Seth D Pollak

Seth D Pollak
University of Wisconsin–Madison | UW · Department of Psychology

Ph.D.

About

171
Publications
86,932
Reads
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14,097
Citations
Citations since 2016
66 Research Items
8316 Citations
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201620172018201920202021202202004006008001,0001,2001,400
201620172018201920202021202202004006008001,0001,2001,400
Additional affiliations
August 1997 - present
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Position
  • Letters and Science Distinguished Professor

Publications

Publications (171)
Article
Full-text available
Despite clear links between affective processes in many areas of cognition and perception, the influence of affective valence and arousal on low-level perceptual learning have remained largely unexplored. Such influences could have the potential to disrupt or enhance learning that would have long-term consequences for young learners. The current st...
Article
Full-text available
To effectively navigate their environments, infants and children learn how to recognize events predict salient outcomes, such as rewards or punishments. Relatively little is known about how children acquire this ability to attach value to the stimuli they encounter. Studies often examine children’s ability to learn about rewards and threats using e...
Article
Full-text available
During the early postnatal years, most infants rapidly learn to understand two naturally evolved communication systems: language and emotion. While these two domains include different types of content knowledge, it is possible that similar learning processes subserve their acquisition. In this review, we compare the learnable statistical regulariti...
Preprint
Full-text available
In this paper, we review widely used statistical analysis frameworks for data defined along cortical and subcortical surfaces that have been developed in last two decades. The cerebral cortex has the topology of a 2D highly convoluted sheet. For data obtained along curved non-Euclidean surfaces, traditional statistical analysis and smoothing techni...
Article
Loneliness, or perceived social isolation, is linked to a number of negative long‐term effects on both mental and physical health. However, how an individual responds to feeling lonely may influence their risk for later negative health outcomes. Here, we sought to clarify what influences variability in individuals' motivated responses to loneliness...
Article
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Stressful experiences in armed conflict incur intergenerational effects through parental behaviors with their children. A recent study reported that among Syrian refugee families, mothers’ (but not fathers’) post-traumatic stress (PTS) impacted children’s emotional processing. In this study, we aim to shed further light on this phenomenon by analyz...
Article
Childhood adversity is a major risk factor for multiple forms of psychopathology, and recent efforts have focused on understanding the underlying psychological mechanisms. One outstanding candidate is emotion regulation, which has been associated with both childhood adversity, and psychopathology. Based on the available evidence, the present meta-a...
Article
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Despite advancements in the study of brain maturation at different developmental epochs, no work has linked the significant neural changes occurring just after birth to the subtler refinements in the brain occurring in childhood and adolescence. We aimed to provide a comprehensive picture regarding foundational neurodevelopment and examine systemat...
Article
Learning the value of environmental signals and using that information to guide behavior is critical for survival. Stress in childhood may influence these processes, but how it does so is still unclear. This study examined how stressful event exposures and perceived social isolation affect the ability to learn value signals and use that information...
Article
Children have a powerful ability to track probabilistic information, but there are also situations in which young learners simply follow what another person says or does at the cost of obtaining rewards. This latter phenomenon, sometimes termed bias to trust in testimony, has primarily been studied in children pre-school-age and younger, presumably...
Article
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The present study examined how children spontaneously represent facial cues associated with emotion. 106 three‐ to six‐year‐old children (48 male, 58 female; 9.4% Asian, 84.0% White, 6.6% more than one race) and 40 adults (10 male, 30 female; 10% Hispanic, 30% Asian, 2.5% Black, 57.5% White) were recruited from a Midwestern city (2019–2020), and so...
Article
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Children face a difficult task in learning how to reason about other people's emotions. How intensely facial configurations are displayed can vary not only according to what and how much emotion people are experiencing, but also across individuals based on differences in personality, gender, and culture. To navigate these sources of variability, ch...
Article
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In a previous Perspectives article, we described conceptual problems that pose challenges for research on the effects of childhood adversity and offered promising directions for future research on this topic. In a commentary on that article, McLaughlin et al. disagree with some of these criticisms and defend the utility of their current approaches....
Article
Full-text available
Abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, and other forms of early life adversity (ELA) are incredibly common and significantly impact physical and mental development. While important progress has been made in understanding the impacts of ELA on behavior and the brain, the preponderance of past work has primarily centered on threat processing and vigil...
Article
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Having sensitive, contingent, and supportive social relationships has been linked to more positive outcomes after experiences of early childhood adversity. Traditionally, social relationships are construed as moderators that buffer children from the effects of exposure to adverse events. However, recent data support an alternative view: that suppor...
Article
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More than 5.6 million people have fled Syria since 2011, about half of them children. These children grow up with parents that often suffer from war-related mental health problems. In this study, we assess emotional processing abilities of 6–18 year-old children growing up in families that have fled from Syria and reside in Turkish communities (100...
Article
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Research over the past decades has demonstrated the explanatory power of emotions, feelings, motivations, moods, and other affective processes when trying to understand and predict how we think and behave. In this consensus article, we ask: has the increasingly recognized impact of affective phenomena ushered in a new era, the era of affectivism?
Article
Chronic and/or extreme stress in childhood, often referred to as early life stress, is associated with a wide range of long-term effects on development. Given this, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to concern about how stress due to the pandemic will affect children's development and mental health. Although early life stress has been linked to altered...
