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 (17)
How to protect your mental health while reflecting on the Boston Marathon bombings
Roxane Cohen-Silver, a [Distinguished] Professor [of Psychological Science, Medicine, and Public Health] at the University of California, Irvine, says the bombings were the first major U.S. tragedy where graphic images were posted and disseminated on social media — without editorial restrictions. Her research compared people in metro Boston to those in other parts of the country. It found that anyone exposed to the gruesome images from the marathon finish line, regardless of their location, was more likely be emotionally harmed. "So we actually have seen a cycle in which people who engaged in a lot of media are associated with stress and anxiety and worry," Cohen-Silver said.
How to offer help when you don’t know what to say
Among the most helpful ways to support someone experiencing hardship is simply being available, says Roxane Cohen Silver, a Distinguished Professor of psychological science, public health, and medicine at the University of California, Irvine. In her work studying reactions to personal trauma, Silver and her colleagues have found making a phone call and offering to visit are the simplest and most impactful forms of service. What to say in those initial calls or texts? Cohen suggests, “How are you feeling today?” Because the inquiry is so open-ended, your loved one can answer honestly and as in-depth as they’d like.
The Day with Brent Goff: US, China & the Balloon
Deutsche Welle - The Day tv
“I’m joined now by Roxane Cohen Silver, she’s a [Distinguished] Professor of psychological science, medicine and public health at the University of California, Irvine. She specializes in trauma research... the Ukrainian people – they have been traumatized, they have been terrorized by war for almost a year now… what do the people need in order to cope, in order to survive this?” “I think it’s very important that we acknowledge the incredible stress that the people of Ukraine have been under for, as you say, about a year. I think that it’s very important that we recognize, however, that there is not “one size fits all” response to this stress. We might expect that people across the country are dealing with it in many different ways – even people within the same family,” says Cohen Silver. [Starts 19:08]
8 ways to feel less anxious about things beyond your control
The Washington Post online
How can you cope with the "hope fatigue" many are experiencing? Many people feel increasingly anxious and hopeless about issues out of their control, including climate change and the war in Ukraine. But there are ways to fight back against this dread. Lesley Alderman talks to leading psychologists who offer advice on overcoming this mental health challenge.
Livestreamed violence compounds America's horror and inspires copycats, experts say. When will it stop?
USA Today online
Roxane Cohen Silver, a professor of psychology science, medicine and public health at the University of California, Irvine, and her colleagues have studied the impact of media consumption following the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing and the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Florida, and found a "cycle of distress."
Talking Grief: ‘We Need to Allow More Space to Feel Our Emotions’
Everyday Health online
Roxane Cohen Silver, PhD, distinguished professor of psychological science, medicine, and public health at the University of California in Irvine, says an individual loss is different from a collective loss. “I don’t think sharing a death is better or worse,” adds Dr. Silver, who has studied the acute and long-term reactions to personal traumas, as well as the impact of larger community disasters, such as terrorist attacks, for more than 30 years.
‘A collective trauma’: Covid keeps its grip on mental health of many patients
The Guardian online
In addition to those who died from Covid or lost a loved one to the virus, “there are personal stressors that people have had to encounter, on and off with restrictions in their activities, on and off with the possibility of getting ill, and all of those things have now been chronic”, said Roxane Cohen Silver, a University of California at Irvine psychologist who has described the pandemic as a “collective trauma”.
Nuclear Anxiety is Nothing New. Here’s How to Handle It
Roxane Cohen Silver, a professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine who researches media coverage and trauma, stresses that it's important to monitor your own media consumption of crises like the conflict in Ukraine and avoid exposing yourself to graphic images or videos that may ramp up feelings of fear and anxiety. "I have not seen any images of the war," she says. "I have not clicked on any videos. When I read the content on my computer, my eyes gaze away from those pictures. I'm a very conscious consumer. And yet I still think I can stay informed."
People are developing trauma-like symptoms as the pandemic wears on
What Langstrom describes is a collective trauma, according to Roxane Cohen Silver of the University of California, Irvine. "The event happens, there's great tragedy, and people pick up the pieces of their lives and start to figure out how they're going to move forward," she said. But Cohen Silver said the pandemic was different. For one, there wasn't a single event — it was more like a "slow-moving disaster" that "escalated in intensity over time" but doesn't have a clear beginning or endpoint. And that makes it harder to categorize, or even recognize.
Turning on or tuning out the war in Ukraine
In a recent paper, the psychologist Dr. Roxane Silver Cohen wrote: We do not know how bad things will get, nor when recovery can truly begin. Individuals must grapple with intense direct exposure to cascading events with varying and sometimes conflicting policies dictating public response. Concurrently, these events have been broadcast in real time, across multiple mediums, compounding their exposure. News has been almost entirely bad, with escalating intensity. The overlay of sensationalized media coverage in the context of repeated direct exposure to adversity is likely creating an additional crisis for public mental health.
Watching War Unfold on Social Media Affects Your Mental Health
Roxane Cohen Silver, a professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine who researches media coverage and trauma, says the amount of media someone consumes and how graphic that content is influence its effects on mental health. Compared to people who viewed less, those who watched at least four hours of television coverage per day during the week following the September 11 attacks reported increased stress and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and were at greater risk of developing health problems years later, Cohen Silver’s team found in a study published in 2013.
Straphangers speak about subway safety, mental health a month after fatal shoving
“There's no one size fits all response to tragedy,” said Dr. Roxane Cohen Silver, a psychology professor at the University of California, Irvine. “Any implication that there is one right way and one wrong way does not fit the data.”
5 Ways Omicron Is Changing the Way We Socialize
“Omicron has highlighted the uncertainty of this virus,” says Roxane Cohen Silver, a professor of psychological science, public health and medicine at the University of California, Irvine, who studies coping responses to national stressors, like 9/11 and the pandemic. Such events “have an ambiguous endpoint,” Cohen Silver wrote as lead author of a paper on collective trauma published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour in January 2021. “We do not know how bad things will get, nor when recovery can truly begin.”
Stress, uncertainty and isolation are common pandemic experiences. But is it trauma?
ROXANE COHEN SILVER: I have no difficulty calling this a trauma, personally. LONSDORF: Roxane Cohen Silver is a professor of psychological science at the University of California Irvine. She's been studying collective trauma since the 1980s.
How to Help a Loved One Through Sudden Loss
The New York Times online
As with any other type of sudden loss, focus on providing the type of support that the griever needs, Dr. Marshall said.
On the anniversary of Jan. 6 Capitol riot, a reminder that watching footage may be traumatizing
Yahoo! Life online
While the tendency might be to believe that simply viewing footage of events from a safe distance should protect us from such traumatic stress, social psychologist Roxane Cohen Silver, a professor in the department of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine, has 20 years of research to show that's not the case. Starting with a look at those who viewed 9/11 footage on television, she's led studies into the psychological effects of consuming disturbing footage — also including that of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando — and has found startling evidence of its power.
The pandemic has caused nearly two years of collective trauma. Many people are near a breaking point.
The Washington Post online
That danger heightens the feeling of whiplash among people tired of the pandemic’s twists and turns, said Roxane Cohen Silver, a [Distinguished] Professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine. “The news about the omicron variant came right at the time that many people in the U.S. were poised to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with loved ones for the first time in a long time,” she said. “It seemed almost cruel that just when ‘normalcy’ seemed to be on the horizon, hopes were again dashed with the latest news.”
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?