Research

My work is animated by a deep interest in foundational questions about the nature of human well-being. In particular, I aim to reveal how cognitive-affective processes unfold and how they can be targeted to improve human well-being.

The Temporal Dynamics of Dissociation in a Transdiagnostical Sample

Dissociation is a ubiquitous clinical phenomenon. Dissociative disorders (DD) are primarily characterized by dissociation, and dissociative states are also a criterion for borderline personality disorder (BPD) and the dissociative subtype of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Dissociative reactions across diagnostic categories are believed to be stress-related and theorized to serve emotion regulation functions. What is not clear, however, is how self-reported stress and physiological states unfold within dissociative episodes. To address this issue, the present project aims to investigate whether self-reported stress and sympathetic nervous system activity increase prior to dissociative episodes, as well as whether self-reported stress decreases and parasympathetic nervous system activity increases during and after dissociative episodes in a transdiagnostic sample of patients with DD, BPD, and/or PTSD.

More information on this project is available here.

The Temporal Dynamics of Cognitive-Affective States in Borderline Personality Disorder

In a past research project at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin I investigated the temporal precedents and consequences of affective states in patients with borderline personality disorder. We conducted three observational studies using electronic diaries to thouroughly assess stress and perceived rejection, stress and dissociation, as well as stress and self-esteem in daily life. Responses from patients with borderline personality disorder were compared with those from patients with depressive disorders and non-clinical controls. Data were analyzed using dynamic structural equation modeling. In addition, I analyzed experimental data to investigate changes in affective, dissociative, and physiological states following exposure to the Trier Social Stress Test, a lab stressor.

More information on this project is available here.

Improving Well-Being using Positive-Psychological Interventions

In my doctoral dissertation at Freie Universität Berlin (supervised by Prof. Dr. Michael Eid) I examined requirements for lasting happiness in adults from non-clinical populations and how positive interventions can help to realize these requirements (and consequently increase happiness). For the purpose of my studies, I adopted the construct of subjective well-being as a definition of happiness. According to this definition, happier people experience more pleasant and fewer unpleasant emotions, and evaluate their lifes favourably. In several studies my supervisors and I have shown that brief self-guided interventions such as the best-possible-self intervention, a 20 minutes writing task available here, can induce positive emotions as well as functional cognitive states such as optimism, reduced goal ambivalence, and intrinsic goal pursuits. My dissertation project shows that the best-possible-self intervention and other interventions designed to increase happiness such as the gratitude letter intervention can help to foster positive experiences that may accumulate and feed into longer term well-being. Although the effects of the interventions are small and may last no longer than an hour, they are easily accessible, come at no or little cost, and should be repeatable in order to renew the effects.

More information on this project is available here.