Social Health Psychology

The social-health psychology program at Kent State University is an active and vibrant group of faculty and students who use social psychological theory and state-of-the-art research methods to understand real-world issues, especially those with implications for physical health, relationships, and psychological well-being.  

About The Social-Health Psychology Program

Each faculty member has a distinctive research program, but they share a common interest in understanding how people’s personality and social environments shape their psychological and physical health.  The research labs in the social-health program have particular strengths in topics such as interpersonal relationships, health behavior, stigma, stress, and well-being.

More About The Program

Research Training

The social-health psychology program is designed to train students in conducting and communicating high-quality psychological research.  As a graduate student in the social-health psychology program, you will have the opportunity to collaborate closely with one or more faculty members in ongoing research projects, from conception to publication. Our program uses a mentorship model in which a graduate student works closely with one of the faculty members. In the first year, students begin a research project under faculty supervision.  Often, this first year research project broadens into the topic of a masters’ thesis.  As students progress through the graduate program, they are encouraged to pursue additional research projects, culminating in a dissertation project that reflects the students’ unique interests and expertise.

In their first two years, graduate students take a number of graduate courses and seminars that cover current research in social and health psychology, research methods, and advanced statistical methods.  Graduate students learn how to use observational, survey, and experimental methods to conduct research in both the field and laboratory.  Many students in the social-health program also elect to gain additional training by pursuing a minor in quantitative psychology. Course requirements are structured so that students have maximal time to develop a unique program of research.

Faculty and students in the social program also meet regularly for "SHAM", the Social Health Area Meeting.  In SHAM, students and faculty present research ideas, learn about current research trends, review journal articles, and discuss issues relevant to professional and career development. Students in this program also participate in a program-wide symposium in their second and fourth years.

Graduate Courses In Social-Health Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Psychology of Risk Communication
  • Health Behavior and Health Behavior Change
  • Psychological Perspectives on Well-Being
  • Psychosocial Aspects of Health Psychology
  • Psychobiological Aspects of Health Psychology
Core Faculty

Dr. Kathleen Casto - Hormone, brain, behavior mechanisms underlying social competition and motivation with implications for mental health conditions associated with hormonal transitions (e.g., premenstrual dysphoria).

Dr. Judith Gere - Romantic relationship influences on motivation and goal pursuit; romantic relationships and well-being (self-expansion/self-growth, mindfulness, subjective well-being); accuracy and bias in perceptions of romantic partners; research methods and analysis (e.g., structural equation modeling, dyadic analysis, intensive measurement methods).

Dr. Mary Himmelstein - Weight stigma; masculinity; impacts of intersectional identities on stress and coping in response to social stigma (weight stigma) and gender norms (masculinity).

Dr. Jennifer Taber - Effective interventions and health communications to increase health behavior performance; behavioral and psychosocial aspects of genetic and genomic testing; risk perceptions and risk communications.

Dr. John Updegraff - Health communication and health behavior; self-regulation and pursuit of health goals; social cognition and health; well-being.

Faculty With Related Interests

Dr. Sarah Black - Developmental psychopathology, with particular interest in risk for mood disorders during childhood and adolescence. Currently, investigating how parenting behaviors and parental psychopathology may influence the development of emotional regulation abilities during middle childhood and adolescence.  Research also considers how the normative hormonal, social, and environmental events of childhood and adolescence can be disrupted and lead to increased risk for emotional dysregulation.

Dr. Karin Coifman (Adult Psychopathology) studies emotion processing and regulatory strategies within the context of stress.

Dr. Joel Hughes (Clinical Health) studies how psychosocial factors such as hostility and depression increase cardiovascular risk.

Recent Social Health Psychology Graduates

Our social-health program has been particularly successful in placing our graduates in postdoctoral training programs and professorships.

Here’s what some of our recent grads are doing now.

  • Alexandra Chong, Ph.D. - Senior Research Analyst, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Innovation
  • Alynn Gordon, Ph.D. - Senior Market Research Analyst, Yamaha Motor Corporation
  • Susanne Biehle, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, DePauw University
  • Shannon Claxton, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor, Morningside College
  • Nate Deichert, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, Black Hills State University
  • Brian Don, Ph.D. - Postdoctoral Researcher, UNC Chapel Hill
  • Amber Emanuel, Ph.D. - Department of Health Education and Behavior, University of Florida
  • Erin Fekete, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, University of Indianapolis
  • Kristel Gallagher, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, Thiel College
  • Rachel Hemphill, Ph.D. - Program Officer, Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)
  • Scout Kelly, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor, Coe College
  • Cynthia Khan, Ph.D. - Senior Social Science Analyst, US Government Accountability Office
  • Sean Rife, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor, Murray State University
  • Jason Seacat, Ph.D. - Professor at Western New England College
  • Stacey Williams, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, East Tennessee State University
  • Sharon Claffey, Ph.D. - Professor, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
  • Tina Norton, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor, Lycoming College
  • Melanie Tabak, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, Kent State University at Trumbull