For my Ph.D., I investigated how disturbances in social cognition (emotion understanding, Theory of Mind) and dysregulated social emotions (social fear, shyness, and accompanying autonomic hyperarousal and blushing) in children contribute to the development of SAD. I discovered a novel pathway to the development of SAD through dysregulated social emotions and through disturbances in socio-cognitive skills. My Ph.D. work has been recognized by the Dutch Association for Developmental Psychology (the PhD dissertation voted among the best three dissertations in the field of child psychology at the biennial doctoral thesis award of VNOP) and by the European Association of Developmental Psychology (George Butterworth Young Scientist Award). My post-doctoral work has been supported by Amsterdam Brain and Cognition Talent grant to investigate neural mechanisms of self-conscious emotional reactivity in high vs. low socially anxious adolescents together with Dr. Disa Sauter, Dr. Ramon Lindauer, Dr. Christian Keysers, and Dr. Valeria Gazzola.
I am interested in understanding how children and adults feel in social situations, how they think about themselves and others in these situations, and how these feelings and thoughts influence successful social functioning (e.g., prosociality, trust) and psychopathology. To examine this, I use a multi-method approach ranging from micro-observations of nonverbal expressions to physiological and neural measures. In the CoPAN lab, I am involved in the VIDI project awarded to Dr. Mariska Kret to study emotion deficits in adults with SAD and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and how these deficits influence social decision making. I am a co-promoter of Julia Folz, who investigates mimicry of emotional expressions in social interaction in people with SAD and ASD; Chris Riddell, who focuses on the development of socioemotional abilities across the lifespan; and Iliana Samara, who investigates the behavioural and physiological aspects of humans’ attraction and its role in the formation of interpersonal bonds.