University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Taking a new approach to understanding harmful habits like excessive eating, gambling or gaming

Education researcher is enrolling participants for her study on the impact of social practices on excessive behaviours

Werklund School of Education PhD student Tanya Mudry is looking for individuals to participate in a study on the social practices that sustain excessive behaviours such as eating, gambling, online gaming and internet use.

November 21, 2013 - There has been considerable research using brain imaging to better understand excessive eating, gambling and internet use, but the social exchanges that enable these behaviours is less well understood, something Tanya Mudry, a PhD student in the Werklund School of Education, is looking to change.

“I am interested in how these behaviours become sustained within the interactions, practices, and cultural messages that surround them,” says Mudry.

While working at the Calgary Family Therapy Centre, Mudry found that when a family member accused another of having an addiction, defenses would go up and communication would shut down, so she avoids the use of the term in her research.

“The label can be pathologizing and may affect self-efficacy,” she says. “I use ‘excessive behaviours’ to avoid aligning myself too closely with any particular discourse and to avoid using ‘addiction’ criteria in identifying participants.”

Mudry believes this new social practice framework will provide an opening for therapists who help clients adopt more preferred practices.

“My findings should yield alternative ways for families to understand and address excessive behaviours, adding to and enhancing existing treatments,” says Mudry. “Results from this project may have implications for policy and economic decisions, by treating aspects of excessive behaviours socially, and through health promotion efforts beyond an exclusively medical focus, thus reducing a burden on the health care system.”

Mudry was recently awarded the Doctoral Scholarship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research valued at $105,000 and $20,000 in funding from the Alberta Gambling Research Institute for her work.

“Tanya’s three year CIHR Bombardier scholarship is a major accomplishment as few of these scholarships are given to students in allied health professions like counseling psychology, and CIHR scholarships are seldom given for this type of qualitative research,” says Tom Strong, associate dean of research in the Werklund School of Education.

Mudry is recruiting individuals who are concerned with their own excessive engagement in eating, gambling, online gaming and Internet use, as well as people who are concerned about a family member’s excessive behaviours. Volunteers will be asked to commit to two one-hour interviews (one with the individual who does the activity and one with the individual and any family members that might be interested). An honorarium is offered. Email for more information or to enroll.