TAYA Lab Research Projects
The TAYA Lab aims to understand interpersonal and sociocultural influences on adolescent and emerging adult development, with an emphasis on gender, sexuality, social media use, body image, and LGBTQ+ youth. The lab is affiliated with the Developmental, Clinical, and Social Psychology Programs at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). Below I discuss current and recent research studies and collaborations. For information about my published work, visit the Publications page.
Project TAGS (Tracking Adolescents’ Gaze on Social Media)
PI: Sophia Choukas-Bradley
Our lab has recently begun a series of studies that will use eye-tracking technology to examine adolescents’ eye gaze while using social media. The broad goal is to understand connections between visual attention toward social media photos and adolescents’ mental health and well-being. As of the summer of 2019, we are currently completing data collection for a pilot study focused on adolescent girls’ body image, Project TAGS. This pilot study is funded in part by the American Psychological Association’s Division 7 Early Career Grant in Developmental Psychology and a grant from the University of Pittsburgh’s Central Research Development Fund. I am also planning multiple future studies involving eye-tracking technology across my areas of work on social media, body image, sexuality, and LGBTQ+ mental health.
Gender Minority Youth Study (GMY Study)
Study leaders: Rachel Salk, Brian Thoma, & Sophia Choukas-Bradley
Other collaborators: Michele Levine, Mike Marshal
All collaborators are affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry (Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic).
The Gender Minority Youth Study (GMY Study) is a mixed methods study focused on the mental health of transgender and other gender minority youth (GMY), funded in part by Pitt's University Research Council Grant for Research in Diversity (PI: Dr. Rachel Salk; co-Is: Dr. Sophia Choukas-Bradley and Dr. Brian Thoma). We completed the qualitative phase of the study in the spring of 2018, involving in-depth interviews with GMY regarding the intersection of gender identity, body image, self-objectification, and disordered eating and weight-related behaviors. Next, in the fall of 2018, we collected quantitative data online from over 2,000 gender minority and cisgender adolescents, including assessments of a broad range of mental health symptoms, interpersonal experiences, and gender identity-related processes. Data analyses are currently underway, with the goal of better understanding mental health disparities between transgender and cisgender adolescents.
Project RAISE (Researching Adolescents' Interpersonal, Sociocultural, and Educational Experiences)
PI: Sophia Choukas-Bradley
Project RAISE is a collaboration with Angela Duckworth’s Character Lab Research Network, a consortium of schools across the country that works collaboratively with scientists to advance character development research. This fall, we will launch Project RAISE, a longitudinal school-based study with 9th to 12th grade students. Our primary aim is to understand which aspects of social media use promote positive development and which appear to hinder development, across multiple interpersonal, intrapersonal, and academic domains of adjustment. We are also investigating longitudinal links among social media use, mental health, and sleep. The pre-registration plan for Project RAISE will soon be available through Open Science Framework.
Project TIDE (Teen Interviews about Diversity Experiences)
PI: Sophia Choukas-Bradley; co-investigators: Tina Goldstein, Brian Thoma, Rachel Salk, & Mike Marshal
Project TIDE is a mixed methods study aimed at understanding the intersection of LGBTQ+ experiences and mood symptomatology among adolescents who are in treatment for bipolar disorder (PI of overarching treatment study: Dr. Tina Goldstein). Aim 1 of Project TIDE is to use longitudinal modeling techniques to understand the developmental intersection of mood symptomatology, suicidality, and LGBT-related experiences, using quantitative data. Aim 2 is to understand the intersection of bipolar disorder and LGBT development in greater nuance and depth, through qualitative interviews. We completed 20 qualitative interviews with adolescents in 2019. We then developed a qualitative coding system in collaboration with Pitt’s University Center for Social & Urban Research (UCSUR), and we are beginning qualitative analyses in the fall of 2019. We will begin quantitative data analyses once participants have completed their follow-up waves in the overarching treatment outcome study. This study is partially funded by a grant from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).
Teen STAR Study (Sexuality, Technology, & Relationships):
PIs: Sophia Choukas-Bradley & Laura Widman (North Carolina State University)
In collaboration with Dr. Laura Widman’s Teen Health Lab at NC State University, the TAYA Lab is conducting a school-based longitudinal study examining interpersonal influences on adolescents’ sexuality and body image. In the spring of 2018, we administered Widman’s sexual health intervention to NC high school students and collected data on a broad range of adolescents’ experiences related to social media use, body image, sexuality, and interpersonal relationships. We collected one-year follow-up data in the spring of 2019. One of the major projects to come out of this study is the development and validation of the Appearance-Related Social Media Consciousness Scale (ASMC Scale), a scale we have administered to high school and college students that assesses the extent to which young people are fixated on their physical appearance on social media, in both their online and offline lives (manuscript currently under review).
College Life Study
PI: Sophia Choukas-Bradley
For this study, undergraduate participants completed in-depth, anonymous online surveys assessing their sexual experiences and relationships, body image and disordered eating, gender-related constructs, and social media use. Data collection was completed in 2018 and data are currently being analyzed.
Other TAYA Lab Collaborations
I have multiple ongoing collaborations focused on adolescents' and emerging adults' social media use.
In an exciting new collaboration, TeenBrainOnline, I am working with psychologists, neuroscientists, and bioengineers to design and pilot-test an updated, modern peer feedback task to use in the fMRI scanner. Specifically, we are designing an fMRI task that mimics photo-based social media sites such as Instagram. The Principal Investigator is Caroline Oppenheimer (Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic), and other collaborators include Jen Silk, Jamie Hanson, Helmet Karim, and Mary Phillips. With a new grant we received through the Pitt Innovation Challenge, we will examine whether adolescents' brain response to social media peer rejection is associated with risk for depression and suicidality beginning in the fall of 2019.
I am also working with computer scientists Dr. Pradeep Ravikumar of Carnegie Mellon and Dr. David Inouye of Purdue University, to combine developmental science with machine learning, in order to better understand cyberbullying. We recently submitted several grant applications to continue this work.
I work with researchers at the Pitt Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health to understand adolescents' and young adults' social media use. For example, starting in the fall of 2019, I will be working with Dr. César Escobar-Viera to develop a social-media delivered intervention to reduce social isolation among rural LGBTQ youth, funded by the Pitt Center for Enhancing Treatment and Utilization for Depression and Emergent Suicidality (ETUDES).
I also have long-standing collaborations with Dr. Jackie Nesi (Brown University), Dr. Mitch Prinstein (UNC Chapel Hill), and Dr. Matteo Giletta (Tilburg University, the Netherlands) on studies related to peer relations and social media use.