Matthias R Mehl, PhD

Professor, Psychology
Adjunct Associate Professor, Communication
Associate Professor, Evelyn F Mcknight Brain Institute
Professor, Family Studies-Human Development
Email Address: 
Phone Number: 
(520) 626-2374
(520) 621-9306

UACC Information

UACC Organizational Unit(s): 
Professional Bio: 

Dr. Mehl is a social and health psychologist with interest in psychosocial oncology. In his role as Associate Investigator at the University of Arizona Cancer Center, he collaborates with other members of the cancer center (e.g., Karen Weihs) on studies around how everyday social interactions are related to coping with cancer. In most collaborations, he oversees the implementation of the Electronically Activated Recorder or EAR method, a naturalistic observation method for studying everyday social interactions. As the developer of the EAR method, Dr. Mehl has extensive experience in the administration of the EAR, the coding of the sound files, and the management and analysis of the EAR data. Further,he has extensively published about and given workshops on the method. Finally, as a trained social/personality and health psychologist, Dr. Mehl has pertinent research expertise in the area of social integration and health.

Dr. Mehl joined the faculty of the Psychology Department of the University of Arizona in 2004 where he is currently a tenured Associate Professor. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and an Associate Investigator at the Arizona Cancer Center. His prior EAR research has been published in various high impact journals (incl. Science, Psychological Science, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Assessment, and Health Psychology) and has been funded, among other sources, by the American Cancer Society and the NIH (National Cancer Institute, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institute for Child Health and Human Development).

Research Information

Research Program: 
Cancer Prevention and Control
Member Status: 
Research Member
Year of Membership Acceptance: 
Research Focus: 

Dr. Mehl is a social, personality, and health psychologist who is interested in the psychological implications of our daily lives. He studies individual differences in social life and the role that our social lives play for coping with upheavals and health. Methodologically, he adopts an ecological “out-of-the-lab-and-into-the-real-world” approach and develop behavioral assessment methods for studying everyday life. Dr. Mehl's work focuses on the naturalistic observation of social interactions and quantitative text analysis of natural language use.

His research interests include:

