognition
What are the causes of the first onset of depression and bipolar disorder in adolescents and young adults? Are there factors that can provide protection against depression and bipolar disorder? This lab, led by principal investigator Lauren Alloy studies the cognitive, psychosocial, developmental, emotional and neurobiological processes in the onset and course of depression and bipolar disorder in adolescents and adults.
Neurochemistry and Cognition
Why do some older adults—but not all— develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? How do neurocognitive changes shape maladaptive drug-taking behaviors in addicts? Under the direction of Vinay Parikh, this lab investigates cellular and neurochemical circuit mechanisms that maintain cognitive processes, specifically those involved in attention and executive functions and how these mechanisms are affected by aging/pathological aging and exposure to drugs of abuse. The lab utilizes a combination of neuroscientific approaches including rodent behavioral paradigms, in vivo electrochemical recordings, genetic manipulations and protein biochemistry.
How does working memory affect our daily lives? How do working memory and cognitive control operate and can they be improved? How do they change as people mature from pre-adolescence into adulthood? This lab, led by principal investigator Jason Chein, researches basic mechanisms of working memory and cognitive control; how to train working memory and cognitive control; and the development of cognitive control and its impact on adolescent decision-making.
How do we make decisions? How do we process and compare different types of rewards and experiences? This lab, led by principal investigator David Smith, uses neuroimaging, computational modeling and noninvasive brain stimulation to study the mechanisms of value-based decision making in humans. The lab utilizes an interdisciplinary approach, integrating perspectives from psychology, economics and neuroscience.
Neuroendocrinology & Behavior Laboratory
The Neuroendocrinology and Behavior Laboratory, directed by Debra Bangasser, investigates the neurobiological underpinnings of vulnerability and resilience to stress and stress-related psychiatric disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Because women are twice as likely to suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as men, a major goal of the NBL is to identify sex differences in stress responses systems that underlie female susceptibility to stress and these stress-related disorders. To this end, techniques from behavioral neuroscience, neuroendocrinology and cellular and molecular biology are employed to link molecular sex differences within stress circuits to sex specific changes in arousal, attention and cognition following stress.
Peer Social Networks Lab
Under the direction of Hongling Xie, the Peer Social Networks lab researches positive and negative peer relations and interactions in school social networks. Specifically, we study different forms of aggression (e.g., physical and social), victimization, and peer relationships (e.g., popularity, peer groups, and preferences) in childhood and adolescence. Two projects are currently carried out: (1) The Transition to Middle School Project: a longitudinal study of aggression, victimization, and peer relationships from 5th to 7th grade; and (2) Project PREP: a study on middle school students’ peer experience, racial attitudes, and social media use.
Research in Spatial Cognition
How do we think spatially about the world? What are the skills we use to navigate, read maps, and understand visualizations? Why are navigation and episodic memory neurally linked? How are these skills important in geoscience, mathematics, physics and other areas of STEM? Under the direction of Thomas Shipley and Nora Newcombe, The Research in Spatial Cognition Lab aims to understand spatial learning and cognition across age levels, from preschoolers to adult learners and how they can be fostered by effective technology and education.
Social Developmental Neuroscience Lab
Why are social interactions so important? The SDN Lab under the direction of Johanna Jarcho works to bridge the gap between cognitive, developmental, clinical and social affective neuroscience. It does this by studying brain function and processes associated with social cognition (i.e., interacting with others) that evolve during adolescence and across the lifespan using fMRI, EEG, eye movement, facial expression and behavioral responding during peer-based experiences. The lab builds on concepts from mental health research by examining the boundaries between normal, at risk, and abnormal behavior, to determine how such processes manifest when people anticipate and receive feedback from their peers. The SDN team aims to isolate response patterns that characterize normative development, factors that promote or protect against onset of psychopathology, and those that relate to expression of anxiety and aggression.
