Karen Smith

Karen Smith


ks1875 [at] psychology.rutgers.edu



Office Location

Rutgers University, Psychology Department

101 Warren Street, Newark, NJ 07102

Smith Hall Room 341

Office Hours

W 10AM-11AM

Research Initiatives

Dr. Smith’s research seeks to understand why people respond differently to stress, with a focus on stress occurring in early childhood. In this work, she takes an integrative and multi-level approach, using methods and theories across fields including social neuroscience, developmental psychology, psychophysiology, neuroendocrinology, and genetics, to better understand the biological and psychological mechanisms underlying individual differences in stress responses. Her research integrates models of childhood stress with those from the broader adult and non-human animal literature, incorporating a role for children’s perceptions and interpretations of their environment in their responses to stress. Currently her research focuses on how perceptions of safety, particularly perceived social isolation, and predictability influence two areas of affective development: emotion understanding and value-based decision making.


Smith, K.E. & Pollak, S.D. (2022). Approach motivation and loneliness: Individual differences and parasympathetic activity. Psychophysiology: e14036. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.14036

Smith, K.E. & Pollak, S.D. (2021). Early life stress and perceived social isolation influence how children use value information to guide behavior. Child Development. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.13727

Smith, K.E. & Pollak, S.D. (2021). Social relationships and children’s perceptions of adversity. Child Development Perspectives, 15(4): 228-234. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12427

Smith, K.E., Norman, G.J., & Decety, J. (2020). Increases in loneliness during medical school are associated with increases in individuals’ likelihood of mislabeling emotions as negative. Emotion. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/emo0000773

Smith, K.E. & Pollak, S.D. (2020). Re-thinking concepts and categories for understanding the neurodevelopmental effects of early childhood adversity. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 16(1): 67-93. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1745691620920725

Smith, K.E., Leitzke, B.T., & Pollak, S.D. (2020). Youth’s processing of emotion information: Responses to chronic and video-based laboratory stress. PNEC, 122: 104873. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2020.104873