Alia Crum

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Alia Crum
Alma mater
Known forInfluence of mindset on physical and mental health
Scientific career
InstitutionsStanford University
ThesisReThinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response (2012)
Doctoral advisorPeter Salovey
Notable studentsKatie Ledecky[1]

Alia Joy Crum is an American psychologist who is the principal investigator of the Stanford Mind and Body Lab.

Crum researches how mindsets affect human behaviour as well as physical and mental health outcomes.[2] She has received widespread media coverage for her work.

Early life and education

Crum grew up in Aspen, Colorado. Her father worked in conflict and stress mediation and her mother, in children's theatre.[3] Crum was interested in sports from an early age. She was an elite gymnast as a child and later played ice hockey competitively at Harvard.[4] She was drawn to psychology from her experience in sports, noticing that mental and emotional factors play a huge role in athletic performance.[3]

As an athlete, I was always fascinated by the power of the mind and, in particular, how a person having the same physical capacity from one day to the next could have completely different results depending on their mental state.

— Alia Crum, Mindsets: Q&A with Dr. Alia Crum, Stanford Psychology

She received a B.A. from Harvard University in 2005 and a Ph.D. from Yale University in 2012.[5] Her undergraduate thesis is Think and grow fit: the mind-body connection between exercise and health,[6] supervised by Ellen J. Langer. Her Ph.D. thesis is entitled ReThinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response. Her advisor was Peter Salovey.[7]

Career and research

From 2012 to 2014, Crum worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University.[5] Since 2014, she is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University where she leads the Stanford Mind and Body Lab.[2]

Crum was to be a key speaker at the Mindset 2021 conference event.[8] In 2018, she spoke at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.[4] She has also given a TED talk.

Crum studies how psychological mindsets and perceptions of events can alter the body's physical response to these events. The goal of this work is to apply findings to healthcare to improve wellness and complement medical treatments.[2][9] Much of her research is inspired by the placebo effect and how beliefs about a cure can improve its effectiveness.[5] Even knowingly taking a placebo can be beneficial, suggesting that people do not need to be tricked for these kinds of effects to occur. Intentionally maintaining a positive mindset can provide relief.[10]

Mindset and medical treatments

Crum has looked into how modifying the mindset of cancer patients could positively impact their mental health, from diagnosis to remission. A cancer diagnosis represents a heavy emotional stress for patients and families, leading to high rates of depression and anxiety. By intentionally perceiving the diagnosis as manageable rather than catastrophic and focusing on how resilient the body can be, patients may be able to improve their mental well-being.[11][12]

In the case of oral immunotherapy to treat food allergies, patients are exposed to small doses of allergens to desensitise them. The small allergic reaction is unpleasant, and patients become anxious about completing treatments. If symptoms are seen as signs the body is reacting positively to build tolerance, the treatment process goes more smoothly.[13][14]

More generally, Crum advocates for better doctor-patient interactions and psychosocial interventions during treatment as these can improve patient experiences through trust, leading to a more positive mindset.[15] Patients whose doctors give warm reassurances experience better healing.[16] Being aware of the treatment occurring and knowing what consequences to expect also helps patients heal.[17]

Mindset and physical fitness

Her research has found that reframing regular work activities or chores as physical exercise led to better overall fitness levels among participants, even if their other lifestyle habits did not change.[18] Crum also reviewed national survey data from between 1990 and 2011 containing information about physical activity and found that perceiving oneself to be active could be linked to higher life expectancy.[19]

In response to the rising popularity of DNA testing, Crum investigated how learning about genetic risk factors for two health issues, obesity and exercise ability, in fact influenced the likelihood of the issues developing. Those who believed they were at high risk had worse outcomes.[20] The concern is that the DNA test results could become self-fulfilling prophecies if not delivered in the right way. Other studies are assessing the potential for gene testing to motivate healthy lifestyle changes.[21]

Mindset and nutrition

Crum determined that the perception of a food item as more or less indulgent could influence the production of the hormone ghrelin.[18] Similarly, believing that a beverage contains caffeine can increase blood pressure.[2]

Crum has also analysed top grossing movies to categorise the types of foods depicted, noting that many of the most common items are not healthy and do not reinforce healthy eating habits. Also of note was that compared with UK standards, the US film rating system is much more lax in its regulations surrounding messaging aimed at children.[22] To encourage healthy eating habits, Crum worked with the Stanford dining hall to experiment with the labelling and identification of healthy foods. They found that positive, "flavour-forward" messaging led to more diners choosing vegetable dishes.[23]

