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Department Faculty

Michael Vasey

My current research activities reflect a lifespan developmental psychopathology perspective. Current research projects include samples in middle childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. However, prospective graduate students please note: My research activities at OSU are currently limited to adult populations. Research projects involving child and adolescent samples are collaborations with investigators at other universities. My current graduate students are not involved in those collaborations. Thus, I am not currently seeking students with research interests focused on children and adolescents.

Rather than being focused on a specific set of disorders, my research is focused on factors that are of relevance to understanding a wide range of emotional problems. I have two interrelated lines of research. First, my students and I are interested in the contribution of broad dimensions of temperament/personality to vulnerability for developing emotional disorder symptoms (especially symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders) and to the course and treatment of such symptoms. In regards to such factors I am particularly interested in the synergistic (i.e., interactive) relations among such factors. For example, it is clear that high levels of negative emotionality (NE) are much more strongly associated with depressive symptoms when positive emotionality (PE) is low than when it is high. Conversely, low levels of PE are much more associated with depressive symptoms when they co-occur with high levels of NE. I am particularly interested in the role of self-regulatory aspects of temperament (i.e., effortful control [EC]) in moderating the links between high NE and low PE on the one hand and anxious and depressive symptoms on the other. For example, it is clear that high levels of NE pose no risk for anxiety or depression among individuals with high levels of EC. Similarly, individuals who are low in PE are nonetheless unlikely to be depressed if they are also high in EC. Low levels of EC on the other hand permit risk associated with each these reactive temperamental vulnerabilities to be maximized. Finally, our current work is particularly focused on factors that may mediate the relations between temperament dimensions and emotional disorder symptoms. Candidates include an attentional bias in favor of threatening or emotionally negative stimuli, rumination about negative and positive affect, and social support.

My second line of research is focused on translating findings from social psychology and cognitive psychology into clinical contexts and applications. On the social psychology side, this work involves translation of basic research on attitudes and attitude change in collaboration with Dr. Russ Fazio and his students. Examples of our recent work include a study showing that residual, automatically activated negative attitudes toward public speaking following exposure therapy predict relapse in socially anxious subjects one month after treatment. Specifically, individuals who improve following exposure but who still show negative attitudes toward public speaking on an implicit associations test are significantly more likely to relapse than those with similar improvement but who no longer exhibit automatically activated negative attitudes following treatment. We have also shown that evaluative conditioning methods can be used to reduce relapse and enhance generalization following exposure therapy for phobia. Specifically, pairing subliminally presented phobic stimuli with an approach response during computer-based training reduces distress during approach of the phobic stimulus and reduces return of fear one month after exposure treatment compared to a sham training procesure. On the cognitive psychology side, in collaboration with Drs. Roger Ratcliff and Gail McKoon and their students, we are applying complex mathematical modeling of cognitive processing to enhance the sensitivity of methods for studying cognitive biases in emotional problems. For example, we have demonstrated that whereas analysis of reaction times or error rates do not reveal differences between anxious and non-anxious participants in lexical decision for threatening versus neutral words, when those data are modeled using the Dr. Ratcliff’s Diffusion Model, reliable differences emerge. This approach has permitted us to show that, contrary to prevailing belief, the enhanced processing of threat cues seen in anxious individuals does not emerge only when there is competition among stimuli for processing priority. Rather, it occurs even when stimuli are presented in isolation. This and similar findings demonstrates that cognitive modeling techniques can enhance the sensitivity of measures commonly used in studies of cognitive biases in emotional disorders.

Selected Publications

*Dinovo, S. A., & Vasey, M. W. (in press). Reactive and self-regulatory dimensions of temperament: Interactive relations with symptoms of general distress and anhedonia. Journal of Research in Personality.

*Verstraeten, K., Bijttebier, P., Vasey, M. W., & Raes, F. (in press). Specificity of worry and rumination in the development of anxiety and depressive symptoms in children. British Journal of Clinical Psychology.

*White, C., Ratcliff, R., Vasey, M., & McKoon, G. (2010). Anxiety enhances threat processing without competition for processing priority: A diffusion model analysis. Emotion, 10, 662-677.

