Lifespan Social Cognition Lab
Our laboratory examines how social and emotional reasoning change during adulthood. As we grow older, our experiences help us to determine which strategies might work best for us when we are faced with emotional problems, social dilemmas, or everyday challenges that require us to balance our time and energy between multiple activities. At the same time, we undergo physical changes that can influence how quickly we react to the world around us as well as the kinds of information that we focus on while we are taking in our environment. Our research examines these two competing forces to explain how they interact to influence the judgments and decisions that individuals make when faced with laboratory tasks that have been designed to capture the everyday social processes in which we are regularly engaged.
Currently, the lab is investigating how adults decipher the emotions expressed in faces. Recognizing emotions in the faces of others is important to interpersonal communication, both for accomplishing one's own personal goals as well as for determining the intentions of others. Additionally, there are a number of factors (e.g., emotion regulatory skills, personality characteristics, personal beliefs, symptoms of psychopathology, etc.) that can impact this discrimination process. The lab is attempting to identify the unique impact of each factor as well as the role that the aging process plays in either enhancing or impairing our sensitivity to emotional cues found in our environment. The Department of Psychological Sciences maintains a dense array EEG system, so the lab is also working on projects to examine how the visual system of younger and older adults react to emotional stimuli. Neurocorrelates associated with emotion recognition can be valuable in explaining why differences emerge in younger and older adults' perception of emotion in faces.
The lab is also investigating how the emotional character of stimuli impact how we deploy attention in tasks where emotion is sometimes directly relevant to our goals and sometimes irrelevant to our goals. Changes in our priorities in the latter half of life influence the ways that we attend to and react to emotion.
Students Gain Experience
Students working on projects in the lab gain hands-on experience with study design, computer programming, data analysis, and stimulus development. Students also work with senior citizens from the community. The lab is grateful for the active involvement of the Bowling Green community in our research projects. Senior citizens play a tremendous role in helping us to understand how social cognitive processes change in adulthood.
** Note that if you are a student applying to the Psychological Science concentration of the MS in Psychology program at WKU, Dr. Mienaltowski is interested in mentoring a graduate student starting Fall 2019. Applications are due by March 1, 2019. Be sure to specify that you are interested in working with Dr. Mienaltowski in your personal statement. **