Keith P. Sanford, Ph.D.

Keith P. Sanford, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
High Res Photo

Professor of Psychology


Ph.D., Michigan State University, 2000

M.A., Michigan State University, 1996

B.A., Seattle Pacific University, 1993


Dr. Sanford joined the Baylor faculty in 2000. Prior to coming to Baylor, he earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Michigan State University, and he earned his B.A. in psychology, with a second major in religion, from Seattle Pacific University. Dr. Sanford is a licensed psychologist in the state of Texas, and he is on the editorial board of Journal of Family Psychology and Family Process. He teaches courses on data analysis and a course he developed titled "History of Psychology, Rascism, and the United States." Dr. Sanford mentors graduate students in both social psychology and clinical psychology. Outside of academic work, he enjoys spending time with his family and recording music (his personal music website includes songs with a social justice them and is located at

Academic Interests and Research

Dr. Sanford’s current work involves investigating health-related attitudes and behaviors and determining ways to increase the types of attitudes and behaviors that are especially important for public health. For example, one significant health problem addressed in his work is the fact that medical treatments often fail to be effective because patients fail to follow their treatment plans. His work also addresses questions such as: why do people sometimes have negative attitudes toward their medical treatment plans, mistrust medical authorities, or fail to maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise? Dr. Sanford’s approach to answering these types of questions includes three key components.

First, much of Dr. Sanford’s work is psychometric – it involves using innovative techniques to develop and validate new ways of assessing people. This is important because the types of life experiences that shape health-related attitudes and behavior are often difficult to identify and assess. Many instruments currently used to assess health-related experience have poor validity. Thus, scientific progress depends on the development of better assessment tools.

Second, Dr. Sanford focuses on ways that health-related attitudes and behaviors are shaped by experiences in interpersonal relationships. This includes interpersonal interactions with healthcare professionals as well as relationships with support persons, partners, and families. All these interpersonal relationships can have powerful influences on attitudes and behavior. In investigating the function of these relationships, Dr. Sanford draws from a long line of research he established over many years specifically investigating interactions in couples and families.

Third, Dr. Sanford focuses on issues of inclusion and diversity that are crucial for understanding health-related attitudes and behaviors. This includes work clarifying reasons for racial disparities in health outcomes and identifying ways that health behavior and attitudes can be shaped by experiences with discrimination.

To provide a few examples of Dr. Sanford’s research, one recent project involved developing a new scale assessing people’s experience of racial/ethnic discrimination specifically in healthcare settings. This study found that the new scale detected discrimination better than existing scales, and it demonstrated that discrimination experience plays a key role in explaining racial/ethnic health disparities, such as differences between groups in quality of patient-practitioner relationships and patient adherence to treatment plans. Another recent study demonstrated the extent to which medical mistrust plays a crucial role in explaining vaccine hesitancy. One ongoing project involves developing an assessment instrument to identify key reasons why people with hypertension often fail to adhere to their treatment plans (which typically involve medication, diet, and exercise), with a goal of using this assessment instrument as a tool in a program for increasing adherence.

Some of the assessment instruments that Dr. Sanford developed and validated include:

  • Healthcare Discrimination Experience Scale
  • Medical Mistrust Multiformat Scale
  • Treatment Adherence Perceptions Questionnaire
  • Medical Consultation Experience Questionnaire
  • Parting Parent Concern Inventory
  • Couple Resilience Inventory
  • Couples Underlying Concern Inventory
  • Couples Emotion Rating Form
  • Conflict Communication Inventory
  • Conflict Disengagement Inventory
  • Context-Specific Attribution Scale

Information for prospective graduate students

Dr. Sanford's research lab includes both students in social psychology (pursuing a Ph.D.) and students in clinical psychology (pursuing a Psy.D.). His lab is a good fit for students that have an interest in at least one of the following areas: behavioral medicine, development of assessment instruments, interpersonal relationships, or inclusion and diversity issues. In addition, because Dr. Sanford's psychometric work requires advanced approaches to data analysis, and because he primarily teaches courses on data analysis, his lab is a good fit for students with an interest in statistics seeking to develop strong skills in data analysis (skills which are often in demand and can make a psychologist especially valuable). Students applying to Dr. Sanford’s lab do not necessarily need to have extensive experience in the specific topic areas of his research, but students admitted to his lab typically do have noteworthy previous experience with research and data analysis.   

Sample Recent Publications

(*Indicates student co-authors)

Sanford, K., & *Clifton, M. (in press). The Medical Mistrust Multiformat Scale: Links with vaccine hesitancy, treatment adherence, and patient-physician relationships. Psychological Assessment.

*Rivers, A. S., & Sanford, K. (in press). A special kind of stress: Assessing feelings of decisional distress for breast cancer treatment decisions. Patient Education and Counseling.

*Rivers, A. S., *Clifton, M., *Pizzuto, A. E., *Buchanan, A., & Sanford, K. (2021). Assessing attitudes toward COVID-19 prevention: Defining two attitudes crucial for understanding systemic and social variables associated with disparities. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.

*Rivers, A. S., & Sanford, K. (2021). Interpersonal Resilience Inventory: Assessing positive and negative interactions during hardships and COVID-19. Personal Relationships.

*Rivers, A. S., Sanford, K. (contact author), Elkins, G., Carpenter, J. S., Rand, K. L., & Bartlett Ellis, R. J. (2020). Attitudinal and social predictors of adherence to oral endocrine therapy: A psychometrically-informed model. Journal of Health Psychology.

*Rivers, A. S., & Sanford, K. (2020). When we say “perceived support,” what do we mean? Contexts and components of support among people with serious medical conditions. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 37, 2758–2778.  

Sanford, K., & *Rivers, A. S. (2020). Treatment Adherence Perception Questionnaire: Assessing patient perceptions regarding their adherence to medical treatment plans.  Psychological Assessment, 32, 227-238.

*Rivers, A. S., & Sanford, K. (2020). Both trusting and understanding medical advice: Assessing patient alliance and confusion after medical consultations. Patient Education and Counseling, 103, 376-384.

Sanford, K., *Rivers, A. S., Braun, T. L., Schultz, K. P., & Buchanan, E. P. (2018) Medical Consultation Experience Questionnaire: Assessing Perceived Alliance and Experienced Confusion during Medical Consultations. Psychological Assessment, 30, 1499-1511.  

*Rivers, A. S., & Sanford, K. (2018). Negative relationship behavior is more important than positive: Correlates of outcomes during stressful life events.  Journal of Family Psychology, 32, 375-384. 

Recent Graduates

Shelby Rivers, Ph.D.
Kiley Schneider, Psy.D.
Brittany Sherrill, Psy.D.
Amanda Proctor, Psy.D.
Priscilla Layman, Psy.D.
Elizabeth Coe, Psy.D.
Cecily Anders, Psy.D.
Lindsey M. Backer-Fulghum, Ph.D.
Natalie Nichols, Psy.D.
Chelsea Boska, Psy.D.
Kara Emery, Psy.D.
Kristi Wolfe, Psy.D.

Current Graduate Students

Allie Pizzuto
Mona Clifton
Ashley Buchanan Nguyen
Morgan Brewington

Courses taught at Baylor

  • PSY 4400 - Advanced Statistics (undergraduate)
  • PSY 5388 - Advanced Statistics (graduate)
  • PSY 5302 - Measurement in Psychology
  • PSY 5344 - History of Psychology, Racism, and the United States