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SPLAT Lab (Shiota)

Keywords: emotion; close relationships; psychophysiology; nonverbal expression; social cognition; positive psychology

Lab Research Area:

The Shiota Psychophysiology Laboratory for Affective Testing (SPLAT lab) conducts basic and translational research on the nature and implications of human emotion, using a multi-method approach that integrates physiological, behavioral, cognitive, narrative, and questionnaire measures of emotional responding. Core themes of this research are:

Positive Emotions. Emotion researchers have long distinguished among several functionally distinct negative emotions, such as sadness, fear, and anger, but empirical research on potentially "discrete" positive emotions is more recent. Our lab takes an evolutionary approach to defining multiple positive emotion constructs, and studies the extent of overlap and differentiation among these states. We use the proposed adaptive functions of each emotion as a basis for predicting various aspects of emotional responding, including profiles of autonomic nervous system reactivity, facial expressions, and implications for social cognition and behavior. 

Awe. Awe has been defined as the positive emotion one may experience when confronting a vast stimulus that is not accounted for by one's current understanding, and/or challenges one’s day-to-day scope of experience. In prior research, including studies funded by the John Templeton Foundation, we have found that awe promotes cognitive and physiological changes that reduce reliance on existing knowledge structures (e.g., cognitive schemas, heuristics) and facilitate taking in new information from the environment. In our most recent research, we are examining possible implications of awe for self-regulation in the context of health-related information processing and behavior.

Emotional Processes in Close Relationships. Although emotions feel like intensely personal experiences, they are also profoundly important for our interactions with other people. We form impressions of new people, build and maintain close relationships, and coordinate dyadic and group action all with the help of emotions. We investigate some of the mechanisms by which emotions support relationships, and how the quality of close relationships impacts emotional experience. In particular, we are interested in the ways in which close relationship partners engage in mutual regulation of emotion over time, or “coregulation.”

Emotion Regulation. One of the great features of human psychology is the capacity to regulate our emotions - to use our attention and our thoughts to alter our feelings, and to control the way we express feelings to others. We regulate emotions using a wide range of strategies, some of which are more conducive to health and well-being than others. Our lab is particularly interested in the use of positive emotions to regulate emotional experience in stressful or upsetting situations. Specific strategies include positive reappraisal, or thinking about positive aspects of upsetting situations as well as the negative aspects, and creating positive events, or making time for islands of healthy enjoyment in the midst of an ongoing stressor.



Lab Director and Principal Investigator: Michelle "Lani" Shiota, PhD, Associate Professor

Dr. Shiota received her B.A. in Communication from Stanford University, and her PhD in Social/Personality Psychology from UC Berkeley. Her research is published in high-impact journals such as JPSP, Emotion, Psychology and Aging, SCAN, Cognition and Emotion, and the Journal of Consumer Research, and has been funded by the John Templeton Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. In partnership with Michele Tugade and Leslie Kirby, Lani is an editor of the Handbook of Positive Emotion (Guilford Press), and she is co-author with Jim Kalat of the textbook Emotion (3rd Edition forthcoming, Oxford University Press). She is currently an Associate Editor of the APA journal Emotion, a member of the Board of Directors of the Society for Psychophysiological Research (SPR), and a member of the Program Committee for the Association for Psychological Science (APS) annual convention. Lani also teaches jazz and ballet at a local dance studio; is a proud member of Bay Area Flash Mob; and is a lead vocalist with the San Francisco-based Blues Disaster. She joined the ASU faculty in 2006. Curriculum Vitae.

Graduate Students

Alex Danvers, Doctoral Student, Social Psychology, Department of Psychology
Alex's research interests emphasize the roles of emotional expression and experience in shaping social interaction. He applies evolutionary and dynamical systems perspectives to his research, and has a strong interest in quantitative methods. Current research projects examine how people interpret facial expressions of positive emotions, implications of behavioral synchrony for affiliation and cooperation, and physiological reactions to others’ social behavior.

Claire Yee, Doctoral Student, Social Psychology, Department of Psychology
Claire's research interests emphasize the roles positive emotions, adult attachment styles, and associated biological mechanisms can play in close relationship formation and maintenance. Recent and current research projects examine implications of attachment style for people’s responses to positive emotion stimuli, as well as individual differences in the structure of attachment avoidance.


Makenzie O’NeilDoctoral Student, Social Psychology, Department of Psychology
Makenzie's research emphasizes emotional mechanisms of intergroup cognition and behavior, as well as the nature and implications of nurturant love.