Article
Full-text available
Learners use the distributional properties of stimuli to identify environmentally relevant categories in a range of perceptual domains, including words, shapes, faces, and colors. We examined whether similar processes may also operate on affective information conveyed through the voice. In Experiment 1, we tested how adults (18-22-year-olds) and ch...
Article
Understanding the developmental timing of stress exposure may help inform mechanisms underlying how stress "gets under the skin" and influences the stress response system, including the HPA axis and its end-product cortisol. Early adversity may be particularly detrimental; however, it is difficult to disentangle the timing of adversity from its cum...
Article
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To slow the progression of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recommended wearing face coverings. However , very little is known about how occluding parts of the face might impact the emotion inferences that children make during social interactions. The current study recruited a racially div...
Article
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Historically, research characterizing the development of emotion recognition has focused on identifying specific skills and the age periods, or milestones, at which these abilities emerge. However, advances in emotion research raise questions about whether this conceptualization accurately reflects how children learn about, understand, and respond...
Article
During sensitive periods an individual’s development is especially receptive to information from the environment in ways that it is not at earlier and later developmental stages. Here, we describe challenges in applying the concept of sensitive periods to the domain of socio-emotional development, review what applications of this approach have acco...
Article
Full-text available
Background Chronic and/or extreme stress in early life, often referred to as early adversity, childhood trauma, or early life stress, has been associated with a wide range of adverse effects on development. However, while early life stress has been linked to negative effects on a number of neural systems, the specific mechanisms through which early...
Article
Integrating multiple sources of information about others’ emotional states is critical to making accurate emotional inferences. There is evidence that both acute and chronic stress influence how individuals perceive emotional information. However, there is little research examining how acute and chronic stress interact to impact these processes. Th...
Article
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Nearly 1 in 5 children in the United States lives in a household whose income is below the official federal poverty line, and more than 40% of children live in poor or near-poor households. Research on the effects of poverty on children's development has been a focus of study for many decades and is now increasing as we accumulate more evidence abo...
Article
Childhood represents a period of heightened vulnerability to long‐term impacts of stress due to the rapid neurobiological development that occurs between birth and adolescence. Here, we discuss different forms of early life that children can experience, methods for measuring and evaluating stress in humans and in animal models, and the neurobiologi...
Article
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Discovering the processes through which early adverse experiences affect children’s nervous-system development, health, and behavior is critically important for developing effective interventions. However, advances in our understanding of these processes have been constrained by conceptualizations that rely on categories of adversity that are overl...
Preprint
Children who experience severe early life stress show persistent deficits in many aspects of cognitive and social adaptation. Early stress might be associated with these broad changes in functioning because it impairs general learning mechanisms. To explore this possibility, we examined whether individuals who experienced abusive caregiving in chil...
Preprint
The family environment has strong impacts on children’s emotional development.Although children can adapt to a high degree of variation in the type of input they receive, child maltreatment is a species-atypical experience that disrupts the biological systems that underlie children’s social and emotional development. In this chapter we describe the...
Article
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The ability to recognize how another is feeling is a critical skill, with profound implications for social adaptation. Training programs designed to improve social functioning typically attempt to direct attention toward or away from certain facial configurations, or to improve discrimination between emotions by categorizing faces. However, emotion...
Article
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Childhood sexual abuse is associated with significant subsequent pathology and neurodevelopmental disruption. In particular, childhood sexual abuse has been associated with heightened threat sensitivity. However, little work has directly investigated this issue. In this study, we examine the association of childhood sexual abuse to neural and behav...
Article
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A variety of new research approaches are providing new ways to better understand the developmental mechanisms through which poverty affects children’s development. However, studies of child poverty often characterize samples using different markers of poverty, making it difficult to contrast and reconcile findings across studies. Ideally, scientist...
Article
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In the past several decades, research on emotional development has flourished. Scientists have made progress in understanding infants', children's, and adults' abilities to recognize, communicate, and regulate their emotions. However, many questions remain unanswered or only partly answered. We are poised to move from descriptions of aspects of emo...
Article
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It is commonly assumed that a person’s emotional state can be readily inferred from his or her facial movements, typically called emotional expressions or facial expressions. This assumption influences legal judgments, policy decisions, national security protocols, and educational practices; guides the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric illness...
Article
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Importance Childhood maltreatment is associated with serious developmental consequences that may be different depending on the form of maltreatment. However, relatively little research has investigated this issue despite implications for understanding the development of psychiatric disorders after maltreatment. Objective To determine the associati...
Article
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Childhood maltreatment is a critical problem in the United States. Much attention has been paid to the negative outcomes suffered by victims of abuse. Less attention has been devoted to understanding the emotional environments of maltreated children. One assumption, which has stood without empirical test, is that abused children encounter a high de...
Article
Full-text available
