Grantee: Marie Helweg-Larsen, Ph.D.
Marie Helweg-Larsen, Ph.D.
- Dickinson College
Professor of Psychology
Glen E. & Mary Line Todd Chair in the Social Sciences, Dickinson College
Describe your scientific identity.
I am a social psychologist who examines health beliefs, emotions, and cognitions and their relationship to preventive or risky health behaviors.
What are your research interests?
I study how people think about their risks (health cognitions) and examine the causes, consequences, and correlates of optimistic bias (thinking you are less at risk than other people). I have examined smoking-related risk beliefs, and in my last NIH-supported research I examined moralized beliefs about smoking across cultures and how they affect risk perceptions and willingness to quit smoking. In my current NIH-supported research, I am examining the effects of stigmatizing smokers in different cultures.
What is the significance of your current research project?
In my current NIH-funded research, I am examining the effects of stigmatization on U.S. and Danish cigarette smokersâ willingness to quit smoking. I expect that stigmatization will cause smokers to experience emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and attitudinal effects that reduce the likelihood that they will quit smoking. This research will provide valuable insights into the consequences of stigmatization (does it help or hinder smokers in quitting?) and thus lay the groundwork for more effective interventions and public health approaches.
What motivated you to work in tobacco control research?
Since my undergraduate days I have been fascinated by how smokers negotiate their identity as smokers. How do people simultaneously see themselves as sensible, rational people yet continue to engage in a risky behavior such as smoking? What are the strategies smokers use to reconcile these contrary images of themselves, and how can these insights contribute to helping smokers quit?
Describe something that had a profound influence on your program of research or scientific interests (an "ah-ha!" moment).
In my first NIH-funded research project, I interviewed smokers in the U.S. and Denmark about their experiences as smokers in their daily lives. I was struck by how offensive smokers found the lecturing and finger-pointing by non-smokers, and some smokers said it made them less interested in quitting. The possibility that stigmatization might motivate some but demotivate others led to my current NIH-funded grant, which examines the effect of stigmatization on smokersâ emotional, cognitive, and behavioral reactions.
Selected training, awards, and honors:
- Endowed Chair, the Glenn E. & Mary Line Todd Chair in the Social Sciences (2018)
- Dickinson Award for Distinguished Teaching (2015)
- Principal Investigator, National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute, R15-CA133152, "Moralization, Risk Perceptions, and Smoking Cessation in the U.S. and Denmark," $178,088 and $43,400 from Dickinson College (2008 - 2012).
Since my undergraduate days I have been fascinated by how smokers negotiate their identity as smokers. How do people simultaneously see themselves as sensible, rational people yet continue to engage in a risky behavior such as smoking?”