Undergraduate Research Assistants

Dominic Beaufeaux, dbeaufea@asu.edu
William Brown, wmbrown2@asu.edu
Allegra Campagna, axcampag@asu.edu
Mia Carrasco, mia.carrasco@asu.edu
Savannah Grassel, sgrasse2@asu.edu
Nicholas Jakob, njacob@asu.edu
Audrey Jenkins, ahjenkin@asu.edu
Georgeanne Tolmachoff, Georgeanne.Tolmachoff@asu.edu
Janell Tully, janell.tully@asu.edu


Doctoral Applicants. Dr. Shiota will consider doctoral student applications for Fall 2016. Prospective doctoral students interested primarily in the SPLAT Lab should apply to the ASU Social Psychology program; students wishing to matriculate into the Clinical Psychology program are welcome in the lab, but should also seek a primary advisor within the Clinical area faculty.

Undergraduate Research Assistants. We review applications from new volunteer research assistants each semester. Minimum requirements for joining the SPLAT lab team are:

  • Minimum commitment of one academic year/two semesters
  • For the first year, 399/499 enrollment at 10 hours/week
  • Attendance at weekly lab meetings, Wednesdays 4:30-5:30pm

Undergraduate RAs in the SPLAT lab contribute to every step of the scientific process, from discussion of emotion theory to hypothesis generation, study design, data collection and processing, and interpretation of study findings. Research assistants have a wide range of duties, all of which provide training in the varied methods used in emotion research. Dr. Shiota and the graduate students in the lab rotate all RAs through these duties in order to ensure that each student gets broad exposure to the research process, and to tailor the RA experience to each student’s particular interests. Duties may include:

  • Attending weekly lab meetings that include discussion of emotion theory, methodological training, study design and pilot testing, and practice for presentations such as thesis defenses, conference talks, and job talks  
  • Data collection: “hookup” of participants to physiological recording sensors; interacting with participants during the session; monitoring audio/visual recordings during the session; and managing computer-based protocols
  • Processing data from emotion tasks, including "cleaning" and "reducing" physiological data and coding behavioral expression of emotion       
  • Coding participants’ written or spoken answers to free-response questions, creativity tests, or other measures that require consistent application of a coding system
  • Transcribing interviews and participant speech during experimental sessions


Select Publications

Below are a sample of recent publications from Dr. Shiota's research and lab. A more complete listing may be found in Dr. Shiota's curriculum vitae.

In press

Shiota, M. N., Campos, B., Oveis, C., Hertenstein, M., Simon-Thomas, E., & Keltner, D. (in press). Beyond happiness: Toward a science of discrete positive emotions. Manuscript accepted for publication in American Psychologist

McRae, K., & Shiota, M. N. (in press). Biological and physiological aspects of emotion regulation. In C. A. Essau & T. H. Hollendick (Eds.), Emotion Regulation and Psychopathology in Children and Adolescents. New York, NY: Oxford.

 *Danvers, A. F., *O’Neil, M. J., & Shiota, M. N. (in press). The mind of the “happy warrior”: Eudaimonia, awe, and the search for meaning in life. In Vitterso, J. (Ed.) Handbook of Eudaimonic Wellbeing. New York, NY: Springer.

Yee, C. I., & Shiota, M. N.(2015). An insecure base: Attachment style and orienting response to positive stimuli.  Psychophysiology, 52(7), 905-909.

Haase, C. M., Beermann, U., Saslow, L. R., Shiota, M. N., Saturn, S. R., Lwi, S. J., Casey, J. J., Nguyen, N. K., Whalen, P. K., Keltner, D., & Levenson, R. W. (2015). Short Alleles, Bigger Smiles? The Effect of 5-HTTLPR on Positive Emotional Expressions. Emotion, 15(4), 438-448.

Shiota, M. N., Neufeld, S. L., Danvers, A. F., Osborne, E. A., Sng, O., & Yee, C. I. (2014). Positive emotion differentiation: A functional approach. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 8(3), 104-117.

