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Queen's University


Current Research Projects

The MindLight Project: A Video Game Intervention to Reduce Anxiety in Children and Adolescents (OMHF)

For this OMHF-funded collaboration with Dr. Isabel Granic and Dr. Sarosh Khalid-Khan, we will be running two randomized control trials to test the effectiveness of a video game intervention. MindLight, created by Dr. Granic and a team of game developers from The Play Nice Institute, incorporates several evidence-based strategies including relaxation and exposure techniques, attention bias modification methods, and neurofeedback mechanics that together produce an immersive game world through which children learn to manage and overcome anxiety symptoms. Two randomized controlled studies with 8-16 year old children are proposed to test the effectiveness of MindLight in reducing anxiety: the first is a prevention study aimed at children at risk for developing serious anxiety problems and the second is a clinical trial aimed at decreasing symptoms in anxiety-disordered children. Key Graduate Students: Dianna Lanteigne, Kalee DeFrance, & Tiffany Tsui


    The Dynamics of Emotional Discordance (NSERC)

    This five year NSERC project is designed to further explore emotional discordance (see Hollenstein & Lanteigne, 2014 for a review of this issue). The primary objective is to better understand emotion and ER through the examination of discordance. Through the manipulation of social and non-social emotion induction techniques within innovative multi-method designs, we will examine synchronized profiles of emotional reactivity and recovery across the physiological, experiential, and behavioural domains. The short-term objectives are to conduct studies to understand the nature of discordance and develop a theoretical model of the emotion system. These projects are designed to answer several questions: What are associations between discordance and specific ER strategies, moderated by gender? How do variations in the social context influence discordance? Does within-individual discordance change as a function of discrete emotional states? How stable are measures of discordance? Does discordance increase from childhood through adulthood?Key Graduate Students: Jessica Lougheed & Dianna Lanteigne

    Affective Flexibility 

    Following years of work examining the affective dynamics of dyadic interactions (e.g., Hollenstein, Granic, Snyder, & Stoolmiller, 2004; Hollenstein & Lewis, 2006; Hollenstein, 2007; Lunkenheimer, Olsen, Hollenstein, Sameroff, & Winter, 2011), I have developed a model of flexibility at three time scales (Hollenstein, Lichtwarck-Aschoff, & Potworowski, 2013; Hollenstein, 2014). This line of research continues with international collaborations with colleagues Isabel Granic, Erika Lunkenheimer, Tom Dishion, Peter Koval, and Peter Kuppens, among others, using state space grids to measure affective dynamics. 


    New Projects: Grant Proposals

    SSHRC 2014 Competition:A Longitudinal Study of the Development of Emotion Regulation across Adolescence

    Compared to both childhood and adulthood, adolescent emotions are more frequent, intense, and associated with a wide range of problematic behaviours. However, there are no new emotional states that emerge in adolescence and some degree of adolescent negative emotionality is evolutionarily and developmentally adaptive; thus what adolescents are feeling is less important than how they are managing those feelings (i.e., emotion regulation or ER: processes that alter the intensity and duration of emotional states). Furthermore, adolescents' mastery of ER skills has a significant impact on their functioning for the rest of their lives. Despite the prominence of ER in models of emotional, social, and cognitive development, understanding of typical ER in adolescence is remarkably poor, for several reasons: (1) The dominant perspective on adolescence is pathological, focusing on mental health or dangerous behaviour at the expense of understanding the norm from which some youth deviate. (2) The majority of ER theory and research has focused on infancy, early childhood, and early adulthood, yet little attention has been paid to late childhood through adolescence. (3) Adolescence is defined by dramatic intra-individual change yet research is rife with cross-sectional/between-subject designs during this age period. (4) Research has largely ignored or conflated the time scale of ER processes, such as ER processes in the moment and the trait-like habits of ER that build up across months or years of moments. (5) Most adolescent ER research does not actually activate emotion, so that changes in emotion that are due to regulatory processes - the gold standard for measuring ER - cannot be observed.

    The proposed 5-year longitudinal study is designed to address these issues by (a) taking a normative developmental, rather than pathological, approach to discover how ER processes mature; (b) accounting for basic individual differences in ER and the timing of these emergent differences; (c) adopting a person-centered perspective to examine intra-individual change; and (d) using multiple methods to assess ER through changes in activated emotions across time scales (real time, day-to-day, and longitudinal).

    A sample of 290 adolescents, will complete questionnaires and daily diaries (years 1-5) and visit the lab each year (years 2-5) for a series of tasks that elicit positive and negative emotions. With this cutting-edge design, we will be able to answer three primary research questions: (1) How do these varied measures of ER relate to one another? (2) How does ER develop across adolescence? (3) How do measures of ER at several time scales relate to demographic (age, sex, and puberty) and psychosocial outcomes?

