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Lab Overview

Our lab focuses on how subjective mindsets (e.g., thoughts, beliefs, and expectations) can alter objective reality through behavioral, psychological, and physiological mechanisms. Our work is, in part, inspired by research on the placebo effect, a robust demonstration of the ability of the mindset to elicit healing properties in the body. We are interested in understanding how mindsets affect important outcomes both within and beyond the realm of medicine, in domains such as exercise, diet, and stress. More specifically, we aim to understand how selective information through modalities such as media, marketing, and labeling can inform mindsets, and how mindsets can be consciously and deliberately changed through intervention to affect physiological and psychological health.  

Our research draws upon and integrates the psychology of schemas and appraisals within a range of disciplines including the science of the placebo effect, the behavioral economics of framing, and the sociology of valuation. We collaborate with an interdisciplinary web of scholars including psychologists, sociologists, organizational behavior scholars, and neurobiologists and employ a variety of methods, from experimental studies to surveys to field interventions. Though our approach is interdisciplinary and our methods multi-modal, our focus is precise: to bring together related streams of research to a) understand how mindsets shape reality and b) design interventions that can positively change health, performance, and wellbeing. 


MBL at the 2018 Association for Psychological Science (APS) Annual Conference

MAY 18, 2018
Thursday, May 24, 2018
4:00pm (symposium)
  • Brad Turnwald, Emerson Hardebeck, Kari Leibowitz, and Lauren Howe: “Beyond genetic testing: Should medical treatment be personalized to your psychological profile?”


Friday, May 25, 2018 
9:30am (poster session)
  • Michelle Chang: “Time warped: Physician warmth & competence relate to extended patient perceptions of consultation time”
10:30am (symposium)
  • Octavia Zahrt: “From making friends to matters of life and death—social comparisons can critically shape social relationships and health”
3:00pm (poster session)
  • Maggie Perry: “Symptoms as positive signals”
  • Steve Rathje: “How the subtle use of metaphorical language shapes our mindsets”
4:00pm (symposium)
  • Alia Crum: “Interventions with impact”
Saturday, May 26, 2018 
2:00pm (symposium)
  • Alia Crum: “Behavior Change across the Life-Span”
4:00pm (poster session)
  • Rina Horii: “Food for thought: Changing mindsets about healthy eating”
Sunday, May 27, 2018
9:00am (symposium)
  • Lauren Howe: “Harnessing placebo and minimizing nocebo effects in physical symptoms: The role of learning”
10:30am (symposium)
  • Parker Goyer: “The benefits of a stress is enhancing mindset for minority college students during exam periods”

MBL at the 2018 Society for Personality and Social Psychology Annual Conference

FEBRUARY 22, 2018
Thursday, March 1, 2018 (Health Preconference)
10:15am (poster session)
  • Brad Turnwald: "Mind over Genome: Perceived Genetic Risk for Obesity Shapes Physiology Independent of Actual Genetic Risk"
  • Maggie Perry: "The Language of Unhealthy Food on Social Media: Nutritious, but Unappealing and Unsatisfying"
  • Natalie Samuels: "Portrayals of healthy and unhealthy foods in top American films"
11:30am (data blitz)
  • Lauren Howe: "Symptoms Are Positive Signals: Changing Mindsets About Side Effects to Improve Oral Immunotherapy (OIT)"
  • Kari Leibowitz: "Physician Assurance Reduces Patient Symptoms"
Saturday, March 3, 2018 (Main Conference)
8:00am (symposium)
  • Octavia Zahrt: "Effects of Mindsets on Health and Longevity: Public Health Impact and Underlying Mechanisms"

9:30am (poster session)

  • Brad Turnwald: "Mind over Genome: Perceived Genetic Risk for Obesity Shapes Physiology Independent of Actual Genetic Risk"
  • Kari Leibowitz: "The Role of Patient Beliefs in Healthcare"
  • Sean Zion: "In Sickness and in Health: Validation of a Novel Tool to Assess Mindsets in Healthy and Chronically Ill Populations"
  • Emerson Hardebeck: "'Get Well Soon' May Get You Well, Soon: Physician’s Positive Expectation-Setting Reduces Itch in Allergic Reaction"
11:00am (poster session)
  • Danielle Boles: "Do Play with Your Food: Comparing 'Traditional' and 'Fun' Approaches to Youth Nutrition Education"