Shiota, M. N. (2014). Evolutionary approaches to positive emotion. In M. Tugade, M. N. Shiota, & L. Kirby (Eds.), Handbook of Positive Emotion (pp. 44-59). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Shiota, M. N., Thrash, T., Danvers, A. F., & Dombrowski, J. T. (2014). Transcending the self: Awe, elevation, and inspiration. In M. Tugade, M. N. Shiota, & L. Kirby (Eds.), Handbook of Positive Emotion (pp. 362-395). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Campos, B., Shiota, M. N., Keltner, D., Gonzaga, G. C., Goetz, J., & Shin, M. (2013). What is shared, what is different?: Core relational themes and expressive displays of eight positive emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 27(1), 37-52.

2012 and older
Shiota, M. N., & Levenson, R. W. (2012). Turn down the volume, or change the channel?: Emotional effects of detached versus positive reappraisal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(3), 416-429.

Shiota, M. N., Neufeld, S. L., Yeung, W. H., Moser, S. E., & Perea, E. F. (2011). Feeling good: Autonomic nervous system responding in five positive emotions. Emotion, 11(6), 1368-1378.

Griskevicius, V., Shiota, M. N., & Nowlis, S. M. (2010). The many shades of rose-colored glasses: Discrete positive emotions and product perception. Journal of Consumer Research, 37(2), 238-250.

Griskevicius, V., Shiota, M. N., & Neufeld, S. L. (2010). Influence of Different Positive Emotions on Persuasion Processing: A Functional Evolutionary Approach. Emotion, 10(2), 190-206.

Shiota, M. N., Campos, B., Gonzaga, G. C., Keltner, D., & Peng, K. (2010).  I Love You But…: Cultural Differences in Emotional Complexity During Interaction With a Romantic Partner. Cognition and Emotion, 24(5), 786-799.

In the News and more!

The Awesomeness of Awe
Parade Magazine (10/7/16), Feeling Awe May Be the Secret to Health and Happiness featuring quote by Dr. Lani Shiota.

Mindful, How Awe Sharpens our Brains (posted 17 May 2016).

Desert News National. Awe -- the sensation that unites (posted 2 Apr 2016).

 ASU Now. There's got to be more than 'love.' ASU professor [Dr. Lani Shiota] explains why our language has only one word for romantic affection, and how to ensure you can relate your feelings (posted 11 Feb 2016).

Halloween in the SPLAT Lab is ALWAYS fun, and in 2015 the costumes were easy (photo right)! Doctoral student Makenzie O’Neil coordinated this live staging of a promotional image for the movie Inside Out (we had Fear lined up, but he chickened out at the last minute). Fun fact: Professor Shiota’s own graduate advisor, Dacher Keltner, was an advisor on the movie!

Want to learn more about positive emotion? Check out the Handbook of Positive Emotions! This authoritative handbook reviews the breadth of current knowledge about positive emotions: their nature, functions, and consequences for individuals and society. Specific emotions are analyzed in depth, including happiness, pride, romantic love, compassion, gratitude, awe, challenge, and hope. Major theoretical perspectives are presented and cutting-edge research methods explained. The volume addresses neurobiological and physiological aspects of positive emotions as well as their social and intrapersonal contexts. Implications for physical health, coping, and psychopathology are explored, as are connections to organizational functioning and consumer behavior.  A special offer from Guilford Press: Save 20% with promotion code 2E!

 “Handbook of Positive Emotions draws together a richly diverse set of scholarly perspectives on the contemporary science of pleasant affective states. Readers will encounter herein leading-edge theory and research that promises to challenge them to appreciate positive emotions with greater nuance and greater attunement to context and supporting values….After reading through the chapters, readers will come away with the feeling that they have examined a particular theoretical debate from nearly every possible angle. Each contributor offers the gift of making complex concepts accessible.”
 —from the Foreword by Barbara L. Fredrickson, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Just what the doctor ordered! The Handbook of Positive Emotions showcases exciting developments in the study of positive emotions and highlights key themes of interest to affective scientists, instructors, and clinicians alike.”
 —James J. Gross, PhD, Department of Psychology, Stanford University

“It has taken a long time for psychologists to understand the importance of positive emotions and to address them systematically. This state-of-the-art volume offers a well-chosen selection of theories, research, and applications. It includes discussions of specific emotions and addresses social processes and interindividual differences. Demonstrating how mature the study of positive emotions has become, this book should play an important role in consolidating future research efforts in the field. It is relevant for all students of emotion science, from undergraduates to seasoned researchers.”
 —Arvid Kappas, PhD, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Jacobs University Bremen, Germany

Association for Psychological Science Observer, All About Awe: Science Explores How Life’s Small Marvels Elevate Cognition and Emotion (posted April 2015).