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David Dodell-Feder - University of Rochester. Rochester, NY, US

David Dodell-Feder

Assistant Professor of Psychology | University of Rochester


David Dodell-Feder's research looks at the processes that contribute to healthy and disordered social functioning, and their improvement.

Areas of Expertise (5)


Behavioral Methods

Psychotic Spectrum Disorders


Relationship Psychology





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The primary goal of Professor Dodell-Feder's research program is understanding the processes that contribute to healthy and disordered social functioning, and their improvement, with a particular focus on psychotic spectrum disorders. Professor Dodell-Feder utilizes a multimodal and multidisciplinary approach, including neuroimaging (e.g., task-based and resting-state fMRI) and behavioral methods (e.g., experience-sampling), as well as insights from cognitive, social, and relationship psychology, to address the following overarching questions:

What processes contribute to how we function in the social world?
In the case of disorders characterized by marked and persistent social difficulties, such as schizophrenia, what are the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms, and how do they contribute to illness risk, onset, and exacerbation?
How do we prevent and intervene on social difficulties and improve social functioning for clinical and non-clinical populations alike?
How do we best assess social cognition, social behavior, and intervention-related change in these areas?

Education (5)

McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School: Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychiatry 2018

Institute for Technology in Psychiatry/Department of Psychiatry

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center: Clinical Psychology Intern 2017

Harvard University: Ph.D., Clinical Psychology 2017

University of Rochester: B.A., Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Psychology 2008

Harvard University: M.A., Clinical Psychology 2012

Affiliations (5)

  • American Psychological Association : Member
  • Association for Psychological Science : Member
  • Social and Affective Neuroscience Society : Member
  • Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology : Member
  • Society for Personality and Social Psychology : Member

Selected Media Appearances (11)

We can actually Train ourselves to be Empaths. Here’s How.

Elephant Journal  online


A 2018 meta-analysis, led by University of Rochester psychologist David Dodell-Feder, reviewed 14 previous studies on the relationship between fiction-reading and an improved capacity for empathy. He concluded that, compared to non-readers and readers of exclusively non-fiction, fiction readers had a “statistically significant improvement in social-cognitive performance.”

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30-million-page Library Headed for the Moon

Pagosa Daily Post  online


Being a bookworm could benefit your real world interactions, making it easier to identify people’s emotions, according to a new analysis in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Researchers think this is because fiction may engage the same processes that occur during real-world social interactions or provide clues about people and cultures readers might not otherwise be exposed to, says David Dodell-Feder, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. That being said, it needs to be a book that focuses on character development – say, literary fiction – to have the promised effect.

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NDNR  online


The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) recommends a test, called the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Task (RMET). Here, participants view 36 black and white photographs, originally selected from magazine articles, of solely the eyes of Caucasian female and male actors. Participants then decide which of four adjectives—such as panicked, incredulous, despondent, or interested—best describes the mental state expressed in the eyes (the correct answer has been generated through consensus ratings). But there’s a problem. Using data from more than 40,000 people, a new study published this month in Psychological Medicine concludes that the test is deeply flawed. “It’s biased against the less educated, the less intelligent, and against ethnic and racial minorities,” says lead author David Dodell-Feder, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “It relies too heavily on a person’s vocabulary, intelligence, and culturally-biased stimuli. That’s particularly problematic because it’s endorsed by the national authority in our field and therefore the most widely-used assessment tool.”

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This study confirms the correlation between fiction and emotional intelligence

Ladders  online


It’s funny how you don’t really comprehend how much you love writers like George Macdonald until you’re an adult. It’s an enduring demonstration of the gift all the best children fiction authors seem to possess; masking vital character building lessons in engaging escapism.

