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Washington State University
College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology

Health Psychology


Health psychology in the department focuses on how biological, psychological, environmental, and cultural factors affect health. Research in health psychology examines the causes and development of illness, methods to help individuals develop lifestyles to promote health and prevent illness, interventions to help people cope with and reduce stress and pain, biopsychosocial effects on immune function, and factors in the recovery, rehabilitation, and psychosocial adjustment of individuals with serious health problems, including mental health problems. Note that the Health Psychology interest area within the Experimental PhD program does not prepare students to be clinical psychologists.

Associated faculty: Cuttler, Fales, Honn, Ladd, Liu, Magnan, Meidenbauer, Probst, Tragesser

Research Interests within this area:

Addictions (Cuttler, Ladd, Magnan)

Cannabis (Cuttler, Fales, Ladd, Magnan)

Environmental influences (Meidenbauer)

Health behavior (Magnan)

Occupational health and safety (Probst)

Pediatric and adolescent pain (Fales)

Substance use/abuse and mental health (Cuttler; Tragesser)


The Health & Cognition (THC) Lab

Carrie Cuttler
Dr. Carrie Cutler's research in The Health & Cognition (THC) lab at WSU focuses on elucidating the potentially beneficial and detrimental effects of chronic cannabis use and acute cannabis intoxication. Our current and recent work focuses on examining links between cannabis use and mental health (e.g., depression, anxiety, OCD), physical health (e.g., pain, sleep), stress, and cognition (e.g., memory, decision-making, executive functioning, creativity, attention). Further, we are interested in examining effects of cannabis with different concentrations of THC and CBD as well as effects of cannabis concentrates to better understand their influence on mental health, physical health, and cognition.

Adolescent Health & Wellness Lab

Jessica Fales
The Adolescent Health & Wellness Lab conducts high quality research in the areas of pediatric pain, social development, and positive psychology. Our current research efforts are primarily focused on the identification of social risk and protective factors associated with the chronic pain experience in adolescence. The ultimate goal of our research is to prevent the development of chronic pain problems in otherwise healthy youth and to help develop more effective treatments for adolescents with pain and their families.
kimberly_honn-ThumbKimberly Honn
In the sleep laboratory environment, we use specially designed cognitive tasks in a carefully controlled setting to measure distinct effects of sleep deprivation. I use a combination of computer-based tests in an effort to identify particular cognitive functions that are most vulnerable or most resilient to the effects of sleep deprivation. Learning how sleep loss affects the brain can reveal how to best protect against sleep loss-related errors.

My laboratory research is translated into a real-world setting with my current field research project, which is focused on sleep and performance in long-haul commercial truck drivers. In this project, we are studying whether increased regulatory flexibility can improve driver rest and alertness. An allowance for drivers to split their required rest time into two shorter breaks, maintaining the total break time, may encourage drivers to nap as needed during a duty period. We will compare driver sleep, alertness, safety, and performance when drivers are operating under the flexible (study-specific) regulations with duty periods in which drivers are operating under the current (standard) regulations.

Promoting And Treating Health Research Lab

Benjamin Ladd
My various research interests focus on improving prevention and early intervention techniques for promoting and motivating health behavior change. Specifically, I am interested in process research with the goal of better understanding and identifying effective elements of therapeutic interventions, particularly Motivational Interviewing, in order to reduce the impact of substance abuse and problems. Additionally, I am interested in understanding the risks and/or benefits of cannabis use across various populations. This includes refining the measurement of cannabis consumption and problems and investigating the role of cannabis in specific populations (e.g., chronic pain).
Chang Liu
My research program centers on understanding the developmental processes and mechanisms leading to resilience vs. maladjustment in children and mothers, aiming to promote child health and well-being. My work integrates multiple levels of analysis, including prenatal adversities, genetic influences, and early parental hostility and efficacy in the study of risk and resilience within children and mothers over time. This has led to three lines of research. One line focuses on characterizing dynamic change processes for child social-emotional development and how parents and children co-regulate emotions during interactions. A second line of research examines how genes, prenatal environment (e.g., prenatal exposure to drugs), and postnatal environment work together to influence child emotional and behavioral regulation vs. maladjustment. A third line of research examines risk and resilience in minority children and mothers and how different contexts of development influence child emotional and behavioral regulation vs. maladjustment. Most of my previous work has focused on mental health outcomes. Most recently, I have become interested in examining the emergence of childhood obesity. Specifically, I have started to examine the impact of child temperament, genetic risks, and environmental exposures (e.g., prenatal exposure to drugs, neighborhood characteristics) on normative versus atypical development in child body mass index (BMI) over time.
renee_magnan-ThumbRenee E. Magnan
I apply social psychological theory to address issues in preventive health behaviors and health behavior promotion. Specifically, much of the research in my lab focuses on understanding the role that affect (e.g., worry) plays on health decisions and behavior (e.g., smoking cessation, exercise, cannabis). I am interested in both how one’s feelings about health behaviors may influence their decisions to engage in health behavior and also how health behaviors may influence one’s feelings. Both perspectives can provide important insight to identify targets for interventions to prevent negative health consequences and promote wellness.
Kim Meidenbauer
Research in Dr. Meidenbauer’s Social, Cognitive, & Environmental Neuroscience (SCENe) Lab examines how features of the physical and social environment affect individuals’ brains and their behavior. Currently, the lab’s work focuses on how heat exposure can lead to deleterious psychological outcomes and antisocial behaviors, and how greenspace interventions can be used to buffer against the effects of heat stress. Our research employs an environmental justice lens, working with community organizations to examine how place-based interventions may address the compounding effects of economic marginalization and environmental racism. The SCENe lab is also interested in the creation and validation of research methods that allow us to “take the lab outside”, via browser-based tasks, mobile neuroimaging (fNIRS), and experience sampling techniques. We advocate for and prioritize the use of open science practices, including the ethical sharing of data and study materials, providing open and reproducible code, and pre-registering data collection and analysis plans.

Coalition for Healthy and Equitable Workplaces

Tahira M. Probst
While I am fascinated by many different areas of industrial/organizational psychology, my research over the past 15 years has largely focused on issues related to employee health, well-being and safety. In particular, I am interested in the topics of economic stress and job insecurity; accident under-reporting; and organizational safety climate and safety leadership behaviors. In addition, many of my research studies attempt to delineate the extent to which our findings generalize to other cultural contexts and to identify sociocultural variables that may explain any observed differences.

Personality and Affect Lab

Sarah L. Tragesser
In the Personality and Affect Lab, we focus on the personality and affective processes that contribute to a variety of behaviors including interpersonal behaviors and relationships, substance use and abuse, and cognitive processing of emotional stimuli. Our research methods include the use of questionnaires, neurocognitive (EEG, ERP) measures, and palm pilots, among others.