My research interests focus broadly on how people reason about themselves and the environments in which they live and how these inferences guide behavioral decisions. Although this general interest has led to collaborations with colleagues in a range of areas, my research program is primarily comprised of a synthesis of basic research on how people process and respond to health information with the development and evaluation of theory-based interventions to promote healthy behavior. The overarching goal of this work is to simultaneously advance our understanding of psychological theory (e.g., models of behavioral decision-making) and the design of behavioral interventions to promote health. In recognition of my work in this area, I received the 2002 Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology in the area of Health Psychology from the American Psychological Association..
The research currently conducted in my lab can be organized around three general questions: (1) "How do people form beliefs about their own health as well as the health status of others?": Research in this area examines how people process and attend to risk-relevant information, how the types of goals people hold affect their ability make changes in their behavior, how people assess the outcomes associated with changes in their behavior, and how stereotypes about illnesses influence the likelihood of recognizing a health problem. (2) "What is the most effective way to provide people with health information?": For example, we have been conducting a on-going series of studies (in both the laboratory and the field) that delineate how providing people with either gain- or loss-framed information about their health influences the likelihood of their adopting a behavior. (3) "How do people's beliefs about their health guide the decisions they make, and how do these decisions in turn influence their beliefs?": In collaboration with colleagues in the school of public health, I led a series of four federally-funded community-based interventions that examined the decision process that guide people's efforts either to manage their weight (i.e., dietary behavior and physical activity) or to quit smoking. In this work, we are particularly interested in understanding whether the factors that enable people to initiate a change in their behavior are different from those that enable them to maintain those changes over time. The data sets from these interventions continue to provide an incredibly rich set of opportunities to examine the factors that regulate people's behavior over time. In addition, our model of behavioral initiation and maintenance is being tested in a series of on-going smoking cessation interventions.
I currently serve as Associate Editor of Health Psychology Review (www.healthpsychologyreview.net). I am also actively involved in several initiatives at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). I co-direct the NCI's Advanced Training Institute on Health Behavior Theory, co-direct the NCI's Theories Project, am a member of the NCI's Health Cognition Working Group, and serve on the External Consultation Committee for the NCI's Health Information National Triennial Survey. Finally, I co-organized a recent NIH meeting, "Decision Making in Eating Behavior: Integrating Perspectives from the Individual, Family, and Environment."