"The heart has its reasons, which reason knows not"
- Blaise Pascal
Emotions are a cornerstone of the human condition. Feelings of joy, fear, sadness, excitement, and pride are woven through our everyday experiences, they guide our actions, and they 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 emotions we feel and how intensely we feel them? 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 ultimate 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 pursue these questions as a clinical psychology Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University, where I work in the CANDLab (PI: Dylan Gee). I completed my Ph.D. at Harvard University under the supervision of Prof. Leah Somerville, and I will launch my own lab in the Department of Psychology at Princeton University in July 2022.