In this month’s Fellow Spotlight we are pleased to share the work of Norman Farb, Associate Professor of Psychology and Principal Investigator of the Regulatory and Affective Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
Norm studies the social neuroscience of the self and human emotion, with a focus on how biases in self-representation shape emotions to determine well-being. He has led several influential studies on the mechanisms of mindfulness training and depression vulnerability. Norm’s graduate research was galvanized by his experiences at several Mind & Life Summer Research Institutes, which supported several of his initial research projects. Norm is also the recipient of multiple Mind & Life grants including two Mind & Life Varela Grants in 2005 and 2009, and a Mind & Life 1440 Grant in 2016. He continues to be involved in service with the Mind & Life Institute and is excited by the growing number of scientists, clinicians, and practitioners working in the emerging field of contemplative studies.
More recently, motivated by findings that resilience against depression stems more from the growth of mindfulness-related skills than the eradication of residual depressive symptoms, Norm’s work has sought to clarify how to make mindfulness training accessible to more people. To this end, his lab works to identify and track elements necessary for beneficial contemplative practice, such as meta-awareness, interoception (body awareness), perspective taking, emotion regulation, and eudaimonic reward motivation. For example, Norm’s lab has been pursuing technology-supported “nudges” towards self-reflection and self-care in undergraduates, seeking both to validate the stress experiences inherent to undergraduate education, but also to support reflective and restorative habits amidst the turmoil of the college environment. Overall, his research program aims to provide an accessible set of tools, both traditional and technology-based, for assessing and training capacities central to personal growth.
In 2018, Norm was selected for the inaugural Catherine Kerr Award for Courageous and Compassionate Science for his significant contributions to the contemplative sciences and for his embodiment of the values of innovation, imagination, courage, authenticity and heartfulness. Norm was formally acknowledged for this honor at the 2018 International Symposium for Contemplative Research, where he delivered a distinguished lecture on “How to Choose Between Beautiful Stories”.
The Fellow Spotlight is a monthly segment that highlights the contributions of Mind & Life Fellows to our shared mission, featuring a different Fellow each month.