Psychological sciences is one of the premier research departments at UConn.
Our research is conducted with the highest possible rigor and ethics. It incorporates novel, innovative, and cutting-edge methods to advance knowledge about the brain, mind, and behavior. We are consistently ranked in the top 15 psychology departments for total research and development spending by the National Science Foundation.
Our current strengths span several crucial areas in psychological sciences, including behavioral health, cognitive science, neuroscience, perception and action, and social relationships. The Department is also committed to making strategic investments in emerging research areas that cut across programs and subdisciplines.
UConn psychological science researchers are highly collaborative. They mentor and train graduate students in our Ph.D. concentrations and provide hands-on learning experiences to our undergraduates. Many of our faculty and students engage with colleagues and communities across the University and the world. Our faculty members also lead interdisciplinary research initiatives, with several having established centers for advanced study in emerging areas.
Behavioral neuroscience researchers use a variety of approaches to study the relationship between the nervous system and behavior, with a focus on electrophysiological, neurochemical, and computational analyses of sensory, motor, motivational, and cognitive processes.
Research within this program is highly interdisciplinary. Interaction across different laboratories is strongly encouraged, and these interactions are augmented by collaborations with colleagues in many other programs both at UConn and at other research institutions.
Clinical psychology research emphasizes the prevention and treatment of problems in physical and mental health and the promotion of well-being. Particular areas of strength include:
Child and Adult Neuropsychology
Emphasizes the neurobehavioral correlates of disease progression in neurodegenerative disorders, neurobiology of speech motor control, cognitive processes underlying language development, and the development of neuropsychological assessment measures.
Clinical Health Psychology
Emphasizes the effects of stress and depression on health-related behaviors and physical health outcomes, coping, religiosity and meaning-making, biopsychosocial mechanisms underlying mental and physical health, obesity and eating disorders, and behavioral medicine interventions.
Emphasizes understanding the etiology, maintenance and treatment of behavioral disorders, anxiety, eating disorders, and the impact of parenting risk factors of child and family functioning.
Emphasizes early detection and diagnosis, short and long-term outcomes, language, underlying cognitive processes and executive functions, and brain imaging.
Developmental psychology focuses on growth and change in social, cognitive, and language skills from infancy to young adulthood. Researchers in this program are particularly concerned with the environmental and neurobiological processes underlying these changes.
- Language development across the lifespan
- Cognitive and social processes in language acquisition
- Reading development
- Acquisition and emergence of language across cultures, languages, spoken and sign languages, and input conditions
Social, Communicative, and Emotional Development Across the Lifespan
- Pre-linguistic communication
- Friendships and peer relations
- Parent-infant and dyadic interactions
- Social-emotional adjustment in childhood and adolescence
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Approaches in Typically Developing Children and in Children with Language Disorders or Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
- Electroencephalography (EEG) / Event Related Potentials (ERP)
- Functional and Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI/sMRI)
Development of Basic and Higher Order Cognitive Processes
- Executive function
- Numeracy and number knowledge
- Concept and category learning
- Learning and memory
Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Industrial and organizational psychology researchers study and develop applied solutions for problems related to business, government, and industry.
Computer-Mediated Team Processes
Cybernetic control theory explanations for the effective functioning of teams in high-tech environments. Current studies include:
- Dynamic force-feedback on a jointly controlled team tracking task
- Measurement and impact of situational awareness for team tasks
Aging and Work
Perceptions of aging and work are studied with respect to the treatment of older workers and the attitudes and behaviors of older workers. Areas of interest include:
- Demographic/occupational landscape of psychological age
- Development of a measure of workplace age stereotypes
- Contextual and individual predictors of psychological age
- Contributions of on-the-job and off-the-job stressors to perceptions of psychological age
- Relationships between health and psychological age
- The role of perceived control as a mediator of relationships between satisfaction in personal life, work, and health, and expected retirement timing
- Different perspectives: age differences in predictors of expected retirement timing
- Age differences in use and benefits of downtime activities as a stress recovery mechanism
- Demographic/occupational landscape of psychological age
Occupational Health Psychology
Interdisciplinary projects related to Occupational Health Psychology, including personal and situational factors associated with worker health, safety, and well-being. Current studies include:
- Moderators of the stress-strain process
- Safety climate in the rail industry
- Impact of shift work on health care workers’ well-being
- Impact of demands and resources on work ability
- Organizational readiness for participatory ergonomic interventions
- Evaluation of a civility intervention for healthcare professionals
- Virtual reality interventions for stress reduction
Union Management Psychology
Survey field studies on union interest and union participation, involving both unionized and nonunion employees. Research is primarily focused on psychological aspects of unionism within organizational settings. Multiple organizational theories and psychological frameworks are evoked in conducting this research. Current studies include:
- Adulthood social class and union interest: A first test of a theoretical model
- Childhood and adulthood socioeconomic statuses in relation to union interest: Exploratory surface relationships
- Union revitalization: How women and men officers see the relationship between union size and union tolerance for sexual harassment
- Confidence at work and collectivism: Union employees and nonunion employees
- Humiliation at work and union interest: Unions as dignity and self-respect recovery communities
- Multiple job holders: The untold tale of unionized moonlighters
Precursors and consequences of work-family conflict are examined, with particular attention to gender differences and age differences in the way work-life issues are handled. Current studies include:
- Burden of care: childcare and adultcare responsibilities
- Commuting and work-life balance
- Downtime as a recovery mechanism for managing time pressures of work and home life
- Measuring family and work domain boundaries
- Work-life issues and retirement decisions
- Work-school conflict, enrichment, and engagement
Sexual harassment and workplace incivility represent classes of stressful workplace conditions with which workers cope. Current studies include:
- stress and health outcomes of different strategies for coping with sexual harassment and incivility
- examination of sexual harassment training programs nationwide
- impact of incivility in the workplace on work attitudes and health outcomes
- influence of organizational culture on sexual harassment and incivility
- examination of perpetrators of mistreatment
- influence of contextual and individual variables in sexual harassment reporting
- predicting incivility in young workers using longitudinal analyses
The social psychology program uses multiple theories and methods to study and propose solutions to social problems, including health inequality, intercultural misunderstanding, stigma, group dominance, and violence. Particular strengths include:
We employ a variety of methods, such as meta-analysis, comparative cultural studies, hierarchical linear modeling, field surveys, daily diary studies, virtual reality, physiological responses, interpersonal interaction experiments, experimental games, linguistic analysis, big data, geospatial modelling, dynamical systems, and other methods.
