"The heart has its reasons, which reason knows not"
- Blaise Pascal
Emotions are a cornerstone of the human experience. Feelings of joy, fear, sadness, excitement, and pride color our experiences, guide our actions, and bring meaning to our lives and the lives of those around us. But how exactly do emotions "work?" What psychological and neural machinery determines what we feel and how intensely we feel it? Why do people use certain words to label what they feel, and why do we sometimes feel like we have no words at all to describe our emotions? How can we use words and thoughts to make ourselves feel better when we're feeling bad?
My work investigates these questions with the aim of invalidating Pascal's claim that the heart's reasons cannot be rationally understood. In particular, I study how language and emotion interact, and I study this phenomenon through three primary lenses. First, I take a developmental approach to understand how children and adolescents learn to identify what they are feeling. Second, I take a neuroscientific approach to understand how brain systems allow us to represent and regulate our emotions. Third, as a clinical psychologist, I take a translational approach, meaning that I aim to understand how emotional processes relate to clinical phenomena. For example, my work investigates how maladaptive emotion representation and regulation relates to mental illness and how clinicians can best use their words to improve their patient's mental health. I currently pursue these questions as a clinical psychology Ph.D. student at Harvard University.