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  • Clinical psychology

  • Psychotherapy

  • Security research

Clinical psychology

Research on clinical psychology in our lab focuses on the processing of emotional and social stimuli, which are usually disturbed in patients with mental disorders. In our view, it is essential to integrate experimental and neurophysiological research designs, in order to investigate these basic phenomena of psychological experiences and behaviors. In addition, innovative techniques like virtual reality are used to optimize the experimental environment and enhance ecological validity.

Fear and anxiety disorders are our main research priorities, and we focus mostly on learning and attention processes within these domains. One example for ongoing efforts in this area are our studies on the impact of context on learning and unlearning of fear reactions, also taking into consideration genetic differences and gene environment interactions on fear learning and attention. Please see Projects for further details.


In addition to basic research questions on learning and attention in mental disorders, we are also interested in psychotherapy research. In this area, we mainly study the advantages of exposure in virtual reality as an innovative intervention method in anxiety disorders. Recent studies have shown this method to be very effective and it is therefore extremely attractive for patients.

We also use virtual reality to investigate components of the therapeutic process, since this technique provides the unique possibility to generate extremely controllable and easily adjustable experimental settings. For example, we studied context conditions that are necessary for a successful exposure therapy in anxiety disorders (see: "Effect of multiple context exposure on renewal in spider phobia")

Another research focus at our department are social interactions, which are often relevant for experiencing stress in private as well as professional contexts. Problems in this area are also a defining component of several mental disorders and point of intervention in psychotherapy. To shed more light on various aspects of social interactions, we utilize virtual reality paradigms with the ultimate goal to develop VR tools to investigate social interactions, which can also be used in mental illness prevention programs and to treat social anxiety.

For our research regarding innovative therapy methods and therapeutic procedures we use the opportunities provided by the University Outpatient Psychotherapy Clinic; cognitive behavioral therapy is applied and investigated here. In the field of psychotherapeutic research, we are most interested in the influence of feedback on the therapists in course of running therapy. We also study such methods as schema therapy and acceptance with regard to their active components.

Security research

We are also conducting studies on perceived security in public places. This includes for example the analysis of behavior during emergencies in tunnels, in order to optimize evacuation procedures. It has been repeatedly observed that despite strong smoke contamination during a fire, drivers stay in their cars because they feel safer there, even if this behavior is actually harmful. In this line of research, we are interested in how to raise the rates of target behavior (e.g. looking for an emergency exit) for example through training in virtual reality. This work is carried out with support by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research through SKRIBT and SKRIBTplus (http://www.skribt.org) and in close cooperation with the department of Psychology I of the University of Würzburg.

  1. Fakultät für Psychologie, Pädagogik und Sportwissenschaft
  2. Institut für Psychologie

Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy