Wil's research takes a social cognitive neuroscience approach to understand the cognitive and motivational processes underlying emotional responses. Of primary interest are the affective evaluations of people and objects that guide thought and behavior. To better understand these processes, his lab uses methods and theories from both social psychology (e.g., models of attitudes and latency-based evaluation measures) and cognitive neuroscience (e.g., biological models of emotion and fMRI/EEG methods). By using the "toolboxes" of each discipline with their distinct strengths and weaknesses, a more complete picture of emotion is likely to emerge. Current research examines how motivation and emotion-regulation (which can occur at both automatic and controlled levels of processing) contribute to emotional and evaluative states. This work suggests that affective states are constructed moment to moment from multiple component processes that integrate relevant information from various sources such as automatically activated attitudes and situational contexts. In addition, recent work examines how different emotional states contribute to evaluative judgments. For example, how do dislike and hatred differ in terms of experience, processing and behavioral outcomes? With his students and collaborators, he has applied his work to the study of prejudice (and prejudice reduction), decision-making, political attitudes, morality, and affective development (emotional regulation in children).
Wil completed both his B.A. (1995) and M.A. (1998) with John Nezlek and Peter Derks at the College of William & Mary and his Ph.D. (2003) in social and cognitive psychology with Mahzarin Banaji and Marcia Johnson at Yale University. Afterward, he worked as a postdoctoral associate with Marcia Johnson in the field of cognitive neuroscience. Between 2004 and 2006, he was a faculty member at the University of Toronto and an associate scientist at the Rotman Research Institute. In addition to the Department of Psychology, he is currently affiliated with the Center for Cognitive Science and Mershon Center for International Security Studies at The Ohio State University.
Dr. Cunningham's primary appointment is at University of Toronto, and accepts students through that program .
Cunningham, W. A., Arbuckle, N. L., Jahn, A., Mowrer, S. M., & Abduljalil, A.M. (PDF). Aspects of neuroticism and the amygdala: Chronic tuning from motivational styles. Neuropsychologia.
Cunningham, W. A., Johnsen, I.R., & Waggoner, A. S. (in press). Orbitofrontal cortex provides cross-modal valuation of self-generated stimuli. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.
Cunningham, W. A. (in press). In defense of brain mapping in social and affective neuroscience. Social Cognition.
Gawronski, B., Cunningham, W. A., LeBel, E. P., & Deutsch, R. (in press). Attentional influences on affective priming: Does categorization influence spontaneous evaluations of multiply categorizable objects? Cognition and Emotion.
Cunningham, W. A., Kesek, A., Mowrer, S.M. (2009). Distinct orbitofrontal regions encode stimulus and choice valuation. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21, 1956-1966.
Cunningham, W. A. & Van Bavel, J. J. (2009). Varieties of emotional experience: Differences in object or computation? Emotion Review, 1, 56-57.
Packer, D. J. & Cunningham, W. A. (2009). Neural correlates of reflection on goal states: The role of regulatory focus and temporal distance. Social Neuroscience, 4, 412-425.
Lieberman, M., & Cunningham, W. A. (2009). Type I and Type II error concerns in fMRI research: Re-balancing the scale. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 4, 423-428.
Van Bavel, J. J. & Cunningham, W. A. (2009). Self-categorization with a novel mixed-race group moderates automatic social and racial biases. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 321-335.
Van Bavel, J. J., Packer, D. J, & Cunningham, W. A. (2008). The Neural Substrates of In-Group Bias: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Investigation. Psychological Science, 11, 1131-1139.
Beer, J. S., Stallen, M., Lombardo, M. V., Gonsalkorale, K., Cunningham, W. A., & Sherman, J. W. (2008). The Quadruple Process model approach to examining the neural underpinnings of prejudice. NeuroImage. 43, 775-783.
Cunningham, W. A., Van Bavel, J. J., & Johnsen, I. R. (2008). Affective Flexibility: Evaluative Processing Goals Shape Amygdala Activity. Psychological Science. 19, 152-160.
Cunningham, W. A., Zelazo, P. D., Packer, D. J., & Van Bavel, J. J. (2007). The Iterative Reprocessing Model: A Multilevel Framework For Attitudes And Evaluation. Social Cognition, 25, 736-760.
Cunningham, W. A., & Zelazo, P. D. (2007). Attitudes and evaluations: a social cognitive neuroscience perspective. TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences, 11, 97-104.
Touryan, S. R., Johnson, M. K., Mitchell, K. J., Farb, N., Cunningham, W. A., & Raye, C. L. (2007). The influence of self-regulatory focus on encoding of, and memory for, emotional words. Social Neuroscience, 2, 14-27.