Raes, F., Verstraeten, K., Bijttebier, P., Vasey, M. W., & Dalgleish, T. (2010). Inhibitory control mediates the relationship between depressed mood and overgeneral memory recall in children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 39, 276-281.

*White, C., Ratcliff, R., Vasey, M., & McKoon, G. (2010). Using diffusion models to understand clinical disorders. Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 54, 39-52.

*Verstraeten, K., Raes, F., Vasey, M. W., & Bijttebier, P. (2010). Brooding and reflection as components of rumination in childhood: Associations with temperament and depressive symptoms. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 367-372.

*Verstraeten, K., Vasey, M. W., Claes, L., & Bijttebier, P. (2010). The assessment of effortful control in childhood: Questionnaires versus performance-based measures. Personality and Individual Differrences, 48 59-65.

*Hazen, R. A., Vasey, M. W., & Schmidt, N. B. (2009). Attentional retraining: A randomized clinical trial for pathological worry. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 43, 627-633.

Lonigan, C. J., & Vasey, M. W. (2009). Negative affectivity, effortful control, and attention to threat-relevant stimuli. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37, 387-399.

*Verstraeten, K., Vasey, M. W., Raes, F., & Bijttebier, P. (2009). Temperament and risk for depressive symptoms in adolescence: Mediation by rumination and moderation by effortful control. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37, 349-361.

*White, C. Ratcliff, R., Vasey, M., & McKoon, G. (2009). Dysphoria and memory for emotional material: A diffusion-model analysis. Cognition and Emotion, 23, 181-205.

Von Hippel, W., Vasey, M. W., Stern, T., Gonda, T. (2008). Executive function deficits, rumination and late-onset depressive symptoms in older adults. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 474-487.

Schmidt, N. B., Eggleston, A.M., Woolaway-Bickel, K., Fitzpatrick, K.K., Vasey, M.W., & Richey, J.A. (2007). Anxiety sensitivity amelioration training (ASAT): A longitudinal primary prevention program targeting cognitive vulnerability. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 21, 302-319.

*Shook, N. J., Fazio, R. H., & Vasey, M. W. (2007). Negativity bias in attitude learning: An indicator of vulnerability to emotional disorders? Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 38, 144-155.

Lonigan, C. J., Vasey, M. W., Phillips, B, & Hazen, R. (2004). Temperament, anxiety, and the processing of threat–relevant stimuli. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 33, 8-20.

Vasey, M. W., Dalgleish, T., Silverman, W. K. (2003). Research on information-processing factors in child and adolescent psychopathology: A critical commentary. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 32, 81-93.

Vasey, M. W., & Dadds, M. R. (2001). An introduction to the developmental psychopathology of anxiety. In M. W. Vasey, & M. R. Dadds (Eds.), The developmental psychopathology of anxiety (pp. 3-26). New York: Oxford University Press.

Vasey, M. W., & Dadds, M. R. (2001). The developmental psychopathology of anxiety. New York: Oxford University Press.

Vasey, M. W., & MacLeod, C. (2001). Information processing factors in childhood anxiety: A developmental perspective. In M. W. Vasey, & M. R. Dadds (Eds.), The developmental psychopathology of anxiety (pp. 253-277). New York: Oxford University Press.

*Mackinaw-Koons, B., & Vasey, M. W. (2000). Considering sex differences in anxiety and its disorders across the lifespan: A construct validation approach. Applied and Preventive Psychology, 9, 191-209.

Vasey, M. W., & Ollendick, T. H. (2000). Anxiety. In M. Lewis and A. Sameroff (Eds.), Handbook of developmental psychopathology (2nd ed., pp. 511-529). New York: Plenum.

*Daleiden, E. L., & Vasey, M. W. (1997). An information-processing perspective on childhood anxiety. Clinical Psychology Review, 17, 407-429.

Vasey, M. W., El-Hag, N., & Daleiden, E. L. (1996). Anxiety and the processing of emotionally-threatening stimuli: Distinctive patterns of selective attention among high- and low-test-anxious children. Child Development, 67, 1173-1185.

Vasey, M. W., Daleiden, E. L., Williams, L. L., & Brown, L. M. (1995). Biased attention in childhood anxiety disorders: A preliminary study. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 23, 267-279.

*indicates student first author


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