Laura Akers, Ph.D.

Contact

Education & Training

B.S., 1988
University of California, Berkeley, CA
Political Economy of Natural Resources

M.S., 2007
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Psychology

Ph.D., 2012
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Psychology (Social/Personality)

For more than 30 years, Laura Akers has been studying the psychology and rhetoric of both social movements and individual behavior. Her focus on cognitive framing (different ways to organize our understanding) emphasizes the roles of narrative, metaphor, and cognitive style.   

Psychology of social movements:

Dr. Akers is an expert on meta-narratives, the background "stories" that function as key cultural beliefs about societies and other groups. Her doctoral research explored the relationship between the emotional "genres" of meta-narratives, such as Progress, Triumph, Looming Catastrophe, and Restoration, and individual behavior. She has also been studying the history and psychology of the environmental movement since the early 1980s, and she is especially interested in the relationship between social movements, moral psychology, idealism, and an individual's sense of meaning in life.

Since 2006, Dr. Akers has been collaborating with ORI scientist Gerard Saucier in studying the mindsets underlying sociopolitical violence, such as terrorism, genocide, and state terror.  Their research has identified the key role of meta-narratives in the justification of such violence, as well as in efforts to sustain peaceful methods of conflict resolution.

Dr. Akers is also interested in the role of cognitive style, such as preferring either/or, all-or-nothing thinking over an acceptance of ambiguity and ambivalence. She hopes to improve our understanding of how individual preferences for purity and closure influence our attitudes and behavior.

Promoting individual behavior change:

At ORI, Dr. Akers has  been a member of the Tobacco Workgroup since 1993, specializing in tobacco cessation. Her focus is on using cognitive framing to design interventions to help people quit tobacco and to support others in quitting tobacco.  As part of this work, she has studied tobacco users' metaphors for addiction and cessation, which can illuminate the ways people interpret their experiences with tobacco and thereby help researchers design more effective quitting programs.

In the field of social support, she was the principal investigator of a five-year study to help teach women to better support their husbands/domestic partners in quitting smokeless tobacco, based on perceived partner responsiveness (conveying respect, caring, and understanding). She has also explored ways to extend the responsiveness framework to other contexts, including caregiving for persons with dementia.

Current Projects

Implementation Support for Prevention Program Delivery by College Peer Educators

PROJECT PERIOD

12/15/17 - 11/30/22

FUNDING AGENCY

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

CURRENT STATUS

Active and Recruiting

TEAM

Principal Investigator
Eric Stice

Co-Investigators
Laura Akers, Paul Rohde, Heather Shaw

Learn More →


Developing an Efficacious and Cost-Effective Fall Prevention Program

PROJECT PERIOD

06/15/14 - 03/31/19

FUNDING AGENCY

National Institute on Aging (NIA)

CURRENT STATUS

Active and Not Recruiting

TEAM

Principal Investigator
Fuzhong Li

Co-Investigators
Laura Akers

Learn More →


A Multi-Media Approach to Partner Support in Smokeless Tobacco Cessation

PROJECT PERIOD

09/01/12 - 08/31/18

FUNDING AGENCY

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

CURRENT STATUS

Completed

TEAM

Principal Investigator
Laura Akers

Co-Investigators
Judy Andrews, Edward Lichtenstein, Herbert Severson

Learn More →

Publications

Li, F., Harmer, P., Fitzgerald, K., Eckstrom, E., Akers, L., Chou, L.S., Pidgeon, D., Voit, J., & Winters-Stone, K. (2018). Effectiveness of a Therapeutic Tai Ji Quan Intervention vs a Multimodal Exercise Intervention to Prevent Falls Among Older Adults at High Risk of Falling: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2018 Oct 1;178(10):1301-1310.

Abstract or Full Text

Mahabee-Gittens, E. M., Ammerman, R. T., Khoury, J. C., Stone, L., Meyers, G. T., Witry, J. K., . . . Akers, L., Gordon, J. S. (2017). Healthy families: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial of a screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment intervention for caregivers to reduce secondhand smoke exposure among pediatric emergency patients. BMC Public Health, 17, 1-13. doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4278-8

Abstract or Full Text

Severson, H. H., Danaher, B. G., Ebbert, J. O., van Meter, N., Lichtenstein, E., Widdop, C., Crowley, R., Akers, L., & Seeley, J. R. (2015). Randomized trial of nicotine lozenges and phone counseling for smokeless tobacco cessation. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 17(3), 309-315.

