Stephen Ristvedt, PhD

Research Description

Ristvedt has conducted research centered on the study of individual characteristics that are associated with potentially detrimental health-related behaviors. Characteristics such as personality traits, emotional temperament, and health beliefs have been found to be associated with ineffective responses to health threats and inefficient use of health care resources. The goal of this research is to use this information to develop methods of educating and motivating individuals toward optimal health self-management.

Two specific areas of interest for Ristvedt have been sex differences in responsiveness to health threats and the influence of anxiety on health-related behaviors. For example, he has found that men who were low in trait anxiety were particularly slow to recognize the seriousness of a legitimate medical threat, while low trait anxiety had no such effect on women. Findings such as this illustrate the importance of psychological and emotional characteristics that can have a significant impact on health care decision-making. Ristvedt is currently planning an investigation of the beliefs and attitudes (i.e., “mental models”) held by chronic pain patients with respect to the nature of their pain and the pain management modalities that are being offered to them. It is predicted that inaccurate mental models will be associated with nonadherence to treatment recommendations or even premature termination. Early identification and correction of those inaccurate beliefs could lead to more effective pain management  interventions and greater patient satisfaction.