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Current projects


Were you at Las Vegas’s Route 91 tragedy in October, or do you live in the greater Las Vegas area and learned about Route 91 within 24 hours of it happening? If so, and if you’re 18 years or older, you are eligible to participate in a study at http://vegasstrong.peplab.org and tell your story. We want to know how the stories people tell about what happened are associated with symptoms of traumatic stress and depression, personality traits, psychological growth, and beliefs about the event. For more information about the study, please email peplab@unlv.edu.


Dual-process model of psychopathy

Cognitive, affective, behavioral, and social correlates of psychopathy. I have a variety of datasets aching for publication on a variety of examinations of how fearless dominance and impulsive antisociality in psychopathy represent fundamentally different constructs. Fearless dominance is largely (but not completely) associated with more adaptive functioning, whereas impulsive antisociality is associated with the maladaptive consequences of the disorder. In all of these studies, I assume that psychopathy is a configuration of normal-range personality traits rather than a qualitatively distinct syndrome.

I am also interested in expanding my work to investigate seriously how psychopathy is related to disruptions of social functioning, both for those with the disorder and those who interact with those who have psychopathic traits. As much damage as psychopathy does to those who possess the traits, it also poses a substantial risk for reducing the formation, quality, and maintenance of all sorts of relationships. We will begin this work in undergraduates and expand it into the community, investigating the various ways psychopathy hurts society at large above and beyond criminality.

Positive emotional processing

Wanting, liking, and reward learning in depression. Currently, the lab has been funded to model positive emotional processing in melancholic, atypical, and unsubtyped depression. We used multiple psychophysiological measures, including the postauricular reflex, to measure how wanting, liking, and reward learning may be disturbed in these depressive subtypes. I hypothesize that all forms of depression will exhibit deficits in wanting, but melancholic depression will be specifically related to deficits in liking. We will use data from this study to examine which biological and behavioral measures are sensitive to clinical states in depression and which may be state-independent, endophenotypic markers of a vulnerability to depression.

If this model is successful in explaining positive emotional dysfunction in depression, I plan on expanding it to modeling deficiencies in positive emotional processing across a variety of psychopathologies. This methodology will allow a comprehensive, theory-driven assessment of positive valence systems among disorders.

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