William A Cunningham

William A Cunningham
University of Toronto | U of T · Department of Psychology

Yale University

About

97
Publications
45,587
Reads
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14,348
Citations
Additional affiliations
July 2016 - January 2017
University of Toronto
Position
  • Professor
July 2012 - present
University of Toronto
Position
  • Professor (Associate)

Publications

Publications (97)
Article
Both novelty and uncertainty are potent features guiding exploration; however, they are often experimentally conflated, and an understanding of how they interact to regulate the balance between exploration and exploitation has proved elusive. Using a task designed to decouple the influence of novelty and uncertainty, we identify separable mechanism...
Article
Recent evidence suggests that both novelty and uncertainty act as potent features guiding exploration. However, these variables are often conflated with each other experimentally, and an understanding of how these attributes interact to regulate the balance between exploration and exploitation has proved elusive. Using a novel task designed to deco...
Article
Full-text available
Dual-process models of altruistic choice assume that automatic responses give way to deliberation over time, and are a popular way to conceptualize how people make generous choices and why those choices might change under time pressure. However, these models have led to conflicting interpretations of behaviour and underlying psychological dynamics....
Article
Full-text available
Data analysis workflows in many scientific domains have become increasingly complex and flexible. Here we assess the effect of this flexibility on the results of functional magnetic resonance imaging by asking 70 independent teams to analyse the same dataset, testing the same 9 ex-ante hypotheses1. The flexibility of analytical approaches is exempl...
Article
Full-text available
Understanding the neural implementation of value-based choice has been an important focus of neuroscience for several decades. Although a consensus has emerged regarding the brain regions involved, including ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), posterior parietal cortex (PPC), and the ventral striatum (vSTR), the multifaceted nature of decision...
Article
Psychological theories posit that affective experiences can be decomposed into component constituents, yet disagree on the level of representation of these components. Affective experiences have been previously described as emerging from core dimensions of valence and arousal. However, this view needs to be reconciled with accounts of valence proce...
Article
Background: Disruptions in affective processing characterize mood disorders, yet the neural mechanisms underlying internal state dependency in affective processes are not well understood. The present work presents a pilot investigation into state dependency among neural circuits known to be involved in processing affective information, by examinin...
Preprint
Full-text available
Biases in choice behavior are shaped by both immediately encountered cues as well as the background context in which these cues are embedded. Here we examine the mechanisms that underlie the integration of contextual and cue information, and the manner in which these sources of information shape behavior. We demonstrate contextual influence on choi...
Poster
Why are some people generous and others, selfish? Research on altruistic choice has often revolved around whether human beings are intuitively and automatically pro-social or if self-control is required to override selfish impulses. The available research using time pressure to answer these question yields contradictory results, with some peroratin...
Preprint
The affective biasing of attention is not typically considered to be a form of emotion regulation. In this article, we argue that ‘affect-biased attention’ – the predisposition to attend to certain categories of affectively salient stimuli over others – provides an important component of emotion regulation. Affect-biased attention regulates subsequ...
Article
Objectives: Bipolar disorder (BD) is associated with elevated reward sensitivity and persistent positive affect, yet the neural mechanisms underlying these patterns are not well understood. In the present study, we examined putative disruptions in communication within a well-known cortico-limbic reward circuit during reward processing as a potenti...
Preprint
Full-text available
Understanding the neural implementation of value-based choice has been an important focus of neuroscience for several decades. Although a consensus has emerged regarding the brain regions involved, disagreement persists regarding precise regional functions and how value information flows between value-based choice regions. In the current study, we...
Article
We seek to balance the need to minimize false positives with the need to maximize power. We propose a compartmentalized series of analyses that a priori selects regions of voxels that have different degrees of predicted involvement. Alpha thresholds are allocated based on the strength of expected theoretical relationships. For example, confirmatory...
Article
Full-text available
The ability to mentally represent future events is a significant human psychological achievement. A challenge that people encounter is that they often lack detailed specifics about distant relative to near future events. Construal level theory (Liberman & Trope, 2014) proposes that people represent distant future events by their abstract and essent...
Article
We review the psychological literature on the organization of valence, discussing theoretical perspectives that favor a single dimension of valence, multiple valence dimensions, and positivity and negativity as dynamic and flexible properties of mental experience that are contingent upon context. Turning to the neuroscience literature that spans th...