Cunningham, W. A., & Derks, P. (2005). Humor appreciation and latency of comprehension. Humor, 18, 389–403.
Cunningham, W. A., Espinet, S. D., DeYoung, C. G., & Zelazo, P. D. (2005). Attitudes to the Right – and Left: Frontal ERP Asymmetries Associated with Stimulus Valence and Processing Goals. NeuroImage. 28, 827-834.
Cunningham, W. A., Raye, C. L., & Johnson, M. K. (2005). Neural correlates of evaluation associated with promotion and prevention regulatory focus. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 5, 202-211.
Johnson, M. K., Raye, C. L., Mitchell, K. J., Greene, E. J., Cunningham, W. A., & Sanislow, C. A. (2005). Using fMRI to investigate a component process of reflection: Prefrontal correlates of refreshing a just activated representation. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 5, 339-361.
Cunningham, W. A., Raye, C. L., & Johnson, M. K. (2004). Implicit and explicit evaluation: fMRI correlates of valence, emotional intensity, and control in the processing of attitudes. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 16, 1717-1729.
Cunningham, W. A., Johnson, M. K., Raye, C. L., Gatenby, J. C., Gore, J. C., & Banaji, M. R. (2004). Separable neural components in the processing of Black and White Faces. Psychological Science, 15, 806-813.
Cunningham, W. A., Nezlek, J. B., & Banaji, M. R. (2004). Implicit and explicit ethnocentrism: Revisiting the ideologies of prejudice. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin. 30, 1332-1346.
Cunningham, W. A., Johnson, M. K., Gatenby, J. C., Gore, J. C., & Banaji, M. R. (2003). Neural components of social evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 639-649.
Phelps, E. A., Cannistraci, C. J., & Cunningham, W. A. (2003). Intact performance on an indirect measure of race bias following amygdala damage. Neuropsychologia, 41, 203-208.
Little, T. D., Cunningham, W. A., Shahar, G., & Widaman, K. F. (2002) To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question and weighing the merits. Structural Equation Modeling, 9, 151-173.
Cunningham, W. A., Preacher, K. J., & Banaji, M. R. (2001). Implicit attitude measures: Consistency, stability, and convergent validity. Psychological Science, 12, 163-170.
Phelps, E. A., O'Connor, K. J., Cunningham, W. A., Funayama, E. S., Gatenby, J. C., Gore, J. C., & Banaji, M. R. (2000). Performance on indirect measures of race evaluation predicts amygdala activation. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 12, 729-738.
Cunningham, W. A., Johnsen, I. R., & Jahn, A. (in press). Attitudes. In J. Decety & J. T. Cacioppo (Eds.), Handbook of social neuroscience. New York: Oxford University Press.
Packer, D. J., Kesek, A., & Cunningham, W. A. (in press). Self-regulation and evaluative processing. In A. Todorov, S. Fiske, & D. Prentice (Eds.), Social neuroscience: Toward understanding the underpinnings of the social mind.
Cunningham, W. A. & Van Bavel, J. J. (2009). A neural analysis of intergroup perception and evaluation. In J. T. Cacioppo & G. Berntson (Eds.), Handbook of neuroscience for the social sciences.
Cunningham, W. A., & Zelazo, P. D. (2009). The development of iterative reprocessing: Implications for affect and its regulation. In P. D. Zelazo, M. Chandler, & E. Crone (Eds.), Developmental social cognitive neuroscience (pp. 81-98). New York: Taylor and Francis.
Van Bavel, J. J., & Cunningham, W. A. (2009). A social neuroscience approach to intergroup perception and evaluation. In W. P. Banks (Ed.), Encyclopedia of consciousness (pp. 379-388). New York: Academic Press.
Cunningham, W. A., Packer, D. J., Kesek, A., & Van Bavel, J. J. (2008). Implicit measurement of attitudes: A physiological approach. In R. E. Petty, R. H. Fazio, & P. Brinol (Eds.), Attitudes: Insights from the new implicit measures (pp. 485-512). New York: Psychology Press.
Cunningham, W. A., & Johnson, M. K. (2007). Attitudes and evaluation: Toward a component process framework. In E. Harmon-Jones & P. Winkielman (Eds.), Social neuroscience: Integrating biological and psychological explanations of social behavior (pp. 227-245). New York: Guilford Press.
Zelazo, P. D., & Cunningham, W. (2007). Executive function: Mechanisms underlying emotion regulation. In J. Gross (Ed.), Handbook of emotion regulation (pp. 135-158). New York: Guilford.