Although the configurations of facial muscles that humans perceive vary continuously, we often represent emotions as categories. This suggests that, as in other domains of categorical perception such as speech and color perception, humans become attuned to features of emotion cues that map onto meaningful thresholds for these signals given their en...
Article
Full-text available
Early childhood exposure to family violence predicts increased risk for psychopathology. However, violence between partners and towards children often co-occur. This complicates efforts to determine how experiences of family violence contribute to early mental health problems. Utilizing mother-report data on harsh parenting and intimate partner vio...
Article
Full-text available
Chronic and severe stress exposure in early childhood is associated with the development of psychiatric disorders. Yet, the molecular mechanisms underlying this relationship remain poorly understood. Here, we profile molecular marks (DNA methylation and gene expression) throughout the human genome to determine the associations between childhood str...
Article
Full-text available
Significance Individuals who have experienced high levels of stress in early childhood are at risk for a wide range of behavioral problems, yet the neurobiological processes underlying these associations are poorly understood. In this experiment, we uncover a potential mechanism leading to maladaptive decision making: altered brain activation durin...
Article
Full-text available
Individuals who have experienced high levels of childhood stress are at increased risk for a wide range of behavioral problems that persist into adulthood, yet the neurobiological and molecular mechanisms underlying these associations remain poorly understood. Many of the difficulties observed in stress-exposed children involve problems with learni...
Article
Full-text available
Children who experience severe early life stress show persistent deficits in many aspects of cognitive and social adaptation. Early stress might be associated with these broad changes in functioning because it impairs general learning mechanisms. To explore this possibility, we examined whether individuals who experienced abusive caregiving in chil...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Many existing brain network distances are based on matrix norms. The element-wise differences may fail to capture underlying topological differences. Further, matrix norms are sensitive to outliers. A few extreme edge weights may severely affect the distance. Thus it is necessary to develop network distances that recognize topology. In this paper,...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter highlights different perspectives on the ontogenesis of emotion. It examines data that are both in favor of and inconsistent with these arguments about the origin of emotion. The chapter also examines the development of emotion among children whose environments have differed in important ways from a species-typical caregiving environme...
Article
Full-text available
In diffusion tensor imaging, structural connectivity between brain regions is often measured by the number of white matter fiber tracts connecting them. Other features such as the length of tracts or fractional anisotropy (FA) are also used in measuring the strength of connectivity. In this study, we investigated the effects of incorporating the nu...
Preprint
Full-text available
In diffusion tensor imaging, structural connectivity between brain regions is often measured by the number of white matter fiber tracts connecting them. Other features such as the length of tracts or fractional anisotropy (FA) are also used in measuring the strength of connectivity. In this study, we investigated the effects of incorporating the nu...
Chapter
Childhood represents a period of extreme vulnerability. Children’s brains and bodies are developing at a rapid pace to navigate an increasingly complex environment and, as with other primates, are heavily dependent upon caregivers. There is a great deal of variation in the quality of parenting children receive, and children’s development is flexibl...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Children who experience early adversity often develop emotion regulatory problems, but little is known about the mechanisms that mediate this relation. We tested whether general associative learning processes contribute to associations between adversity, in the form of child maltreatment, and negative behavioral outcomes. Methods: Ei...
Article
Full-text available
Individuals track probabilities, such as associations between events in their environments, but less is known about the degree to which experience-within a learning session and over development-influences people's use of incoming probabilistic information to guide behavior in real time. In two experiments, children (4-11 years) and adults searched...
Article
Although a number of studies have reported that children of depressed, compared to nondepressed, parents exhibit biased attention to sad facial stimuli, the direction of this bias remains unclear; some studies find evidence of preferential attention toward sad faces whereas others find evidence of attention avoidance. In the current study, we used...
Article
Full-text available
Children who experience early caregiving neglect are very likely to have problems developing and maintaining relationships and regulating their social behavior. One of the earliest manifestations of this problem is reflected in indiscriminate behavior, a phenomenon where young children do not show normative wariness of strangers or use familiar adu...
Article
Rumination, a cognitive process that involves passively, repetitively focusing on negative feelings and their meaning, is a transdiagnostic risk factor for psychopathology. Research with adults has suggested that attentional control difficulties may underlie rumination, but questions remain about the nature of these processes. Furthermore, the rela...
Article
Full-text available
There have been long-standing differences of opinion regarding the influence of the face relative to that of contextual information on how individuals process and judge facial expressions of emotion. However, developmental changes in how individuals use such information have remained largely unexplored and could be informative in attempting to reco...
Article
Full-text available
In Reply We are delighted that our article1 has continued to increase interest in the ways that growing up in poor families affects children’s health and development. We welcome the Letters to the Editor appearing in this issue of JAMA Pediatrics and concur that the experiences described by the authors are important components of impoverished envir...
Article
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Recent research in the field of child maltreatment has begun to shed new light on the emergence of health problems in children by emphasizing the responsiveness of developmental processes to children's environmental and biological contexts. Here, I highlight recent trends in the field with an emphasis on the effects of early life stress across mult...
Article
The integrative field of developmental psychopathology is having a huge impact on our understanding of human health and behavior. In this paper, I use the example of children's early stress exposure to illustrate how developmental psychopathologists now tend to deemphasize diagnostic categories and, instead, emphasize the social and biological cont...