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Current Projects: EyeSpy : WHAM! : Grow Your Chi  


Our research background

Our goal is to conduct experimental research to develop interventions that might help people feel more secure. Our starting point is past research in which we have found that insecurity feelings derive in large part from anxieties about whether one will be liked, accepted, and respected by one's peers and significant others. Sometimes people are aware of these concerns, but often social insecurities of this type influence people's thoughts and feelings "automatically", without a lot of deliberate thought and sometimes even entirely outside of their awareness. All they experience are negative reactions to the self or to social situations.

People with fewer insecurities, on the other hand, seem to have a range of automatic thought processes that make them confident and buffer them from worrying about the possibility of social rejection. Fortunately, our recent research shows that with enough practice, even people with low self-esteem can develop these beneficial thought processes that might allow them to gradually become more secure and self-confident. We started with the idea that just as playing Tetris over and over for hours can start to shape the way you look at the world (even in your dreams!), playing a specially-designed computer game might also help to improve your thoughts and feelings about yourself. We describe some of this latest research here, and provide some simple demonstrations of the kinds of repetitive training tasks we have developed. Our hope is to continue this work to try to identify the automatic patterns of thought that help people feel secure, and the training tasks that can help people engage in those patterns of thought.

Although our research thus far is promising, we can make absolutely no claims about the effectiveness of these games for helping any particular individual deal with any particular issue or problem. For the treatment of psychological problems, please consult a qualified psychotherapist. If you are interested in the findings from our ongoing research, and want to learn more about the demonstration games found on this website, please read on.

EyeSpy: The Matrix
Stephane Dandeneau

Studies have shown that the information in people’s enviroment can greatly affect them without them even being aware of it. Other studies have shown that certain people have attentional biases toward either threatening, or rejection information, which in turn perpetuates their sensitivity to rejection and could cause them to develop low self-esteem. Our studies have shown that people with low self-esteem have an attentional bias for rejection and people with high self-esteem do not. The purpose of the EyeSpy project is to help change people’s attentional biase for rejection, more specifically to teach people with low-self-esteem to ignore rejection information.

Inspired by the face-in-the-crowd paradigm, EyeSpy teaches people to look for the smiling/approving person in a crowd of frowning faces. By doing this repeatedly and as quickly as possible, this teaches people to look for acceptance and ignoring rejection. In order to successfully and accurately identify the smiling/approving face, one must get in the mind frame “Look for acceptance, and ignore rejection because it slows me down”.

Our research has found the EyeSpy task reduces the attentional bias for rejection in people who have an attentional bias for rejection, that is, people with low self-esteem. This habit of ignoring rejection could help people with low self-esteem when they are in difficult social situations.

This will research was published as: The Inhibition of Socially Rejecting Information Among People with High versus Low Self-Esteem: The Role of Attentional Bias and the Effects of Bias Reduction Training in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 2004, Volume 23, pp. 584-602.

abstractRead the abstract

WHAM! Self-esteem conditioning
Jodene Baccus

Is it possible to improve people’s unconscious, gut feelings of self-esteem? Low self-esteem negatively affects the social lives of many people. Several studies have shown that low self-esteem is related to depression, aggression, and social anxiety. It has also been shown that low self-esteem is linked to feelings of rejection from other people. This study looks to see if we can increase self-esteem through a computer-game type task, by increasing people’s feelings of acceptance.

In the computer game, people are asked to enter some information about themselves (i.e. first name, birthday). We call this information 'self-relevant' information because it is unique to the person and we think it contributes to the sense of identity. Next, they click on words that appeared in four boxes, which are then followed by a picture of a face. The positive conditioning involves pairing self-relevant information with smiling, approving faces.

We have found that people who complete this game show an increase in implicit self-esteem. Our research demonstrates that implicit self-esteem is, in part, represented as unconscious expectancies of social acceptance. This game creates a pairing between the self and positive social feedback, thus leading to automatic thoughts of secure acceptance in relation to the self.

This reseach was published as: Increasing Implicit Self-Esteem through Classical Conditioning in Psychological Science, 2004, Volume 15, pp. 498-502.

abstractRead the abstract

Grow Your Chi! Game

CHI is a Chinese word meaning life force, energy, or vitality. This game playfully asks if it is possible to foster our feelings of well being by focusing on positive social connections. The game incorporates elements from our previous research (including attentional training and self-esteem conditioning) and combines them in a new format that is designed to be entertaining and therefore pleasant to play for a longer period of time.

We are only beginning our research with this game. We welcome any feedback!



We are happy to fullfill journal article reprint requests. Just contact us and ask for a specific reprint.

Next: Future Projects

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