Adult Division

Director: Charles S. Carver, Ph.D.
Associate Director: Amy Weisman de Mamani, Ph.D.
Faculty: Aaron Heller, Ph.D.Sierra Bainter, Ph.D. , Debra Lieberman, Ph.D.,   Michael McCullough, Ph.D., and  Kiara Timpano, Ph.D.,

The Adult Division offers training leading to the Ph.D. degree with a track specific focus in Adult Clinical Psychology.  This track is built on a scientist-practitioner model, with a greater emphasis on the clinical science component.  Students typically receive financial support and full tuition remission through the Ph.D.

This track of the clinical program aims to train psychologists who are academically and clinically prepared to work as researchers, teachers, mentors, and clinicians in either academic settings or applied settings such as psychiatric hospitals.  The track philosophy is based on the premise that research training and clinical training should be interwoven, such that development of each facilitates the further development of the other.  The philosophy also is based on the premise that a sound conceptualization of normal behavior fosters better understanding of problem behavior.  Thus, we place a stronger emphasis than do some clinical programs on the continuity between personality-social psychology on the one hand and psychopathology and clinical science on the other (more information on the training program).

Adult Division Research

Adult Division students have a variety of research opportunities.  Below is a listing of Adult Division faculty along with an overview of their research interests.  Much of this research revolves around five themes:

  • Cognitive and affective vulnerabilities in affective disorders: Drs. Timpano, Heller, & Carver
  • Psychosocial predictors of the course of serious psychological disorders and ways to foster better adaptation to these disorders: Dr. Weisman de Mamani
  • Basic processes of personality, affect, mood, and self-regulation: Drs. Carver, McCullough, & Heller
  • Interpersonal processes: Drs. McCullough & Weisman de Mamani
  • Biological bases of affect, personality, and social behavior: Drs. Timpano, Carver, Heller, & McCullough
  • Evolutionary analyses of human experience:  Drs. Lieberman & McCullough

Adult Division faculty and their research interests:

Sierra Bainter, Ph.D., Assistant professor  Dr. Bainter’s research focus is in quantitative psychology, specifically on improving areas where available quantitative methods may not be adequate for real psychological data, or where a research question may not be addressed using standard analysis techniques. She is particularly interested in Bayesian estimation as a tool to help overcome estimation difficulties in structural equation models. She is also focused on improving the match between statistical models and psychological theory, because mismatch between model and theory can obscure our understanding of psychological processes and influences.

Charles S. Carver, Ph.D., Professor, Director of the Adult Division  Dr. Carver's research has several focuses.  He studies several aspects of personality (including the dimension of optimism-pessimism), often in the context of stressful life experiences such as major illness.  Not surprisingly, he also studies the nature of coping.  He has collaborated for many years in research on how cancer patients adjust to their diagnosis and treatment.  Another view of personality that has drawn Dr. Carver's interest is one that emphasizes approach and avoidance processes as influences on personality.  Yet another topic of interest is the bases and consequences of affective experience.  In recent years this has led to work on genetic and other biological influences on personality and emotion.  The broad interest that underlies all of this research concerns the structure of the self-regulation of behavior.  See Dr. Carver's research interests for greater detail.

Aaron Heller, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Dr. Heller is interested in better understanding the temporal dynamics of positive emotion (ie., how we sustain or don't sustain positive emotion) in depressed and healthy individuals. Using an emotion regulation framework to study these processes, Dr. Heller  uses a variety of methods including brain imaging (fMRI), psychophysiological (facial EMG, skin conductance) and experience sampling (using smart phones) techniques to better understand emotion, emotion regulation and the pathophysiology of health, well-being and psychopathology. Another line of research in which Dr. Heller engages is in developing better methods to simultaneously acquire fMRI with objective measures of emotion like facial EMG.

Debra Lieberman, Ph.D., Associate Professor  Dr. Lieberman's research has two major focuses.  The first relates to human kin detection.  Over evolutionary history, it was beneficial to know which individuals were close genetic relatives for the purpose of avoiding them as sexual partners (inbreeding avoidance) and for allocating assistance to them according to the principles of inclusive fitness theory.  But how do humans figure out who counts as a close genetic relative? Dr. Lieberman's research investigates the ecologically valid cues that might serve as indicators of relatedness.  Currently, she is researching the cues to siblingship and has found that the mind uses two separate cues to identify younger versus older siblings.  Regardless of actual genetic relatedness, these cues predict the intensity of disgust felt towards engaging in sexual behaviors with one's siblings, the moral wrongness of third party sibling incest, and levels of sibling directed altruism.  A second focus of Dr. Lieberman's research is on the emotion disgust.  She has been investigating the different types of disgust and the possibility that each type of disgust is neurally, behaviorally, and physiologically dissociable.  Additional research interests include social categorization, biological underpinnings of morality, and application of evolutionary principles to clinical science, medicine, and law.  See Dr. Lieberman's web page for additional information.

Michael McCullough, Ph.D., Professor  Dr. McCullough's research focuses on religion and human social virtues.  He is interested in the proximal and ultimate causes for of such behaviors, and therefore moves between evolutionary theory and mid-range theories.  Currently, Dr. McCullough is studying the personality and environmental factors that influence religious development over the life course, is examining the effects of religious development on health and well-being as people age, and is working on a theory to explain how religions foster the development of self-control.  He is also studying the effects of forgiveness on physiological functioning and has developed a theory to explain the evolution of revenge and forgiveness in humans.  See Dr. McCullough's web page for additional information.

Kiara Timpano, Ph.D., Associate Professor  Dr. Timpano is focused on better understanding factors that play a role in the etiology, comorbidity, and maintenance of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders. Dr. Timpano’s research on this topic bridges various sub-disciplines of psychology within a translational research framework, and includes cognitive, biological, and environmental components. Dr. Timpano uses both experimental and applied approaches, including laboratory techniques (cognitive tasks, eye-tracking, psychophysiological measures) that examine biological and psychological factors in relation to risk for psychopathology. A secondary, yet interwoven domain is to apply vulnerability-focused research to the clinical arena, via the development and evaluation of empirically-informed treatment or prevention protocols.

Amy Weisman de Mamani, Ph.D., Associate Professor Dr. Weisman de Mamani's research focuses on cultural and family factors that predict the course of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease and other age related dementias.  She is particularly interested in applying models developed in social psychology (e.g., attribution theory) to better understand family member's reactions to these disorders and how such reactions relate to patient functioning.  She has also developed a culturally sensitive family-focused psychosocial intervention for families with a schizophrenic member. Finally she is interested in the study of how language choice impacts the manifestation of psychopathology in bilingual individuals with schizophrenia.


Adult Division Facilities

Most student research and clinical training takes place on the Coral Gables campus.  Other aspects of training occur at the university's Medical campus in downtown Miami.  The Department of Psychology's building incorporates faculty and graduate student offices, classrooms, laboratories and research rooms, and the department's Psychological Services Center. This facility incorporates clinical research laboratories (with one-way viewing panels and recording equipment) as well as comfortable rooms for therapy.  The department has an extensive computer laboratory that is available to graduate students, with both Macintosh and PC platforms, suitable peripherals, and access to mainframe and Internet resources.