PAIRS Study (Personality, Affect, Interactions, and Risk for Suicide)

Supervising Faculty: Sarah Brown, PhD

Contact: Sarah Brown,

Area of Research: Clinical psychology, suicide risk

Description of Research: Our program of research is focused on understanding the cognitive, physiological, affective, and interpersonal processes underlying suicide ideation and suicidal behaviors. In the PAIRS Study (Personality, Affect, Interactions, and Risk for Suicide), we are examining whether social exclusion leads to impairments in decision-making and altered physiological arousal that may facilitate engagement in suicidal behaviors. In this study, young adults with recent suicide ideation or suicidal behavior will complete an experimental laboratory protocol involving a social exclusion induction, decision-making tasks, virtual reality experiences, and physiological data collection throughout the study tasks. Participants will also complete interviews and self-report assessments at baseline and 4-month follow-up, to allow us to understand short-term and long-term risk factors for suicide.

Duties of Students: All students will conduct standardized experimental protocols with direct participant interaction. All students will assist with processing (i.e., artifact correction) and analysis of psychophysiology data, as well as general data management tasks. Other project specific opportunities may include conducting clinical phone screens with potential participants, scheduling participants, providing instructions to participants for self-report assessments, and observing clinical interviews assessing cognitive functioning and suicide risk. Students will attend a bi-weekly journal club and training series held jointly with the Daily Emotions and Relationships (DEAR) study. Students will also complete literature reviews and readings to understand the conceptual and theoretical bases for the research. Students will complete a paper, poster, or journal club presentation at the end of the course. Advanced students are encouraged to engage in data analysis and conference presentations or manuscript preparation (including working with archival data collected from other related projects), depending on specific background and interests.


  • Overall GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • 12 credits of Psychology (including current term)
  • STAT 0200/1000/1100 Statistics
  • PSY 0036 Research Methods Lecture
  • PSY 0037 Research Methods Lab
  • Register for 2-3 units of directed research (6-9 hours per week)
  • Minimum 2 semester commitment
  • Strong interpersonal and organizational skills

Recruitment Process: Prior to meeting with students, I will ask them to complete a standardized form that will include the following information: academic major/minor, GPA, class standing, graduation date, number of semesters they would be interested in working in the lab, career plans/interest in graduate school, prior research experience, and personal interests in research. For all students that seem like a potential fit for the lab, I will meet with each of them individually (virtually or in-person) to discuss their interests in the research project and lab, provide additional information about the training opportunities, and answer any questions. If there are multiple interested applicants, a standardized rating scale will be used to evaluate fit between research topic and student interest, ability to meet personal goals of students, mentor-style match between lab and student, and overall interest in lab activities. These procedures will help ensure that all students are given equal opportunity regardless of race, gender, or other social identity variables.

Terms offered: Fall, Spring, Summer

Number of Students: 2