Research in Behavioral Science Health Psychology

The Behavioral Science Health Psychology (BSHP) Program emphasizes both basic and applied research examining the biological, psychological, behavioral, social, cultural, and environmental correlates of health and illness. Below are descriptions of the research by BSHP faculty.

Dr. Jeanette Bennett

Broadly, the underlying concept driving my research is that bidirectional neuroendocrine-immune communication occurs constantly to increase survival and maintain balance or homeostasis. This communication can be influenced by psychological (e.g., stress, depression), biological (e.g., sex, drug use, age), and psychosocial (e.g., socioeconomic status, social support) factors which ultimately affect overall health. Specifically, I study the effects of stress (psychological and pharmacological) on neuroendocrine and immune systems across the lifespan in healthy and clinical populations.

Dr. Mark Faust

Information coming soon.

Dr. Alexia Galati

Perspective-taking is ubiquitous in everyday life: in many situations people must consider perspectives distinct from our own, including others’ emotions, perceptions, knowledge, and beliefs. Yet this fundamental cognitive skill is subject to many underexplored constraints. Dr. Galati is a behavioral scientist who examines the adaptive behavior of humans as they interact with their environment and with social others. Her research program examines how people keep track of each other’s perspective in conversation, how they adapt their language and behavior to coordinate when working together, and how successful that coordination ultimately is. Dr. Galati uses an array of methods, including behavioral experiments, eye-tracking, mouse-tracking, web-based crowdsourcing, quantitative discourse analysis, virtual reality and augmented reality technology, and computational modeling. In the context of health behaviors, Dr. Galati is interested in how perspective-taking and related constructs (e.g., empathy) are related to health behavior changes. She is especially interested in the interplay of these constructs in communicative contexts (e.g., the interactions between patients and professionals in the health care system), where misalignment in goals and shared understanding can occur. She is also interested in using gamification and virtual reality (VR) technology to develop interventions for health behavior change.

Dr. Jane Gaultney

Dr. Gaultney is an Associate Professor of Psychology, a Cognitive Science Academy affiliate, and a member of the Behavioral Science Track Health Psychology Ph.D. Program. She received a B.A. in Elementary Education from Palm Beach Atlantic College, an M.A. in Experimental Psychology and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology with a focus on cognitive development from Florida Atlantic University. She regularly serves as a reviewer for professional journals and conferences, and previously served on the editorial board for Wake Up America, a publication for school psychologists. She holds memberships in the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Society, Cognitive Development Society, Sleep Research Society, and the Society for Research in Child Development. She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Sleep, Cognition, Research Methods, Child Development, and Cognitive Development. She has supervised numerous graduate and undergraduate thesis research projects, and works with several undergraduates on independent research projects.

Sleep, Behavior and Cognition

Current research examines the role of sleep and sleep disorders on cognitive function and behavior in both children and adults. Current projects include sleep and ADHD, sleep and memory strategies in children, prevalence of risk for sleep disorders in college freshmen, sleep and extinction therapy for phobias, sleep and academic motivation, and sleep and risk-taking behavior in adolescents.

Dr. Erin Basinger

Dr. Basinger is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and a core faculty member in the Health Psychology PhD program. Her research focuses on how people manage health-related stress (e.g. chronic illness, pregnancy, sexual health) in their interpersonal relationships, and she is particularly passionate about weight stigma as a barrier to health and healthcare. In all of her scholarly work, Dr. Basinger’s goal is to promote evidence-based, compassionate, and competent formal and informal for people navigating challenging health experiences.

Dr. Sara Levens

My research examines the role of emotion and cognition in a wide range of intrapersonal and interpersonal processes that affect behavior. Current lines of research explore the role of emotion generation and regulation in health cognitions, health behaviors, health communication, social movements, social media behaviors, emotion contagion, health behavior intervention development, and health behavior change. As an interdisciplinary affective scientist, I use a range of methodologies and interdisciplinary approaches including survey design, experimental design, neuroimaging (via collaborators), intervention development, controlled clinical trials, text processing and natural language processing, and behavioral science research with special populations. Current projects focus on health behaviors, physical activity promotion and intervention development, social media behaviors in the context of emotion contagion, health communication, and social justice. I am passionate about healthful behavior, equity, inclusion, making research knowledge and products more broadly accessible, and strength based mentoring.

Dr. Erika Montanaro

As a social health psychologist, I draw from health behavior theory to better understand how preventive behaviors can be initiated and maintained to create change. My research focuses on understanding what factors contribute to sexual risk behavior and problematic alcohol use in order to create effective interventions. To that end, my primary research goals are (1) to develop innovative and theoretically driven (e.g. the Situational Model of Bystander Behavior; the Theory of Planned Behavior) risk reduction programs for young populations, (2) to use advanced statistical techniques to understand the interactions and longitudinal nature of theoretical mechanisms contributing to behavior change, and (3) to more holistically understand how the development of sexuality changes over time.