WHY SPLAT? – Splat Lab

Clinical science data are messy. Human beings are messy. The ways in which stigma impact marginalized populations are messy. Assuming that psychopathology can be forced into neat, discrete boxes that apply to all fails to embrace the inherent messiness of our field. In the SPLAT Lab, we embrace this messiness. We understand that it might be difficult, and sometimes impossible, to conduct research that is purely related to stigma, psychopathology, or assessment without acknowledging the intimate impact of any other domain. We try to embrace this diversity in our science. Hence, the name SPLAT reflects the mess.

Stigma

A prominent area of focus in the SPLAT Lab involves understanding the nature of psychopathology among populations defined by increased marginalization and experienced stigma. We explore how sociodemographic characteristics like race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity predispose individuals to experiencing detrimental events that compromise mental health. We also aim to understand the mechanisms through which minority stressors impact psychosocial health. Past empirical studies have looked at the deleterious impact of race/ethnicity- and sexual orientation-based discrimination. Stigma, however, includes not only explicit forms of prejudice and discrimination, but also relative access to resources and opportunities. In addition, it colors the ways in which individuals may be assessed and diagnosed with mental disorders.

Psychopathology

The current way in which we conceptualize psychopathology is plagued with limitations. Conceptualizing psychiatric disorders as discrete, non-overlapping, categorical disorders does not fit clinical science data. A major focus of the SPLAT Lab involves utilizing statistical models to elucidate the structure of psychopathology. In line with Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) framework, the lab focuses on exploring myriad resolutions of psychopathology to answer important clinical science questions. We take an approach that considers all resolutions helpful for the purpose of furthering understanding of psychopathology, but is devoted to exploring which resolutions provide the most bang for one’s buck for specific research and clinical questions.

Assessment

Related to the other foci of the lab, the ways in which we conceptualize psychopathology impact the ways in which we assess for psychiatric dysfunction. Further, stigma and structural forms of prejudice also impact the ways in which psychiatric disorders are assessed, measured, and assigned. Another prominent focus of the SPLAT Lab’s mission is the investigation and improvement of our systems of assessment and diagnosis of psychopathology.

If any of these areas interest you, please reach out! Let’s chat!
(crseijas@umich.edu and/or najiagr@umich.edu)

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