How the body matters for psychology
I am fundamentally fascinated by all the ways that the body (e.g., the gut, inflammation, interoception, stress) can “bottom-up” influence the mind and social affective processes across the lifespan. Specifically, my research program examines:
how the brain and body work together to generate, represent, and regulate bodily signals (also known as allostasis, the integration and predictive use of physiological signals from the autonomic nervous system, immune system, metabolism, etc.),
how these bodily signals 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 interoceptive ability (the ability to access and accurately disambiguate visceral bodily sensations). Because people’s priors (i.e., beliefs, knowledge) can guide attention and attributions, what people believe and know about their bodies (sometimes called interoceptive sensibility and interoceptive knowledge) should be important moderators. Finally, because bodies change with age and because we must develop bodily representations within the context of caregivers, culture, and different life experiences, I investigate these processes in children and across adulthood into 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 as "affect inductions." As such, I'm increasingly fascinated by the gut-brain axis and how this axis, along with hunger / satiety hormones ghrelin and leptin interact with inflammation and other dimensions of psychophysiology to impact social affective outcomes.
MacCormack, J.K., & Lindquist, K.A. (2018). Feeling hangry? How hunger is conceptualized as emotion. Emotion.
MacCormack, J. K., & Muscatell, K. A. (under revision). The metabolic mind: A role for leptin and ghrelin in affect and social cognition. Social and Personality Psychology Compass.
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? My research examines 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., Lindquist, K. A., & Muscatell, K. A. (submitted). Bodily 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. (in revision). Mothers’ interoceptive knowledge predicts third-grade children’s emotion regulation and social skills.
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. (under review). Aging bodies, aging emotions: Interoceptive differences in emotion representation and report across adulthood.
MacCormack, J. K., Stein, A. G., Satpute, A. B., Kang, J., & Lindquist, K. A. (in prep). Emotion in the aging brain: A neuroimaging meta-analysis of functional activation differences in older vs. younger adult emotion.