I conduct applied and basic research on Supportive Interactions, especially as it relates to improving supportive interactions in large organizations like K-12 schools, universities, and corporations. In the past I also conducted research on Self-Control (I now consult on it).
My research is grounded in a population health framework, informed by research in communication, psychology, and behavioral economics.
- What are the consequences of supportive interactions?
- What specific behaviors comprise effective interpersonal support?
- What is the best way to teach people to engage in these behaviors?
I am conducting two large-scale, community-based applied research projects. Both projects involve training large amounts of people in a community to provide high-quality interpersonal support, and encouraging them to seek such support from others in the community. My work in this area has been generating some media coverage.
The first project is conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, where I am heading a campus-wide initiative to train first-year undergraduate students, their housing staff, and key members of the University staff (e.g., college advisers) to exchange high-quality interpersonal support. Students rate their physical, emotional, and social well-being throughout their first year in college, in order to allow a comparison of students who live in communities that receive the training with students who live in communities that do not receive the training.
The second project is conducted in collaboration with the Upper Darby School District, a near neighbor of the University of Pennsylvania that serves over 12,000 students from highly diverse national, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. Working with two middle schools, I am testing a program for training students, staff, and families to exchange high-quality interpersonal support , in order to strengthen relationships across all levels of the schools, promote a supportive educational environment, and support student achievement.
- Why do people do things that they know they are going to regret? (i.e., succumb to temptations)
- What can help people resist temptations better?
I conducted a number of research projects about self-control, out of the strong belief that this is a critical life skill that should be understood well and taught explicitly. The bulk of my research work has now shifted toward Supportive Interactions, but I continue to consult on applied and research projects on self-control, both in academia and in industry. My work in this area generated some media coverage.