12:45pm (symposium)

  • Lauren Howe: "Normative Appeals are More Effective When They Invite People to Work Together toward a Common Cause"

3:45pm (poster session)

  • Michelle Chang: "Time Warped: Physician Warmth and Competence Relate to Extended Patient Perceptions of Consultation Time"

5:15pm (symposium)

  • Alia Crum: "Rethinking Health Behavior Change: Nudging Mindset"


MBL at the 2017 International Positive Psychology Association 5th World Conference

JULY 14, 2017; (view calendar)
Friday, July 14, 2017 at 3:30 pm
- Lauren Howe will present "Positive Relationships Strengthen the Impact of Expectations on Patient Treatment Outcomes"
- Emerson Hardebeck will present "Do Unhealthy Patients Respond More Positively to Unhealthy Doctors?”
- Kari Leibowitz will present "The Role of Psycho-Social Qualities in Healthcare: Physician Perspectives”
- Erik Santoro will present "Meta-Mindsets: A Non-deceptive Way to Motivate Generalizable Mindset Change” 
Friday, July 14, 2017 at 5:30 pm
 - Alia Crum will present "Positive Health Psychology

MBL Welcomes Isaac Handley-Miner as its new Lab Manager

June 19, 2017
Isaac Handley-Minder joins MBL as its new lab manager. Isaac will replace Erik Santoro, who is leaving to join Stanford’s Social Psychology area as a graduate student in the fall.

Congratulations to the MBL Graduates

JUNE 18, 2017
Congratulations to Lauren Howe for receiving her Doctor of Philosophy in psychology! Congratulations to the following people for receiving their Bachelor of Arts in psychology: Bailey Ann Bondy, Charlene Chambliss, Treyvion Malik Foster, Matthew Jonathan Hirschland, Jackson Jirard, and Rachel Elizabeth Riddle.

MBL’er Steve Rathje Wins Stanford’s Best Undergraduate Fiction Prize

MAy 31, 2017
Congratulations to Steve Rathje (’18) for winning 1st place for the Bocock/Guerard Fiction for his piece “The Placebo Addict.” Steve was inspired to write this piece in part by his research in the lab.

Alia Crum, Octavia Zahrt and James Landay win Stanford Center for Digital Health Seed Research Grant

april 27, 2017; (news announcement)
Alia Crum, PhD and Octavia Zahrt, along with James Landay, PhD (Computer Science) have received a seed research grant from the Stanford Center for Digital Health (CDH) for their research project “Harness Mindset in Health Technology.”

MBL at the 2017 Society for Personality and Social Psychology Annual Conference

JANUARY 9, 2017
Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 10:15 am
- Dr. Alia Crum will present: "Harnessing Mindset in 21st Century Healthcare" in the Social Personality Health Pre-Conference (view preconference)
- Danielle Boles will present a poster: "Do play with your food: Comparing 'Traditional' and 'Fun' Approaches to Youth Nutrition Education" in the Social Personality Health Pre-Conference (view preconference)
 - Brad Turnwald will present: “Unintended Consequences of Genetic Testing: Beliefs, Affect, and Behavior” in the Social Personality Health Pre-Conference (view preconference
Friday, January 20, 2017 at 11:00 am
 - Lauren Howe will present: "Physiological Effects of Treatment Are Influenced by Patient Expectations and Practitioner Interaction Style" in the "Harnessing Psycho-Social Forces in Healthcare" symposium (view talkview symposium)
- Kari Leibowitz will present: "The Role of Psycho-Social Qualities in Healthcare: Perspectives from Physicians and Patients" in the "Harnessing Psycho-Social Forces in Healthcare" symposium (view talkview symposium)
Saturday, January 21, 2017 at 5:00 pm
 - Brad Turnwald will present: “Reading Between the Menu Lines: Breaking the ‘Healthy Is Not Tasty’ American Mindset” in the “Rethinking Health Behavior Change” symposium (view talkview symposium)
 - Octavia Zahrt will present: “Adverse Psychological Side-Effects of Physical Activity Guidelines” in the “Rethinking Health Behavior Change” symposium (view talkview symposium)