Dr. Maier has interdisciplinary training in behavioral medicine and clinical health psychology. He has both a clinical and basic research background in cardiovascular behavioral medicine, focusing on the psychophysiology of stress. More recently he has broadened his scope to examine how physical and mental health interface with issues of global concern, such as environmental health and climate change, using a transdisciplinary ecological systems approach. Here he has developed cross-cutting conceptual frameworks to help researchers, educators, and the general public understand complex phenomena (for example, the role of human and environmental microbiomes in health). Also in this area, he has developed some of the first interdisciplinary courses on climate change, including Psychology and Global Climate Change, which he has co-taught at Salisbury University since 2013.
More details about Dr. Maier's work and interests can be found at: http://faculty.salisbury.edu/~kjmaier
Persad-Clem, Reema A., Hoerster, Katherine D., Romano, Evalynn F.T., Huizar, Nancy and Maier, Karl J. (2022) Climate to COVID, global to local, policies to people: A biopsychosocial ecological framework for syndemic prevention and response in behavioral medicine. vol. 12. no. 4. pp. 516–525. Translational Behavioral Medicine.
Maier, Karl J., Whitehead, George I. and Lahay, Amber (2022) The “modest majority and big minority” of climate change: believers and nonbelievers are inaccurate about the extent that others agree. pp. 1-13. Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
Maier, Karl J. (2021) Equity, environment, and the biopsychosocial ecology of the covid-19 syndemic. vol. 83. no. 9. pp. 1089–1091. Psychosomatic Medicine.
Maier, Karl J., Whitehead, George I. and Walter, Mark I. (2018) Teaching psychology and climate change: One way to meet the call for action. vol. 45. no. 3. pp. 226-234. Teaching of Psychology.
Maier, Karl J. and al'Absi, Mustafa (2017) Toward a biopsychosocial ecology of the human microbiome, brain-gut axis, and health. vol. 79. pp. 947-957. Psychosomatic Medicine.
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- PresentationsClimate Change Distress and Hopefulness Varies by Mindfulness and Climate Action Stage of ChangeApril 2022Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting, Baltimore<b>Background: </b>Engaging in behaviors to reduce one’s carbon footprint may be one way of actively coping with climate-related stress that also contributes to mitigation of climate change. In addition, mindfulness and the stages of change associated with the transtheoretical model have been applied to individual climate-related behavior (Barrett et al, 2016). We examined stage of engagement in personal action on climate change and degree of mindfulness in association with mental health indicators related to climate change, perceived impact of climate change on human civilization, and perceived negative personal impact. We hypothesized that greater mindfulness would be associated with less stress and greater hopefulness and self-efficacy about climate change. We then explored these factors according to stage of change.<br><b>Method: </b>A sample of 766 U.S. based Amazon M-Turk workers who endorsed belief that climate change is happening (79% White or Caucasian; 65% women; age (M = 38.20, SD = 13.24, range = 18 to 78 years) completed an online Qualtrics survey. Participants completed the Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale–Revised (CAMS-R; Feldman et al., 2006) and single-item scales assessing climate change-related stress, hopefulness, self-efficacy (perceived ability to do things to help slow global warming), impacts on human civilization, and personal negative impacts [0 (not at all) to 5 (very much)]. Participants also indicated if they had made lifestyle/behavioral changes (examples given) to reduce their “contribution of greenhouse gasses to help slow global warming or climate change” by endorsing one of 6 statements that operationalize the stages of change (precontemplation to termination).<br><b>Results:</b> Mindfulness was negatively correlated with climate change stress (r = -.20) and personal impact (r = -.11), and positively correlated with hopefulness (r = .24) (p’s < .01) and self-efficacy (r = .08) (p < .05) related to climate change. Mean levels of mindfulness among those in the termination stage were greater than those in the contemplation, preparation, and action stage (p’s < .05), but not significantly different from those in the precontemplation or maintenance stages. Participants in the precontemplation stage reported the lowest levels of stress, self-efficacy, perceived personal and civilization impacts, and the greatest level of hopefulness (p’s < .001).<br><b>Conclusions:</b> A disposition toward mindfulness may confer resilience against emotional impacts of climate change. Individuals not intending to make changes to their carbon footprint appear to have less distress than others who report being more ready or already engaged in change, consistent with their low perceived degree of climate impacts. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine if distress, self-efficacy, and perceived impact may motivate individuals to engage in climate-friendly behavior changes over time.
