Faculty Research Labs

Students who show a special aptitude and are sufficiently motivated often apply for and are selected to participate in faculty research as student research assistants. Currently there are many different kinds of research programs being conducted in the department.

Spirituality and Health Lab

Dr. John Pérez's primary research interest in exploring how spirituality and religiousness influence mental and physical health across the lifespan. He is particularly interested in the ways people use religious or spiritual resources (e.g., prayer, meditation, support from religious community) to cope with chronic illness and stressful life events. A related research interest focuses on identifying the cognitive, social, and cultural mechanisms that buffer high-risk individuals against major depression. Across both of these research domains, Dr. Pérez examines the strengths and needs of low-income, multicultural populations, especially Latinos.

Cognition and Emotion Lab

Dr. Marisa Knight's research interests are focused on the interplay between motivation, emotion and cognitive functioning across the lifespan. In one line of research, she is examining how particular emotion regulation strategies influence emotional experience and memory performance in older and younger adults. In another line of research, she is investigating the factors that lead to both the enhancement and impairment of memories that are associated with emotional arousal.

Social Reasoning in Childhood Lab (SeaRCH)

Dr. Aline Hitti's research focuses on how children and adolescents make social decisions. We are particularly interested in decisions regarding group norms, group dynamics, intergroup attitudes, and social exclusion. Our research uses a developmental framework, examining how various aspects of social cognition develop and change through childhood and adolescence. In our research, we utilize surveys, interviews, and behavioral tasks.

Visit the SeaRCH website

Family Research Lab

Dr. Shirley McGuire's research involves using a biocontextual approach to study children's social and personality development and adjustment during middle childhood and adolescence. She has published papers on twin/sibling similarities and differences in self-concept, personality and loneliness. She has also investigated the nature of children's parent-child and sibling relationships. She received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to examine sibling socialization effects and the development of juvenile delinquency and adjustment problems. She is also developing a developmental model of children's computer hacking, a new type of children's behavior problems.

Visit the TAPS website

Social Cognition and Judgment Lab

Dr. Saera Khan explores how individuals’ motivation and their processing of social information act to influence their use of stereotypes when judging others. Her interest is in gaining a comprehensive view of stereotyping by examining the process from multiple perspectives. Stereotypes can be studied from the point of view of (a) the target (i.e., the individual belonging to the stereotyped group), (b) the observer (i.e., a third party observing the use of stereotypes by the perceiver) (c) or the perceiver (i.e., the person using the stereotype to judge an individual). A second line of research is devoted to understanding how moral judgments are influenced by our group identity and need for belonging.

Foster Care Research Group (FCRG)

Created by Dr. June Madsen Clausen and now run by Dr. Saralyn Ruff, FCRG's focus over the last 10 years is the evaluation of mental health interventions for foster youth, with the goal of identifying the most effective approaches to assisting this vulnerable population. FCRG's primary efforts include program evaluation and outcome research for A Home Within, a national nonprofit organization based in San Francisco focused on the addressing the emotional needs of current and former foster youth.

Learn more at the FCRG website

Mass Emotion and Intergroup Conflict Lab

Dr. Violet Cheung's research focuses on anger, fear and anxiety in concrete contexts such as terrorist attacks, cyber insecurity and the migrant crisis. Online surveys, lab experiments, and Big Data analytics, are some of the methodologies used to differentiate emotions in terms of their causes, their effects on democratic processes and their abilities to rally the public behind group actions/social policies.

Acculturation and Immigrant Health Research Lab

Dr. Kevin Chun's research and publications focus on processes of adaptation and their relation to health and psychosocial adjustment for Asian American immigrants and refugees. Currently, he is working on a number of publications focusing on cultural issues in the management of type II diabetes for Chinese immigrants and their families. Additionally, he is working on an ethnographic study of acculturation strategies and processes for new Chinese immigrants at religious sites in San Francisco Chinatown.

Learning and Reasoning Lab

Dr. Ed Munnich's research focuses on whether, and to what extent, statistics influence people’s beliefs and preferences about personal and public policy issues. In a series of studies, he has found that people’s beliefs and preferences about numbers are influenced by how numbers are presented to them, and that these effects last for a considerable time. In a complementary line of research, he has focused on how people can learn to look for multiple perspectives and thereby improve the accuracy of their numerical beliefs. He has also explored ways in which exposure to spatial semantics (words used to describe spatial relationships) relates to spatial cognition.

Aging and Diversity Research Lab

Dr. Lisa Wagner has conducted research on stereotyping and aging for the past 21 years.  Through a grant from the National Institute on Aging and with support from USF, she has examined age-related stereotypes and older adults’ experience of stereotype threat.  Her most recent research promotes intergenerational interactions between younger and older adults and then examines the effects of these interactions on attitudes toward both age groups. The 3rd edition of her co-authored book entitled, Aging and Diversity: An Active Learning Experience, will be released in September of 2018.