    We predict that ER will improve over the five years but that individual differences in the rate of improvement will be associated with demographic and psychosocial outcomes. Sophisticated modeling techniques such as Latent Profile Analysis, Latent Growth Curve Analysis, and SEM will be used to answer research questions.

    The social and emotional challenges of adolescence provide the context for adolescents to try out and learn better ways of regulating their emotions. The proposed study will employ a nested time scale design, an optimal structure for understanding how development unfolds, and will be the first to combine measures at multiple time scales to provide a comprehensive picture of typical adolescent emotional development.


    Ongoing and Completed Projects 

    Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Emotion Dynamics

    The Intra-individual Dynamics of the Arousal and Regulation of Social Stress 

    The State Space Grid Project

    Individual Differences in Emotion and Emotion Regulation in Adolescence

    Shame and Victimization in Adolescence

    Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Emotion Dynamics 

    Using psychophysiological, observational, experimental, and self-report measures, this study examines the development of adolescent emotion regulation in response to social stressors. Our research questions include:

    • How do profiles of psychophysiological, observed, and self-reported emotional responses to social stress relate to emotion regulation habits and internalizing problems in adolescence? In a line of research led by Dianna Lanteigne, we are examining individual differences in discordance across the three primary domains of emotional responding: Arousal (e.g., heart rate), Expression (e.g., self-conscious affect), and Experience (self-reported appraisals). In the first study, we showed that girls with high Experience and Expression, but low Arousal had more difficulty regulating their emotions and more internalizing problems (Lanteigne, Flynn, Eastabrook, & Hollenstein, under review). In the second study, we found that giving a spontaneous speech in front of an experimenter rather than alone in an empty room was associated with high Experience and Expression as well as greater discordance, especially at the beginning of the speech (Hollenstein, Lanteigne, Flynn, Mackey, Glozman, & Theriault, under revision). With the current sample, Lanteigne, Flynn, Eastabrook, & Hollenstein (2014) have found that adolescents classified as “Experience-Expressive” (high experience, moderate arousal, high expression) or “Suppressive” (high experience, high arousal, low expression) had more problematic socioemotional functioning than those classified as “Expressive” (low experience, moderate arousal, high expression) or “Low-Reactive” (low experience, low arousal, low expression).
    • Is a limited repertoire of emotion regulation strategies in adolescence associated with internalizing problems? This line of research is directed byJessica Lougheed and uses the same analysis approach as Lanteigne, Eastabrook, and Hollenstein (submitted), latent profile analysis. We examined profiles of suppression, reappraisal, concealing, adjusting, and emotional engagement to test whether the beneficial effects of emotion regulation (ER) have less to do with the use of singular, “adaptive” strategies, and more to do with having a range of strategies to flexibly deploy according to situational demands (Lougheed & Hollenstein, 2012). Emotion regulation profiles with high scores on only one or two indicators (e.g., rigid emotion regulation) were associated with higher levels of internalizing problems, whereas profiles with average to high scores on several indicators (e.g., flexible emotion regulation) were associated with lower levels of internalizing problems. 
    • Does emotion regulation mediate the association between emotional awareness and internalizing problems? Former graduate student, Dr. Jenny Eastabroook, tested whether emotion regulation is dependent on emotional awareness (Eastabrook, Flynn, & Hollenstein, 2014). Subsequently, she examined this in the current sample to further understand how low emotional awareness affects the development of emotion regulation skills and subsequently mental health outcomes.

    The Intra-individual Dynamics of the Arousal and Regulation of Social Stress

    In the ADL, we examine the dynamic integration of psychophysiology (heart rate, skin conductance), with self-reported and observationally coded affective behaviour using variations of a spontaneous speech paradigm. In these designs, we record the psychophysiological measures across several tasks (paced breathing, baseline, speech, and recovery) to capture the increase in arousal due to the speech and rate of decrease during the recovery period. Participants are not informed of the speech beforehand and must construct the speech on the spot – thus eliciting mild social anxiety and possibly shame. The video of the speech is coded later using the Self-Conscious Affect Code.

