Michael Dawson

Professor Emeritus of Psychology


Michael E. Dawson received his Ph.D. degree in 1967 and he has been a member of the faculty of the Department of Psychology since 1984.

Dr. Dawson’s research and teaching specialty is in the area of psychophysiology. He teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses in psychophysiology. He is particularly well known for his important work in the application of psychophysiology to schizophrenia. He also has published widely on psychophysiological measures of conditioning, emotion, and attention. His laboratory is currently involved in studying the psychophysiology and neurophysiology of the learning of emotions.

He was co-author of the book, “Emotions and Bodily Responses”, and was co-editor of the book, “Startle Modification: Implications for Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and Clinical Science”.

Dr. Dawson was recipient of two prestigious awards from the National Institutes of Mental Health: (1) Research Scientist Development Award and (2) MERIT Award. He was elected President of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and he also served on the Board of Directors for both the Society for Psychophysiological Research and the Society for Research in Psychopathology.

Dr. Dawson served as Associate Editor of Psychophysiology, the premier journal in the field, and continues to serve as Consulting Editor for many psychological journals. He also is a Charter Member and Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. 

(Additional personal data may be found in Who’s Who in the West, Who’s Who in California, and American Men and Women of Science: Social and Behavioral Sciences.)


  • Ph.D. , University of Southern California, 1967
  • B.S. , Arizona State University, 1963
  • Tenure Track Appointments

    • Professor, University of Southern California, 1987 – 2008
    • Associate Professor, University of Southern California, 1984 – 1987
    • Assistant Professor , California State Univeristy at Los Angeles, 1967 – 1969

    Research, Teaching, Practice, and Clinical Appointments

    • Adjunct Associate Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, 1979-1984
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    As a researcher of human psychophysiology, Professor Dawson’s interests bridge (1) cognitive science, (2) clinical science, and (3) neuroscience.

    His exploration of cognitive science has involved studying the role of controlled conscious and automatic unconscious processes in human classical conditioning of autonomic responses (e.g., skin conductance response and heart rate response).

    To explore clinical psychology, Professor Dawson is using cognitive psychophysiology to understand the vulnerability to schizophrenia and the factors involved in relapse. His research has demonstrated that activation of the autonomic nervous system is associated with psychotic relapse and perhaps can serve as early prodromal sign of the relapse process. Most recently Dr. Dawson’s laboratory is investigating the psychophysiology of fears and phobias.

    In neuroscience research, structural brain imaging of schizophrenic patients and functional brain imaging of emotional conditioning has been conducted.

    • Member of the Board of Directors of the Society for Psychophysiological Research, 1981-1984
    • NIMH Predoctoral Fellowship, 1966-1967
  • Editorships and Editorial Boards

    • Guest Co-Editor, Schizophrenia Bulletin, Fall 1984
    • Associate Editor, Psychophysiology, 1980 – 1983