Recent findings

Growth and balance important to well-being

Dr. Heidi Wayment's research on the importance of growth and balance to well-being and flourishing has been recently published. Her most recent paper captures several years of work on the "Quiet Ego." With colleagues Jack Bauer (University of Dayton) and former NAU graduate student Kateryna Sylaska, their paper has been published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

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The quiet ego refers to a self-identity that transcends egoism and identifies with a less defensive, balanced stance toward the self and others. This paper investigates the benefits of a balanced self-identity and introduces a 14-item Quiet Ego Scale (QES). Results from six studies demonstrate that the QES measures an identity that strikes a balance between a strong sense of agency (but not egoism) and a strong concern for the welfare of others. Although QES was correlated with a number of related characteristics (e.g., self-compassion, self-determination, authenticity, self-transcendence), it was a distinct predictor of outcomes such as resilience, coping efficacy, and indices of well-being that could aid investigations of human happiness.Dr. Wayment also collaborated with Dr. Bauer on another paper investigating a related construct, Growth Motivation, which is the desire for personal growth. This paper describes five studies that examine two facets of growth motivation (reflective and experiential) that aim respectively toward two paths of eudaimonic self-development (maturity/wisdom and well-being/meaningfulness). This paper also appears in the Journal of Happiness Studies. Taken together, Dr. Wayment and colleagues' research suggest that the path to eudaimonic well-being lies in a sense of self that can balance the concerns of both self and others, and is oriented toward growth. Most recently, her research suggests that a brief intervention that helps individuals achieve this balance is associated with reduced stress and well-being.

Social relationships and depression 

Dr. Steven Barger studies social and economic determinants of health and presented his research on social relationships and depression conducted with a large representative sample of Swiss adults (> 12,000 participants) at the 72nd annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in San Francisco, CA. 

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This research was a collaboration with faculty at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM) at the University of Bern in Switzerland. 

Dr. Barger and his colleagues Jürgen Barth and Nadine Messerli-Bürgy found that participants who reported being sometimes or very often lonely had a much higher incidence of a recent major depressive episode. In addition, participants perceiving that their support needs were not being met and those who were not living with a romantic partner were also at higher risk. Other social relationship resources, such as having a confidant, seeing friends or family regularly and/or someone to help with daily activities (tangible support) were unrelated to major depression. In contrast, all of the social relationship characteristics examined, with the exception of living with a romantic partner, were associated with depressive symptoms. That is, people who lacked a confidant, perceived their social support needs were unmet, lacked tangible support and regular contact with friends and family were more likely to have depressive symptoms. Thus, a broader range of social relationship elements were related to depressive symptoms as compared to major depression. Overall loneliness was the strongest predictor of major depression and depressive symptoms in Switzerland, replicating associations found in nationally representative studies from the US and Australia. In addition, a broad set of markers for relationship quality and quantity were associated with subclinical depression. Thus, when characterizing the types of social relationships that are associated with mental health, it is important to evaluate a number of social relationship domains and distinguish between clinical versus subclinical depression. A manuscript based upon this research was published in an issue of BMC Public Health, a BioMed Central journal.

Human sexuality research

Dr. Andy Walters’ research on human sexuality, masculinity, gender performance, and sexuality among socially marginalized populations has led to several recent publications, all of which involved former NAU students: 

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  • Sylaska, K. M., & Walters, A. S.  (2014).  Testing the extent of the gender trap: College students’perceptions of and reactions to intimate partner violence. Sex Roles, 70, 134-145; 
  • Sharpe, D. I., Walters, A. S., & Goren, M. J.  (2013).  Effect of cheating experience on attitudes toward infidelity.  Sexuality and Culture, 17, 643-658. 
  • Walters, A. S., & Valenzuela, I.  (2013).  Under the watchful eye: Masculinity among Latino men in the wake of Arizona 1070.  In J. M. Aston & E. Vasquez (Eds.), Masculinity and femininity: Stereotypes and myths, psychology, and the role of culture (pp. 51-69). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science., 
  • Walters, A. S., & Burger, B. D.  (2013).  “I love you, and I cheated”: Investigating disclosures of infidelity to primary partners.  Sexuality and Culture, 17, 20-49.  
Current activities of these NAU student coauthors
Kateryna Sylaska is pursuing Ph.D. at University of New Hampshire 
Desiree Sharpe is pursuing Ph.D. at University of Georgia
Ivan Valenzuela (former undergraduate and REU student) is now doing graduate work at U Colorado, Colorado Springs
Brea Burger is pursuing Ph.D. at Penn State.

Cross-cultural research

Dr. Ann Futterman Collier has spent the majority of her career involved in cross-cultural research and program development and evaluation with traditionally underserved populations and in her second year here at NAU is continuing her active research agenda.

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She was recently awarded an NAU Faculty Grants Program grant (“Developing a Culturally-Sensitive Obesity Intervention for Pacific Island Families Using a Community-Based Participatory Research Paradigm”) and will continue to work with colleagues both in Palau and through the Pacific Island Health Officers’ Association (PIHOA). Dr. Collier is also a co-investigator on a grant awarded to Dr. Leslie Schulz and Dr. Catherine Propper  titled “Native Americans Exploring Global Health Disparities;” (NIH Minority International Research Training Grants program). This program will allow 1-2 students a year to work with Dr. Collier in Palau during the summer. Dr. Collier is also using community-based participatory research models to create culturally-sensitive obesity interventions for Native American people living in rural areas, especially North Eastern Arizona.

NSF REU Program 

Since 2010, our department has hosted a unique summer research experience program, sponsored primarily by the NSF, called Hojooba’ bee la’ hooniil, Undergraduate Studies into the Social Psychophysiology of Compassion.

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Hojooba’ bee la’ hooniil is a Navajo expression meaning “loving kindness as healing for the suffering of others” and our REU internship seeks to better understand, through well-designed psychosocial research, the nature of this important construct.  Each summer, the principal investigator, Dr. Larry Stevens, oversees a program of eight undergraduate students from around the country.  Each of the students works with an NAU Department of Psychology faculty research mentor to design, to conduct, and to present, both locally and nationally at the annual APA convention, outcomes of a Compassion research project.  Past research topics have included Effects of Compassion Training on Electrocortical (EEG) and Questionnaire Measures, Compassion for Others: The Road to Happiness, Effects of a Compassion Intervention, Determination and Compassion: The Psychological Effects of Belief in Free Will, The Relationship between Self-Compassion and Exercise, Relational-Interdependent Self-Construal and Compassion, Compassion for Others, Friendship Experiences, and Happiness Among Students and Non-Students, Self-Other Discrimination and Empathic Abilities, and many others.

Contributions to industrial-organizational psychology

In March, 2013, Dr. Ann H. Huffman and Dr. Stephanie R. Klein published a highly regarded book about how industrial-organizational psychology contribute to environmental sustainability in organizations.

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The edited volume, entitled “Green Organizations: Driving Change with I-O Psychology,” reflects expert opinion from the fields leading researchers who embrace a scientist/practitioner model to solve real-world issues.  This volume has been called a “landmark” publication that will serve as a “catalyst and vanguard” in the field of Industrial-Organizational Psychology.  Dr. Huffman is also the 2015 Division Program Chairperson for the American Psychological Association, Division 14 (Society of Industrial-Organizational Psychology) to be held in Toronto.