Roxane Cohen Silver, Ph.D., is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychological Science, the Department of Medicine, and the Program in Public Health, and Associate Director of the ADVANCE Program for Faculty and Graduate Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Office of Inclusive Excellence at the University of California, Irvine, where she has been actively involved in research, teaching, and administration since 1989. An international expert in the field of stress and coping, Silver has spent almost four decades studying acute and long-term psychological and physical reactions to stressful life experiences, including personal traumas such as loss, physical disability, and childhood sexual victimization, as well as larger collective events such as terror attacks, war, and natural disasters across the world (e.g., U.S., Indonesia, Chile, Israel). Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Public Health Service. She has guided governments in the U.S. and abroad in the aftermath of terrorist attacks and earthquakes and served on numerous senior advisory committees and task forces for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, providing advice to the Department and its component agencies on the psychological impact of disasters and terrorism. She has also testified at the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science and given several briefings to policymakers at the White House and on Capitol Hill on the role of social science research in disaster preparedness and response and the impact of the media following disasters. Silver is the President of the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences (FABBS) and was the 2016 President of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology. She was also a founding Director and Chair of the Board of Directors of Psychology Beyond Borders, an international nonprofit organization that facilitated research, intervention, and policy development in the prevention, preparedness, and response to terror attacks, conflict, or natural disasters across the world.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Robert S. Laufer Ph.D. Memorial Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement (professional)
2018 International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
Application of Personality and Social Psychology Senior Career Contribution Award (professional)
2019 Society for Personality and Social Psychology
Social Responsibility Award (professional)
2016 Western Psychological Association
Daniel Stokols Award for Interdisciplinary Research (professional)
2015 School of Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine
Frank Ochberg Award for Media and Trauma Study (professional)
2014 International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
Northwestern University: PhD, Social Psychology 1982
Northwestern University: BA, Psychology 1976
Awarded with Highest Distinction and Honors
- American Psychological Association
- Association for Psychological Science
- International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
- Society of Experimental Social Psychology
- Society for Health Psychology
- Society for Personality and Social Psychology
- Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
Media Appearances (10)
The best advice we got in 2023
Just being there for someone who’s going through a hard time is enough. When tragedy strikes and we’re called upon to support those we love, we often freeze. We’re afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing and further upsetting our already grieving friend. However, simply calling or texting a loved one and offering time is enough, says Roxane Cohen Silver, a distinguished professor of psychological science, public health, and medicine at the University of California, Irvine. Don’t overthink it: Ask, “How are you feeling today?” or say, “I’m thinking of you,” “You crossed my mind today,” and “I’m just checking in.”
The impact of bad news, compassion fatigue, and the psychology of whistleblowing
BCC - All in the Mind online
Increasing numbers of people are avoiding the news … Coverage of these crises can have a psychological impact. Roxane Cohen Silver, Distinguished Professor of psychological science, medicine and public health at the University of California, Irvine, tells Claudia how media exposure to traumatic events can cause acute symptoms of stress, and what we can do to protect ourselves. “We see this as a cycle of distress where … more media leads to, or is associated with, more stress, more worry. And more worry and more stress is also associated with consuming more media,” says Silver.
Graphic images from catastrophic events have the potential to affect our mental and physical health
KNX News online
In the days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Roxane Cohen Silver and her colleagues began a study looking at the psychological impact of the attacks. She’s a UC Irvine Distinguished Professor of psychological science, medicine and public health. “My colleagues and I found that the number of hours that people were immersed in television about the 9/11 attacks, the more likely they were to be exhibiting psychological symptomatology – what psychologists call ‘acute stress symptoms,’” says Silver.
Why we can't stop watching gruesome, graphic war videos on the internet
It's hard to scroll social media right now without coming across pictures or videos of graphic violence …. Dr. Roxane Cohen Silver, a Distinguished Professor at the Department of Psychological Science at the University of California, Irvine, has been researching the psychological impact of viewing traumatic footage for over 20 years. … She said the extreme exposure to war violence poses serious mental and even physical health risks — and no psychological benefits. … Her research found that people who watched more videos of violent events were more likely to exhibit the same symptoms as people who directly experienced trauma.
Fifty Years Later, the Orphans of Flight 723 Return to the Scene
The New York Times online
Two years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Roxane Cohen Silver, a social psychologist [and Distinguished professor and vice provost] at the University of California, Irvine, and a team of researchers looked at a group of people who had been asked to describe their emotions on the day of the attacks. What they discovered, she said, was that “those who emoted most, wrote the most words, actually did the worst over time.” … Her research has also called into question a much larger assumption: that people who suffer terrible losses eventually come to peace with them. … “There are some for whom resolution never happens,” Dr. Silver said. “They will not, quote, get over it.”