Prejudice and Stereotyping
We investigate the social meaning of emerging or non-traditional social identities; social categorization processes; the nature of prejudiced attitudes; and how, when, and why people confront prejudice expressed by others.
Stigma and Identity
We examine how experiences of discrimination shape identity processes, relationships, and stress responses.
Intercultural and Intergroup Problems
We explore power relations among social groups and culturally-associated patterns of communication.
Ecological Social Psychology
We study how environments affect interacting individuals, including what environmental information signals who is welcome or unwelcome in a place, what actions are possible there, why natural environments have beneficial effects on psychological health, how vision and music pull us to synchronize with others, and how built and natural environments influence how people are subtly pulled to coordinate and cooperate with others.
See also: Ecological Psychology and the Center for the Ecological Study of Perception of and Action.
Perception, Action, and Cognition
Researchers in the integrated perception, action, and cognition program offer two interrelated Ph.D. concentrations in ecological psychology and language and cognition. Research in both areas of concentration emphasize:
- Psychological mechanisms involved in spoken and written language
- A natural science, law-based approach to perception, primarily interpreted as informational constraints on action
- Computational and mathematical modeling of learning strategies, analogical bases to abstract knowledge, and social cognition
Language and Cognition
Language and cognition researchers focus on the interplay between new cognitive science insights and the classical foundation in the computational theory of mind in a broad range of domains (e.g., brain plasticity, embodied cognition, event dynamics, spoken language understanding, reading, sentence processing, and dynamical systems methods).
Research in the program touches on several major themes:
- Language processing in typical and disordered populations
- Cognitive modeling
- Event Cognition
- Dynamical systems approaches to language and cognition
- Neurobiology of language and cognition
- Reading and reading disorders
- Semantic memory and concept formation
- Sentence processing
- Speech processing
Ecological psychology focuses on the integration of perceiving and acting of organisms embedded in their environments. Many faculty and students in this research program are active in the Center for the Ecological Study of Perception of and Action.
Vision and Action
As an animal moves relative to objects in the environment, changes in the patterning of reflected light from surfaces are potentially informative about such characteristics as surface composition, the presence of obstacles, and time to contact with surface. Research in this area focuses on how optical information about the organism and environment are generated by action.
Transporting objects and manipulating tools requires that properties such as size, shape, and orientation be perceived so that activity can be guided effectively. Research in this area addresses how environmental properties are revealed in the tissue deformations that accompany wielding with the hand or exploring with a hand-held object such as a cane.
Behavior that is oriented with respect to some goal is said to be intentional. In order for an intention to be fulfilled by a system, whether an individual or a social unit, it must serve as a global constraint on the local actions of that system (e.g., the location of a target constrains how the act of throwing is assembled; the desired facial profile constrains orthodontic treatment planning). Intentional behavior requires prospective, anticipatory control. Our work investigates the consequences of changing intentions on local actions.
Particular time-varying patternings of the limbs characterize activities such as running, juggling, and baseball batting. These movement patterns comprise many degrees of freedom at the neural and muscular level organized as a functional unit. Research in this area asks how these units are assembled and what quantities capture their dynamical, macroscopic nature.
Social and Interpersonal Coordination
The environment that constrains our behavior includes not only objects and events but also other members of our species. When we dance or talk or work together to accomplish a goal, our behaviors are guided by information about others within our social niche. Research in this laboratory strives to apply ecological psychology’s law-based perspective–in particular, exploiting methods from dynamical systems and affordance research–to study how we perceive and act with others.
Organisms at all scales show remarkably complex, intelligent behavior. This fact suggests that rather than intelligence resulting from a particular specialization, biology may have locked on to a physical principle that allows for end-directed, adaptive functioning. Research in this domain explores how non-living, far-from-equilibrium systems can exhibit biological-like behavior as a function of thermodynamic law.
Areas of Growth
The next decade of hiring seeks to build on our current program strengths by focusing on these cross-cutting priorities:
Broadening psychological research and theory to nontraditional populations and building on our strengths in stigma and stereotyping, health disparities, and cultural differences.
Advanced Analytics and Data Science
Building on our strengths in nonlinear dynamics, self-organizing systems, and analysis of time series in order to ground the science of big data in human behavior, using techniques such as artificial intelligence, social media analysis, and computational methods.
Attempting to align neuroscience vertically from genetic, cellular, and neural levels through neural circuits and whole brain levels of analysis.
Relationships and Organizations
Using existing strengths in interpersonal, political, and occupational research to align social and relational concepts across micro- and macro-level systems and situate social theories within basic and applied research domains.
Translational Health Science
Leveraging existing strengths in behavioral health, wellness, neuroscience, and intervention science to create new theories and methods to improve public health.