Alexander Rothman


My primary program of research concerns the application of social psychological theory to illness prevention and health promotion and is comprised of a synthesis of basic research on how people process and respond to health information with the development and evaluation of theory-based interventions to promote healthy behavior. Through this work, my colleagues and I engage with a diverse array of issues including, but not limited to, how people evaluate and process health-relevant information, why and when different health communication strategies (e.g., message framing) are most effective, specifying the decision processes that underlie the initiation and maintenance of behavior change, and delineating the mechanisms that underlie the effectiveness of behavioral interventions as well as the conditions under which they are most effective. We have also begun to pursue the integration of interpersonal processes and perspectives into prevailing models of health behavior, which have tended to take an intrapersonal perspective.

Our theoretical models have informed the design, implementation, and testing of interventions across a range of behavioral domains including smoking, diet, physical activity, and cancer screening. My collaborators and I are currently engaged in intervention trials targeting smoking cessation, physical activity and falls preventions in older adults, and the prescription of opioids. We have also begun to explore the implications of our models for predicting and promoting environmentally-friendly behaviors. Throughout this work, I have been a leading advocate for the need to forge tighter linkages between theories of health behavior and intervention practices and policies. I helped lead the Advanced Training Institute on Health Behavior Theory (sponsored by NCI/NIH/OBSSR) since its inception in 2004 and I currently co-chair an NCI sponsored working group (Cognitive, Affective, and Social Processes in Health) designed to enhance the impact of innovations in basic behavioral and social sciences on the design, evaluation, and dissemination of intervention strategies to promote healthful behavior. I also currently co-lead the NHLBI/NIH Accumulating Data to Optimally Predict Obesity Treatment (ADOPT) Core Measures Project.

I have served in a number of leadership positions. At the University of Minnesota, I served a five-year term as the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs. Outside the University, I served as President of the Society for Health Psychology (APA) and was the founding President of the Social Personality and Heath Network. I have also served as Associate Editor of Health Psychology Review and as a co-editor of several special issues including an issue of Health Psychology on theoretical innovations in social and personality psychology and their implications for health.

In recognition of my work, I received the APA 2002 Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Health Psychology and am a fellow of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, the Society for Health Psychology, the European Health Psychology Society, the Association of Psychological Science, and the Society of Personality and Social Psychology. In 2018 I received the University of Minnesota's award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate and Professional Education and with this award was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Teachers and named a Distinguished University Teaching Professor.