Bad behavior at ‘Barbenheimer’ reflects a worrying trend
The Washington Post online
Roxane Cohen Silver, a [Distinguished] professor of psychology [and vice provost] at the University of California, Irvine, and an expert on stress and personal trauma, says this behavior could be linked to a string of recent events. “It is clear that the past three years have been challenging for many people in our country. We have experienced a series of collective traumas, cascading one to the next, which for many has been almost too much to bear. The combination of the pandemic, inflation, mass shootings, climate-related disasters, political polarization and so on, has taxed our capacity to cope,” Cohen Silver said in an email. “It is important to recognize this reality as we examine behavior this summer.”
The Barbie-Taylor-Beyoncé summer offers a release of pandemic emotions
The Washington Post online
Researchers who are studying the pandemic’s effects on mental health may see answers in future data. For now, “anything that tries to tie the pandemic to the current summer activities would be speculative,” said Roxane Cohen Silver, a [Distinguished] professor of psychological science [and vice provost] at the University of California, Irvine who is conducting research on the psychological state of the country during and after the pandemic. “There’s no way to draw a direct link.”
How Much Worry about Mass Shootings Is Too Much?
Scientific American online
People have a broad range of responses to mass tragedies, says Roxane Cohen Silver, [Distinguished Professor of psychological science], at the University of California, Irvine, who studies the effects of collective trauma and was not involved in the new study. “There are certainly people who go about their day-to-day experiences without thinking about mass shootings at all,” Silver says. Others, she says, change their behavior dramatically, avoiding certain public places or even homeschooling their children.
Mass killings leave Americans fearful, numb and wondering: Am I next?
The Washington Post online
Roxane Cohen Silver, a [Distinguished] professor of psychology at the University of California, Irvine who studies trauma, [says], “There’s a broader context here of many years of stress and anxiety and uncontrollable events that have felt really almost too much to bear,” she said. Silver’s research has shown how media exposure can transmit the psychological impact of traumatic events well beyond their immediate area. … “When you’re at an event, there is a beginning, middle and end,” Silver said. But when you’re absorbed in the coverage, “you’re seeing a loop over and over again of the tragedy.”
Why so many mass killings? Families, experts seek answers
Associated Press online
The legislation and other measures have done little to slow the pace of violence or alleviate the nation’s pain, which has been further exacerbated by the pandemic, climate change and the racial reckoning after George Floyd’s murder by police. “These tragedies compounded one after the other, making it almost too much to bear,” said Roxanne Cohen Silver, a psychology [Distinguished] Professor at the University of California, Irvine, who studies coping with traumatic life events. The mass killings, Silver noted, “are just another tragedy on top of all of these other psychological and emotional challenges.”
Event Appearances (3)
Psychological Science and COVID-19, Interview with Roxane Cohen Silver
Association for Psychological Science
Social isolation, mental health, and COVID-19: A media briefing
SciLine, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Using the psychological science of crisis leadership and communications to navigate the Coronavirus: A webinar for public officials
American Psychological Association
The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-2019) Outbreak: Amplification of Public Health Consequences by Media ExposureHealth Psychology
Dana Rose Garfin, Roxane Cohen Silver, E. Alison Holman
2020 The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-2019) has led to a serious outbreak of often severe respiratory disease, which originated in China and has quickly become a global pandemic, with far-reaching consequences that are unprecedented in the modern era. As public health officials seek to contain the virus and mitigate the deleterious effects on worldwide population health, a related threat has emerged: global media exposure to the crisis.
Associations between exposure to childhood bullying and abuse and adulthood outcomes in a representative national U.S. sampleChild Abuse & Neglect
Josiah A Sweeting, Dana Rose Garfin, E Alison Holman, Roxane Cohen Silver
2020 Negative childhood experiences are associated with poor health and psychosocial outcomes throughout one’s lifespan.
Exposure to prior negative life events and responses to the Boston marathon bombings.Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Garfin, Dana Rose; Holman, E. Alison; Silver, Roxane Cohen
2020 Objective: The objective of the study was to explore how type and timing of prior negative life experiences (NLEs) may be linked to responses to subsequent collective trauma, such as a terrorist attack. Method: Using a longitudinal design, we examined relationships between prior NLEs and responses to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings (BMB).
What Might Have Been: Near Miss Experiences and Adjustment to a Terrorist AttackSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Michael J. Poulin, Roxane Cohen Silver
2019 Near miss experiences—narrowly avoiding a traumatic event—are associated with distress, despite signaling good fortune. For some, near miss experiences call to mind those who, unlike oneself, were directly affected by the event, leading to “survivor guilt” or distress over one’s comparative good fortune. Survivor guilt, in turn, may function as upward counterfactual thinking about others’ negative outcomes, leading to intrusive thoughts and post-traumatic stress.
When are assumptions shaken? A prospective, longitudinal investigation of negative life events and worldviews in a national sampleJournal of Research in Personality
Michael J Poulin, Roxane Cohen Silver
2019 Theorists maintain that negative life events (NLE) can alter worldviews, but evidence for this idea has been lacking. We present a model that raises three questions: (1) Do different types of NLE engender different types of worldview change? (2) Do factors that facilitate positive reappraisals of NLE buffer against worldview change?