Project Title: Mind and matter: How mindfulness shapes phenomenological and embodied dimensions of emotion.
Economic and Social Research Council 1+3 studentship.
2015 Francisco J. Varela Award, Mind and Life Institute.
Translational research shows that how we experience and respond to emotional situations is an important transdiagnostic marker for psychological distress, and is especially prominent in affective disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. To date, however, the fine-grained experiential qualities of emotion and the role of situational factors in shaping emotional responses have received very little empirical attention. With this therapeutic application in mind, my research investigates how phenomenological methods might be used in conjunction with more established experimental measures to develop more holistic accounts of emotion in wellbeing and distress.
Specifically, I study how mindfulness meditation affects emotional responses, and draw on ideas from cognitive science and philosophy, as well as psychology and neuroscience, in attempting to build a fuller picture of how emotion happens. I work with people who practice meditation and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy course participants to explore this question in a range of contexts. The phenomenological strand of the project also raises interesting and important methodological questions concerning experiential report and how first- and third-person methods relate to each other, and these absorbing challenges are an aspect of the work that I enjoy enormously.
I am grateful to be supported by an Economic and Social Research Council 1+3 studentship and a Francisco J. Varela Award from the Mind and Life Institute. Alongside my doctoral studies I coordinate the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis South West regional group and am a Committee Member of the BPS Consciousness and Experiential Psychology Section.