Check out Dr. Kaniasty's Commencement Address from December 2014
as Indiana University of
Pennsylvania’s 2014–15 Distinguished University Professor.
At the end of high school, I still wanted to do everything and be anything… I wanted to write novels, direct films, travel, play a guitar on to-be-MTV, have money for nothing and else, find a cure for cancer, bring down the communist dictatorship, be a sacrificial political dissident, make the world a better place, and clearly establish the answer to the question of existence of God and meaning of life. In other words, I was immature, and psychology as a major appeared to me as a comfortable asylum from the pressures of important decisions surrounding me. For me it worked out—I became fascinated by scientific psychology for its own merits, not because of my obvious limitations. Therefore, I hasten to add, for many young people like me then, hiding in psychology from responsible life decisions did not, or might not, work out. Always be careful what you wish for…
Social support exchanges in the context of stressful and traumatic life events at both individual (e.g., criminal victimization) and community (e.g., natural disasters) levels. Models estimating the role of social support and other resources as moderating and mediating factors in the stress-adjustment process. Determinants of psychological hardiness and resilience (i.e., successful adaptation) of individuals and communities facing a variety of crises, including extreme stress. Cultural influences on helping behavior, social support, and coping with stress. Application of social psychological principles (e.g., social cognition, attribution) in examining the course of coping with stressful life events.
I am continuously writing about social support and trauma, mainly based on data collected in disaster studies I collaborated on with other researchers [e.g., prospective study of older adults exposed to floods in southeastern Kentucky, longitudinal studies of Hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, Paulina (Mexico), and large three-wave investigation of the 1997 floods in Poland]. Below are links to recent papers that exemplify my latest interests in the area of coping with (potentially) traumatic events.
An overarching theme (and a title) of my current work on social support is “Social Support Rules! & social support rules” suggests that social support (i.e., helping each other in crisis) commands (governs, regulates) the stress and coping process, yet in order for it to be effective (helpful, efficacious) there are standards (laws, regulations) that must be followed. The desire to relieve suffering of others is laudable, yet not all forms of help prove helpful. Providing and receiving help in crisis, whether embedded within personal, charitable, or professional relationships, is a complex and difficult process where good intentions and sincere concerns often blend with confusion, skepticism, and psychological threats. A large part of my research career has been devoted to looking for empirical evidence of what seems obvious to many, if not most, people: “Receiving social support in times of crisis is SUPPORTIVE.” This work will attempt to enumerate and describe social-psychological processes that undermine the efficacy of social support actually exchanged in times of stress. Ironically, social support is so omnipresent, it has unlimited opportunities to go wrong.
My Polish colleagues and I have recently completed a research project that attempted to assess psychological concomitants of perceived stressfulness of common political stressors occurring on regular basis. Our study’s focus was on run-of-the mill political events that could be cumulatively perceived as stressful by all citizens, regardless of whether or not these events were only witnessed or experienced directly. With this aim, a list of 24 political life stressors was created to represent potentially stressful events of varied duration, severity, and scope. The instructions asked respondents to express their judgments about the extent to which listed political events unfavorably or favorably influenced: 1) their own personal lives, and 2) the life of the country (Kaniasty & Jakubowska, 2013, see below). In a nationwide random sample of 400 adult Poles, three outcome variables (psychological health) were assessed: satisfaction with life, sense of anomie (“alienation”), and positive mood. Study participants whose appraisals indicated that run-of-the-mill political events exerted more negative influence on their personal lives reported lower levels of satisfaction with life and higher levels of alienation. Likewise, negative appraisals of political events as impacting the life of the state were also directly associated with lower life satisfaction scores and higher scores on the measure of anomie (Kaniasty & Jakubowska, 2014, see below). We will soon attempt to replicate and extend these findings with a sample of 300 volunteers residing in different communities across Pennsylvania (a study funded by PASSHE Faculty Professional Development Council).
I also continue to collaborate with IUP students. Kara Schulz, Malgosia Mikula, and I began a research program examining the types of life events college undergraduates disclose through online social networks (OSN). Prior research shows that people tend to disclose major events, such as the death of someone close, illness, graduations, or weddings. However, the question remains whether or not OSN users disclose less dramatic (negative and positive) events as well. Our initial investigations indicated that (a) college students were more likely to post positive events than negative events on their OSNs. The majority of participants obtained at least one offer of social support in response to their postings and reported being generally satisfied with the amount and quality of social support received from others online. However, the analyses also indicated the offers of help they received were not associated with general satisfaction with life or positive/negative affect. Thus, the issue of whether or not OSN social support is affecting psychological well-being of its recipients is still an open empirical question.
MA, 1981, Adam Mickiewicz University (Poznan, Poland): Clinical Psychology
PhD, 1991, University of Louisville: Social/Community Psychology
Habilitation, 2005, Polish Academy of Science (PAN), Institute of Psychology, Warsaw, Poland
Introductory Psychology, Research Design and Statistics, Advanced Applied Research Methods, Social Psychology, Advanced Social Psychology, Stress and Coping, Cultural Psychology, Psychological Consequences of Trauma: Disasters, Human Oppression, and War
Krys Kaniasty - Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s 2014/15 Distinguished University Professor
Google Scholar Citations
Kaniasty, K. & Jakubowska, U. (2014). Can appraisals of common political life events impact subjective well-being? Journal of Applied Social Psychology. [
Kaniasty, K., & Jakubowska, U. (2013). Assessing common political life stressors: Warsaw Appraisal of Political Stress Inventory. In K. Moore, Kaniasty, K., Buchwald, P. & Sese, A. (Eds.) Stress and anxiety: Application to health, occupational and job stress, and challenges in assessment of stress and anxiety (pp. 83-94). Berlin, Germany: Logos Verlag. [
Kaniasty, K (2012). Predicting social psychological well-being following trauma: The role of post disaster social support. Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, Policy, 4, 22 -23. [
Kaniasty, K. (2011). Parental crucibles: Families coping with disaster. In P. Buchwald, K. Moore, & T. Ringeisen (Eds.). Stress and anxiety: Application to education and health (pp. 83 – 93). Berlin, Germany: Logos Verlag. [
Bonanno, G., Brewin, C., Kaniasty, K., & La Greca, A (2010). Weighting the costs of disaster: Consequences, risks, and resilience in individuals, families, and communities. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 11(1), 1-49. [
The Stress and Anxiety Research Society (STAR)
Annual STAR “Stress & Anxiety” Volumes
Lifetime Career Award from the Stress and Anxiety Research Society (STAR)
STAR conference in Tel Aviv, Israel
Anxiety, Stress, and Coping: An International Journal
Institute of Psychology, Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN)
Dr. Kaniasty’s Book about the 1997 Polish Flood (English Abstract)
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