The Social Psychology program focuses on research training related to basic affective, cognitive, and motivational processes underlying complex social phenomena, with an emphasis on processes associated with the self-system. Faculty members have interests in the structure of the self-concept, self-esteem, honor cultures and honor ideology, self-regulation, stereotypes, sexual objectification, decision-making and ethical behavior, moral intuitions, positive psychology, relationships, social cognition, and adolescent social and social-cognitive development. Graduate training in the Social Program is designed to prepare students for careers in academic research and teaching, but graduates of the Social Program are also well prepared for applied positions in government and industry. Students have been funded in recent years by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Templeton Foundation.
Faculty members in the Social program have interests spanning such questions as:
- How does the activation of stereotypes guide our perceptions and impression of minority group members? What are the antecedents and consequences of sexual objectification?
- How does the cultural ideology of honor influence violence, relationships, psychological health, lifespan development, ethical behavior, group dynamics, and economic decisions?
- How do youth who are popular and socially well-connected, highly visible and influential, and who make up the "popular" or "cool" crowd achieve such high status, and how do they use their status to further their own social goals?
- How does engaging with the imaginary worlds of books, movies, and television shows affect our social relationships, moral intuitions, and ability to understand others in the real-world?
- How does local exposure to weather- and climate-related events influence decision making and risk perception in everyday life?
- How does the structure of the self-concept reduce defensiveness and foster prosocial and ethical behavior? How might positive emotions (such as awe) contribute to a less defensive self?
Research in the Social program takes place in a variety of venues, including laboratories equipped with two-way mirrors; computer terminals for capturing reaction times and high-quality video display; and space for small group interactions. The Department and the University offer access to the Department’s research participant pool and licensed software for data analysis and online data collection platforms. In addition, our research takes place in the field, outside of the laboratory, including archival data from government and international sources, the university at large, and local primary and secondary schools.