Psychology (Social) (PhD)

The doctoral program in Social Psychology is designed to train researchers to use rigorous scientific methods to uncover the fundamental principles underlying social behavior and to address practical questions about everyday relations among people. Our students combine continuous involvement in research with a series of courses designed to provide broad substantive knowledge, as well as methodological and quantitative expertise. The goals of our program are to:

  • provide a setting in which students can grow toward mature roles as researchers, teachers, and consultants in basic and applied areas of social psychology;

  • advance basic knowledge in psychology and apply that knowledge to society; and

  • make continuing contributions to our discipline through the achievements of the program’s graduates.

Since its implementation in 1973, the social psychology program at ASU has greatly grown and is now widely recognized as among the best such programs in the country. How do we account for this success?  Probably the best answer is that the faculty and students of the ASU social psychology program have been a highly productive group over the years in conducting research at the national and international level and in teaching at the university level. This productivity has been facilitated by two main factors:

1. Our faculty value one another's work and enjoy collaborating on research projects. It is common for faculty to publish jointly, and it is almost invariably the case that, when a faculty member produces an article or book chapter, at least one student from the program is a coauthor;

2. The dialogue between traditional theoretical/academic perspectives on social psychology and the view that social psychology can be profitably applied to social problems, business, health and family. Several of the faculty combine social psychological theory with direct application to societal issues. Accordingly, the Program has developed an international reputation for providing a dual emphasis in these complementary arenas of theoretical and applied work.

 

Prospective Students

Training Emphases. The Social Psychology program has a broad view concerning the role of research in contemporary society and in general, follows a dual–track model with students actively involved in lab–based experimental social psychological training, applied social psychological training, or both. Unlike many social psychology programs, we also provide an emphasis for interested students in applied social psychology to complement the traditional emphasis on experimental research of a theory–testing nature.

Research Activities. Each faculty member in the Social Psychology program conducts programmatic research in substantive areas of inquiry including altruism, social influence, interpersonal attraction, health psychology, social cognition, stereotyping and prejudice, social stigma, alcohol and drug use, emotions, culture, religion, divorce, coping and stress, group processes, cooperation and competition, relationships, aggression, gender and the psychology of women, women’s health, psychology and the law, and program evaluation. In addition, some faculty members are conducting research on topics with a more methodological/statistical focus including interactions in multiple regression, time series designs and analyses, and structural equations and causal modeling. Immediately upon entering the graduate program, students become involved in research in one or more of these areas under supervision of the faculty. However, students can, and should, shape the research activities of faculty by bringing their independently  developed interests to the program. The research activities in the program are collaborative and interactive which create an exciting and stimulating intellectual environment.

Related Areas. Students and faculty in social psychology often work collaboratively with, and take courses from, faculty in allied areas in the department. Emphases in prominent health psychology and quantitative methodology programs strengthen the range of experiences available to students.

Curriculum

In the initial year of residence, students take the first course of the social psychology proseminar series; a seminar for current topics in social psychology; and quantitative and methodology courses. Immediately upon entering the program students also become involved in one or more research programs where they directly work with faculty members. These research affiliations are flexible and it is expected that students will participate in research with several faculty members while completing the doctoral program. To view the curriculum by year click here.

In the second year, students take the second course in the social psychology proseminar series; continue to develop their statistical knowledge and skills; and complete and defend an independent research project to be reported as a master's thesis in passing for the M.A. degree. In the second and third year of a student's residence he/she is also expected to enroll in the advanced courses available in the social psychology program. In addition, students are required during their time in the program to take two courses in other areas of psychology, and are encouraged to begin enrolling in other relevant courses within the department and across the university.

In the third year, students concentrate much of their effort on the development of a major area paper. There are currently three options for this project:

Option 1 is to review and integrate a substantive topic in social psychology. This paper follows the model of articles in Psychological Bulletin, Psychological Review, or Personality and Social Psychology Review.

Option 2 is to prepare a grant proposal—often a pre-doctoral fellowship application—for submission to a major federal agency or private foundation. Such proposals may be for a program of basic or applied research.

Option 3 is to perform and report a meta–analysis, a quantitative technique for distilling major findings from existing literature.

When the project has been completed and accepted by the faculty, it becomes the basis for an oral exam that focuses in part on the content defined by the project and in part, on the student's level of preparation within other topics in social psychology and related topics across the entire discipline ("comprehensives”). Upon defending this examination, the student is advanced to Ph.D. candidacy.

The fourth and, typically, fifth years of enrollment are devoted to continuing research projects and the doctoral dissertation. The student may also acquire teaching experience and undertake additional coursework. The program offers a graduate teaching seminar that includes supervised teaching experience that students may take after earning their master's degree. In addition, the formal curriculum is supplemented by a bi–weekly informal research meeting in which all members of the program participate. The whole social psychology group meets in the evening at a faculty member’s home to share ideas about research projects in the formative stages of development. The seminar is highly interactive and lively, providing useful feedback while offering a training ground for young critics.

