My research examines how affect and motivation influence the core cognitive processes supporting adaptive human behavior. Every day, how we feel and what we want influence how we think and what we do. We pursue goals, flexibly adjust behavior in response to feedback, and learn from our experiences. I’m interested in the neuroscience of how this happens, with a special focus on investigating the mechanisms of motivated cognitive control and long-term memory.

1. Disentangling positive affect and reward influences on cognitive control. While reward pursuit might involve the subjective experience of pleasure, the two constructs are not the same. Assays in rodent models have demonstrated that affective ‘liking’ and motivational ‘wanting’ are neurally separable, yet potentially distinct influences on human cognition remain to be well-characterized. In this line of work, I demonstrate that positive affect and reward motivation can have differing effects on cognitive control, as manifested through both task performance and pupillometric dynamics. 

Relevant publications:

Chiew, K.S., Braver, T.S. (2014). Dissociable influences of reward motivation and positive emotion on cognitive control. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience. 14: 509-29.

Chiew, K.S., Braver, T.S. (2013). Temporal dynamics of motivation-cognitive control interactions revealed by high-resolution pupillometry. Frontiers in Psychology. 4:15. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00015.

Chiew, K.S., Braver, T.S. (2011). Positive affect versus reward: emotional and motivational influences on cognitive control. Frontiers in Psychology. 2:279. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00279

2. Comparing emotional and non-emotional conflict processing. In this line of research, I developed a novel emotion conflict paradigm inducing stimulus-response interference, using volitional facial expressions as a response modality, to examine the extent to which emotional and non-emotional conflict processing may depend on common neural mechanisms.

Relevant publications:

Chiew, K.S., Braver, T.S. (2011). Neural circuitry of emotional and cognitive conflict revealed through facial expressions. PLoS ONE 6(3): e17635. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017635.

Chiew, K.S., Braver, T.S. (2010). Exploring emotional and cognitive conflict using speeded voluntary facial expressions. Emotion, 10: 842-854.

3. Motivated cognition in the real world: role of individual differences. At Duke University, I am lead investigator on an interdisciplinary project examining spatial exploration and learning within a real-life environment: specifically, an art exhibit examining human response to environmental issues. Drawing on prior work from the Adcock Lab that reward- vs. penalty-motivated learning engages different neural circuitry, leading to different memory representations (i.e., Adcock et al., 2006; Murty et al., 2011; Murty et al., 2012), we are examining how approach vs. avoidance motivational context interacts with individual differences to predict exploration behaviour and subsequent learning of the exhibit space. With our collaborators from Duke’s Nicholas School for the Environment, we are also examining motivated engagement and learning for this environmentally-themed space, together with participant narratives about sustainability, to optimize applied communication of sustainability science.

Relevant publications & presentations:

Chiew, K.S., Hashemi, J., Gans, L.K., Lerebours, L., Clement, N.J., Vu, M.A., Sapiro, G., Heller, N.E., Adcock, R.A. (submitted). Motivational context and individual differences influence exploration and learning of a real-life spatial environment.

Chiew, K.S., Newson, A., Lerebours, L., Gans, L.K., Hashemi, J., Clement, N.J., Vu, M.A., Sapiro, G., Heller, N.E., Adcock, R.A. (2016). Approach and avoidance motivation modulate human spatial exploration and learning in a real-life environment. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (New York, NY).

Complete list of publications