Bio


My research focuses on how changes in subjective mindsets - the lenses through which information is perceived, organized, and interpreted - can alter objective reality through behavioral, psychological, and physiological mechanisms. My work is, in part, inspired by research on the placebo effect, a remarkable and consistent demonstration of the ability of the mindset to elicit healing properties in the body. I am interested in understanding how mindsets affect important outcomes outside the realm of medicine, in the domains of behavioral health and organizational behavior. More specifically, I aim to understand how mindsets can be consciously and deliberately changed through intervention to affect organizational and individual performance, physiological and psychological well-being, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Academic Appointments


Professional Education


  • AB, Harvard University, Psychology (2005)
  • PhD, Yale University, Clinical Psychology (2012)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests


https://mbl.stanford.edu/

Our lab focuses on how subjective mindsets (e.g., thoughts, beliefs and expectations) can alter objective reality through behavioral, psychological, and physiological mechanisms. Our work is, in part, inspired by research on the placebo effect, a robust demonstration of the ability of the mindset to elicit healing properties in the body. We are interested in understanding how mindsets affect important outcomes both within and beyond the realm of medicine, in the domains such as exercise, diet and stress. More specifically, we aim to understand how selective information through modalities such as media, marketing and labeling can inform mindsets, and how mindsets can be consciously and deliberately changed through intervention to affect physiological and psychological health.

Our research draws upon and integrates the psychology of schemas and appraisals within a range of disciplines including the science of the placebo effect, the behavioral economics of framing, and the sociology of valuation. We collaborate with an interdisciplinary web of scholars including psychologists, sociologists, organizational behavior scholars, and neurobiologists and employ a variety of methods, from experimental studies to surveys to field interventions. Though our approach is interdisciplinary and our methods multi-modal, our focus is precise: to bring together related streams of research to a) understand how mindsets shape reality and b) design interventions that can positively change health, performance and wellbeing.

Stanford Advisees


All Publications


  • Making mindset matter. BMJ (Clinical research ed.) Crum, A. J., Leibowitz, K. A., Verghese, A. 2017; 356: j674-?

    View details for DOI 10.1136/bmj.j674

    View details for PubMedID 28202443

  • The role of stress mindset in shaping cognitive, emotional, and physiological responses to challenging and threatening stress. Anxiety, stress, and coping Crum, A. J., Akinola, M., Martin, A., Fath, S. 2017: 1-17

    Abstract

    Prior research suggests that altering situation-specific evaluations of stress as challenging versus threatening can improve responses to stress. The aim of the current study was to explore whether cognitive, physiological and affective stress responses can be altered independent of situation-specific evaluations by changing individuals' mindsets about the nature of stress in general.Using a 2 × 2 design, we experimentally manipulated stress mindset using multi-media film clips orienting participants (N = 113) to either the enhancing or debilitating nature of stress. We also manipulated challenge and threat evaluations by providing positive or negative feedback to participants during a social stress test.Results revealed that under both threat and challenge stress evaluations, a stress-is-enhancing mindset produced sharper increases in anabolic ("growth") hormones relative to a stress-is-debilitating mindset. Furthermore, when the stress was evaluated as a challenge, a stress-is-enhancing mindset produced sharper increases in positive affect, heightened attentional bias towards positive stimuli, and greater cognitive flexibility, whereas a stress-is-debilitating mindset produced worse cognitive and affective outcomes.These findings advance stress management theory and practice by demonstrating that a short manipulation designed to generate a stress-is-enhancing mindset can improve responses to both challenging and threatening stress.

    View details for DOI 10.1080/10615806.2016.1275585

    View details for PubMedID 28120622

  • Adaptive Appraisals of Anxiety Moderate the Association between Cortisol Reactivity and Performance in Salary Negotiations PLOS ONE Akinola, M., Fridman, I., Mor, S., Morris, M. W., Crum, A. J. 2016; 11 (12)

    Abstract

    Prior research suggests that stress can be harmful in high-stakes contexts such as negotiations. However, few studies actually measure stress physiologically during negotiations, nor do studies offer interventions to combat the potential negative effects of heightened physiological responses in negotiation contexts. In the current research, we offer evidence that the negative effects of cortisol increases on negotiation performance can be reduced through a reappraisal of anxiety manipulation. We experimentally induced adaptive appraisals by randomly assigning 97 male and female participants to receive either instructions to appraise their anxiety as beneficial to the negotiation or no specific instructions on how to appraise the situation. We also measured participants' cortisol responses prior to and following the negotiation. Results revealed that cortisol increases were positively related to negotiation performance for participants who were told to view anxiety as beneficial, and not detrimental, for negotiation performance (appraisal condition). In contrast, cortisol increases were negatively related to negotiation performance for participants given no instructions on appraising their anxiety (control condition). These findings offer a means through which to combat the potentially deleterious effects of heightened cortisol reactivity on negotiation outcomes.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0167977

