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Michael J. Poulin, Ph.D.

PoulinMichaelAssociate Professor
Ph.D., University of California, Irvine
351 Park Hall
(716) 645-0518

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Summary of Research Interests

Humans are a remarkably generous species, willing to sacrifice time, energy and resources to help others in need, including not only kin, but also friends and even strangers as well.  At the same time, people are highly attuned to the potential costs of helping others, which entails diverting time, money, energy, or other resources away from the self.  Past research suggests that human generosity emerges when people set aside concerns with the costs of helping, and that this is most likely when those in need are valued in some way.   With this in mind, my research has two interrelated goals: to examine the mechanisms by which individuals overlook the costs of helping valued others and to examine phenomena that can reduce the barriers to valuing others.  In pursuit of these goals, I employ diverse research methods, including the use of surveys and laboratory techniques as well as genetic and cardiovascular assessments.


Representative Publications

  • Buffone, A. E. K., & Poulin, M. J. (In press). Empathy, target distress, and neurohormone genes interact to predict aggression for others: Even without provocation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
  • Poulin, M. J., & Holman, E. A. (In press) Helping hands, healthy body? Oxytocin receptor gene and prosocial behavior interact to buffer the association between stress and physical health. Hormones and Behavior.
  • Poulin, M. J. (In press). Volunteering predicts health among those who value others: Two national studies. Health Psychology.
  • Poulin, M. J., Brown, S. L., Dillard, A., & Smith, D. M.  (In press). Stress does not predict increased mortality among those who give to others. American Journal of Public Health.
  • Haase, C. M., Poulin, M. J., & Heckhausen, J. (2012). Happiness as a motivator: Positive high-arousal affect enhances primary control striving. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 1093 – 1104.
  • Poulin, M. J., Holman, E. A., & Buffone, A. E. K, (2012). The neurogenetics of nice: Oxytocin and vasopressin receptor genes and prosocial behavior. Psychological Science, 23, 446-452.
  • Poulin, M. J., Brown, S. L., Ubel, P. A., Smith, D. M., Jankovic, A. & Langa, K. M. (2010). Does a helping hand mean a heavy heart? Helping behavior and well-being among spouse caregivers. Psychology and Aging, 25, 108-117.
  • Poulin, M. J., & Silver, R. C. (2008). World benevolence beliefs and well-being across the life span. Psychology and Aging, 23, 13-23.