Broadly, I study how the body influences the brain and mind—specifically, how the body (e.g., the gut, inflammation, interoception, stress) can “bottom-up” influence social affective processes across the lifespan. My research program examines:
how the brain and body work together to generate, represent, and regulate bodily signals (sometimes called allostasis, how the brain integrates and makes predictions with physiological signals from the autonomic nervous system, immune system, metabolism, etc.),
how these bodily signals, via the brain, play a role in the generation of affect—how good/bad, activated/relaxed we feel,
how these bodily signals, via affect, can inform and contribute to our emotions, social cognitions, and everyday decisions and behaviors, and finally
how these above pathways may differ between individuals and even within the same individual across the lifecourse. For example, some of my work examines differences between people in interoceptive ability (the ability to access and accurately disambiguate visceral bodily sensations). Because bodies change with age and because we must develop bodily representations within the context of caregivers, culture, and different life experiences, I also investigate how the above processes differ and change with age from childhood into adulthood and old age.
Ultimately, I work at the intersection of psychological science, psychophysiology and psychoneuroimmunology, developmental science, and social affective neuroscience. See also Theoretical Inspirations.
Areas of Research
How can physiological states impact our feelings?
Have you ever found yourself angry, grumpy, or lashing out at a loved one - only to realize you're hungry? We've all had moments when our body's state - be that hunger, fatigue, or illness - has impacted our feelings and how we react to the world around us. My research seeks to clarify the neurobiological and psychological mechanisms underpinning why homeostatic fluctuations matter so much for our emotional and social lives. Less work examines metabolic and inflammatory processes can act as "affect inductions" that change our moods. As such, I'm increasingly fascinated by how metabolic and immune processes are represented in the brain and can in turn impact affective experiences and social cognition.
MacCormack, J.K., & Lindquist, K.A. (2018). Feeling hangry? How hunger is conceptualized as emotion. Emotion, 19, 301-319.
MacCormack, J. K., & Muscatell, K. A. (2019). The metabolic mind: A role for leptin and ghrelin in affect and social cognition. Social and Personality Psychology Compass.
MacCormack, J. K., Bonar, A. S., & Lindquist, K. A. (in prep). Hungry or emotional? A functional neuroimaging meta-analysis of the shared and distinct neural bases of hunger and emotion.
What is the body's role in emotional experience?
How do peripheral and central (brain) representations of the body play a role in shaping our emotions? One arm of my research tries to understand why some people have a more "embodied" experience of their emotions and what this means for the time course, intensity, and regulation of emotions and other affective states. I'm also interested in the nature of interoceptive (inner bodily) awareness and how such bodily individual differences impact affect-based decisions, social perceptions, and health behaviors. Understanding individual differences in autonomic reactivity, arousal, interoception, and bodily sensations could improve our scientific models linking the mind and body, while also generating new insights that benefit clinical and healthcare treatments.
MacCormack, J.K., & Lindquist, K.A. (2017). The constitutive role of the body in emotion: Schachter’s legacy for a psychological constructionist view of emotion. Emotion Review.
MacCormack, J. K., Armstrong-Carter, E. L., Gaudier-Diaz, M., Meltzer-Brody, S., Sloan, E. K., Lindquist, K. A., & Muscatell, K. A. (under review). Beta-adrenergic contributions to emotion during acute stress: A pharmacological approach.
Do beliefs and knowledge about the body matter for social affective skills & wellbeing?
Through personal experiences, upbringing, culture, and language, we learn to organize our feelings into different emotion categories, building a rich cache of knowledge and beliefs about emotions. My research focuses on the interoceptive domains of emotion knowledge - what we know about how the body feels during different emotions. For example, do people who are more skilled at interoception also think more about their bodily signals than other people? Do highly interoceptive people hold different beliefs about whether their bodily signals are valuable (vs. misleading), controllable (vs. difficult to regulate), or intense? How do caregivers and culture perhaps direct our attention to different interoceptive aspects of emotions and health?
MacCormack, J. K., Castro, V. L., Halberstadt, A. G., & Rogers, M. L. (accepted). Mothers’ interoceptive knowledge predicts children’s emotion regulation and social skills in middle childhood. Social Development.
Does healthy physical aging change how the brain & body shape social affective experiences & behaviors?
Relative to younger adults, many older adults experience changes in emotions such as improved wellbeing and emotion regulation. These emotional changes could be due to functional or structural changes in the autonomic nervous system and brain, leading older adults to experience less robust or intrusive bodily reactions during emotions and reduced interoceptive awareness of those bodily changes. My research compares age differences between older and younger adults' peripheral psychophysiology, interoceptive ability, and emotional experience. I'm also interested in what impact these physiological declines have on older adults' affect-based decisions, social perceptions, and health behaviors in the real world.
MacCormack, J.K., Henry, T.R., Davis, B.M., Oosterwijk, S., & Lindquist, K.A. (in press). Aging bodies, aging emotions: Interoceptive differences in emotion representation and report across adulthood. Emotion.
MacCormack, J. K., Stein, A. G., Kang, J., Giovanello, K., Satpute, A. B., & Lindquist, K. A. (under review). Affect in the aging brain: A neuroimaging meta-analysis of functional activation differences in older vs. younger adult affective experience and perception.