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THE HEALTH COGNITIONS AND BEHAVIOR RESEARCH LAB, located in the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department at The George Washington University, applies social-psychological theories to the study of health cognitions and behaviors. The health behaviors we focus on include substance use, sexual behaviors, unhealthy eating, and UV exposure. Our experimental and survey research focuses on the application of dual-processing models, in particular the Prototype-Willingness model (Gerrard et al., 2008; Gibbons, Gerrard, Stock, & Finneran, 2015), to provide a framework for understanding cognitive (heuristic & reasoned), affective, and situational factors that affect health decisions.

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RESEARCH CONDUCTED IN OUR LAB covers five main areas:

  • exploring cognitive, affective, and social influences on decisions to engage in health behavior and to seek or avoid personal health information

  • understanding the relations among risk behavior, social comparison processes, and perceptions of risk

  • applying social psychological theory and the Prototype-Willingness model to understand health decisions and to enhance health interventions

  • examining the relation between racial discrimination and health risk (including HIV-risk) cognitions and behaviors as well as risk and protective factors that help explain and reduce this relation

  • examining social, cognitive, and individual difference mechanisms that may help explain and potentially reduce racial and gender disparities in health


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