Dr. Sally Dickerson has devoted over 20 years to conducting research on how stressful situations can impact the body. Her work has documented that social stressors -- those characterized by social evaluation, rejection, and criticism -- can activate biological systems (including the stress hormone cortisol and immune markers of inflammation) that can have effects on health. Her award-winning research has helped establish the conditions that activate aspects of the stress response.
Capitalizing on this scientific knowledge of how stress can influence health, she implements evidence-based practices to help reduce the negative effects of stress on psychological and physical well-being. As an avid yoga practitioner (20+ years) and a yoga teacher (RYT-500), she conducts workshops and lectures on the health benefits of research-based stress management techniques, including yoga and meditation.
Selected Honors & Awards
Yoga Teacher Training (RYT-500)
Teaching The Science of Yoga
Sally's innovative and highly-cited research focuses broadly on how stress activates physiological systems of the body -- and how social, emotional, and cognitive factors can influence these effects.
Social Environment and Cortisol Reactivity: Her research (in collaboration with Margaret Kemeny, Tara Gruenewald, Peggy Zoccola, and other colleagues) has examined how the social context influences physiological reactivity to stressors. Her work has identified that social evaluation -- feeling that others could negatively judge you -- is a key condition that can activate the stress hormone cortisol and markers of inflammatory activity.
* Dickerson, S. S. & Kemeny, M. E. (2004). Acute stressors and cortisol responses: A theoretical integration and synthesis of laboratory research. Psychological Bulletin, 130(3), 355-391.
* Woody, A., Hooker, E.D., Zoccola, P.M. & Dickerson, S. S. (2018). Social-evaluative threat, cognitive load, and the cortisol and cardiovascular stress response. Psychoneuroendocrinology.
Rumination, Emotion, and Cortisol Reactivity: Conducted in collaboration with Peggy Zoccola, this line of research demonstrates that rumination -- perseveration on past events or stressors -- can extend and maintain the physiological stress response. In addition, her work has shown that self-conscious emotions, such as shame, embarrassment and humiliation, may be particularly tied to physiological reactivity.
* Zoccola, P. M., Dickerson, S. S., & Lam, S. (2012). Eliciting and maintaining ruminative thought: The role of social-evaluative threat. Emotion, 12, 673-677.
* Dickerson, S. S. (2012). Physiological correlates of self-conscious emotions. In S. C. Segerstrom (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Psychoneuroimmunology (p. 79-91). New York: Oxford University Press.
Social Support, Physiology, and Health: Sally has also published research on the beneficial effects of social support -- how our social connections can positively influence physiology and health. For example, with Emily Hooker and colleagues, her work has demonstrated that social support may be particularly beneficial for those with low socioeconomic status.
* Hooker, E. D., Zoccola, P. M., & Dickerson, S. S. (2016). Toward a biology of social support. In C.R. Snyder, S. J. Lopez, L. M. Edwards, & S. C. Marques (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
* Hooker, E. D., Campos, B., Zoccola, P. M. & Dickerson, S. S. (2018). Subjective socioeconomic status matters less when perceived social support is high: A study of cortisol responses to stress. Social and Personality Psychology Science, 9(8), 981-989.
Sally Dickerson has a depth of experience teaching in small and large group formats. She is equally comfortable stimulating discussion among small groups of participants as delivering engaging large audiences (400+).
She has taught undergraduate classes on the Psychology of Stress, Health Psychology, Health Promotion and Prevention, and Research Methods. She has also taught graduate courses on the Psychobiology of Stress, Biological Bases of Behavior and Social Endocrinology. Her evaluations are stellar and have earned accolades and awards.
Sally has also given lectures to a wide variety of audiences, including continuing education seminars for health professionals (through the Institute for Brain Potential), adult university education seminars, and general audiences.
Sally is a dedicated and effective mentor, working with undergraduate and graduate students to achieve their research and career goals.
Sally Dickerson is an expert in cortisol assessment. She has published papers and a book documenting the best-practices for cortisol assessment in psychological studies. She is available for consultation for those interested in incorporating cortisol or other physiological markers into psychology, social science, or health research designs.
*Blascovich, J., Vanman, E., Mendes, W. B., & Dickerson, S. S. (2011). Social Psychophysiology for Social and Personality Psychology. Newberry Park, CA: Sage Publications.
* Dickerson, S. S., & Kemeny, M. E. (2004). Acute stressors and cortisol responses: A theoretical integration and synthesis of laboratory research. Psychological Bulletin, 130(3), 355-391.
Sally Dickerson has served as a program director at the National Science Foundation and as an Associate Provost for Research. She is well-equipped to help identify grant opportunities and advise on the merit review process at federal agencies.
Klein, W. M. P., Ferrer, R. A., & Dickerson, S. S. (2016). Psychologists giving grants through government organizations. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Career Paths in Psychology (437-447). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.