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Leigh Smith 

University of California, Davis
Office: Young Hall 148A
Phone: 202-421-3336

Curriculum Vitae: click here

Research Interests: close relationships, psychophysiology, mental health

Leigh is a 5th year doctoral student in Social Psychology at the University of California at Davis. She earned her M.A. in Human Development & Family Sciences in 2016 from the University of Texas at Austin, and her M.A. in Social Psychology from UC Davis in 2018. Leigh has also studied Physics and Applied Mathematics extensively, worked as a programmer and project director in the tech industry, and has strong expertise in advanced statistical techniques and data visualization.

Broadly, Leigh’s research sits at the intersection of social psychology, biological psychology, and mental health. Her current research explores how social relationships influence psychological and physiological outcomes related to health and well-being. At present she is directing a research project investigating the ways in which social psychological principles can be used to improve the relationship between mental-health practitioners and their clients, where the outcomes of interest are both intra-personal in nature (e.g., increasing client self-efficacy, reducing practitioner burnout, improving stress reactivity in both) and interpersonal in nature (e.g., fostering greater trust, investment, and satisfaction within the therapeutic relationship).

Leigh has extensive training in measuring and analyzing a range of physiological indices including cardiovascular processes (e.g., impedance cardiography, ECG, continuous and acute blood pressure) and neuroendocrine processes (e.g., collecting and assaying salivary cortisol, DHEA, α-amylase). She has also published work reviewing the ways in which our internal microbial populations impact psychological outcomes (affect, cognition, social relationships).

As a biracial woman in STEM, Leigh is dedicated to providing professional and academic mentorship to young men and women of color, and currently supervises a talented team of undergraduates studying psychology, neuroscience, and communications. You can learn more about this research team here.


Eastwick, P. W., Smith, L. K., & Ledgerwood, A. (in press). How do people translate their experiences into abstract attribute preferences? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. [Download Article] [Supplemental Material]

Wissel, E.F. & Smith, L.K. (in press). Inter-individual variation shapes the human microbiome. Brain and Behavioral Sciences.

Smith, L.K. & Wissel, E.F. (2019). Microbes and the mind: How bacteria shape affect, neurological processes, cognition, social relationships, development, and pathology. Perspectives on Psychological Science. [Download Preprint]

Ledgerwood, A., Eastwick, P. W., & Smith, L. K. (2018). Toward an integrative framework for studying human evaluation: Attitudes towards objects and attributes. Personality and Social Psychology Review. [Download Article]

Winking, J., Eastwick, P. W., Smith, L. K., & Koster, J. (2018). Applicability of the investment model scale in a natural fertility population. Personal Relationships. [Download Article]

Eastwick, P. W., & Smith, L. K. (2018). Sex-differentiated effects of physical attractiveness on romantic desire: A highly powered, preregistered study in a photograph evaluation context. Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology. [Download Article] [Data]

Bales, K.L., Arias del Razo, R., Conklin, Q.A., Hartman, S., Mayer, H.S., Rogers, F.D., Simmons, T.C., Smith L.K., Williams, A, Williams, D.R., Witczak, L.R. & Wright, E.C. (2017). Titi monkeys as a novel non-human primate model for the neurobiology of pair bonding. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. [Download Article]

Boothby, E. J., Smith, L.K., Clark, M. S., & Bargh, J. A. (2017). The world looks better together: How close others enhance our visual experiences. Personal Relationships. doi: 10.1111/pere.12201 [Download Article]

Boothby, E J.,  Smith, L.K., Clark, M.S., & Bargh, J.A. (2016). Psychological distance moderates the amplification of shared experience. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(10), 1431-1444. [Download Article]

Smith, L.K.*, Wardecker, B.*, Edelstein, R., Loving, T.J. (2015). Intimate relationships then and now: How old hormonal processes are influenced by our modern psychology. Adaptive Human Behavior & Physiology. 1-24 DOI: 10.1007/s40750-015-0021-9  *Denotes co-first authorship. [Download Article]