Debra M. Zeifman Dean of Studies and Professor of Psychology
Professor Zeifman earned her BS, MA and PhD in Human Development from Cornell University. She teaches courses in Introductory Psychology, Research Methods, Developmental Psychology, Evolutionary Psychology, and Psychology of the Holocaust. In addition, Professor Zeifman mentors students in her lab, including students who do Empirical Senior Thesis research.
Professor Zeifman’s research explores the psychological dynamics, biological underpinnings, and evolutionary history of close relationships across the lifespan. Her work has focused on the two relationships psychologists consider the most intimate—relationships between infants and their caregivers, and relationships between romantic partners. Her current research focuses on the parental hormones implicated in infant caregiving. Using infant simulators as a tool for probing caregiving, Professor Zeifman and her co-authors have recently examined men’s testosterone responses, women’s sympathetic nervous system arousal, and undergraduates’ cortisol responses to caring for a demanding, crying newborn.
- BS, MA, PhD, Cornell University
- At Vassar since 1996
Departments and Programs
- PSYC 397. Senior Empirical Thesis
Select Recent Publications and Presentations (Student co-authors denoted with an asterisk):
Roellke, E.*, Raiss, M.*, King, S.*, Lytel-Sternberg, J., & Zeifman, D. M. (2019). Infant crying levels elicit divergent testosterone response in men. Parenting, 19(1-2), 39-55.
Zeifman, D. M., & Baird, A. A. (2019). A glimpse into the minds of mothers: The default mode network and responsiveness to infant cries. Parenting, 19(1-2), 90-93.
Zeifman, D. M. (2019). Attachment theory grows up: a developmental approach to pair bonds. Current Opinion in Psychology, 25, 139-143.
Level, R.*, Arnold, S.*, Beach, H.*, Torruella, A. I.*, & Zeifman, D. M. (2018, July). “Salivary Alpha-Amylase Response to High and Low Levels of Infant Crying.” Poster presented at the XXI Biennial International Congress of Infant Studies, Philadelphia, PA.
Zeifman, D. M. & St James-Roberts, I. (2017). Parenting the crying infant. In M. van IJzendoorn & M.J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Eds. Current Opinion in Psychology, Special Parenting Issue, 15: 149-154.
Baird, A. A., Roellke, E. V.*, & Zeifman, D. M. (2017). Alone and adrift: the association between mass school shootings, school size, and student support. The Social Science Journal, 54(3), 261-270.
Zeifman, D. & Hazan, C. (2016). Pair bonds as attachments: Mounting evidence in support of Bowlby’s bold hypothesis. In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory research, and clinical applications (3rd Edition). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
In the Media
Vassar Reflects on Two Months of Distance Learning
Vassar students and faculty overcame numerous challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the college to transition to distance learning.
Q&A with Debra Zeifman, Appointed Dean of Studies
Professor of Psychological Science Debra Zeifman talks about her appointment as Dean of Studies.
The Lasting Trauma of Being Torn Away From Your Parents at the Border
Debra Zeifman, Professor of Psychological Science, was quoted in a Broadly story about the trauma suffered by children who are taken away from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Smaller schools may be one key to reducing violence
An Albuquerque Journal story examined a study co-authored by Abigail Baird ’91, Professor of Psychological Science; Emma Roellke ’16; and Debra Zeifman, Professor of Psychological Science, about the link between school shootings and large schools.
Gregory J. Collins: No 'safety in numbers' in larger schools
A paper published in the Social Science Journal, co-authored by Abigail Baird ’91, Professor of Psychological Science; Emma Roellke ’16; and Debra Zeifman, Professor of Psychological Science, about the link between school shootings and large schools, was mentioned in a Morning Call story.
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