Temple Cognition and Learning Lab
Why do some children start school with strong math skills and some don’t? Why do some people love math, and some fear it? What are the developmental, cognitive and emotional processes that lead to successful math learning? This lab, directed by Elizabeth Gunderson, investigates mathematical development from cognitive and socio-emotional perspectives, including topics such as numerical development, parenting practices that promote math learning and motivation, the relation between spatial and numerical skills and the development of math anxieties and stereotypes.
Temple Infant and Child Lab
How do infants and children discover the world around them? Researchers at this lab examine cognitive development in infants and children, aged two months to 10 years. Directed by Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek and Nora Newcombe, the lab conducts cutting-edge research on spatial development, memory, language development, reading, school readiness and the role of play and creativity in learning—moving from science to practice.
Temple University Brain Research and Imaging Center
One key new resource for Psychology faculty research is the Temple University Brain Research and Imaging Center (TUBRIC), located in the basement of Weiss Hall. TUBRIC opened in Fall 2017 and features a state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner that was procured through a major research instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation. The scanner is the centerpiece of newly renovated research space that also includes staff offices and rooms for behavioral testing. Other resources at TUBRIC include an MRI-compatible eye tracker and a BioSemi EEG system.
The (psychology) field recognizes Temple as an elite program with a world-renowned faculty. Upon graduating it became very clear that I had received the training, experience, and relationships that would put me in a very strong position wherever I wanted to go next. I got the job I had wanted and now get to do what I love with the confidence in knowing that I am doing it with thorough understanding and expertise. - Muniya Khanna, Ph.D., CHOP Research Associate, Children and Adult’s Center for OCD and Anxiety Ph.D. 2004
The Honors program encouraged me to think critically and deeply about psychology. I was able to create my own research project with expert advice from the professor, the graduate students, and the very supportive lab group. With Dr. Hirsh-Pasek’s help, I found employment immediately after graduation. At some point, I may apply to graduate school. - Molly Finkel BA 2015
Temple University Clinics
Adult Anxiety Clinic of Temple
Directed by Dr. Richard Heimberg, the Adult Anxiety Clinic of Temple (AACT) is a treatment and research clinic specializing in evidence-based treatment for adult social anxiety disorder (SAD). SAD is characterized by persistent fears of social and/or performance situations. Clients 18 years and older who pursue treatment at the AACT receive individual cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) on a sliding fee scale. Additionally, the AACT conducts a variety of ongoing research studies aimed at understanding the nature and treatment of SAD and related disorders, including dental anxiety and other anxiety-related disorders. For more information about our clinic and the intake process for prospective clients, please visit our website below.
Child and Adolescent Anxiety Disorders
Different treatments for anxiety disorders in youth have different success rates. Which treatments are more effective than others and for whom? The Child & Adolescent Anxiety Disorders Clinic (CAADC), where the Coping Cat program was developed, is always engaged in research evaluating the efficacy and effectiveness of treatment approaches for anxiety in youth. Our hope is that the research results will lead to a better understanding of anxiety and how to best help youth to manage it. We have been involved in several multi-site Randomized Clinical Trials evaluating anxiety treatments and we have examined the dissemination of our Coping Cat treatment in school settings. Philip C. Kendall, PhD, ABPP is director of the clinic.
The Psychological Services Center, under the direction of Catherine Panzarella, is a nonprofit community center providing counseling, psychological services, and comprehensive psychological assessments. It serves individuals from Temple University and the surrounding communities. The PSC is a training clinic for the doctoral students in the Clinical Psychology Program, one of the top clinical psychology doctoral programs in the country. Among the faculty are leading researchers in the fields of depression and anxiety disorders.
Opportunities to Participate in Research: Non Temple Students
For those who are not Temple students, below is a list of research groups organized by the age groups of people that typically participate in their research studies. Please click the specific links for more information on current studies.
Infants and Young Children (1-4 years)
- Developmental Science Lab
- Temple Infant and Child Lab (Ambler campus)
- Temple Cognition & Learning Lab
Older Children (5-12 years)
- Mood and Cognition Lab (ages 14-16 years)
- Temple University Neurocognition Lab
- Adolescent Decision Making Lab