Article
Full-text available
People's behaviors are often guided by valenced responses to objects in the environment. Beyond positive and negative evaluations, attitudes research has documented the importance of attitude strength-qualities of an attitude that enhance or attenuate its impact and durability. Although neuroscience research has extensively investigated valence, li...
Article
While the field of emotions research has benefited from new developments in neuroscience, many theoretical questions remain unsolved. We propose that integrating our iterative reprocessing (IR) framework with the passive frame theory (PFT) may help unify competing theoretical perspectives of emotion. Specifically, we propose that PFT and the IR fra...
Article
Recent evidence suggests that postpartum depression (PPD) is associated with reduced amygdala (AMY) response to negative stimuli. However, given the anhedonic features of PPD, it is important to consider mothers' brain response specifically to positive infant and to other positive stimuli. Mothers with (n=28) and without (n=17) clinically determine...
Article
Full-text available
Bipolar disorder (BD) is associated with increased reactivity to rewards and heightened positive affectivity. It is less clear to what extent this heightened reward sensitivity is evident across contexts and what the associated neural mechanisms might be. The present investigation used both a monetary and social incentive delay task among adults wi...
Article
Full-text available
Positive affect has long been considered a hallmark of subjective happiness. Yet, high levels of positive affect have also been linked with hypomania risk: a set of cognitive, affective, and behavioral characteristics that constitute a dispositional risk for future episodes of hypomania and mania. At a personality level, two powerful predictors of...
Article
Full-text available
Organisms must constantly balance appetitive needs with vigilance for potential threats. Recent research suggests that the amygdala may play an important role in both of these goals. Although the amygdala plays a role in processing motivationally relevant stimuli that are positive or negative, negative information often appears to carry greater wei...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The Ternus effect is a robust bistable illusion of motion that produces element motion at short interstimulus intervals (ISIs; <50ms) and group motion at longer ISIs (> 50ms). Previous research has shown that the nature of the stimuli (e.g., similarity, grouping), not just ISI, can influence the likelihood of perceiving element or group motion. In...
Article
Full-text available
Previous work has identified a distributed network of neural systems involved in appraising the value of rewards, such as when winning $100 versus $1. These studies, however, confounded monetary value and the number used to represent it, which leads to the possibility that some elements in the network may be specialized for processing numeric rathe...
Article
Full-text available
People respond to dissimilar political beliefs in a variety of ways, ranging from openness and acceptance to closed-mindedness and intolerance. While there is reason to believe that uncertainty may influence political tolerance, the direction of this influence remains unclear. We propose that threat moderates the effect of uncertainty on tolerance;...
Article
Full-text available
Metacognition refers to thinking about our own thinking and implies a distinction between primary and secondary cognition. This article reviews how neuroscience has dealt with this distinction between first and second-order cognition, with special focus on meta-cognitive confidence. Meta-cognitive confidence is important because it affects whether...
Article
Full-text available
Psychological constructivist models of emotion propose that emotions arise from the combinations of multiple processes, many of which are not emotion specific. These models attempt to describe both the homogeneity of instances of an emotional "kind" (why are fears similar?) and the heterogeneity of instances (why are different fears quite different...
Article
Full-text available
Although much is known about the neural dynamics of maladaptive affective styles, the mechanisms of happiness and well-being are less clear. One possibility is that the neural processes of trait happiness are the opposite of those involved in depression/anxiety: "rose colored glasses" cause happy people to focus on positive cues while remaining obl...
Article
Full-text available
Over the past decade, intuitionist models of morality have challenged the view that moral reasoning is the sole or even primary means by which moral judgments are made. Rather, intuitionist models posit that certain situations automatically elicit moral intuitions, which guide moral judgments. We present three experiments showing that evaluations a...
Data
(A) Participants were presented with 104 actions one at a time on a desktop computer using E-Prime (Experiment 1). (B) Participants were presented with an additional 16 additional actions, for a total of 120 actions (Experiments 2 and 3). (DOCX)
Article
Psychopathy can be considered as a dimension anchored on one end by a lack of concern for others. Even in its milder forms, psychopathy can lead to everyday antisocial behavior, such as plagiarism and cheating or getting into fistfights. Although a lack of concern for others is central to the concept of psychopathy, it is unclear whether this stems...
Article
The scientific study of emotion faces a potentially serious problem: after over a hundred years of psychological study, we lack consensus regarding the very definition of emotion. We propose that part of the problem may be the tendency to define emotion in contrast to cognition, rather than viewing both “emotion” and “cognition” as being comprised...