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Want More Emotional Intelligence in 2019? Do More of This 1 Thing, According to 2 Clinical Psychologists

Inc.  online

David Dodell-Feder, assistant professor in psychology at the University of Rochester, and Diana Tamir, an assistant professor in psychology at Princeton, undertook a meta-study in which they reviewed 14 studies that examined whether reading fiction, compared with reading nonfiction or not reading at all, had a measurable effect on subjects' empathy. Empathy was measured in a variety of ways, including the ability to read other people's expressions, to see things from other people's perspectives, and to guess how others would feel in different situations. The empathy improvement was small but statistically significant, and it was repeated across different studies and different ways of measuring empathy.

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Common test for mental health understanding is biased, study finds

ScienceDaily  online


The National Institute for Mental Health recommends a test, called the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Task (RMET), for assessing a person's mental health understanding -- that is a patient's ability to understanding what other people are thinking and feeling. But there's a problem. Using data from more than 40,000 people, a new study concludes that the test is deeply flawed. It relies too heavily on a person's vocabulary, intelligence, and culturally-biased stimuli.

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Reading fiction makes you a little nicer

The Cut  online


My middle school had a program called AIR (I don’t know what that stands for) in which students were awarded points for every book we read — or, I should say, for every book for which they passed the corresponding trivia quiz. Not that I, or anyone, ever took a quiz for a book they didn’t read. But shorter, easier books were worth fewer points, while harder, longer books were worth more, and more points meant better trade-in prizes. The Mists of Avalon, for instance, was, like, 100 points, but it was also 876 pages long. So I wouldn’t be shocked if someone read 20 pages plus the Cliff Notes because they really wanted the giant novelty pencil from the prize catalogue. Not that it mattered, because certain seventh grade teachers were pretty negligent with the prize collection forms, and certain bloggers never even received what they only halfway-earned. I guess you could argue that the real prize was all the literature we consumed along the way — and, according to an analysis of studies examining the effects of reading fiction on social behavior, we’re probably a little nicer for it, too.

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Does reading fiction really improve your social ability?

Psychology Today  online


As the founding director of the program in the Human Dimensions of Organizations at the University of Texas, I, and my colleagues, use the humanities and the social and behavioral sciences to teach people in workplaces about people.

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Peering into what goes awry in schizophrenia

University of Rochester Newscenter  online


Personable, with a self-deprecating humor, David Dodell-Feder undertakes research that belies his easy-going manner. A new assistant professor in the University’s psychology department with a secondary appointment in neuroscience, he studies the processes that underlie how humans navigate the social world and how those processes go awry in people with schizophrenia.

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New Study: Reading Fiction Really Will Make You Nicer and More Empathetic

Inc.  online

A new meta-analysis aimed to finally clarify matters. Led by University of Rochester psychologist David Dodell-Feder, this new research reviewed 14 previous studies on the relationship between reading fiction and empathy. The conclusion it came to will cheer book lovers everywhere: Compared to reading non-fiction or not reading at all, reading fiction produced a "small, statistically significant improvement in social-cognitive performance."

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Study on social interactions could improve understanding of mental health risks

PsyPost  online

Lack of social drive has been linked to social isolation and poorer mental health, including risk of psychosis in adolescence and early adulthood,” said Germine, technical director of the McLean Institute for Technology in Psychiatry. With this in mind, Germine and her co-author, David Dodell-Feder, PhD, of the University of Rochester decided to investigate how the experience of social pleasure and social drive is different over the lifespan and different demographic groups.

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Selected Event Appearances (5)

A Randomized Study of Participant Engagement Strategies for Assessing Cognitive Control and Emotion Perception in the Partners Healthcare Biobank

Society for Research in Psychopathology  Indianapolis, IN


Centrality of disorganized and interpersonal symptoms in schizotypy: A network analysis in an international population based sample

Society for Research in Psychopathology  Indianapolis, IN


Epidemiology of loneliness: Identifying risk factors for psychopathology

Society for Research in Psychopathology  Indianapolis, IN


Examination of empathic accuracy across phases of psychosis

Society for Research in Psychopathology  Indianapolis, IN


Psychosis-proneness and social networks

Society for Research in Psychopathology  Indianapolis, IN


Selected Articles (3)

