UC Berkeley Institute of Personality and Social Research

Affective Science Training Program


Affective science (the study of emotions, moods, affect-based pathology, and other emotion-related phenomena) has expanded dramatically in recent years. Its impact has been felt throughout psychology, biology, neurology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. This growth has been accompanied by scientific specialization that has had both benefits and costs. Among the benefits are increasingly mature theories and a veritable explosion of methodological advances and empirically-derived knowledge concerning aspects of affect ranging from molecular to molar levels. Among the costs are increasingly narrow training and growing isolation among areas of specialization, resulting in affective scientists who may not have familiarity and facility with traditions other than their own. Our training program augments the specialized training predoctoral students receive in their chosen fields with substantive exposure to other traditions and methods within affective science. The multi-university nature of the training program is essential to achieving these goals, greatly expanding the community of affective scientists that trainees meet, learn from, and work with. The training program is built on the view that fostering an appreciation and understanding of the theories, methods, and data of areas of affective science beyond one’s own area of specialization lays the groundwork for better communication among subspecialties, more interdisciplinary collaborations, and a stronger and more integrative affective science. Our training faculty are specialists in all aspects of affect, including neurobiological, psychological, developmental, and social methods.

The Trainees

We recruit new predoctoral trainees each year from psychology, neuroscience, and health sciences programs at four Bay Area universities (one trainee each from Stanford University and the Berkeley, Davis, and San Francisco campuses of the University of California). Trainees participate in a two-year training sequence leading up to their dissertation research.

The Training

Training takes place in a year-long affective science seminar at Berkeley taught by Iris Mauss and Sheri Johnson, in addition to specialized methods workshops. Trainees receive ongoing support and guidance from individually tailored Mentorship Committees. In their second year, trainees complete a research rotation in a Secondary Mentor’s laboratory. The culmination of each year is our summer conference, where trainees share and discuss their findings with the research faculty. 

Trainees receive a stipend, partial fees and tuition, and funds to support minor research expenses. Applications are accepted in April or May of each year. 

Underrepresented and ethnic minority students are encouraged to apply. Students who have a disability are encouraged to apply.

The Program History

In 1987, four affective scientists (Paul Ekman of UCSF, Richard Lazarus of Berkeley, Richard Davidson of Wisconsin, and Robert Levenson of Berkeley) met with NIMH program staff to discuss the perceived need for a different kind of broadly-trained scientist appropriate for the newly-emerging field of affective science. The affective science training program was founded in 1989, originally as a postdoctoral training program. In 1999, the program adopted its current focus on predoctoral training. Robert Levenson led the program for more than two decades, and in 2011, Sheri Johnson and James Gross became the co-leaders.

Over the decades, the program has served as a base for some of the leading scholars in affective science. Our early trainees are now in senior roles in the scientific community (Barb Fredrickson, James Gross, Dacher Keltner, Brian Knutson, Jeanne Tsai), and more recent trainees are rapidly rising stars (June Gruber, Iris Mauss, Jon Rottenberg, Jessica Tracy). 

Our Faculty

The faculty of the affective science training program include 31 scientists from across the four schools, including developmental, cognitive, neurobiological, hormonal, sociocultural, and clinical experts. The faculty use a diverse array of populations and methods to understand the nature of affect and disruptions in affect. Faculty in the program provide presentations in the affective science seminar, host methods workshops, attend the annual research conference, and are available for consultation. 


What are the Eligibility Criteria for Trainees?

Strong letters of recommendation from their research mentor and one other faculty member

A clear investment in affective science as judged by letters and from the research statement by the applicant about their research interests, accomplishments, and goals

Evidence that the applicant is interested in translational science relevant to mental health

A competitive publication record or other indicators of likely productivity

Excellent writing skills as manifest in a writing sample

A clear commitment to a research career bearing fundamentally on the study of affect as indicated by career goals and career trajectory

Only US citizens or permanent residents are eligible for NIH training grant stipends, but we consider applications from those who seek training without the stipend as well.


If you would like to learn more about the program, please contact Elizabeth Peele.