    • What are the relations between activity in the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems during stress and age?  The sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system modulates physiological arousal in the body whereas the parasympathetic branch is involved in the down-regulation of arousal. In a recent study on adolescent girls aged 12-23, we found that  sympathetic responses to social stress were positively associated with age but parasympathetic responses (i.e., respiratory sinus arrhythmia or RSA) were negatively associated (Hollenstein, McNeely, Eastabrook, Mackey, & Flynn, 2012). 
    • How does the presence of a stranger (experimenter) affect speech-induced arousal? In one study, there were two conditions (experimenter present or no one else in the room with the participant) for the speech. Arousal was much greater when the experimenter was present (Hollenstein, Lanteigne, Flynn, Mackey, Glozman, & Theriault, under review). In a pilot study on early adolescents, participants gave the speech with the experimenter present but either had or did not have his/her best friend present as well. Arousal was much lower with the presence of a friend.
    • What observable behaviours are associated with variations in physiological arousal and recovery? The Self-Conscious Affect Code (SCAC) was developed to record the intensity of participants behaviours during the speech in four domains: body tension, eye gaze direction, mouth/facial tension, and verbal comments. Those who were less aroused and less nervous were also more “fidgety”. Conversely, those who were more aroused tended to freeze and become rigid.  The code was revised (SCAC2) and augmented by a global rating system (Global Ratings of Self-Conscious Affect: GROSCA) by Dianna Lanteigne
    • What are the real-time dynamics among physiological, observational, and self-report measures?  Following the recovery period, participants viewed their speech on a monitor and provided moment-to-moment reports of how “nervous” they were. Thus, there are synchronized time series for interbeat intervals (heart), SCAC codes, and self-report. These are being prepared for analysis using state space grids to explore the temporal integration of these three measures.

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    The State Space Grid Project

    State space grids were developed by Marc Lewis and colleagues to depict trajectories of behaviour along two ordinal dimensions. In 2004, we released the first version of GridWare – a Java program that is available for free download at This program allows users to display, manipulate, and derive measures from any synchronized categorical time series (see example below). We are currently in the process of adapting this technique for use with both psychophysiological (e.g., heart rate) and categorical (e.g., emotional states) time series. A new state space grid program is in the works. There is now a state space grids book available that describes how to conduct these analyses (Hollenstein, 2013

    The Three Body Problem. As has been known in physics for centuries, the dynamics of two are much easier to model than the dynamics of three. In order to extend the state space analysis beyond dyadic interactions, a previous graduate student, Lindsay Lavictoire, published this from her master's thesis  (Lavictoire, Hollenstein, Stoolmiller, & Snyder,2012). The temporal dynamics of three kindergarten peers were shown to be associated with sociometric status as well as internalizing and externalizing problems. I have extended this to a comparison of mother-father-adolescent triads with or without a depressed adolescent (Hollenstein, Allen, & Sheeber, under review).

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    Individual Differences in Emotions and Emotion Regulation in Adolescence

    There are no new emotions that emerge during adolescence. Therefore, the emotion-related changes of this developmental period must be due to how emotions are aroused and how they are regulated. Using online questionnaires in concert with the above mentioned studies, we have data from hundreds of adolescents on emotions and moods, emotion regulation, coping, and interpersonal relationships. These data have been and are currently being analyzed by students to examine individual differences related to age, gender, or psychopathological outcomes (e.g., depressive symptoms). These projects include:

    • Shame, Depressive Symptoms and Coping: Found that avoidant coping partially mediated the relationship between shame and depressive symptoms in adolescent boys and girls. (DeRubeis & Hollenstein, 2009).
    • Shame and Self-Conscious Affect during a Socially Stressful Situation: The first test of the Self Conscious Affect Code. Found relations between behaviour elicited by social stress and shame. (SCAC Manual: Hollenstein & Glozman, unpublished manual)

    • Gender Differences in Emotional Suppression, Acceptance and Relations to Depressive Symptoms: Emotional suppression is associated with depressive symptoms. However, a conundrum emerges when considering gender differences: males suppress more than females but females have greater depressive symptoms. This study revealed that emotional acceptance can explain this conundrum. (Flynn, Hollenstein, & Mackey, 2010).

    • The Adolescent Transition Questionnaire: This self- and parent-report questionnaire was developed in order to detect when adolescents may be experiencing a period of rapid change. By detecting the age period of change for each individual, which can occur anywhere between the ages of 11 and 16, we hope to be able to identify critical windows of vulnerability and opportunity in an adolescent’s life. 

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    Shame and Victimization in Adolescence (SSHRC)

    This SSHRC-funded collaboration with Dr. Wendy Craig examines how the experience of and proneness to shame can mediate the onset and maintenance of peer victimization. This three-year project combines large-scale community sampling over three longitudinal waves with examinations of the real-time processes of shame and rejection in a subsample at wave 2. We recently tested this hypothesis in a large cross-sectional sample using the peer rejection game Cyberball and found that both trait and state shame predicted peer victimization above and beyond rejection sensitivity, gender, and age (Craig, Hollenstein, Rinne, & Lanteigne, in preparation). Key Graduate Student: Alex Irwin


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