Human Motivation & Affective Neuroscience Lab
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Welcome to the website of the Human Motivation and Affective Neuroscience (HuMAN) laboratory! Research at the HuMAN Lab aims at providing a better understanding of the physiological, cognitive, affective, and behavioral aspects of motivation in humans. Our research has a strong emphasis on nonconscious (i.e., implicit) motivational processes that occur and influence behavior without the person becoming aware of them. We also explore how implicit motives relate to and interact with people's conscious goals and beliefs about their motivational needs. The methods we use to explore these questions include non-declarative personality assessment, measurement of salivary hormone levels, assessment of basic cognitive functions, Pavlovian and instrumental conditioning, and brain imaging. The HuMAN Lab is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Mental Health, and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.
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Latest News: 26 July 2017

Competition, aggression, and hormones

In a new study published by PLOS ONE, psychologists working at Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany, have looked at the relationship between competition, aggression, and hormones in human research participants. With the support by Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation, Dr. Jonathan Oxford, Prof. Dr. Oliver Schultheiss and their team had participants go through 10 rounds of a competitive task in the lab, either as individual competitors or as teams of competitors, with half losing the contest and half winning it. Throughout the competition, participants could aggress against their opponents by setting the severity of a noise blast they would receive after losing a round. Hormonal changes were measured in saliva samples collected before and after the contest.

The research team found that men aggressed more than women, losers more than winners, and teams more than individuals. Moreover, aggression was associated with participants’ stress hormone cortisol, with lower cortisol being mostly associated with higher aggression. As Oliver Schultheiss, the senior author of the publication, remarks, “Our findings show the usual suspects of aggression – being male, being frustrated. But they also show that it’s easier to aggress from within a team than as an individual. And they show that stress hormone levels associated with feeling overwhelmed are actually associated with less aggression. Not further escalating an inherently aggressive competition if you already feel you are in over your head is actually a rather adaptive response.”

Oxford, Schultheiss, and their team also found that for women in particular, the need for power made a big difference for how they responses hormonally to winning or losing the competition against another woman or team of women. Women high in power motivation showed higher testosterone and estradiol levels after winning than after losing, whereas women low in power motivation did not show this response. According to the study’s authors, power-motivated women thus show an adaptive hormonal response pattern that reinforces dominant behavior after a success, but inhibits it after a defeat.
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PLOS ONE figure
Significant interactions of nPower and contest outcome on changes in salivary testosterone and estradiol in naturally cycling women reported by Oxford et al (2017).

New edited book on implicit motives available

Oliver C. Schultheiss (Friedrich-Alexander University) and Joachim C. Brunstein (Justus-Liebig University) are the editors of “Implicit Motives”, a new book that brings together the latest and best in theory and research on implicit motives. Written by leading authorities in the field, chapters range from portrayals of power, achievement and affiliation motives and their assessment to accounts of how motives shape cognition and physiological changes, their relationship with the needs people attribute to themselves, and their role in culture and society.
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Implicit Motives Cover

For foreign students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree (“Dr. phil.”) at Friedrich-Alexander University through the HuMAN Lab:

The HuMAN-Lab provides research opportunities for foreign students interested in doing work that is closely related to the Lab’s mission. However, due to the requirements of the German university system, regular 3-year positions with a teaching load of 3 courses/year are only available to applicants with documented oral and written fluency in German. Applicants who can obtain a stipend (e.g., through the DAAD or funding agencies from their home country) are also welcome to apply. All applicants must have a master’s degree in psychology and must submit, along with documentation of their degrees, a curriculum vitae, a list of at least two individuals who can comment on their academic achievements, and a letter of intent that sketches out in 2 pages or less the specific research aims and interests of the candidate and how they fit the HuMAN Lab’s mission.

Last updated: 31 Juli, 2017

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