The Social Psychoneuroendocrinology Lab (SPEL) examines interactions between hormones, the environment, and human social behaviour with an emphasis on status hierarchies, stress, and decision making. Our lab integrates methods from social-personality psychology with neuroendocrinology (hormone measurement and administration) to understand these processes.
Status Hierarchies and Stress
Status hierarchies are a part of our everyday social interactions, and people with higher status such as leaders have greater access to resources and can have improved health outcomes. Stressful experiences are common in status hierarchies, but research on stress has traditionally been a separate topic from research on social status and power. Our lab studies both of these topics together. Our research shows that hormones traditionally associated with power (testosterone) and stress (cortisol) interact with one another and the social context to regulate behaviours in status hierarchies.
We are currently expanding our program of research to investigate (1) the impact of social diversity on intra- and inter-group behaviours in hierarchical contexts, and (2) the roles of "female" sex hormones (estradiol, progesterone) in social hierarchies. My collaborators and I are also devising hormonally informed psychological interventions aimed at improving performance, decision making, and health outcomes across the hierarchical spectrum.
Emotion and Decision Making
Our lab also conducts related research on the roles of emotions and hormones in human decision-making. Much of our ongoing research examine how status and stress interact with hormone systems to influence decisions, including bargaining decisions, prosocial behaviour, and risk taking. Recently we have expanded our study of decision-making into ecologically valid social contexts, such as face-to-face negotiations and financial decisions in stock traders.