Our Research

Though pursuing a wide range of interests in personality and psychopathology, Salvatore R. Maddi, PhD is especially concerned with stress management and creativity. According to him, these are best considered related concerns, integrated by the personality hardiness model. Through deepening the attitudes of commitment, control, and challenge marking hardiness, persons can simultaneously develop, reach their potentialities, and cope with the stresses encountered on the way. Dr. Maddi’s research concerns these topics, using naturalistic designs and training with a range of adult and adolescent subjects in their occupational, familial, and school settings. Also studied is the role of psychosocial factors in the etiology and progression of various physical illnesses.

Current Studies:

Ph.D. Persistence Study

Research Leader: Sarah Bach

This project seeks to understand how psychological hardiness effects graduate students’ abilities to persist toward degree attainment with a focus on student mothers. The sample participants for this project are all Ph.D. students at UCI who will be solicited through a broadcast and follow-up email through the Graduate Student division to participate in a two-part online survey as well as an intervention. The intervention is a process by which students learn how to develop hardiness skills, such as their ability to maximize available social support, strengthen their coping mechanisms, and increase their health through proper nutrition, rest, and relaxation. A pre and post survey captures the before and after effects of the training on hardiness attitudes. The survey data collected will consist of questions that capture stress and strain levels, demographic variables, and what I term vulnerabilities such as age, department affiliation, first generation college student status, and race/ethnicity. The full sample will be analyzed to test the theoretical model of hardiness and conclude if 1. Hardiness affects performance outcomes for students who did not participate in the training, and 2. Hardiness training increases hardiness and thereby reduces a graduate student’s risk of attrition. Overall, this study seeks to know if student mothers are higher in hardiness than other groups and how well this construct aids them in persisting toward degree attainment.

Self-Monitoring Study

Research Leader: Kristal Ly

This study focuses on self-monitoring behaviors and its potential influences on an individual’s social support system. Social support systems help individuals cope during stressful situations. This is an important component of Hardiness because one factor will influence the other, resulting in a positive feedback loop. For example, if an individual builds a strong social support system, his/her Hardiness level also increases. Self- monitoring behavior is defined as an individual’s ability to measure and evaluate a given social situation. People who are perceived to have high levels of self-monitoring tend to be aware of social cues and adjust their behaviors to the given circumstances. These individuals tend to have “activity specialist friends,” different companions for different activities. People perceived as having low levels of self-monitoring tend to behave more consistently among different situations, leading to groups of friends with similar interests. Your goal is to investigate the possible relationships between self-monitoring behaviors and Hardiness personality traits.

Implicit Association Test (IAT) Study

Research Leader: Marissa Bodell

This study is titled “Beliefs about Self and Others”. Participants in this study were UCI students majoring in various disciplines. According to a 2003 article written by Nosek, Greenwald, and Banaji, the IAT “provides a measure of strengths of automatic associations” (197). In our Race Implicit Association Test (IAT), we are examining how strongly participants’ associate Black people with good or bad words and how strongly participants’ associate White people with good or bad words. This test can reveal if someone is prejudice towards a particular racial group. For example, a participant responds faster to tasks when they need to pair Black people with bad words (and White people with good words) than when they need to pair Black people with good words (and White people with bad words). This may reveal racist tendencies towards Black people. We hypothesize that racial prejudice has a negative relationship with Hardiness. Therefore, racial prejudice is negatively correlated with a high Hardiness score. If someone is prejudiced against a particular group of people, then that person would be less accepting of certain racial groups. When someone has a high score on the Hardiness scale, they are open to new experiences and possibly more accepting of racial groups that are different from their own. The Hardiness lab also gathered participants’ reports about their views of different racial groups through an explicit survey. These explicit measures will be used for comparison to the IAT measures. Currently, the Hardiness lab is reviewing the IAT data. The lab is also learning about an improved scoring algorithm for the IAT. This scoring algorithm is explained in the Nosek et.al., 2003 research article. In addition, I have been cleaning the IAT data in Excel with Sarah Bach’s help.

Hardiness and Musical Creativity Study

Research Leader: Marissa Bodell

Marissa will be studying the relationship between Hardiness and musical creativity. In a one of our studies described in a 2006 article by Dr. Salvatore R. Maddi, Richard H. Harvey, Deborah M. Khoshaba, John L. Lu, Michele Persico, and Marnie Brow, innovativeness was found to be positively correlated with Hardiness. Innovativeness can be interpreted as a synonym for creativeness.  The challenge component of Hardiness was found to be statistically significant in its relationship to innovativeness. The correlation coefficient between total Hardiness score and innovativeness was .24. Therefore, if someone has a high Hardiness score then they are likely to be very creative. In this study, innovativeness was assessed using the Unusual Uses Test (UUT) in which participants listed four things that an object could be used for. Dr. Maddi et al. (2006) believed that the participants’ first response about the usage of a particular object would be the same across participants. Dr. Maddi et al. (2006) describe their scoring procedure for assessing innovativeness: “The second, third, and fourth usages offered by each participant were given a score that reflected how infrequent (unusual) they were by comparison with those given by other participants” (p. 589). For my study playing a musical instrument will be an indicator of creativity.  Marissa is planning to gather data from Music majors and Social Ecology majors at UCI. She will then look at the correlation between playing a musical instrument and a participant’s Hardiness total score. Marissa hypothesizes that a high total Hardiness score will be positively correlated to playing a musical instrument. She also hypothesizes that Music majors and Social Ecology majors who play a musical instrument will have a higher Hardiness score than Social Ecology majors who do not play a musical instrument.

Past Study:

This project studies the influences on college students’ use of university academic and recreational resources to cope with stress and adjust to college life rather than deny and avoid.  Many students exhibit behavioral, emotional, social, and physical symptoms of stress during transition from smaller school settings (e.g. high school or community colleges) into a larger university setting.  Signs of stress can include shifts in eating and sleeping habits, rising anxiety levels, and increased frequency of physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches.

Success in college is often closely related to the way students gain mastery over various behavioral, emotional, social, and physical stresses in their lives.  Some students gain a sense of control by enrolling in and participating in selected coursework, seminars and workshops and by using academic support programs such as the Learning and Academic Resource Center (LARC), Student Academic Advancement Services (SAAS), Transfer Services Counseling Program (TSCP), and the Career Center, and campus recreation facilities.  Determining attitudes that influence students’ use of university resources to reduce stress will aid in improving those resources and services with an ultimate goal of reducing symptoms of stress and improving college adjustment and performance.

The researchers follow participants and comparison groups over a several-year period (beginning in 2000), evaluating attitudes toward using, and actual involvement with, various academic and support services.  Tracking academic performance, retention, and use of campus resources will help to compare intended use with actual use of these resources.