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Psychosocial Processes and Health Lab

Director: Dr. Peggy Zoccola

Current Projects

In ongoing and upcoming projects, research in this lab focuses on how cognitive processes such as rumination and worry may influence physiological stress responses.

Several key issues being addressed by this research include:

  • Does rumination prolong cortisol and immune responses to stressors?
  • How do various conceptualization or rumination and assessment techniques impact physiology and sleep outcomes?
  • Do stressor characteristics and the social context shape ruminative thinking and physiological responding?
  • Are individuals with a tendency to engage in perseverative cognition at greater risk for exaggerated reactivity and/or prolonged physiological recovery in response to stressors and in everyday life?

A variety of methods are used to test these processes inside and outside of the laboratory, including:

  • Experimental manipulations of stressors and perseverative cognition in the laboratory
  • Assessment of physiological reactivity and recovery in response to laboratory tasks and daily life events (e.g., salivary cortisol)
  • Physiological assessment of the endocrine, immune, and cardiovascular systems (e.g., salivary cortisol, plasma inflammatory markers, non-invasive continuous blood pressure, electrocardiography, impedance cardiography)
  • Ecological momentary assessment of social interactions, cognitive processes, and health behaviors (e.g., electronic diaries, sleep actigraphy, ambulatory cardiac monitoring)

Undergraduate Student Research Opportunities

Undergraduates who have interests in stress, coping, and health are encouraged to apply to become research assistants in the Psychosocial Processes and Health Laboratory. This is a great opportunity for students who are considering applying to graduate school or for those who want to learn more about how interpersonal and cognitive processes can influence our health and well-being.

Selection criteria:

  • A GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Someone who is responsible, dependable, motivated, and enthusiastic
  • An interest in health psychology, social or cognitive processes, stress, and research
  • Ability to work at least 6 hours per week
  • Note: PSY3940 prerequisites include PSY2110 (Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences) & PSY2120 (Research Methods in Psychology)

Research responsibilities vary over time, and may include:

  • Assisting with experimental sessions and physiological data collection (e.g., cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune)
  • Organizing and assembling study materials
  • Data collection, coding, and entry


  • Receive course credit for your training and valuable experience (e.g., PSY3940)
  • Gain hands-on research experience and skills needed for graduate school
  • Receive mentorship from faculty members and graduate students
  • A letter of recommendation

Graduate Student Research Opportunities

Graduate students in this lab are encouraged to take an active role in all aspects of the research process, including collaboration on study design, implementation of study protocols, data analysis, and dissemination of findings through manuscripts and presentations.

Potential students ideally will have a strong background in psychology and related biological sciences, excellent verbal and analytical abilities, and careful attention to detail. Good writers are especially welcome!

Students are expected to contribute to ongoing projects, and as their ideas and skills develop, they will have the opportunity to establish their own research based on new data collection or on existing data.

For more details about the Psychosocial Processes and Health Lab, contact Dr. Peggy Zoccola.