Students in Social Psychology ordinarily receive coursework training in four distinguishable areas:

1. Social Psychology
REQUIRED COURSES: PSY 550 and 551 Advanced Social Psychology, PSY 591 Current Topics in Social Psychology.
REQUIRED ELECTIVES: Students will take at least three additional content courses in social psychology from among those courses and seminars offered by the social psychology faculty. 

2. Quantitative / Methods 
REQUIRED COURSES: PSY 530  Intermediate Statistics, PSY 531  Multiple Regression in Psychological Research, PSY 532  Analysis of Multivariate Data, PSY 600  Design of Experiments in Social Psychology.
REQUIRED ELECTIVES: Students will  take at least one additional graduate level course in quantitative and ethodological areas related to social psychological research to improve their technical skills. These courses may be taught by department faculty, or, with the approval of the program, be offered by related departments on campus.
RECOMMENDED: PSY 555 Quasi–Experimental Designs for Research

3. Psychological Foundations 
REQUIRED ELECTIVES: Students will take at least two courses in the development, biological, cognitive, or clinical bases of human behavior that will enable the student to bring a broader perspective to creative scholarship. These courses, from at least two of the bases of behavior mentioned above, are taught by psychology department faculty and must be approved by the program.

4. Research Activities
Students are required to develop competence in one or more substantive areas of research and theory, in which the student attempts to make a unique scholarly contribution. This is typically achieved by: 1) involvement in the ongoing research program of one or more mentors, for which the student receives academic credit through the Supervised Research courses, such as PSY 592, 692 and 792, 2) Master's Thesis (PSY 599) and Dissertation (PSY 799) courses, and 3) passing the comprehensive examination requirement. The three sets of required electives stated above should be regarded as default assumptions, and are viewed as appropriate for the typical social psychology student in the program. Individual needs and goals may vary from this typical pattern, and exceptions and substitutions may be proposed to the program. Only under unusual circumstances will petitions be approved that attempt to make substitutions for the eight required courses listed above. Advisors should be consulted before enrolling in courses that are intended to meet breadth requirements.

PROGRESS REPORTS: All students submit progress reports and self–evaluations to the program each year. This document describes progress towards meeting the student's curricular goals as well as updating his/her research agenda. It proposes any modifications to the earlier curricular plan, together with justification for these changes. It identifies short–term plans for the next year that fit with the student's longer term training goals. This document is used by the program faculty as its basis for providing evaluative and, if needed, corrective feedback each year. 

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Curriculum by Year

Year 1
Fall Semester: PSY 551 Advanced Social Psychology, PSY 530 ANOVA Statistics, PSY 591a Current Topics in Social, PSY 592 Research
Spring Semester: PSY 531 Mult. Corr & Regr. Statistics, PSY 600 Experimental Design Research, Social Psychology Recommended Elective, PSY 592 Research

Year 2
Fall Semester: PSY 550 Advanced Social Psychology, PSY 532 Multivariate Statistics, PSY 599 Thesis Research (3–6 hrs)
Spring Semester: Psychology Core Required Elective, Q & M Required Elective, PSY 599 Thesis Research (3–6 hours), Master’s Degree awarded

Year 3  
Fall Semester: Social Psychology Required Elective, Q&M Required Elective, PSY 792 Research (3–6 hrs)
Spring Semester: Psychology Core Required Elective, PSY 792 Research (3–9 hours), Comprehensive Examination

Year 4 (& 5)
Fall Semester: Elective PSY 792 Research (9 hours), Dissertation Prospectus
Spring Semester: Elective PSY 799 Dissertation (9 hrs), PhD awarded. 

 

Milestones

Ideally, the typical student’s program of study will take five years for completion. In recognition that the program enrolls students who have basic and applied interests that may require specialized training experiences involving additional coursework or will engage in time-consuming community-based research, the program allows for some flexibility in milestone timing for students who demonstrate excellence in other areas of performance.

This flexibility reflects negotiations with the student’s faculty advisor/mentor. The program faculty shall monitor student progress towards training goals. The student's annual evaluation will include specific feedback about what the student is expected to do to stay on track with regard to milestone timing. Students who do not meet timing expectations will be put on probation. After a year of probationary status, progress will be considered unsatisfactory if expectations continue to be unmet.

To be considered as making satisfactory progress, students who enter the social psychology program with a bachelor’s degree must:

  • Successfully defend their master's within three years,
  • Complete and defend the comprehensive examination within two years following completion of the Masters oral defense, and
  • Complete and defend the dissertation within two years following completion of the comprehensive examination.

To be considered as making satisfactory progress, students who enter the social psychology PhD program with a master’s degree must:

  • Complete and defend the comprehensive examination within four years, and
  • Complete and defend the dissertation within two years following completion of the comprehensive examination.

