Hi, I'm Emma Herms

a third year Ph.D. student in Clinical and Cognitive Science at Indiana University. My work uses computational and neuroimaging methods to study interoception (i.e., the physiological state of the body) and affective processes (e.g., emotion regulation, interpersonal relationships, decision-making) in both community and clinical populations.


Herms, E., Bolbecker, A. R., & Wisner, K. M. (2022). Emotion Regulation and Delusion-proneness Relate to Empathetic Tendencies in a Transdiagnostic Sample. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2213.

Purcell, J. R., Herms, E. N., Morales, J., Hetrick, W. P., Wisner, K. M., & Brown, J. W. (2022). A review of risky decision-making in psychosis-spectrum disorders. Clinical psychology review, 91, 102112.

Herms, E. N., Bishop, J. R., Okuneye, V. T., Tamminga, C. A., Keshavan, M. S., Pearlson, G. D., ... & Keedy, S. K. (2020). No connectivity alterations for striatum, default mode, or salience network in association with self-reported antipsychotic medication dose in a large chronic patient group. Schizophrenia research, 223, 359-360.

Ongoing Projects

Hierarchical Bayesian Models of Risk-Taking

Using the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) to assess individual differences in risk-taking behavior. In this task, participants pump a virtual balloon to earn rewards. The more pumps, the higher the reward, but the greater probability the balloon will burst. If the balloon bursts participants receive no reward. Similar to risk-taking in real life, the probability of the balloon bursting is unknown.

We are applying hierarchical Bayesian modeling to study behavioral BART performance via the Expectancy Valence model (Busemeyer and Stout, 2002; Wallsten et al., 2005). Specifically, we model risk tolerance (𝛾), the prior belief of balloon not bursting (𝜙), updating rate (𝜂), and inverse temperature (𝜏).

Interoceptive Models of Mental Health

Developments in computational neuroscience have provided a theoretical (i.e., Free Energy Principle) and quantitative approach (i.e., Bayesian Predictive Coding) thought to better reflect how the brain makes sense of sensory information. Prior beliefs (i.e., models of the world) are combined with sensory input to generate perceptual experience.

Research has suggested that unbalanced weighting of prior beliefs and sensory input may be an integral part of mental health problems (e.g., hallucinations may reflect imbalance of prior beliefs about the likelihood of hearing voices compared to incoming auditory input). Previous work has examined mental health problems through the lens of hyper-precise prior beliefs about exteroceptive stimuli (e.g., auditory and visual inputs). However, many interoceptive stimuli (i.e., sensations reflecting the physiological state of one’s body) have not been examined via hierarchical Bayesian models of belief updating. This ongoing project utilizes a novel interoception paradigm to examine how the weighting and updating of prior beliefs regarding interoceptive inputs may vary with mental health symptoms.

Professional Development

... coming soon

Science Communication

What are delusions?: A look at social processes behind delusional beliefs

Researchers and mental health professionals use a common definition to describe delusions: a fixed, false belief held despite contradictory evidence. Not only does this definition fail to distinguish delusions from other widespread beliefs, such as religious or ideological beliefs, but it also attempts to simplify delusions to an individual characteristic of irrationality (i.e., the person has failed to distinguish what is true and false. This conceptualization of delusions has been criticized, and new theories have emerged, which focus on the inherently social nature of acquiring beliefs. This framework might better explain why delusions exist in the general population and identify some ways in which false beliefs can form...

Putting it into context: How psychology has shaped our knowledge of universal emotions

What are common emotions experienced in your culture? In the United States, happiness, anger, sadness, and fear are considered common emotions. The traditional theory of emotion assumes emotions are universally recognized by all humans. This theory dominates pop culture, with movies like Pixar’s Inside Out, which features characters personifying five emotions that coordinate our every action, and items like Amazon’s Halo Watch, which claims to detect emotions based on tone of voice. Yet, it is not possible to determine what emotion someone is experiencing based only on their face or tone of voice. Instead, our brain makes a prediction that is influenced by past experience, the current context, and interoceptive signals from our body (e.g., heart and breathing rate, hunger cues) from a culture-specific perspective...

How Culture and Context Shape Our Understanding of Emotions

Traditionally, emotions were thought of as universal. What would it mean for an emotion to be universal? A universal emotion would be associated with a single facial expression or unique physiological response and be consistent across cultures. Researchers have explored potential universal facial expressions for emotions...