James Kirby, PhD, and Jeffrey Kim, on incorporating physiological data in psychological research

James Kirby, Ph.D., is a researcher and senior lecturer at the University of Queensland in Australia, who studies the effects of kindness and compassion. Jeff Kim, a graduate student under Dr. Kirby, joins my discussion with Dr. Kirby on measuring and incorporating physiological data into their research. Today’s conversation is focused on measuring heart rate variability.

Like many of us, Dr. Kirby didn’t take any psychology courses that incorporated physiology when he was in school. But when he became acquainted with the work of Stephen Porges, Julian Thayer and others, he was compelled to learn more. Eventually, collecting and analyzing physiological data became part of Dr. Kirby’s research on compassion. He’s quick to say he couldn’t have gotten where he is on his own.

For others wanting to do something similar, he highly recommends connecting and collaborating with others who are already in the space. Being able to work alongside someone else and to be shown the ropes – preferably in person – makes for a smoother integration and a much quicker learning curve.

Jeff Kim shares details regarding equipment and software they use, some of his findings, and best practice recommendations.

In this episode, you’ll learn…

  • About the influences on Dr. Kirby’s interests and developments
  • How Dr. Kirby gained access to needed equipment
  • About the equipment and software they use
  • Why there is no substitute for meeting with other researchers in person
  • About the most challenging parts of incorporating physiological data in research

Tips from the episode

On how to integrate physiological measurements in your work…

  • Partner with others who are already in the space and who (hopefully) have the means to collect, analyze, and interpret data
  • Attend workshops
  • Meet, learn from, and collaborate with others in the space

On staying abreast of the latest research in the space…

  • Twitter has become Dr. Kirby’s “academic library”
  • Follow those who study areas you’re interested in but don’t know much about
  • Watch academic talks on YouTube and take notes

Links from the episode:

Dr. James Kirby’s profile at the University of Queensland

Stephen Porges’ work on polyvagal theory

Paul Gilbert – compassion-focused therapy

Professor Julian Thayer and the vagus nerve

Center for Compassion and Altruism Research

Dr. James Doty and Dr. Emma Seppala, Handbook of Compassion Science

Dr. Stacey Parker

June Gruber

Tor Wager

Research Matters Podcast is hosted by Jason Luoma, who can be found on Twitter @jasonluoma or Facebook at: facebook.com/jasonluomaphd. You download the podcast through iTunesStitcher, or Spotify. Reach out with suggestions, questions, or comments to researchmatterspod@gmail.com