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Craig Smith

Associate Professor of Psychology and Human Development

Expert on cognitive neuroscience, with a particular focus on emotion and coping with stress.


Smith received his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. He joined Vanderbilt’s faculty in 1988 and is currently an associate professor of psychology and human development. He is also an investigator in the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development. Smith’s research centers on the relationships between cognition, emotion and adaptation. Topics investigated include the role of cognitive appraisal in the differentiation of emotion, the psychophysiology of appraisal and emotion, the cognitive processes underlying appraisal, and the role of emotion and coping in long-term adaptation to stress.

Media Appearances

  • The importance of checking in on each other during a pandemic

    Nearly 10 months into a global pandemic, many Americans are dealing with intense anxiety and depression under the pressures of isolation, prompting psychology experts to urge people to check-in with friends and family members on a regular basis. All of it has given the phrase "how are you doing?” a more important placement in our daily dialogue, says Vanderbilt University Psychology Professor Craig Smith.

    January 11th, 2021

  • Millennials Are Struggling the Most With Mental Health During the Pandemic—Here's Why, and Why to Do About It

    In 2020, millennials are between the ages of 24 and 39. “For any generation, these years can be among the most difficult of adulthood,” says Craig Smith, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University. “At the younger end of the age range, many people, especially those in the middle and upper classes, have completed college relatively recently and are in the early stages of establishing their own careers and families. Often these individuals are having to contend for the first time with issues of work-life balance.”

    December 21st, 2020

  • Psychologist gives tips for dealing with 'election anxiety'

    "If you find yourself anxious about the election, you are not weird," Craig Smith, an associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University said. He added that this year he has noticed higher levels of that anxiety.

    October 29th, 2020

  • More Americans are being infected with the coronavirus than at any time during the pandemic, but people are too tired to care

    "A lot of people probably are less careful and are taking risks, in part because they really want their lives to return back to normal," Craig Smith, an associate professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University, told Business Insider. "They're sick of it. They've turned their lives upside down to try and be safe going through the period back in the spring of shelter in place."

    October 26th, 2020

  • Struggling with self-isolation? You aren't alone

    Dealing with isolation has meant something different for nearly every American. “We’re suddenly spending a lot more time together than we use to,” said Craig Smith, a psychology professor at Vanderbilt University. While extroverts are struggling particularly hard with self-isolation, Smith says even self-described introverts are having difficulty adjusting to social and physical distancing.

    May 21st, 2020

  • Puzzles skyrocket in popularity as people find new ways to cope during pandemic

    When quarantine orders started going into effect across the country, Americans suddenly rediscovered their fascination and love with puzzles. During a time of so much uncertainty, the age-old hobby is offering many families a simplistic piece of certainty, a kind of challenge a household can rally around to overcome. Almost like the virus itself.

    May 7th, 2020

  • Why the simple act of gardening can boost your mental health

    Planting something and watching it grow can also help you feel like you actually did something, Craig A. Smith, an associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, tells Yahoo Life. “Taking care to nurture [plants] as they grow and develop can give people a nice sense of accomplishment,” he says.

    May 1st, 2020

  • Will Nashville experience "FOMO" as other counties open up?

    Vanderbilt University professor Craig Smith says this weekend, social media may fuel the "Fear of Missing Out," aka FOMO, among those who are still being encouraged to stay at home. "Some people who are envious anyway and feeling left out because they can’t go out may see friends in other counties go out (on social media) and that might really depress them," Smith said.

    April 30th, 2020


Ph.D., Stanford University

A.B., Dartmouth College


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