Research in the Emotion Lab is broadly concerned with understanding the nature and function of human emotion, using a range of tools—standard laboratory experiments, implicit and explicit behavioral measures, and ambulatory assessments and psychophysiology. Current topics of interest include:

Positive Emotions and Health

Theory and empirical research suggest that the experience of high positive affect conveys many desirable life outcomes, the summative effects of which may be delaying the onset of disease and extending healthy functioning. 

We are particularly interested in the pathways linking positive emotions to quality living and health morbidities in both healthy and clinical populations. Ongoing work in the lab explores the role of positive affect in both resilience-enhancing and vulnerability-inducing health outcomes.

Individual Differences in Emotional Complexity

There is tremendous variety in the emotional states that constitute everyday life. Some people have emotional experiences that are wide in range and well differentiated, while others experience emotions in a highly diffuse and global manner. 

Work on this front is just beginning. We have been interested in individual differences, especially those that have relevance for differentiation of emotional experience over time. In particular, our lab has examined individual differences factors (e.g., neuroticism, cognitive simplicity, resilience) that account for variability in the structure of emotions over time and between persons. More recent investigations have explored how the breadth and relative abundance of emotions that individuals experience is associated with mental and physical health.

Emotions and Daily Experience

Emotions fluctuate over time and are responsive to everyday events. Three broad questions drive this work. First, are level and stability of emotion distinct dimensions along which individuals can be characterized? Second, is emotion intraindividual variability a meaningful predictor of mental and physical health? And how do early environments promote the development of conditional or contingent emotional reactions to everyday experiences.

Current projects focus on emotional reactivity and psychobiological processes relevant to health, including inflammatory, neuroendocrine, and restorative processes.


Ong, A. D., & Burrow, A. L. (2018). Affective reactivity to daily racial discrimination as a prospective predictor of depressive symptoms in African American graduate and post-graduate students. Development and Psychopathology, 30, 1649-1659. pdf

Ong, A. D., Benson, L. Zautra, A., & Ram, N. (2018). Emodiversity and biomarkers of inflammation. Emotion, 13, 3-14. pdf

Ong, A. D., Kim, S., Young, S., & Steptoe, A. (2017). Positive affect and sleep: A systematic review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 35, 21-32. pdf

Ong, A. D., Zautra, A., & Finan, P. H. (2017). Inter- and intra-individual variation in emotional complexity: Methodological considerations and theoretical implications. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 15, 22-26. pdf

Sin, N. L., Ong, A. D., Stawski, R. S., & Almeida, D. M. (2017). Daily positive events and diurnal cortisol rhythms: Examination of between-person differences and within-person variation. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 83, 91-100. pdf

Sin, N. L., Graham-Engeland, J. E., Ong, A. D., & Almeida, D. M. (2015). Affective reactivity to daily stressors is associated with inflammation. Health Psychology, 34, 1154-1165. pdf

Ong, A. D., Exner-Cortens, D., Riffin, C., Steptoe, A., Zautra, A., & Almeida, D. (2013). Linking stable and dynamic features of     positive affect to sleep. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 46, 52-61. pdf

Ong, A. D. (2010). Pathways linking positive emotion and health in later life. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19, 358-362. pdf

Ong, A. D., Bergeman, C. S., Bisconti, T. L., & Wallace, K. A. (2006). Psychological resilience, positive emotions, and successful adaptation to stress in later life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology91, 730-749. pdf


Patrick Finan, Johns Hopkins University

Judith Moskowitz, Northwestern Medicine

Nilam Ram, Pennsylvania State University

Nancy Sin, University of British Columbia

Andrew Steptoe, University College London