Dr. Dana M. Litt
Associate Professor, Health Behavior and Health Systems
Education & Experience:
I received my doctorate in Applied Social Psychology from The George Washington University in 2010. I also hold a BA in Psychology from the University of Miami. I completed a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism T32 postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington’s Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors in 2012. Prior to joining the UNTHSC School of Public Health in 2018, I was a member of the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington from 2012 to 2017.
Teaching Areas & Public Health Interests:
My teaching efforts over the years have focused on teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in Health Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Career Development, Grantsmanship, Biomedical Research Ethics, Research Methods, Theoretical Foundations of Individual and Community Health, and Addictive Behaviors. In addition, I have had the pleasure of mentoring several undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral trainees. My mentoring focus areas have been primarily related to research methods, data collection and analysis, scientific writing, manuscript and grant reviewing, and career development.
Professional Activities & Awards:
I am an active member of the Research Society on Alcoholism, Association for Behavior and Cognitive Therapies, American Academy of Health Behavior, and the American Psychological Association. I have served on numerous federal grant review study sections and national professional society program committees. I also recently completed a 3-year term as the editor of The Addictions Newsletter, a quarterly publication on behalf of the Society of Addiction Psychology, Division 50 of the American Psychological Association.
The overarching goal of my work is to advance the field in understanding the social and environmental factors that influence health risk behavior decision-making in order to inform theoretically sound and efficacious substance use prevention efforts for adolescents and young adults. While much of our health behavior is planned or rational, we often make decisions based on social or situational factors. As such, my primary area of research explores the etiology of health-risk decision making among adolescents and young adults using a dual-process theory called the Prototype Willingness Model (Gibbons & Gerrard, 1998). Within this framework, I examine the role that a variety of social cognitions such as behavioral willingness, prototype favorability, perceived social norms and social comparison play in decisions to engage in health-risk behavior. My program of research extends the literature on dual-process theories by isolating specific components of the models in order to better understand the unique roles they play in predicting health risk behavior among adolescents and young adults. Consistent with my overarching interests in the influence of socially based variables on health risk behaviors, my current research aims to address questions related to the utility of including socially-based variables in prevention programming, particularly with respect to social images, social comparison, social norms (both for peers who abstain from alcohol and peers who use alcohol) and social networking sites. My hope is that my current lines of research will have important implications for refining health behavior theories, developing new clinical interventions and making important public health impacts related to alcohol use and abuse among adolescents and young adults. My program of research has been funded by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.