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Perth Emotion & Psychopathology Lab

The Perth Emotion & Psychopathology Lab is based at the University of Western Australia. The Directors, A/Prof Rodrigo Becerra and Dr David Preece, are practicing psychologists and researchers whose main interests centre on emotions and their role in the aetiology and maintenance of psychological disorders.

In spite of a vast amount of research on emotions and psychological disorders, clinical research on the junction of these two constructs is less prolific. We welcome Honours, PhD students, and volunteers who would like to join our lab.

Our Work

We conduct research on several pertinent areas including, but not limited to:

The assessment of emotion in psychopathology is essential for effective treatment. This assessment can be conducted using self-report (e.g., psychometric questionnaires) and objective measures (e.g., psychophysiological techniques). An important part of our research focuses on the assessment of emotions and their association with psychopathology.

We have created several scales (see Resources) designed to assess clinically relevant emotional phenomena. We have published several papers reporting strong performance for these scales. We can now extend this research by further corroborating the psychometric properties of the scales in different types of populations, investigating the associations of the emotional constructs with other variables (e.g., age, gender, culture, language, etc.), or establishing the association of these emotional constructs with specific psychological diagnoses.

Difficulties identifying and describing one’s own emotions (i.e., alexithymia) appear to influence a plethora of emotional problems and psychological difficulties (e.g., most psychopathologies). We continue researching alexithymia from a theory-based and clinical perspective.

Beliefs about emotions (e.g., whether emotions can be controlled or how useful they are) influence psychological well being. Research shows that people who believe emotions are uncontrollable use less adaptive regulation strategies like cognitive reappraisal, have poorer social adjustment, and tend to have more severe mental health symptoms. We are investigating how beliefs about emotions exert this influence, how these beliefs are related to different ages, gender, and culture, and the best way to assess them.

We have designed a group therapy intervention that aims to improve the way people regulate their emotions. The skills and tools involved in this group can help participants improve their mental health and day-to-day life. The skills we cover bring together strategies from evidence-based treatments from different models as well as unique components like: appropriate assessment of emotional constructs, emotional assertiveness, alexithymia, beliefs about emotions, and emotional reactivity.

Most definitions of emotion involve the notion of coordinated responses of experiential, behavioural and physiological channels.  In other words, these systems normally respond coherently to emotion-inducing information. It is believed that the higher the coherence (i.e., correlations among the channels) the healthier the psychological outlook. However, researchers report mixed findings, and the possible mechanisms mediating the relationship between emotional coherence and psychological well-being are not clear. We have an ongoing project investigating this area, particularly the coherence between subjective reports of emotional experience and objectively measured psychophysiological responses.

Mindfulness is the enhanced, non-judgemental attention to and awareness of current experience. Mindfulness has received increased attention in the last few decades, both in popular and scientific media. Mindfulness based interventions (MBIs) are intensive, skills-based programs aimed at reducing distress and improving well-being. Although it appears that the empirical literature agrees on the positive effects of mindfulness on psychopathology,  there is still need to conduct research on the exact mechanisms through which mindfulness exerts its effects. We are investigating this area with particular interest in the way mindfulness relate to emotion regulation and reactivity, at the subjective and psychophysiological level.

Fundamental questions exist about how various emotional constructs or categories of psychopathology should be defined. We utilise advanced statistical methods (i.e., structural equation modelling) to address core questions about the structure and definition of these constructs.