Motivational strength in emotion regulation in healthy and depressed individuals

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Please note these projects are no longer accepting applications.

Project Description:

Being able to successfully influence our emotions is critical for psychological wellbeing.

Although research has uncovered some factors that contribute to successful emotion regulation, much remains unknown. How strongly motivated people are to change their emotions is key to successful emotion regulation. Motivational strength refers to the intensity of the drive to pursue emotional change and is captured by a commitment to achieve that change and by the effort, people are willing to invest to achieve it.

The research projects seek to identify the antecedents of motivational strength in emotion regulation:

  1. the perceived desirability and attainability of the desired emotional change to shape motivational strength
  2. increasing motivational strength in emotion regulation will facilitate successful emotion regulation and promote psychological health

Although greater motivational strength in emotion regulation in healthy adults is expected to be beneficial for well-being, this may not be the case in people who suffer from depression, as intense motivational strength could potentially be counterproductive. PhD Projects 1 and 2 will test these novel ideas by examining emotion regulation in the laboratory and in daily life.

Both PhD projects will feature laboratory-based experiments and examine emotion regulation in daily life. PhD Project 1 will examine motivational strength in emotion regulation among healthy adults, and PhD Project 2 will examine motivational strength in emotion regulation among participants diagnosed with clinical depression.

The Project 1 candidate will learn how to administer and analyse ecological momentary assessments at The University of Melbourne. The Project 2 candidate will learn lab-based experimental and physiology measures at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI).

Project goals

PhD Project 1 (based at the University of Melbourne)
Project title: Motivational strength in emotion regulation in healthy individuals

The project will test whether motivational strength in emotion regulation depends on the desirability of an emotion regulation goal (i.e., the perceived benefits of goal attainment) and the attainability of the goal (i.e., the expected chances of goal attainment). Additionally, the project will test whether motivational strength facilitates successful emotion regulation and promotes well-being. Four studies will test these hypotheses.

  • Study 1 will test the causal role of desirability in shaping motivational strength in emotion regulation.
  • Study 2 will test the causal role of attainability.
  • Study 3 will examine motivational strength in emotion regulation in daily life among participants from a community sample.
  • Study 4 will combine experimental and daily life approaches to test whether motivational strength in daily life can be manipulated, and whether doing so facilitates successful emotion regulation in daily life. We expect greater motivational strength to lead to more successful emotion regulation and greater well-being, uncovering an important novel factor that contributes to healthier emotional lives.

The involvement of a PhD candidate in this project will be critical. The PhD candidate will design and develop target manipulations, construct experimental designs, implement the research plan, and prepare manuscripts for publication. The PhD candidate will also help integrate experimental and daily life approaches, ultimately creating experimental interventions that can be implemented in daily life.

PhD Project 2: (based at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Project title:
Motivational strength in emotion regulation in depressed individuals

PhD Project 2 will examine motivational strength in emotion regulation in both healthy and clinically depressed individuals. Given that it targets a clinical population, that is harder to recruit and test, we expect PhD Project 2 to take four years to complete.

The project will include four studies, to test how depressed and non-depressed individuals differ in motivational strength in emotion regulation and its emotional and psychological outcomes.

  • Study 1 will involve a lab-based manipulation of difficulty in emotion regulation to test its impact on motivational strength.
  • Study 2 will assess the operation of motivational strength in emotion regulation in daily life, as the difficulty of emotion regulation varies naturally.
  • Study 3 will be lab-based and will test whether increasing or decreasing motivational strength in depressed individuals impacts successful emotion regulation.
  • Study 4 will include a manipulation phase and an experience sampling phase, to test whether it may be possible to facilitate successful emotion regulation among depressed individuals, by manipulating motivational strength.

The involvement of a PhD candidate will be critical for the implementation and success of the project. In addition to developing and implementing manipulations and research designs, the PhD candidate will offer and incorporate the perspective of a clinician.

Supervision team

Dr Elise Kalokerinos – The University of Melbourne

Prof Maya Tamir – The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Skills and requirements:

  • Honours or a Master’s degree in psychology
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and as part of the team
  • Demonstrated time and project management skills
  • Demonstrated ability to write research reports or other publications to a publishable standard (even if not published to date)

Please note these projects are no longer accepting applications

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