Article
Full-text available
Evidence indicates that superior memory for own-group versus other-group faces (termed own-group bias) occurs because of social categorization: People are more likely to encode own-group members as individuals. The authors show that aspects of the perceiver's social identity shape social attention and memory over and above mere categorization. In t...
Article
The affective biasing of attention is not typically considered to be a form of emotion regulation. In this article, we argue that 'affect-biased attention' - the predisposition to attend to certain categories of affectively salient stimuli over others - provides an important component of emotion regulation. Affect-biased attention regulates subsequ...
Article
Full-text available
The decision to approach or avoid an unfamiliar person is based in part on one's evaluation of facial expressions. Individuals with Williams syndrome (WS) are characterized in part by an excessive desire to approach people, but they display deficits in identifying facial emotional expressions. Likert-scale ratings are generally used to examine appr...
Article
Full-text available
Over the past few decades, dual attitude/process/system models have emerged as the dominant framework for understanding a wide range of psychological phenomena. Most of these models characterize the unconscious and conscious mind as being built from discrete processes or systems: one that is reflexive, automatic, fast, affective, associative, and p...
Article
Full-text available
Research on person categorization suggests that people automatically and inflexibly categorize others according to group memberships, such as race. Consistent with this view, research using electroencephalography (EEG) has found that White participants tend to show an early difference in processing Black versus White faces. Yet, new research has sh...
Article
The current research examines why people have superior recognition memory for own-group members compared to other-group members. In two studies, we provide evidence for one motivational mechanism underlying own-group bias—social belonging needs. In Study 1, participants assigned to a minimal group had superior memory for own-group compared to other...
Article
Full-text available
Based on a basic emotions perspective, a dominant view in psychology is that the primary function of the amygdala is to govern the emotion of fear. In this view, the amygdala is necessary for a person to feel afraid, and when amygdala activity is detected, one can infer that a person is feeling afraid or threatened. In this paper, we review current...
Article
Full-text available
A large network of spatially contiguous, yet anatomically distinct regions in medial frontal cortex is involved in reward processing. Although it is clear these regions play a role in critical aspects of reward-related learning and decision-making, the individual contributions of each component remains unclear. We explored dissociations in reward p...
Article
Full-text available
Humans have the ability to mentally time travel through past, present, and future. But can a disruption in emotion characteristic of emotional disorders cause this ability to unwind, leaving people "stuck" in the present emotional moment? Two studies are presented that examine emotional time-perspective in a disorder (mania) characterized by presen...
Article
This study examined the relative efficacy of explicit instruction and indirect priming on young children's behavior in a task that required a series of choices between a small immediate reward and a larger delayed reward. One hundread and six 4-year-old children were randomly assigned to one of four conditions involving one of two goals (maximize r...
Article
Full-text available
The words used to describe emotions can provide insight into the basic processes that contribute to emotional experience. We propose that emotions arise partly from interacting evaluations of one's current affective state, previous affective state, predictions for how these may change in the future, and the experienced outcomes following these pred...
Article
Research on affect and emotion has recently been informed by novel methods and theories in cognitive neuroscience. This perspective, known as affective neuroscience, has the potential to dramatically improve our understanding of fundamental processes of emotion. In this article, we review the major neural systems involved in emotion and consider th...
Article
Recent research and theory has highlighted the dynamic nature of amygdala activation. Rather than simply being sensitive to a few limited stimulus categories, amygdala activation appears to be dependent on the goals of the perceiver. In this study, we extend this line of work by demonstrating that the means by which a person seeks to accomplish a g...
Article
Full-text available
Studies have shown that fusiform face area (FFA) activity increases with visual expertise. We present an fMRI study showing that faces from a social category made relevant by an experimental manipulation (members of an experimentally created in-group) preferentially recruited the FFA even when they were matched in exposure to face stimuli from a le...
Chapter
Humans possess a sophisticated evaluative system, capable of split-second, preconscious judgments, as well as drawn-out, complex, and deliberative decisions. Neuroimaging research is beginning to unpack the neural correlates of the components of evaluation and, in doing so, contributes to our understanding of the evaluative system. This chapter rev...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter reviews social neuroscience research that links social psychological attitudes and evaluative processes to their presumed neural bases. The chapter is organized into four parts. The first section discusses how attitude representations are transformed into evaluative states that can be used to guide thought and action. The next two sect...