Abstract or Full Text

Akers, L., Gordon, J. S., Brady, M. Z., Andrews, J. A., & Severson, H. H. (2015). Utility of Responsiveness Theory for Classifying Supportive Behaviors to Enhance Smokeless Tobacco Cessation. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntv282

Abstract or Full Text

Akers, L., Gordon, J.S., Reyna, S., & Severson, H.H. (2014). Metaphors of smokeless tobacco addiction and cessation. Addiction Research & Theory 22(1): 49-56.

Abstract or Full Text

Saucier, G., Akers, L. G., Shen-Miller, S., Stankov, L., & Knezevic, G. (2009). Patterns of thinking in militant extremism. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4, 256-271.

Danaher, B. G., Lichtenstein, E., Andrews, J. A., Severson, H. H., Akers, L., & Barckley, M. (2009). Women helping chewers: Effects of partner support on 12-month tobacco abstinence in a smokeless tobacco cessation trial. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 11(3), 332-335.

Abstract or Full Text

Akers, L., Severson, H. H., Andrews, J. A. & Lichtenstein, E.  (2007). Cost effectiveness of self-help smokeless tobacco cessation programs. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 9, 907-914.

Severson, H. H., Andrews, J. A., Lichtenstein, E., Danaher, B. G., & Akers, L. (2007). Self-help cessation programs for smokeless tobacco users: Long-term follow-up of a randomized trial. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 9(2), 281-289.

Abstract or Full Text

Akers, L., Gordon, J. S., Andrews, J. A., Barckley, M., Lichtenstein, E., & Severson, H. H. (2006).  Cost-effectiveness of changing health professionals’ behavior:  Training dental hygienists in brief interventions for smokeless tobacco cessation. Preventive Medicine, 43, 482- 487.

Gordon, J. S., Akers, L., Severson, H. H., Danaher, B. G., & Boles, S. B. (2006). Successful participant recruitment strategies for an online smokeless tobacco cessation program. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 8, S35-S41.

Abstract or Full Text

Gordon, J. S., Andrews, J. A., Lichtenstein, E., Severson, H. H. & Akers, L. (2005).   Disseminating a smokeless tobacco cessation intervention model to dental hygienists:   A Randomized comparison of personalized instruction and self study methods. Health Psychology, 24 (5), 447-455.

Gordon, J.S., Andrews, J.A., Lichtenstein, E., Severson, H.H., Akers, L. & Williams, C. (2002). Ophthalmologists' and optomotrists' attitudes and behaviors regarding tobacco cessation intervention. Tobacco Control, 11, 84-85.

Lichtenstein, E., Andrews, J. A., Barckley, M., Akers, L., & Severson, H. H. (2002). Women helping chewers: Partner support and smokeless tobacco cessation. Health Psychology, 21, 273-278.

Severson, H. H., Andrews, J. A., Lichtenstein, E., Gordon, J. S., Barckley, M. & Akers, L. (2000) A self-help cessation program for smokeless tobacco users: Comparison of two interventions. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 2(4), 363-370.

Severson, H. H., Akers, L., Andrews, J. A., Lichtenstein, E. & Jerome, A. (2000). Evaluating two self-help interventions for smokeless tobacco use. Addictive Behaviors, 25(3), 465-470.

Severson, H.H., Andrews, J.A., Lichtenstein, E., Wall, M., & Akers, L. (1997). Reducing maternal smoking and relapse: Long-term evaluation of a pediatric intervention. Preventive Medicine 26: 120-130.

Experience

2009-
Associate Scientist,
Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, OR

2009-
Research Associate,
Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, OR

2006-12
Research Assistant,
Psychology Deptartment (G. Saucier), University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

1998-09
Research Assistant III / Economic Analyst,
Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, OR

1996-98
Research Assistant II / Economic Analyst,
Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, OR

1993-96
Administrative Assistant II,
Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, OR

1990-93
Editor, Environmental Vehicles Review,
Oakland, CA

1987-91
Senior Writer/Editor, Bevilacqua-Knight (BKI)
Oakland, CA, as contractor to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and other organizations

1985-87
EPRI MediaBaseTM Project Coordinator,
Bevilacqua-Knight (BKI), Oakland, CA

Other Interests

Other publications:

Akers, L.G. (2010). Empathy, ethics, and wonder. In C. Lewis and P. Smithka, Eds. Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside. Chicago: Open Court Press. pp. 145-156.

Akers, L.G. (2008). Lessons learned from yellowjackets. Journal of Environmental Philosophy 5(2): 35-46 .

Professional blog:

livingindialogue.wordpress.com