  • Understanding how social interactions matter for personality, coping, and health
  • Identifying psychological information that is contained in and conveyed through natural word use
  • Developing behavioral research methods for studying daily life
Selected Publications: 
  1. Mehl, M. R., Pennebaker, J. W., Crow, M. D., Dabbs, J., & Price, J. H. (2001). The Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR): A device for sampling naturalistic daily activities and conver­sations. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers, 33, 517–523.
  2. Mehl, M. R., & Holleran, S. E. (2007). An empirical analysis of the obtrusiveness of and participants’ compliance with the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR). European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 23, 248-257.
  3. Mehl, M. R. & Robbins, M. L. (2012). Naturalistic observation sampling: The Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR). In M. R. Mehl & T. S. Conner (Eds.), Handbook of research methods for studying daily life. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  4. Mehl, M. R., Robbins, M. L., & Deters, g. F. (2012). Naturalistic observation of health-relevant social processes: The Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) methodology in psychosomatics. Psychosomatic Medicine, 74, 410-417.
  5. Carey, A. L., Brucks, M., Küfner, A. C. P., Holtzman, N., Deters, F. g., Back, M. D., Donnellan, B., Pennebaker, J. W., & Mehl, M. R. (2015). Narcissism and the use of personal pronouns revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
  6. Mehl, M. R., Vazire, S., Ramírez-Esparza, N., Slatcher, R. B., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2007). Are women really more talkative than men? Science, 317, 82.
  7. Pennebaker, J. W., Mehl, M. R., Niederhoffer, K. (2003). Psychological aspects of natural language use: Our words, our selves. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 547–577.
  8. Rohrbaugh, M. J., Mehl, M. R., Shoham, V., Reilly, E., & Ewy, G. A. (2008). Prognostic significance of spouse we talk in couples coping with heart failure. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76, 781–789. PMID: 18837595
  9. Mehl, M. R., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2003). The social dynamics of a cultural upheaval: Social interactions surrounding September 11, 2001. Psychological Science, 14, 579–585.
  10. Robbins, M. L., Focella, E. S., Kasle, S., Weihs, K. L., Lopez, A. M., & Mehl, M. R. (2011). Naturalistically observed swearing, emotional support and depressive symptoms in women coping with illness. Health Psychology, 30, 789-792.
  11. Robbins, M. L., Mehl, M. R., Holleran, S. E., & Kasle, S. (2011). Naturalistically observed sighing and depression in rheumatoid arthritis patients: A preliminary study. Health Psychology, 30, 129-133.
  12. Robbins, M. L., López, A. M., Weihs, K. L., & Mehl, M. R. (2014). Cancer conversations in context: Naturalistic observation of couples coping with breast cancer. Journal of Family Psychology, 28, 380-390. DOI: 10.1037/a0036458
  13. Mehl, M. R., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2003). The sounds of social life: A psychometric analysis of students’ daily social environments and natural conversations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 857–870.
  14. Mehl, M. R. (2006). The lay assessment of sub-clinical depression in daily life. Psychological Assessment, 18, 340-345. PMID: 16953737
  15. Mehl, M. R., Gosling, S. D., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2006). Personality in its natural habitat: Manifestations and implicit folk theories of personality in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 862–877.
  16. Mehl, M. R., Vazire, S., Holleran, S. E., & Clark, C. S. (2010). Eavesdropping on happiness: Well-being is related to having less small talk and more substantive conversations. Psychological Science, 21, 539–541.
Collaborative Research: 
5R01 HD069498                                                        (Bootzin, PI)                                         08/19/11 -- 04/30/16
Sleep and Divorce: Identifying Bidirectional Vulnerability and Resilience
The goal of this project is to collect sleep, social engagement, distress data from recently separated individuals in a longitudinal study to improve our understanding of why some people are at elevated risk for poor health outcomes following relationship dissolution.
Role: Co-Investigator
NSF BCS-1322940                                                     (Butler, PI)                                            08/15/13 -- 07/31/16               
National Science Foundation 
Computational and Temporal Interpersonal Emotion Systems (CompTIES)
The goal of this project is to (1) use machine learning to develop dynamic temporal interpersonal emotion system models optimal for distinguishing between distinct interpersonal emotional processes and (2) apply the models to existing data sets to answer outstanding questions about co-regulation.
Role: Co-Investigator
5R21 HD078778                                                        (Rilling, PI)                                           04/15/14 – 03/31/16
Neurobiological Bases of Paternal Nurturance
The goal of this project is to investigate the neurobiology and behavioral ecology underlying sensitive fathering.  Specifically, the project investigates the relationship between fathers' neural responses to infant picture and cry stimuli and actual behavior of fathers in everyday life as assessed by the Electronic Activated Recorder (EAR).
Role: Co-Investigator
5R01 MD008940                                                        (Stone, PI)                                            09/25/14 -- 05/31/19
Reducing Implicit Verbal and Nonverbal Bias Toward Hispanic Patients
The goal of this project is to test (a) how doctor’s implicit bias is related to how they talk to Hispanic patients and (b) how an intervention aimed at reducing implicit bias changes the way doctors talk to Hispanic patients.
Role: Co-Investigator
1R01 MH105379                                                        (Nugent, PI)                                         03/01/15 -- 02/28/20  
NIH/ NIMH            
Biomarkers, Social, and Affective Predictors of Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors in Adolescents
The goal of this project is to examine adolescent in vivo emotion reactivity as related to social context in the real world during the high-risk post-discharge period.
Role: Co-Investigator
No Grant #                                                                 (Mehl, PI)                                             08/01/11-06/15/13
John Templeton Foundation/ WFU
Eavesdropping on Character: Testing the Stability, Variability, and Changeability of Naturalistically Observed Virtuous Daily Behavior
The goal of this project is to use a novel naturalistic observation method (the Electronically Activated Recorder or EAR) to test how stable, variable, and changeable virtuous behavior is in daily life.
Role: PI
5R01 AT004698 (Supplement)                                   (Raison, PI)                                           04/01/12-03/31/15      
Mechanisms of Meditation            
The Sounds of Compassion: Testing How Specific Elements of Meditation Change Daily Life
The main goal of this project, which builds on and expands the scope of a pilot study funded through an ARRA competitive revision (3 R01 AT004698-01S1) is to use a novel naturalistic observation method (the Electronically Activated Recorder or EAR) to examine whether different types of meditation training (i.e. compassionate meditation and mindfulness attention training) change participants’ real-world interpersonal interactions (e.g., make them more compassionate in their daily social behaviors).
Role: Co-Investigator

Professional Information

Positions and Honors: 
2011-present   Affiliate Faculty, Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, University of Arizona
2010-present   Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Arizona
2010-present   Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Communication, University of Arizona
2007-present   Associate Investigator, Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona
2007-2010      Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, University of Arizona
2004-2010      Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Arizona
1999-2000      Research Assistant, Institute for Physiological Psychology, University of Düsseldorf
1998-1999      Visiting Scholar, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin.
2008       Listed in Dialogue, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s newsletter, as one of the ten most cited Assistant Professors in Social/Personality Psychology
2006       Young Investigator Travel Award of the German Research Foundation
2003-2004  University Continuing Fellowship, University of Texas at Austin
1998-1999  Postgraduate Fellowship for Studying Abroad, German National Academic Foundation
1996-1998  Undergraduate Fellowship, German National Academic Foundation).

Academic Information

University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Master's Degree: 
Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany
Undergraduate School: 
Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen, Germany