Stress and Coping in a Modern World

A collage/flyer that visually depicts activities and interests of the research project.

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.

Project description

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):

Additional popular press resources

Project outcome

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.

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment Longer than a semester (6-9 months)
Start time Anytime
Level of collaboration Small group project (2-3 students)
Benefits Volunteer experience
Who is eligible All undergraduate students who have completed PSY101 and PSY207.

This project is only available to students attending the Singapore Institute of Management. 

Project mentor

Thomas Saltsman

Lecturer

Psychology, UB Singapore Institute of Management

Phone: (352) 697-1701

Email: tlsaltsm@buffalo.edu

Start the project

  1. Email the project mentor using the contact information above to express your interest and get approval to work on the project. (Here are helpful tips on how to contact a project mentor.)
  2. After you receive approval from the mentor to start this project, click the button to start the digital badge. (Learn more about ELN's digital badge options.) 

Preparation activities

Once you begin the digital badge series, you will have access to all the necessary activities and instructions. Your mentor has indicated they would like you to also complete the specific preparation activities below. Please reference this when you get to Step 2 of the Preparation Phase. 

  • Interested applicants should first read one or more of the journal articles listed under the research description. Upon doing so, applicants will then be asked to write a brief research paper submission (no more than one page in length). The first part of the submission should summarize the core arguments and conclusions of the journal article they read. The second part of the submission should generate a short research proposal for a novel study that could build or expand upon the journal article's findings. This research proposal should include:
    • a description of their new research question, 
    • a description of possible methods that could be used to test the research question, and 
    • a description of what they predict the study would find, given past theorizing and research.