Mindset and stress

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Crum's research group surveyed the perceptions of Norwegians living above the Arctic Circle about winter and the isolation it can entail. Embracing a positive mindset and being grateful for enjoyable opportunities was linked to overall happiness.[24] This is consistent with Crum's previous work on stress and how acknowledging it, then acting to strengthen the values that are being threatened, can help to overcome it.[25][26] Stressful experiences can lead to personal growth if well-managed. Crum and Thomas Crum recommend a three-step approach of seeing, owning and using the stress response.[27]

Awards and honours

  • 2020 Early Career Award, Social Personality Health Network[28]
  • 2019 Early Career Researcher Award, International Positive Psychology Association[29]
  • 2018 Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize[30]
  • 2017 Rising Star Award, Association for Psychological Science[31]
  • 2016 NIH New Innovator Award[32]
  • 2005 Seymour E. and Ruth B. Harris Prize for Honors Thesis in the Social Sciences[33]
  • 2005 Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize[33]
  • 2005 Gordon W. Allport Prize[34]

Personal life

Crum is married and has a daughter.[3]


  1. ^ Choi, Inyoung (2020-05-04). "Katie Ledecky owns her time". The Stanford Daily. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  2. ^ a b c d University, Stanford (2018-06-11). "How the human mind shapes reality". Stanford News. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  3. ^ a b c Somani, Parul Deora (2019-12-09). "Mindsets: Q&A with Dr. Alia Crum, Stanford Psychology". Silver Linings. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  4. ^ a b Robson, David. "How a positive mind really can create a healthier body". New Scientist. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  5. ^ a b c "PEOPLE | Mind & Body Lab". Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  6. ^ Crum, Alia Joy (2005). Think and grow fit: the mind-body connection between exercise and health (Thesis).
  7. ^ "ReThinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response - ProQuest". Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  8. ^ "Omada Health Announces Mindset 2021, a Digital Care Summit on Behavior Science & Transformational Health Outcomes". 2021-03-03. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  9. ^ University, Stanford (2017-02-27). "Experts urge more research on people's mindsets". Stanford News. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  10. ^ "People Are Now Taking Placebo Pills to Deal With Their Health Problems—And It's Working". Time. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  11. ^ "Empowering cancer patients to shift their mindsets could improve care, researchers argue". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  12. ^ "Changing Cancer Patients' Mindsets Could Enhance Their Care". Medscape. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  13. ^ De Witte, Melissa. "Positive mindset about side effects of peanut-allergy treatment improves outcomes". News Center. Archived from the original on 2019-03-09. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  14. ^ "Could Your Mindset Affect How Well A Treatment Works?". Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  15. ^ Shashkevich, Alex. "Patient mindset matters in healing and deserves more study, experts say". News Center. Archived from the original on 2017-03-21. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  16. ^ "Placebo effect may be harnessed to produce better care outcomes". American Medical Association. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  17. ^ "Changing your mindset could change your life. Science says so". 2017-07-18. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  18. ^ a b "Want to Burn More Calories and Improve Your Health? Modify Your Words". The Great Courses Daily. 2021-03-20. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  19. ^ University, Stanford (2017-07-20). "Self-perceptions linked to shorter lifespans". Stanford News. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  20. ^ University, Stanford (2018-12-10). "Receiving genetic information can change risk". Stanford News. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  21. ^ Zhang, Sarah (2018-12-13). "What Happens When You're Convinced You Have Bad Genes". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  22. ^ University, Stanford (2020-11-23). "Most popular American movies depict an unhealthy diet". Stanford News. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  23. ^ University, Stanford (2019-10-02). "Leading with flavor encourages healthy eating". Stanford News. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  24. ^ University, Stanford (2020-12-18). "Norwegian winter mindset might help in a COVID-19 world". Stanford News. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  25. ^ Crum, Alia J. "The other side of stress: Adversity can make us stronger". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2020-05-01. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  26. ^, Laura Sanders. "How coronavirus stress may scramble our brains". The Anchorage Press. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  27. ^ Review, Harvard Business (2015-09-03). "Stress Can Be a Good Thing If You Know How to Use It". Harvard Business Review. ISSN 0017-8012. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  28. ^ "SPH Network – Conference". Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  29. ^ Brennan, Jenny. "2019 Award Recipients". International Positive Psychology Association. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  30. ^ "Phi Beta Kappa | Stanford Undergrad". Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  31. ^ "CONGRATULATIONS 2017 APS RISING STARS" (PDF). 2017. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-12-30. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  32. ^ "NIH Director's New Innovator Award Program - 2016 Award Recipients". 2018-09-18. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  33. ^ a b "Faculty of Arts and Sciences 2004–2005 Student Prize Recipients" (PDF). 2005. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-04-30. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  34. ^ "Thesis Prizes". Retrieved 2021-03-31.

External links