Maris­sa Van­der Missen
April 2020

What do you work on?

I’m cur­rent­ly a stu­dent, and I con­duct­ed a study to test the effect of a repeat­ed flex­ion move­ment (rFM) com­put­er task on approach motivation.

What did you do you investigate?

Research indi­cates that there are at least two fun­da­men­tal moti­va­tion­al sys­tems crit­i­cal in reg­u­lat­ing emo­tions and behav­ior: the approach-appet­i­tive moti­va­tion sys­tem and the avoidant-with­draw­al moti­va­tion sys­tem. The approach sys­tem reg­u­lates behav­ior to attain rewards, increase desired out­comes, and pur­sue goals (Depue & Iacono, 1989; Fowles, 1980; Gray, 1994). High lev­els of approach sys­tem activ­i­ty are asso­ci­at­ed with greater lev­els of psy­cho­log­i­cal well-being. Accord­ing­ly, researchers have searched for strate­gies to increase approach motivation.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, most of these strate­gies require a trained pro­fes­sion­al (e.g., ther­a­pist) or spe­cial­ized equip­ment (e.g., tran­scra­nial mag­net­ic stim­u­la­tion ). How­ev­er, a study in our lab (Haef­fel, 2011) showed that a 20 minute com­put­er task using repeat­ed flex­ion move­ments (rFM) had poten­tial to increase approach moti­va­tion. This presents an oppor­tu­ni­ty for an online, acces­si­ble inter­ven­tion to increase approach moti­va­tion in indi­vid­u­als with­out the assis­tance of a specialist.

In the cur­rent study, we used Gorilla to cre­ate a ver­sion of the rFM com­put­er task that could be used by any­one with a laptop.

“The pur­pose of the study was to repli­cate and extend our prior work on this topic. By pair­ing our Gorilla-built exper­i­ment with Pro­lif­ic, we were able to recruit par­tic­i­pants from 5 countries!”

What did you do using Goirlla?

The main part of the study was the rFM task, a mod­i­fied ver­sion of Maxwell & Davidson’s (2007) con­tin­u­ous-per­for­mance emo­tion asym­me­try spa­tial cuing task. Maxwell and David­son cre­at­ed this task to test whether or not flex­ion (cf. approach) and exten­sion (cf. avoid­ance) move­ments were rep­re­sent­ed in the left and right hemi­spheres, respec­tive­ly. In this task, visu­ospa­tial cues (arrows direct­ed toward the self or away from the self) are used to elic­it flex­ion and exten­sion motor move­ments that engage the approach and avoid­ance sys­tems, respectively.

For the Gorilla ver­sion of this task, we told par­tic­i­pants to rest their right index fin­ger on the “\ | “ key between the delete and return. If the arrow point­ed down and toward the par­tic­i­pant, they would do a flex­ion move­ment and press the “enter/return” key and if the arrow point­ed up and away, they would press the “delete/backspace key” in an exten­sion movement.

We also admin­is­tered the BIS/BAS Scale, the PANAS ques­tion­naire and made our par­tic­i­pants try to fig­ure out three unsolv­able five-let­ter ana­grams (select­ed from Tres­selt & Mayzn­er, 1966).

Did you include any spe­cial fea­tures in your study to ensure good qual­i­ty data? If so, what did you do?

We used exclu­sion based on key­board setups to ensure par­tic­i­pants were com­plet­ing as sim­i­lar of an exper­i­ment as pos­si­ble for the arrow push­ing key­board task.

Has this study been published?

No, but we have pre-reg­is­tered the study on Open Sci­ence Framework.

We plan to make our mate­ri­als avail­able on Gorilla Open Mate­ri­als after we sub­mit for publication.

How do you think online research is going to change your field?

I believe online research will expand what we know about cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy by increas­ing the diver­si­ty of par­tic­i­pant pools to include a wider array of ages, races, eth­nic­i­ties, and socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus­es than many psy­chol­o­gy stud­ies with uni­ver­si­ty sam­ples can provide.

“Online research is so valu­able, as it gives us researchers the abil­i­ty to reach and recuit a more diverse group of participants.”

Why did you choose Gorilla?

We chose Gorilla for its low cost for stu­dent researchers and user-friend­ly exper­i­ment builder inter­face for researchers with non-cod­ing backgrounds.

What real-world prob­lem do you see that your research could impact?

Research into online inter­ven­tions for com­mon men­tal health prob­lems like depres­sion and anx­i­ety is an impor­tant pur­suit to enable pop­u­la­tions who may have mobile devices but no access to men­tal health ser­vices to get the sup­port they need.

How did Gorilla make your life or research bet­ter, eas­i­er or faster?

Gorilla made it pos­si­ble to trans­form our con­cept of an in-lab psy­chol­o­gy exper­i­ment with a but­ton box into an online key­board task acces­si­ble to thou­sands of online research par­tic­i­pants. This was made easy with Gorilla’s user-friend­ly exper­i­ment builder.

For you, what is the stand-out fea­ture in Gorilla?

The cut-and-paste cod­ing capac­i­ty in Gorilla is cru­cial for researchers with non-cod­ing back­grounds to intro­duce their research to more advanced plat­forms and greater par­tic­i­pant pools. Sec­ond, and more impor­tant­ly, the sup­port team at Gorilla is the best I have worked with in my research career. They respond prompt­ly and thought­ful­ly to help fix any bugs along the way in exper­i­ment building.

Who or what orig­i­nal­ly inspired you to work in your field of research?

I have had lots of per­son­al fam­i­ly and friends strug­gle with depres­sion and other men­tal health prob­lems like anx­i­ety, so I was moti­vat­ed to get involved in the research and devel­op­ment side of men­tal health treatment.

What is the most excit­ing piece of work or research you’ve ever done?

It would have to be my first truly inde­pen­dent research in men­tal health was a study on the Hope­less­ness The­o­ry of Depres­sion and its gen­er­al­iz­abil­i­ty in non-WEIRD pop­u­la­tions, which I did through a part­ner­ship at an NGO in Kath­man­du, Nepal.

When you’re not work­ing, what do you enjoy doing?

I love to do any­thing that involves being out­side and being active, espe­cial­ly rock climb­ing and hiking.

On a per­son­al level, what are you most proud of?

I am proud that I am using research to eval­u­ate and improve men­tal health and com­mu­ni­ty health resources for peo­ple in need.

Maris­sa Van­der Missen
Cognitive theories of depression, approach and avoidance motivation
University of Notre Dame
Marissa Vander Missen
University of Notre Dame

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