Heather Herriot
Ph.D. Candidate



Personality; Health; Aging; Self-Compassion; Stress; Psychobiological pathways to disease; Intra-individual cortisol variability


Doctoral Student, Psychology (Experimental Profile)
- Expected start date Sept. 2017
Supervisor: Dr. Carsten Wrosch
Concordia University, Montreal, QC, Canada

Masters Student, Psychology (Experimental Profile) - Sept. 2015 - August 2017
Supervisor: Dr. Carsten Wrosch
Concordia University, Montreal, QC, Canada

B.A. Hons., Psychology - Sept. 2011 – May 2015
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada


Intra-individual cortisol variability

Cortisol secretion has long been suspected to link the experience of stress and disease progression. However, most research in this field has focused on inter-individual differences in cortisol secretion. My master thesis aimed to add to the extant literature by examining intra-individual variations in cortisol secretion over 10 years. Although such variation in cortisol levels across days could represent effective responses to changing environmental demands, it may also reflect erratic cortisol responses, which could adversely influence physical health. Using data from 130 older adults over ten years, we found that greater variability in cortisol levels over ten years predicted higher average levels of mild, chronic inflammation (i.e., C-reactive protein [CRP]), and this association was pronounced among older adults who generally secreted high levels of cortisol. These findings add to the literature on stress, cortisol and health by pointing towards a more complex picture, where variability in cortisol secretion across days represents an important phenomenon that has largely been neglected. In sum, these results document that cortisol variability can predict, independently and in interaction with average cortisol levels, a biomarker of risk for diseases associated with aging.

Self-compassion and health in older adults

This line of research aims to examine whether self-compassion can benefit older adults biological functioning in the context of common age-related stressors (e.g., life regrets, physical health problems, or functional disabilities). In response to such stressors, self-compassionate individuals may avoid a downward spiral when these experiences occur (by not engaging in self-criticism or over-identifying with thoughts), which may ameliorate emotional and biological problems. While laboratory based research on young adults has shown that self-compassion can promote adaptive biological responses to stress, there is a paucity of research addressing whether self-compassion can influence naturalistic cortisol secretion patterns among the elderly in the context of stressful experiences. I have completed cross-sectional work among an older adult sample (under review), which has associated self-compassion with reduced diurnal cortisol levels (AUC) among individuals who experience greater levels of age-related stressors (such as, physical health problems, functional disabilities, and life regrets). These findings suggest that self-compassion may represent an important personal resource that could protect older adults from stress-related biological disturbances.


Herriot, H., Wrosch, C., & Gouin, J. P. (2018). Self-compassion, chronic age-related stressors, and diurnal cortisol secretion in older adulthood. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 1-13.

Herriot, H., Wrosch, C., Gouin, J. P., & Miller, G. E. (2017). Intra-individual cortisol variability and low-grade inflammation over 10 years in older adults. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 77, 141-149


Herriot, H., Wrosch, C., Gouin, J. P., Goal disengagement capacities predict inflammatory cytokines (IL-6) among parents of children with autism spectrum disorder. Oral presentation to be given at International Congress of Behavioral Medicine, San Tiago, Chile, November 2018.

Herriot, H., Wrosch, C., Castonguay, A. L., & Sabiston, C. M. Cortisol variability and low-grade inflammation in breast cancer survivors: Protective effects of goal disengagement capacities. Oral presentation as part of Symposium “Self-regulatory benefits and antecedents of goal disengagement” at Association for Psychological Science Convention, San Francisco, CA, May 25th, 2018.

Herriot, H., Wrosch, C., Gouin, J. P., Self-compassion, age-related stressors, and cortisol secretion in older adulthood. Oral presentation at the 31st Conference of the EHPS (European Health Psychology Society): Innovative ideas in Health Psychology, Padua, Italy, August 29th - Sept. 2nd, 2017.

Herriot, H., Wrosch, C. Purpose in Life and Stress-Related Increases in Older Adults’ Depression: A Within-Person Analysis. Poster presented at Gerontological Society of America's 69th Annual Scientific Meeting, New Orleans, LA, November 2016.

Herriot, H., Wrosch, C., Gouin, J.P., & Miller, G. E. Cortisol Variability Predicts Chronic Inflammation Among Older Adults Six to Ten Years Later. Poster presented at Association for Psychological Science Convention, Chicago, IL, May 26-29, 2016.

Herriot, H., & Chen, F. Don't look at me: The effect of direct vs. averted gaze on heart rate during persuasive communication. Oral presentation given at the annual Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference, Department of Psychology, UBC, Vancouver, BC. March 28th, 2015.

Herriot, H., Stephenson, E., & DeLongis, A. Marital adjustment in stepfamilies: Effects of daily dyadic coping. Poster presented at Canadian Psychological Association Annual Convention, Vancouver, BC June 6th, 2014.

Herriot, H. Bi, S.W., Whillans, A.V., & Dunn, E. Helping hands to helping minds: How volunteering affects perceptions of academic performance. Poster presented at the Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference at the UBC, Vancouver, BC. March 23, 2013.

2017 - Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship – Doctoral ($105,000)
2016 - Graduate Scholarship in Psychology ($5000)
2015 - Concordia Special Entrance Award ($6000)
2015 - Tuition Fee Remission ($3000)
2015 - Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Master’s Scholarship ($17,500)
2015 - Psychology Student’s Association Award ($250)
2015 - Dr. David J. Rose Scholarship ($275)
2015 - Pat and Betty Love Scholarship in Arts ($1200)
2014 - Trek Excellence Scholarship (Top 5% in Arts Faculty) ($1500)
2014 - Canadian Psychological Association’s Kenneth Dion Award ($100)
2013/2014 - Dean’s list

Teaching Assistant – Concordia University - PSYC 315 Statistics lab - Sept. 2016 - present

Facilitator/Co-Coordinator for Student Directed Seminar: “The Science of Happiness”           
Proposal accepted May 2014: Course was run Jan 2015- April 2015 at UBC (under code: ASTU 400F)

Peer Assisted Study Sessions Leader (PASS Program), Jumpstart, UBC - Sept. 2013 – Dec. 2013


Photo by Paul Eifert