Climate Change Course Descriptions may not Communicate Relevance to Majors or Capture Interest Among UndergraduatesDecember 2021American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Virtual<b>Introduction: </b>Climate change will require a broad range of disciplines to address the problem. It is therefore important that university students from diverse academic programs see the potential relevance of the topic to their major area of study. We examined if varied frames of a hypothetical climate change course description is differentially related to student perceptions of relevance and interest in the course.<br><b>Method: </b>We obtained 1525 responses from an online survey of undergraduate students at 6 campuses within the University System of Maryland (among those reporting demographics: M= 21.77, SD = 5.15, range = 18 - 62 yrs of age; 72% women, 25.5% men, 2.5% otherwise identified). In an experimental design, respondents were consecutively assigned to one of four course description conditions [control (“a course on climate change”); basic scientific (core mechanisms & impacts); ecological (human-earth interactions & disciplinary examples); hopeful (co-benefits of mitigation/adaptation). Participants rated the following about their assigned course description on 7-point scales [0 (not at all) – 6 (very much)]: relevance to major/discipline; interest in taking such a course; care in reading the course description; and understanding the course description.<br><b>Results: </b>The mean response across conditions indicated low perceived relevance (M = 2.56, SD = 2.07), and interest (M = 3.25, SD = 2.01). Contrary to expectations, a one-way analysis of variance indicated that perceived relevance [F(3, 1168) = 1.21, p = .30] and interest [F(3, 1169) = .98, p = .40] did not differ across the conditions. Averaged across conditions, respondents reported a low degree of carefulness in reading the course description (M = 1.6, SD = 1.72) and a low degree of understanding (M = 1.2, SD = 1.47).<br><b>Conclusions: </b>The present findings suggest a modest degree of perceived relevance and interest in climate change coursework amongst undergraduate students. However, our data suggests that participants may not have sufficiently read or understood the course descriptions. Efforts to engage students in climate change curriculum may need to utilize relevant messaging beyond course descriptions. This could mean emphasizing aspects of climate change that interest students, such as clearly aligning course objectives to career paths and life interests.<br><br><i>Funded by NSF sub-award SA07523937 PO47027</i>
Transdisciplinary Integrative Ecology Provides a Holistic Framework for Addressing COVID-19 and other Complex ProblemsDecember, 3 2020Pursuing Health Equity in the Context of COVID-19: The Essential Role of Psychosomatic Science. Scientific Conference of the American Psychosomatic Society,Convergence research is a relatively new label for collaborative efforts that bring together multiple disciplines to address complex problems. Such an integrated approach has long been represented in the holistic foundations of psychosomatic medicine and the biopsychosocial approach, and is necessary to effectively address pandemic infectious diseases. Emerging from the biopsychosocial concept, Transdisciplinary Integrative Ecology (TIE) is introduced here as a meta-paradigm for convergence research that can be operationalized and applied to support research and policy in addressing COVID-19.<b> </b>Generic TIE principles reflect integration across all relevant disciplines and levels of analysis within a loosely structured framework reflecting the superordinate principle of ecology-that all things are interconnected. These principles can be applied in various ways, but are well operationalized using a biopsychosocial ecological framework that specifies bio-physical, psychological/behavioral, and social domains of influence that are integrated across multiple levels of analysis (Figure 1). In application, the disproportionate global impact of COVID-19 among many non-white, economically poor communities can be understood through distal socioeconomic factors that drive long-standing health disparities and differential exposure to degraded natural environments. At the intermediate level, greater COVID-19 transmission and severe outcomes are seen in densely populated urban areas characterized by unhealthy built environments and limited access to education/information, healthcare, and nutrition. At the person and intermediate levels, residents of such areas often are at high risk, for example, from pre-existing health conditions and risk exposure as essential workers. Psychosocial stress associated with the experience of chronic discrimination and the totality of these living conditions may interact with more distal environmental factors such as high levels of airborne particulate matter to synergistically impact inflammatory and immune mechanisms that are increasingly understood as critical pathways of severe COVID-19 disease. TIE principles support contextual frameworks that can illuminate pathways of complex problems such as COVID-19, enhancing communication among stakeholders, identifying novel collaborative opportunities, and guiding funding/policy priorities.
- Press Releases
Four from SU Named 2021-22 Fulbright Students
Friday, May 28, 2021
SU Celebrates Fulton School Faculty Successes
Thursday, May 21, 2020
'Changing Climate, Changing World' Lecture Series Scheduled January 28-May 13
Friday, January 11, 2019
Maier Earns Distinguished Faculty Award
Wednesday, September 06, 2017
Fulton School Faculty Present Spring Colloquia Series Through May 1
Friday, February 17, 2012
- Employee Recognition