The network structure of schizotypal personality traits in a population-based sample

Schizophrenia Research

David Dodell-Feder, Abhishek Saxena, Lauren Rutter, Laura Germine

2019 Outcomes for people with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders (SSDs) are generally poor, making it important to understand risk states and illness transition. The network approach, which conceptualizes psychopathology as a network of causally interacting symptoms, may hold promise in this regard. Here, we present a network analysis of schizotypal personality traits (i.e., schizophrenia-like cognitive, perceptual, affective, interpersonal, and behavioral anomalies that may index one's vulnerability for a SSD) using an international sample. We analyzed data from 9505 participants between the ages of 14–70 who completed the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire-Brief on TestMyBrain.org. In line with other research, we find that the network of schizotypal traits is densely connected, characterized by three communities of items—interpersonal (I), disorganized (D), cognitive-perceptual (CP)—with I and D features exhibiting the greatest centrality (z-scored M strength: I = 0.56, D = 0.29, CP = −0.84; expected influence: I = 0.54, D = 0.33, CP = −0.84) and predictability (M I = 0.37, D = 0.43, CP = 0.23). Importantly, within our sample, we found the estimated network to be replicable (Network Comparison Test: network structure difference: M = 0.304, p = .420; global strength difference: S = 0.904, p = .530), and estimates of node centrality to be stable (correlation-stability coefficient = 0.75). Further, we find network differences between certain groups differing in levels of SSD risk as a function of age (network structure: difference M = 0.562, p

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Social cognition or social class and culture? On the interpretation of differences in social cognitive performance

Psychological Medicine

David Dodell-Feder, Kerry J. Ressler and Laura T. Germine

2019 The ability to understand others’ mental states carries profound consequences for mental and physical health, making efforts at validly and reliably assessing mental state understanding (MSU) of utmost importance. However, the most widely used and current NIMH-recommended task for assessing MSU – the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Task (RMET) – suffers from potential assessment issues, including reliance on a participant's vocabulary/intelligence and the use of culturally biased stimuli. Here, we evaluate the impact of demographic and sociocultural factors (age, gender, education, ethnicity, race) on the RMET and other social and non-social cognitive tasks in an effort to determine the extent to which the RMET may be unduly influenced by participant characteristics.

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Emotion sensitivity across the lifespan: Mapping clinical risk periods to sensitivity to facial emotion intensity.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General

Rutter, L., Dodell-Feder, D., Vahia, I. V., Forester, B. P., Ressler, K. J., Wilmer, J. B., & Germine, L. T.

2019 Face emotion perception is important for social functioning and mental health. In addition to recognizing categories of face emotion, accurate emotion perception relies on the ability to detect subtle differences in emotion intensity. The primary aim of this study was to examine participants' ability to discriminate the intensity of facial emotions (emotion sensitivity: ES) in three psychometrically matched ES tasks (fear, anger, or happiness), to identify developmental changes in sensitivity to face emotion intensity across the lifespan. We predicted that increased age would be associated with lower anger and fear ES, with minimal differences in happiness ES. Participants were 9,546 responders to a Web-based ES study (age range = 10 to 85 years old). Results of segmented linear regression confirmed our hypotheses and revealed differential patterns of ES based on age, sex, and emotion category. Females showed enhanced sensitivity to anger and fear relative to males, but similar sensitivity to happiness. While sensitivity to all emotions increased during adolescence and early adulthood, sensitivity to anger showed the largest increase, potentially related to the importance of anger perception during adolescent development. We also observed age-related decreases in both anger and fear sensitivity in older adults, with little to no change in happiness sensitivity. Unlike previous studies, the effect observed here could not be explained by task-related confounds (e.g., ceiling effects for happiness recognition), lending strong support to observed differences in ES for happiness, anger, and fear across age. Implications for everyday functioning and the development of psychopathology across the lifespan are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

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