Sarah Pressman is an Associate Professor of Psychological Science at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on the interplay between positive emotions, social relationships, stress, and health, with a focus on the physiological processes that underlie these associations.
Generally, my research examines the role that positive emotions and other positive factors play in influencing stress and health outcomes. I am especially interested in exactly how these factors “get under the skin” to influence our well-being and protect us against the harmful effects of stress. Pathways that I have examined include physiological processes such as stress hormone reactivity, cardiovascular response, immune system change, as well as health behaviors like sleeping, exercise, and other leisure activities. I also do research on the role of these positive psychosocial factors in buffering the detrimental effects of stress. For example, I am interested in whether happiness is associated with an improved ability to handle stress, both from a psychological and a physiological standpoint. I am also very interested in using relationship and emotion markers outside of self-report as predictors of health. For example, computerized word encoding of writing, or positive facial emotion expression (e.g., smiling) as alternative, unobtrusive methods of understanding individual differences.