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Psychology Research

Current Faculty Research

Students interested in learning more about faculty research projects or about how to become involved research can contact a faculty member directly via email or office phone (see faculty directory).

Emily Cook Ph.D.

Developmental psychology:

Adolescent Risk Factors and Trajectories of Antisocial Behavior. This study uses national data sets to examine the influence of risk factors during adolescence on trajectories of antisocial behavior into adulthood.

Developmental Stressors, Physiological Reactivity, and Adolescent Risk Behavior. This study examines gender differences in the effect of parent-child relationships and peer competency on adolescents' stress reactivity and risk behavior in a community sample of adolescents.

Andrea L. Dottolo Ph.D.

Social Psychology

Social Psychology: Dr. Dottolo’s research explores how social identities are constructed and maintained, and the ways they are shaped by social and institutional structures.  Her work in feminist psychology centers on race, class, gender, sexuality, and qualitative research methods.

Beverly Goldfield Ph.D.

Developmental Psychology:

Early Language Development. Our current project examines word comprehension in 14 to 18-month-olds. We use an eye tracker to compare visual attention to two objects (e.g., truck / fish) or two actions (e.g., jump / dance) before and after one of the items is labeled (e.g., "Look at the truck" or "Look at her jump"). This research is funded by a grant from the Rhode Island IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence.

Katherine Lacasse Ph.D.

Social & Environmental Psychology:

I am broadly interested in understanding the motivations behind people's concern and willingness to take action to address social problems. Much of my work is conducted as part of interdisciplinary teams, integrating ideas and methods from several fields to generate new approaches to studying environmental issues. My current lines of research are focused on:

  • How performing pro-environmental behaviors can impact people's self-perceptions and their political attitudes regarding climate change. I also examine the unintended consequences or “spillover effects” of environmental behavior & attitude change interventions.
  • The role of emotional, cognitive, and social processes in perceptions of risk surrounding climate change, renewable energy technologies, and medical advances.
  • Integrating human behavioral feedbacks into the modeling of the climate and local ecological systems.

George Ladd Ph.D.

Developmental Psychology/Addiction studies:

Adolescent perceptions of scratch tickets. A cross sectional (by age) investigation of adolescents' perceptions of scratch ticket images. Are their developmental differences in how adolescents perceive scratch tickets?

The Gambling Studies Project.

Thomas Malloy Ph.D.

Social Psychology:

The Intergroup Relations Model (IRM). The IRM predicts that intergroup behavior is most proximally caused by intergroup emotion, that is itself caused by ethnocentrism (i.e., a belief that one's own group is superior to other groups) and negative out-group stereotypes. Thus, the IRM is a mediational model in which cognitive processes determine affect that, in turn, causes intergroup behavior. Our experiments will yield data for adequate testing of the theoretical predictions of the IRM. This research is funded by a grant from the Rhode Island IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence.

Christine Marco Ph.D.

Young Adolescent Sleep-Smart Pacesetter Program. This research is funded by a grant from the national institutes of health.

Robin Montvilo Ph.D.

Addiction studies:

Internet-Based Addiction Counselor Education Study. Despite government initiatives to translate evidence based research to substance abuse treatment context, the transmission of research to practicing behavioral health professionals has been limited. Although some internet-learning addiction education programs exist, no Internet-based learning modality currently addresses the evidence-based treatment of individuals with co-occurring addiction disorders and medical problems. In an effort to bridge the gap between research and the evidence-based treatment knowledge of community-based practitioners, the Internet-Based Addiction Counselor Education Study (IBACES) will:

  1. develop and implement a pilot demonstration of an innovative Internet based program for training Chemical Dependency/Addiction Studies (CDAS) students initially, with later generalization to community-based practitioner
  2. disseminate current knowledge about the Addiction Counseling Competencies of Professional Practice and examine their impact on State Certification for Chemical Dependency Counseling.
  3. conduct a randomized controlled trial to measure knowledge transfer and preparation using the Internet.

This research is funded by a grant from the Rhode Island IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence.

Kymberlee M. O'Brien, MEd, PhD

The Neuropsychology Lab at RIC

I am primarily interested in acute and chronic stress, in particular social stress on health, cognition, and overall well-being. Our current project investigates microaggressions on epigenetic changes in the major stress systems. Broadly, we investigate the following:

  • Autonomic nervous system, including cardiovascular and neuroendocrine (cortisol, oxytocin, testosterone) parameters.
  • EEG on emotion regulation, vigilance, and social engagement.
  • Intergenerational effects of stress on epigenetic changes (DNA).
  • Stress associated with intergroup interactions: chronic social devaluation, implicit biases.
  • Social emotion processing via GSR (e.g., shame, pride, empathy) in shaping appraisal and behavior (e.g., social identity, self-esteem, bias, moral judgments, relationship formation and maintenance).

Lab website:

Megan A. Smith Ph.D.

Cognitive Psychology

My research program focuses on retrieval-based learning strategies as a way to improve long-term and meaningful learning in STEM disciplines. Current projects include investigating ways to optimize retrieval as a learning technique, investigating retrieval-based learning in younger populations of students, and examining whether individual differences interact with the effectiveness of retrieval-based learning styles.

Jayson Spas Ph.D., MS, LMFT

Clinical Psychology: Behavioral Medicine and Addiction Studies

My research interests are in developing and testing innovative interventions that target multiple behavior change. More specifically, by targeting smoking, alcohol misuse, unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyles, the most prominent lifestyle risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and some cancers, my goal is to help elucidate the science of multiple behavior change while simultaneously promoting health, wellness and disease prevention.

Currently, I am preparing two grant applications to submit to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop and test a novel Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)-based intervention that simultaneously targets smoking cessation and weight loss. Upon receipt of funding, I will have the opportunity to engage students in an NIH-funded clinical trial in biobehavioral research.
Outside Link

David Sugarman Ph.D.

Social psychology:

The anointed. According to the Pew Institute, Americans are generally accepting of religious diversity; but, what happens when an extremely small group pronounces a theology that stands outside these acceptable limits and behaves in a manner that directly confronts the community's religious and secular norms? This multi-phase investigation examines via in-depth interviews the members of this small sect and the reactions of the community in which the group resides.

Patriarchic ideology and partner violence. A continuing debate within the area of partner violence research surrounds whether patriarchy theory adequately accounts for this phenomenon and whether relationship violence is associated with other factors that this model does not propose. One component of patriarchy theory is its associated ideology (e.g., conservative sex-role norms, positive attitudes towards violence use). Over the past 15 years, a myriad of studies has investigated this relationship and a quantitative literature review seems needed to try to summarize what we know and do not know about this association. Do we find this ideology/violence relationship with married partner only or do we find that it arises with dating violence? Does the level of the violence severity moderate this association? Does the source of the sample (e.g., clinical versus community) constitute a moderator variable?​​​

Page last updated: June 12, 2020