Dr. Michael J. Poulin
Ph.D., University of California, Irvine
Office: 368 Park Hall
Phone: (716) 645-0518
Summary of Research Interests:
Two questions drive my research. The first is, why do people engage in prosocial behavior—that is, activities that directly or indirectly benefit others, especially in the absence of obvious benefits to the self? The second is, what factors influence people’s responses to stress and adversity? Our research team uses a combination of surveys and lab-based methods to examine both psychosocial and biological aspects of prosocial motivation and stress. Our recent work has focused on three specific points of overlap between these research areas:
- Prosocial responses to stress. Many stressful situations (e.g., shared grief, fighting in battle) call for individuals to attend to the well-being of others. What mechanisms make it possible for people under threat to care for or protect others?
- Biological underpinnings of stress and prosocial motivation. A suite of shared physiological systems (e.g., the parasympathetic nervous system, the peptides oxytocin and vasopressin) serve to regulate both physiological stress responses and prosocial behavior. What are the implications of this link?
- The roles of prosocial motivation and stress in health. Prosocial behavior appears to protect against the negative health effects of stress. What psychological and physiological mechanisms explain this effect?
- Poulin, M. J., Brown, S. L., Ubel, P. A., Smith, D. M., Jankovic, A. &Langa, K. M. (2010). Does a helping hand mean a heavy heart? Helping
behavior and well-being among spouse caregivers. Psychology and Aging,
- Brown, S. L., Fredrickson, B. L., Wirth, M. M., Poulin, M. J., Meier, E. A., Heaphy, E. D., Cohen, M. D., & Schultheiss, O. C. (2009). Social closeness increases salivary progesterone in humans. Hormones and Behavior, 56, 108-111.
- Brown, S. L., Smith, D. M., Schulz, R., Kabeto, M. U., Ubel, P. A., Poulin, M. J., Yi, J., Kim, C., & Langa, K. M. (2009). Caregiving behavior is associated with decreased mortality risk. Psychological Science, 20, 488-494.
- Poulin, M. J., Silver, R.C., Gil-Rivas, V., Holman, E.A., & McIntosh, D.N. (2009). Finding social benefits after a collective trauma: Perceiving societal changes and well-being following 9/11. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 22, 81-90.
- Adler, J. M., & Poulin, M. J. (2009). The political is personal: Narrating 9/11 and psychological well-being. Journal of Personality, 77, 903-932.
- Poulin, M. J., & Silver, R. C. (2008). World benevolence beliefs and well-being across the life span. Psychology and Aging, 23, 13-23.
- Holman, E.A., Silver, R.C., Poulin, M. J., Pizarro, J., Gil-Rivas, V., & McIntosh, D.N. (2008). Early predictors of cardiovascular health over three years following September 11. Archives of General Psychiatry, 65, 73-80.
- Poulin, M. J., & Heckhausen, J. (2007). Stressful events compromise goal striving during a major life transition. Motivation and Emotion, 31, 300-311.