• Specificity of imagination and well-being.

The ability to imagine is essential to envisioning and creating a better future. However, the mechanisms of imagination are largely unknown. Prior literature suggests that people with more concrete (i.e., more specific) imagination report higher levels of positive affect, lower levels of anxiety, and overall better quality of life. The goal of the present line of work is to examine the link between the specificity of  imagination and well-being, including the clinical relevance of speficity priming for depression and anxiety disorders. 

  • Sensory sensitivity and creativity.

Some people report being intensely bothered by repetitive noise such as dripping water or chewing sounds. Hearing these triggers may lead to feelings of irritation or even panic. Such sensory sensitivity has been anecdotally termed misophonia. Although the symptoms of misophonia are not classified in the current DSM-IV, an increasing number of reports has lead to the calls for classifying misphonia as a discrete psychiatric disorder. Our previous work suggests a potential link between sensory sensitivity and creativity. The current projects seeks to further understand this link by investigating the mechanisms of sensory sensitivity (using GSR and EEG methodology) and its relationship to creative thinking.

  • Social media behavior and its effects on creativity, cognitive control, socio-emotional functioning, and mental health in teens and young adults.

Given the embeddedness of technology in the lives of today’s emerging adults (ages 18-29) – lives that have been described as “polymediated” by multiple channels of communication and consumption (Herbig, Herrmann, & Tyma, 2015; Russett & Waldron, 2017) – their digital world is an important ecology to understand. The current project seeks to investigate the hypothesis that there are social, emotional, and cognitive costs and benefits to social media engagement. The costs and benefits are examined in terms of  emotion intelligence,  self-esteem, depressive symptoms, suicidality, externalizing (substance abuse) problems, creativity, and imagination. Mediators  at the levels of individual, family, and community risk factors are examined. 

  • Creativity mentoring in primary schools in Springdale, AR.

Empirical literature provides evidence of a “fourth-grade slump” in children’s creativity as they transition from mostly play-based activities that characterize development before formal schooling to rule-based behaviors that become dominant by the time they reach fourth grade. Hence the “slump” in creativity. More recent studies suggest initiatives such as No Child Left Behind have furthered the decline in creativity among our nation’s students. The goal of the current project is to create an undergraduate seminar focused on mentoring for creativity in elementary school students. The service learning component of the course will give students an opportunity to mentor elementary school children in Springdale, Arkansas. The course will allow for establishing an infrastructure for a large-scale longitunidal study investigating the role of mentors in creativity.