From having to navigate vast arrays of options at every turn; to struggling for natural and mindful tranquility in the noxious noise of city living; to placing oneself in an ever polarizing and ever perplexing political landscape: Our research seeks to better understand emerging stressors of the modern world.
My research uses a social psychophysiological approach to examine various questions related to stress and coping, including questions about choice and decision-making, mindfulness, tribalism and team affiliation, the emotional experience of awe, and political ideology. Below, I briefly describe the questions examined in my ongoing programs of research:
- Choices, Choices, Choices. With the emergence of online shopping and streaming services, we have more choices at our fingertips than ever before. However, little is known about what we experience, in the moment, when faced with these endless options. Does it cause us to shut down or does it energize us? Does it make us feel more confident or less confident in our preferences? Could too many choices have a lasting impact on our health and well-being, and if so, are some individuals more susceptible to the ill impacts of too many choices than others?
- The Mindful Heart. Research argues that being mindful should help attenuate people's responses in uncertain and stressful times. Although much research touts its various benefits, how does trait mindfulness impact the specific nature and valence of individuals’ experiences during active stress?
- Political Ideology in an Unstable World. Although today’s sociopolitical realities feel precarious for many, US conservatives and liberals differ drastically in terms of how safe and stable their environments feel under shifting political administrations and ideologies. In this work, we focus on the degree to which these partisan perceptions of overall sociopolitical stability impact individuals’ responses to acute uncertainty and ambiguity in the moment.
- Tribalism and Team Affiliation. Whether it’s left vs. right, blue vs. red, masks vs MAGA, American politics today is ripe with tribal divides and symbols of “team” affiliation. Although there is ample evidence that watching our “team” succeed can affect expectations about our own performance (i.e., social identity theory), there is little evidence for its impact on participants’ experiences during stressful situations (e.g., taking a test, giving a speech). In other words, could watching our favorite “team” succeed actually invigorate a sense of personal confidence and capability that enhances physiological coping responses under stress?
- The Power of Awe. The emotion of awe occurs when one feels small relative to something vaster than the self. In times of stress, people often turn to coping strategies that entail engaging in activities that inspire awe, including turning to their spirituality or religion, as well as interacting with the natural world. Although awe is broadly linked to a range of positive outcomes, could feeling "small" actually lead some people to feel incapable and insignificant, and thus, negatively impact their responses to stress?
Research Assistant Responsibilities
Duties may fluctuate from semester to semester, depending on data collection needs and project priorities. Generally speaking, research assistants should expect to help with various stages of the research process, including:
- Theorizing novel social psychological research questions
- Designing and administering online studies
- Conducting literature reviews and reporting findings
- Searching and compiling study materials (questionnaires, stimuli, experimental manipulations)
- Entering, compiling, managing, and organizing data
- Assisting with the writing process
Selected Publications (asterisk represents my student author):
- Saltsman, T.L., Seery, M.D., Ward, D.E., Radsvich, T.M., Panlilio, Z.A., Lamarche, V.L., & Kondrak, C.L. (2020). Facing the Facets: No Association Between Dispositional Mindfulness Facets and Positive Momentary Stress Responses During Active Stressors. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin.
- Saltsman, T.L., Seery, M.D., Ward, D.E., Lamarche, V.L., & Kondrak, C.L. (2020). Is satisficing really satisfying? Satisficing tendencies predict cardiovascular threat. Psychophysiology.
- Saltsman, T., Seery, M., Murray, S., Pfordresher, P., & Gabriel, S. (2020). Red Donkeys and Blue Elephants: An Examination of Liberals’ and Conservatives’ Divergent Responses to Expectancy Violation. (ProQuest Dissertations Publishing).
- Saltsman, T.L., Seery, M.D., Kondrak, C.L., Lamarche, V.M., & Streamer, L. (2019). Too many fish in the sea: A motivational examination of the choice overload experience. Biological Psychology, 145, 17-30. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2019.03.010
- Le, P.*, Saltsman, T.L., Seery, M.D. Ward, D.E., Kondrak, C.L., & Lamarche, V.M. (2018). When a small self means manageable obstacles: Spontaneous self-distancing predicts divergent effects of awe during a subsequent performance stressor. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 80, 59-66. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2018.07.010
Additional popular press resources
On top of gaining experience with and insight into the research process, research assistants will have an opportunity to be listed as contributing authors on published academic journal articles, as well as present research posters at psychology conferences. Notably, each of these opportunities will depend on students’ level of involvement in the research process, as well as availability of outside conference opportunities.