We're the Experimental Psychopathology Lab at The University of Hong Kong
Our work merges insights from basic psychological science and clinical practice to model and investigate mental illness. Our research asks several questions:
1) How does mental illness emerge?
2) What explains why mental illness persists over time?
3) How can we treat or prevent these problems?
Within this project we're investigating the problems that some people with, or at risk of, mental illness experience in i) recalling events their autobiographical past, ii) imagining possible future events; and iii) thinking about the perspectives of other people. We're also thinking about the relationships between problems in these three areas (e.g., does the way in which we think about our past shape how we think about our future?). We’re using these insights to develop novel interventions such as Memory Specificity Training (MeST).
The Social Causes and Consequences of Autobiographical Memory
Within this broader project, we are also interested in the social nature of autobiographical memory. What function does sharing autobiographical memories have in terms of creating and solidifying our bonds with other people? How does our interaction with other people influence the construction and sharing of autobiographical memories? This project explores these questions.
MeMo: Me and My Objects
This project examines the relationships between people and their objects. We are currently conducting and planning several studies in collaboration with Dr. James Gregory at Cardiff University in the UK. These studies explore the role of memory in hoarding and how the memories that people associate with some objects can make people want to own more of these objects and make it difficult to discard them once they have been acquired.
Eye-tracking and attention
In this body of work we're utilising novel machine learning techniques to measure and analyse the way in which people look at things they're afraid of or which concern them, such as images of angry people or of people experiencing pain. We're interested in understanding how different patterns of looking correspond with people's ability to manage negative feelings, such as fear, anxiety, sadness and physical discomfort.
We are fortunate enough to have many people passing through our lab and helping with our projects - far too many to list here. Here are our more permanent staff and a brief intro to who they are and what they do.
Tom J. Barry, PhD
Tom is the director of the EPL. In 2020, Tom was selected as a Rising Star of the Association of Psychological Sciences (APS) and received the The University of Hong Kong (HKU) Early Career Teaching Award in 2020. He is the director of the Bachelor of Arts and Sciences (BASc) degree at HKU and a Visiting Researcher at King's College London. Tom's research interests are also those of the lab!
Christine H. M. Chiu, PhD
Christine recently graduated from the lab but is continuing to collaborate with us on a number of projects. Christine's research concerns the social causes and consequences of reduced memory specificity.
Fred, H. F. Chan, MPhil
Fred also recently graduated from the lab. Fred's work concerns the cognitive biases (in attention and interpretation) that are associated with healthy anxiety and which explain individual differences in pain experiences.
Tiffany Tao. Tiffany, a recent graduate of HKU is involved a number of projects, most recently some involving COVID-19.
Nadia Adelina. Nadia is an undergraduate student who is helping in a number of projects related to narrative identities; Nadia will soon join the lab as a doctoral student.
We've created a number of questionnaires to assist us in our research and you're free to use them if you'd like.
The Emotional Attention Control Scale (eACS)
The eACS is a 14-item questionnaire that focuses on the modulation of attention control by emotions, including items regarding the voluntary focusing, shifting and updating of attention. For example, ‘My attention easily shifts to my emotions’ and ‘I am able to put my feelings aside when I need to focus’. Responses are given on a 4-point scale from 1 (almost never ) to 4 (always). The eACS is available in three languages (click to download):
The Fear Inhibition Questionnaire (FIQ)
The FIQ is an 18-item questionnaire that assesses the extent to which people have difficulty learning to inhibit fear. For example, 'After I've been in an anxiety-provoking situation, I find it difficult to be relaxed in these situations in the future.' Participants respond on 5-point scales from 1 (never) to 5 (always). The FIQ is available in English and Chinese.