Salivary bioscience research has arrived, and the School of Social Ecology is at the center of it

July 2017

Vials upon vials of frozen saliva -- from babies exposed to secondhand smoke, from military nurses in training, from captive cheetahs in the zoo -- are stored in the freezers at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research. The vials, and the lab, form the heart of the fast growing field of salivary research.

Scientists at the School of Social Ecology, across the University of California system and around the world are partnering with the lab to test saliva for markers that reveal stress levels, reproductive hormones, environmental chemicals and many other things.

Happiness, optimism and a sense of life purpose can influence physical health

July 2017

Feelings of life enjoyment and satisfaction can influence physical health according to a new review study, co-authored by Sarah Pressman, associate professor of psychology and social behavior. Researchers found that by cultivating happiness and positive perceptions, individuals can improve their immune and cardiovascular systems, as well as the body’s ability to heal from injuries.

"In our review, we found that greater contentment, optimism, a sense of life purpose, low stress and other indicators of subjective well-being are tied to better health and longevity, including surviving serious diseases, and even avoiding acute illnesses," Pressman said.

Institute for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research drives advances in the field

July 2017

Saliva testing has come a long ways since the 1980s, when it was first used for HIV screening. Today, advances in the field are being driven by the School of Social Ecology's Institute for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research, which is developing new applications for salivary testing.

"We've now standardized how those samples should be collected and analyzed, and saliva just has a tremendous amount of biomarkers that can be used for diagnostics and screenings," Douglas Granger, chancellor's professor of psychology and social behavior, told the Orange County Business Journal.

The ways that false memories can lead to wrongful convictions

July 2017

In the 1980s and 1990s, allegations of sexual abuse were rising, and alternative practices such as hypnotherapy and psychotherapy were gaining traction. People undergoing memory visualization techniques and hypnotism believed they were dredging up repressed memories, often of childhood physical and sexual abuse.

Elizabeth Loftus, a distinguished professor of psychology and social behavior, was intrigued by the trend and wondered how accurate the memories really were.

Effectiveness and accuracy of FBI profilers questioned after exoneration

July 2017

Earlier this year after 11 years behind bars, Raymond Lee Jennings, who was convicted of killing an 18-year-old woman in a Palmdale parking lot, was declared innocent.

It took three trials to get that guilty verdict -- the first two trials ended in deadlock -- and the case was based largely on circumstantial evidence. In particular, the prosecution relied on testimony of an FBI profiler. Profilers help detectives predict the likely characteristics of a criminal, but experts are split on how effective profiling actually is -- and whether it's anything more than glorified guesswork.

Profilers can help narrow the list of suspects in an investigation, said Simon Cole, professor of criminology, law and society and director of the National Registry of Exonerations. But there's risk if the profiler is wrong.

How parents can engage disconnected children

July 2017

One in eight young adults ages 16 to 24 are neither in school nor working, a situation that is detrimental for them and society. Additionally, 71 percent of young adults can't join the U.S. military because they lack academic skills, have criminal records or suffer health issues such as obesity and diabetes.

WalletHub recently examined 10 indicators of youth risk across all 50 states to see where young adults are faring poorly and where they're doing well. Jessica Borelli, associate professor of psychology and social behavior, was part of the expert panel, and offered some advice for parents with disconnected children.

From prisoner to editor: how gaining skills in prison can help post-release

July 2017

For 18 years, Troy Williams was locked up in San Quentin State Prison, doing time for attempted robbery. Now, he's the new editor of a newspaper that seeks to tell the stories of San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood -- along with the stories of incarcerated people across the country. More than 3,000 incarcerated people subscribe to the newspaper.

Williams worked on other media projects while in prison, and his journey of rising from prisoner to editor is an example of the ways that building up skills while incarcerated can help prisoners after they're released.

"The vast majority of people get out of prison and the more that they can be connected to their communities, the better they’ll do," Keramet Reiter, an assistant professor of criminology, law and society told PBS Newshour. "Giving them the ability to tell their stories, it’s likely to be very productive in terms of long-term reentry."