Article
The primary question asked for this special issue concerns how neuroscience data might contribute to and generate new theories in social psychology. Interestingly, in attempts to address this question, social neuroscientists have rushed to make sometimes overly bold claims about their data to demonstrate the utility of social neuroscience. The impl...
Article
Recent research and theory has highlighted the dynamic nature of amygdala activation. Rather than simply being sensitive to a few limited stimulus categories, amygdala activation appears to be dependent on the goals of the perceiver. In this study, we extend this line of work by demonstrating that the means by which a person seeks to accomplish a g...
Article
Full-text available
Previous research suggests that spontaneous evaluative responses to a stimulus depend on how that stimulus is categorised. The present research indicates that such categorisation effects depend on task-specific aspects of the measure, thereby concealing or overriding effects of unattended category cues. Results showed that affective priming effects...
Article
Full-text available
Prior research has shown that the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) plays an important role in the representation of the evaluation of stimuli, regardless of stimulus modality. Based on these findings, researchers have proposed that the OFC serves a common currency function, allowing for the direct comparison of different types of perceptual stimuli (e.g....
Article
Full-text available
We take a social neuroscience approach to self and social categorisation in which the current self-categorisation(s) is constructed from relatively stable identity representations stored in memory (such as the significance of one's social identity) through iterative and interactive perceptual and evaluative processing. This approach describes these...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
In adult human brains, the horizontal segment of the intraparietal sulcus plays a large role in representing numeric magnitude. In children and non-human primates, however, frontal cortex may play a larger role. We hypothesized that there is a link between observed developmental changes in locus of representation (frontal to parietal) and type of r...
Article
Social cognitive neuroscience offers the promise of understanding human sociality by investigating the affective and cognitive operations of the human brain. This approach has already provided evidence of the automaticity of intergroup perception and evaluation, and illuminated how complex interactions between multiple neural component processes gu...
Article
Full-text available
Statistical thresholding (i.e. P-values) in fMRI research has become increasingly conservative over the past decade in an attempt to diminish Type I errors (i.e. false alarms) to a level traditionally allowed in behavioral science research. In this article, we examine the unintended negative consequences of this single-minded devotion to Type I err...
Chapter
In an era of increasing globalization, social and economic harmony depends on the ability of people to cooperate with others from a variety of ethnic, geographic, and religious backgrounds. A trend toward explicitly egalitarian attitudes among North Americans has been accompanied (and motivated) by legislation that makes discrimination a crime and...
Presentation
It has been repeatedly demonstrated that there is an in-group bias for face recognition such that people show greater memory for in-group compared to out-group members. Social categorization models have proposed that this bias is due to the differential way in which people are categorized. In-groups may initiate a more elaborate encoding process in...
Article
Full-text available
Effective self-regulation requires the ability to consider alternate goal states in order to adapt to shifting circumstances. Previous research on goal reflection has identified goal-type dissociations in brain regions broadly associated with self-projection. Importantly, however, there is a need to distinguish activation differences due to recruit...
Article
Full-text available
Discovering the taxonomies that best describe emotional experience has been surprisingly challenging. Clore and Huntsinger propose that by exploring the objects of emotion, such as standards or actions, we may better understand differences in emotion that emerge for similarly valenced reactions. We are sympathetic to this idea, although we suggest...
Article
Classic minimal-group studies found that people arbitrarily assigned to a novel group quickly display a range of perceptual, affective, and behavioral in-group biases. We randomly assigned participants to a mixed-race team and used functional magnetic resonance imaging to identify brain regions involved in processing novel in-group and out-group me...
Article
Full-text available
People perceive and evaluate others according to social categories. Yet social perception is complicated by the fact that people have multiple social identities, and self-categorization with these identities shifts from one situation to another. Two experiments examined whether self-categorization with a novel mixed-race group would override automa...
Article
The weak axiom of revealed preferences suggests that the value of an object can be understood through the simple examination of choices. Although this axiom has driven economic theory, the assumption of equation between value and choice is often violated. fMRI was used to decouple the processes associated with evaluating stimuli from evaluating one...
Article
In order to investigate the systems underlying the automatic and controlled processes that support social attitudes, we conducted an fMRI study that combined an implicit measure of race attitudes with the Quadruple Process model (Quad model). A number of previous neural investigations have adopted the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to examine the...
Article
Full-text available
Although early research implicated the amygdala in automatic processing of negative information, more recent research suggests that it plays a more general role in processing the motivational relevance of various stimuli, suggesting that the relation between valence and amygdala activation may depend on contextual goals. This study provides experim...