    View details for Web of Science ID 000392758000019

    View details for PubMedID 27992484

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5161466

  • Transforming Water: Social Influence Moderates Psychological, Physiological, and Functional Response to a Placebo Product PLOS ONE Crum, A. J., Phillips, D. J., Goyer, J. P., Akinola, M., Higgins, E. T. 2016; 11 (11)

    Abstract

    This paper investigates how social influence can alter physiological, psychological, and functional responses to a placebo product and how such responses influence the ultimate endorsement of the product. Participants consumed a product, "AquaCharge Energy Water," falsely-labeled as containing 200 mg of caffeine but which was actually plain spring water, in one of three conditions: a no social influence condition, a disconfirming social influence condition, and a confirming social influence condition. Results demonstrated that the effect of the product labeling on physiological alertness (systolic blood pressure), psychological alertness (self-reported alertness), functional alertness (cognitive interference), and product endorsement was moderated by social influence: participants experienced more subjective, physiological and functional alertness and stronger product endorsement when they consumed the product in the confirming social influence condition than when they consumed the product in the disconfirming social influence condition. These results suggest that social influence can alter subjective, physiological, and functional responses to a faux product, in this case transforming the effects of plain water.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0167121

    View details for Web of Science ID 000388886000052

    View details for PubMedID 27875567

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5119827

  • Self-Fulfilling Prophesies, Placebo Effects, and the Social-Psychological Creation of Reality Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Scott, R., Kosslyn , S. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2015
  • Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Crum, A. J., Salovey, P., Achor, S. 2013; 104 (4): 716-733

    Abstract

    This article describes 3 studies that explore the role of mindsets in the context of stress. In Study 1, we present data supporting the reliability and validity of an 8-item instrument, the Stress Mindset Measure (SMM), designed to assess the extent to which an individual believes that the effects of stress are either enhancing or debilitating. In Study 2, we demonstrate that stress mindsets can be altered by watching short, multimedia film clips presenting factual information biased toward defining the nature of stress in 1 of 2 ways (stress-is-enhancing vs. stress-is-debilitating). In Study 3, we demonstrate the effect of stress mindset on physiological and behavioral outcomes, showing that a stress-is-enhancing mindset is associated with moderate cortisol reactivity and high desire for feedback under stress. Together, these 3 studies suggest that stress mindset is a distinct and meaningful variable in determining the stress response.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/a0031201

    View details for Web of Science ID 000316620300007

    View details for PubMedID 23437923

  • Mind Over Milkshakes: Mindsets, Not Just Nutrients, Determine Ghrelin Response HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY Crum, A. J., Corbin, W. R., Brownell, K. D., Salovey, P. 2011; 30 (4): 424-429

    Abstract

    To test whether physiological satiation as measured by the gut peptide ghrelin may vary depending on the mindset in which one approaches consumption of food.On 2 separate occasions, participants (n = 46) consumed a 380-calorie milkshake under the pretense that it was either a 620-calorie "indulgent" shake or a 140-calorie "sensible" shake. Ghrelin was measured via intravenous blood samples at 3 time points: baseline (20 min), anticipatory (60 min), and postconsumption (90 min). During the first interval (between 20 and 60 min) participants were asked to view and rate the (misleading) label of the shake. During the second interval (between 60 and 90 min) participants were asked to drink and rate the milkshake.The mindset of indulgence produced a dramatically steeper decline in ghrelin after consuming the shake, whereas the mindset of sensibility produced a relatively flat ghrelin response. Participants' satiety was consistent with what they believed they were consuming rather than the actual nutritional value of what they consumed.The effect of food consumption on ghrelin may be psychologically mediated, and mindset meaningfully affects physiological responses to food.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/a0023467

    View details for Web of Science ID 000292809100006

    View details for PubMedID 21574706

  • Mind-set matters: Exercise and the placebo effect PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE Crum, A. J., Langer, E. J. 2007; 18 (2): 165-171

    Abstract

    In a study testing whether the relationship between exercise and health is moderated by one's mind-set, 84 female room attendants working in seven different hotels were measured on physiological health variables affected by exercise. Those in the informed condition were told that the work they do (cleaning hotel rooms) is good exercise and satisfies the Surgeon General's recommendations for an active lifestyle. Examples of how their work was exercise were provided. Subjects in the control group were not given this information. Although actual behavior did not change, 4 weeks after the intervention, the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index. These results support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000245157900014

    View details for PubMedID 17425538