The Emotions and Positive Psychology Lab (EPPL) focuses especially on gratitude, mindfulness, contemplative practice, and related phenomena. As an example, one paper currently under review examines whether the self-definition of autonomy undermines the experience and valuing of gratitude. We are extending research on this topic by using a daily diary design. We are also interested in the distinction between being "grateful to" and "grateful for". Might gratitude research be conflating two different emotions with different antecedent appraisals and action tendencies?
We have a variety of interests in mindfulness, as well. One recent paper examined the ability of a brief mindfulness exercise to foster persistence after people have been frightened. One paper under review examines the relation of mindfulness to relationship goals, that is whether in interactions with others people bring compassionate goals (focused on the well-being of others) or relationship goals (focused on making others think well of them). A paper in preparation examines whether mindfulness in one relationship partner is predictive of how responsive the other relationship partner judges them to be in response to capitalization attempts. As these last two papers suggest we have begun to examine the relation of mindfulness to more interpersonal processes in addition to intrapersonal phenomena.
Finally, we are beginning to explore the possibility of studying the psychology of other contemplative practices. Work on mindfulness has brought great attention to contemplative science. But many traditions have contemplative practices that have received less attention. Stay tuned for possible future projects. Dr. Ahrens presented on this at John Carroll University this past April. His talk can be viewed here: http://sites.jcu.edu/trs/events/tuohy-lectures-dr-anthony-ahrens-american-university/ He notes that he does not generally use microphones.
If you are interested in gaining research experience though volunteering in the Emotions and Positive Psychology lab, please contact Professor Ahrens at firstname.lastname@example.org.