August 2016 Spotlight, Stacey N. Doan, Ph.D.

This month, we are delighted to introduce Stacey N. Doan, Ph.D. ( in the Department of Psychology at Claremont McKenna College. Dr. Doan received her PhD from Cornell University. Integrating emotional, socio-cultural and developmental perspectives, her work focuses on examining the biological, social and individual correlates of physical health and psychological well being. She is particularly interested in the role of emotional intelligence and “soft skills” and their relation to health. Dr. Doan approach these studies through the lens of the cultural-fit hypothesis, which emphasizes the person-situation interaction and highlights how psychological processes may vary across cultures and contexts. This understanding would lead to different solutions to the same problems of healthy adaptation and development, as well as acknowledging different strengths.

Personal Spotlight

We asked scholars to describe one of the following: a) what drew them to do work on Asians,Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? b) who was an important mentor to them in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field? c) any particular advice or tips to someone starting out in the field who is doing work in their area.

I think to a certain extent, all research is “me-search”, and my research interests are no exception. I grew up as a child of refugee, immigrant parents from Vietnam, in a predominantly low-income neighborhood, and attended diverse schools. It was clear to me early on that the research described in textbooks did not reflect my experience. While at one point, I thought I would open a clinical practice, I realized early on how little we know about minority children’s development. When I understood that current models of health and development often ignore, or only superficially consider the role of culture race/ethnicity — it became clear to me that there was a tremendous need for basic research. I have had wonderful mentors along the way, including Dr. Stephen Russell, who was one of the first to validate my research interests. I trained under Dr. Qi Wang, perhaps one of the best cross-cultural researchers in the world (she was also recently featured just a few months ago!), and also had fantastic mentorship from Dr. Gary Evans. In all my work, you can clearly see their influence.  For example, Dr. Russell’s emphasis on a multi-method approach, Dr. Wang’s emphasis on not just documenting cultural differences, but explaining them, and Dr. Evans’ cutting edge approach to thinking about adverse consequences of early life adversity are all echoed in my research program. This leads to your third question, regarding advice or tips for future academics. I really believe that you can’t do it alone. Intelligence and perseverance can only take you so far, “stand on the shoulder of giants”, seek out mentors, collaborators, and build a community in which you can thrive!

Research Spotlight

We also asked scholars to describe a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it.  Feel free to describe its importance from any one or more of these lenses: a) research contribution; b) our knowledge about Asian or Asian American populations; c) our knowledge about other understudied populations; d) practice or policy relevance.

Recently, my research has focused on integrating two major lines of research: culture/race/ethnicity and stress. I am particularly interested in how children from different cultural backgrounds cope with stressors, regulate their emotions, and behaviors and cultural factors that shape resilience. We have found for example, that children from different cultural backgrounds use different strategies to deal with challenges, that patterns of stress physiology are influence by cultural differences in socialization practices, and that the same parenting behavior have very different effects across cultures. I believe this line of research is very important from both a theoretical and applied perspective. Our work suggests that processes of emotion, stress, and development are not universal across cultures, and for psychology to be a science of all humans, it cannot just focus on the WEIRD population. Moreover, understanding how culture shapes both risk and resilience factors would lead to diverse, and culturally sensitive solutions to the same problems of healthy adaptation and development. Finally, I have also become interested in translating basic research to an intervention context. With a grant from NIDA, we are applying our understanding of stress and coping to help improve emotional and cognitive abilities in disadvantaged youth, with the hope that the benefits would extend to health behaviors.

Experiences with Asian Caucus

I am shy by nature, and not very good at networking, but the Asian Caucus, is a warm and supportive environment, with such wonderful colleagues. Moreover, simply having a group that share similar interests, and values your work is priceless.

Upcoming Talks/Presentations

We met, and re-met, many wonderful friends and colleagues at ISSBD in Lithuania, IACCP in Japan, and APA in Denver, this past month! We are in the process of submitting some of our work to SRCD, and Psychosomatic Medicine, and hope to see everyone there!

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