Faculty » Kate Sweeny

My research examines threat management: how people give news of, prepare for, and respond to negative life events. The processes by which people anticipate the possibility of bad news, pass along bad news to others, and respond to the events that ultimately occur are the subjects of my diverse but interconnected research program. These lines of research incorporate the study of risk judgments, coping, decision-making, emotions, social cognition, health, and communication.

My current research projects fall into one of two broad areas: uncertainty navigation and health communication. Regarding uncertainty navigation, people frequently face difficult waiting periods when they anticipate uncertain news regarding their or their loved ones’ health, relationships, professional prospects, and academic outcomes. I have explored one aspect of the waiting experience in detail: bracing for bad news. As people get closer to the “moment of truth,” they tend to become more and more pessimistic about their likely outcomes in an effort to avoid disappointment in the case of bad news. I have now expanded my research on waiting to include a number of other strategies, and I have developed a model of uncertainty navigation to depict the process people go through during difficult waiting periods.

Regarding health communication, my lab has several ongoing projects related to communication between physicians and patients in medical and surgical settings. The quality of physician-patient relationships has significant consequences for patients’ adherence to treatment recommendations, satisfaction with care, and health outcomes. To study this and related topics, I have developed collaborations with the Department of Surgery at the Riverside County Regional Medical Center and with a local allergy and asthma clinic and have ongoing projects in both locations.

Selected Publications

Krizan, Z., & Sweeny, K. (in press). Causes and consequences of expectation trajectories: “High” on optimism in a public referendum. Psychological Science.

Sweeny, K., & Krizan, Z. (in press). Sobering up: A quantitative review of temporal declines in expectations. Psychological Bulletin.

Sweeny, K., Shepperd, J. A., & Han, P. K. J. (in press). The goals of bad news communication: Do physicians and patients agree? Health Expectations.

Cavanaugh, A. G., & Sweeny, K. (2012). Embodied health: A guiding perspective for research in health psychology. Health Psychology Review, iFirst, 1-26.

Sweeny, K., & Cavanaugh, A. G. (2012). Waiting is the hardest part: A model of uncertainty navigation in the context of health. Health Psychology Review, 6(2),147-164.

Cavanaugh, A. G., & Sweeny, K. (2012). Hanging in the balance: The role of self-construal abstractness in navigating self-relevant uncertainty. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38. 520-527.

Sweeny, K. (2012). Waiting well: Tips for navigating painful uncertainty. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6, 258-269.

Sweeny, K., & Miller, W. (2012). Predictors of information avoidance: When does ignorance seem most blissful? Self & Identity, 11, 185-201.

Sweeny, K., Shepperd, J. A., & Howell, J. (2012). Do as I say (not as I do): Inconsistency in behaviors and values. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 34, 128-135.

Sweeny, K., & Vohs, K. D. (2012). On near misses and completed tasks: The nature of relief. Psychological Science, 23, 464-468.

Sweeny, K., & Legg, A. M. (2011). Predictors of interest in direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Psychology & Health, 26, 1259-1272. 

Sweeny, K., Melnyk, D., Miller, W., & Shepperd, J. A. (2010). Information avoidance: Who, what, when, and why. Review of General Psychology, 14, 340-353.

Sweeny, K., & Shepperd, J. A. (2010). The costs of optimism and the benefits of pessimism. Emotion, 10, 750-753.

Sweeny, K., & Shepperd, J. A. (2009). Responding to negative health events: A test of the Bad News Response Model. Psychology & Health, 24, 895-907.

Sweeny, K., Shepperd, J. A., & Carroll, P. J. (2009). Expectations for others’ outcomes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 160-171.

Sweeny, K. (2008). Crisis decision theory: Decisions in the face of negative events. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 61-76.

Carroll, P. J., Shepperd, J. A., Sweeny, K., Carlson, E., & Benigno, J. P. (2007). Disappointment for others. Cognition and Emotion, 11, 1565-1576.

Shepperd, J. A., Sweeny, K., & Cherry, L.C. (2007). Influencing audience satisfaction by manipulating expectations. Social Influence, 2, 98-111.

Sweeny, K., & Shepperd, J. A. (2007). Being the best bearer of bad tidings. Review of General Psychology, 11, 235-257.

Sweeny, K., & Shepperd, J. A. (2007). Do people brace sensibly? Risk judgments and risk prevalence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 1064-1075.

Carroll, P., Sweeny, K., & Shepperd, J. A. (2006). Forsaking optimism. Review of General Psychology, 10, 56-73.

Sweeny, K., Carroll, P. J., & Shepperd, J. A. (2006). Thinking about the future: Is optimism always best? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 302-306.