Affective Science, Decision-Making, and Emotion

Recent strategic planning efforts have highlighted the importance of research that elucidates the role of affect, decision-making, and specifically emotion, in cancer control. Such research may have important theoretical and clinical implications for the reduction of cancer risk and the improvement in cancer outcomes.

Converging evidence has demonstrated that affect is a pervasive determinant of decision-making, with multiple mechanisms of influence and means for intervention. It’s harmful at times, and beneficial at others. Association studies implicate affective states in cancer-related information processing; decisions about cancer risk and preventive behaviors (e.g., smoking, overeating, cancer screening, HPV vaccination); decisions about treatment and treatment adherence; and decisions about palliative and end-of-life care.

However, our understanding of how emotions influence single and multiple event decisions relevant to cancer prevention and control is in its infancy. Efforts to develop, test, and disseminate cancer control and biomedical interventions to reduce cancer risk, incidence, morbidity, and mortality will be hampered without improvements in basic knowledge about how affect influences individual and collective cancer-related behavioral decision-making. Greater understanding of the highly context-specific influence of emotion is critical to maximizing the ability to translate advances in affective science into objective and measurable improvements in cancer control.

Areas of Research Emphasis

The Basic Biobehavioral and Psychological Sciences Branch (BBPSB) seeks to fund innovative affective science research that has potential downstream benefits for cancer prevention and control. Basic biobehavioral and psychological science related to cancer-related outcomes may include the following areas of examination:

  • Affective states as they relate to judgments and decisions relevant to cancer (e.g., cancer risk behaviors such as poor energy balance and tobacco use; informed consent; clinical cancer care; response to placebo conditions in cancer clinical trials; cancer communication)
  • Affective responses to social experiences and potential influences on biological processes associated with cancer progression and outcome
  • Affect in cancer survivorship experiences and trajectories
  • Affective phenomena (e.g., emotion, stress, mood) and mechanisms by which these may influence cancer outcomes
  • Associations among affect and cognition, social cognition, expectancy, hedonics, sensation, and perception

Selected Active Grants

PI Name Organization Name Project Title Project Number
Elliot T. Berkman, Ph.D.
University of Oregon Construal Level as a Novel Pathway for Affect Regulation and Cancer Control
Cho Y. Lam, Ph.D., M.A.
University of Utah Affective Science and Smoking Cessation: Real Time Real World Assessment
Vaughan W. Rees, Ph.D.
Harvard School of Public Health Informing Anti-Tobacco Communications with Affective and Decision Science: Application of the Appraisal Tendency Framework
Lisa Barrett, Ph.D.
Northeastern University Fundamental Subcortical Mechanisms of Affective Processing
David Spiegel, M.D.
Stanford University Impact of Affect Reactivity and Regulation on Breast Cancer Treatment Decisions

Funding Opportunities

Title Announcement # Expiration Date Contact
Fundamental Mechanisms of Affective and Decisional Processes in Cancer Control
PAR-20-034 (R01 Clinical Trial Optional)

January 08, 2023 Rebecca Ferrer
NCI Small Grants Program for Cancer Research for Years 2020, 2021, and 2020
PAR-20-052 (NCI Omnibus R03 Clinical Trial Optional)

January 08, 2023 Paige Green
NIH Research Project Grant
PA-20-185 (Parent R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

May 08, 2023 Paige Green
Modular R01s in Cancer Control and Population Sciences
PAR-21-190 (R01 Clinical Trial Optional)

March 08, 2024 Scott Rogers

Related Events and Initiatives

The Cognitive, Affective, and Social Processes in Health Research (CASPHR) Working Group

A fundamental goal of the National Cancer Institute’s Behavioral Research Program (BRP) is to address how basic behavioral research, particularly on cognitive, affective, and social processes, can be leveraged to address outcomes across the cancer control continuum. The Cognitive, Affective, and Social Processes in Health Research (CASPHR) work group was formed in 2009 to help facilitate such integration.


Last Updated
May 30, 2024