Astronaut with briefcase

On my way to the lab.

As a PhD student in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, I study the varieties of spiritual and self-transcendent experiences from the perspectives of psychology and cognitive neuroscience. These experiences are among the most meaningful and positively transformative experiences in peoples’ lives, yet relatively little is known about how they are triggered, the neurological and physiological processes that make them possible, or how they psychologically influence those who have them.

From one perspective, my research and writing provides an empirical, 21st century update to William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience ( using 1) “big data” linguistic analysis methods, 2) psychometric survey instruments, 3) neuroimaging, and 4) neurostimulation technology.

Feel free to contact me at


Obligatory Bio: David Bryce Yaden is a research fellow at The University of Pennsylvania in the Positive Psychology Center and assistant instructor under the direction of Dr. Martin Seligman. He works in collaboration with neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg of Thomas Jefferson University and The Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at The University of Pennsylvania. He provides public health education and consulting with a focus on end-of-life care and stress management techniques at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center and serves as a Humanist Chaplain for Rutgers University. His research focus is on the psychology and cognitive-neuroscience of the varieties of self-transcendent and spiritual experiences, including potential applications as well as the theoretical and ethical issues resulting from this study~