 

Faculty

CORE FACULTY: Aktipis  Cohen   Kenrick   Knight   Kwan   Neuberg   Saenz   Shiota   Varnum

Athena Aktipis, PhD, Assistant Professor. Athena's research investigates how cooperation and conflict shape systems from human sharing to cells within multicellular bodies using computational modeling, laboratory experiments and fieldwork to better understand these processes and the general principles that operate across cooperative systems. Her work addresses both cooperation on small-scales and the problems inherent in scaling-up cooperation to large, interconnected complex systems. Athena's contributions to cooperation theory include the Walk Away model of cooperation (showing that conditional movement favors cooperation) and the Need-based Transfers framework for resource sharing (which can outperform strict account-keeping). Research Lab: Cooperation and Conflict Lab

Adam Cohen, PhD, Associate Professor. Adam’s major areas of interest are in cultural and evolutionary psychology, especially as they apply to religion. His work has focused on moral judgment, forgiveness, identity, and motivation, and has been published in top–tier journals such as the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Review, and Journal of Personality. Adam's research has been funded by the Metanexus Institute, the Templeton Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Research Lab: CARMA

Douglas Kenrick, PhD, Professor. Doug's main research interests involve the application of evolutionary models to social cognition, interpersonal behavior, and the emergence of cultural norms. His research has appeared in a wide range of journals and books including Psychological Review, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and the Handbook of Social Psychology. With Steve Neuberg and Bob Cialdini, Doug co-authored Social Psychology: Unraveling the Mystery, now in its fifth edition and he also wrote Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life: A psychologist investigates how evolution, cognition, and complexity are revolutionizing our view of human nature. Doug's latest book, The Rational Animal, was co-authored with former ASU grad student, Vladas Griskevicius. Research Lab: Evolutionary Social Cognition Lab

George Knight, PhD, Professor. George’s primary research interests include the acculturation and enculturation of Mexican American families and the mental health outcomes associated with these adaptations to the mainstream and ethnic cultures; cross-ethnic and cross-race measurement equivalence, in particular among measures of family relations, parenting, and mental health; and social development, including the acquisition of cooperative-competitive, prosocial, and aggressive behavioral styles. In addition to being an Associate Editor for Developmental Psychology, he is on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Family Psychology, and Social Development. He recently co-authored with Drs. Mark W. Roosa and Adriana J. Umaña-Taylor Studying ethnic minority and economically disadvantaged populations: Methodological challenges and best practices.

Virginia Kwan, PhD, Associate Professor. Virginia’s major research interests revolve around the broad content areas of social-perception processes, which she studies on three levels: (a) self-perception, (b) group perception, and (c) perceptions of nonhuman agents. She has developed a research program that examines social perception using multiple methods, multiple cultures, and multiple species. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and has appeared in the top theoretical and empirical journals in psychology, including Psychological Review, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Personality, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Social Cognition, Self and Identity, and Experimental Brain Research. Research Lab: Culture and Decision Science Network Lab

Steven Neuberg, PhD, Foundation Professor and Department Chair. Steve's work integrates social-cognitive and evolutionary approaches in his research on stereotyping and prejudice; motivation and cognition; and social values and stigma. He also leads the ASU Global Group Relations Project, a multidisciplinary and global study of factors that shape intergroup relations and is a founding member of ASU’s interdisciplinary Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity. With colleagues Doug Kenrick and Bob Cialdini, he co-authored Social Psychology: Unraveling the Mystery, now in its 5th edition. He has published his work in the top scientific journals of the field and his research has long been supported by federal grants (National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Department of Defense). He has served on NIH/NIMH grant review panels, was Associate Editor of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and serves on multiple editorial boards. Research Labs: Culture and Decision Science Network Lab and Neuberg Lab.

Delia Saenz, PhD, Associate Professor. Delia’s research focuses on tokenism, intergroup processes, acculturation, social identity and family dynamics, and incorporates both experimental and field methodology. Her work on tokenism is often cited for its innovation and contribution to the understanding of diversity in work groups. Delia received the inaugural Kenneth and Mamie Clark Award from the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students, the Outstanding Faculty Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Alumni Association, and the 2005 Excellence in Education Award from the Ronald McDonald House Charities National Scholarship Program. She has served in several administrative positions at ASU including Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education.

Michelle "Lani" Shiota, PhD, Associate Professor and Social Psychology Area Head. Lani’s research takes a multi–method approach to the study of positive emotion and emotion regulation, integrating psychophysiology, behavioral, cognitive, narrative, and self–report measures. Specific interests include exploring differentiation among multiple, distinct positive emotions; positive emotion and social bonding; the role of positive emotion in emotion regulation; and short– and long–term cardiovascular aspects of emotion regulation. In addition to recent publications in Emotion and Cognition and Emotion, Lani is the co–author with Jim Kalat of the textbook Emotion, published by Thompson Wadsworth. Research Lab: Shiota Psychophysiology Lab for Affective Testing (SPLAT).

Michael Varnum, PhD, Assistant Professor. Michael's research is focused on how culture shapes fundamental psychological processes ranging from empathy, to conformity, to self-construal. He takes the view that what constitutes "culture" is not only nationality or ethnicity but that social class and region also constitute forms of culture. His work is focused on understanding the origins of cultural differences and the mechanisms by which these patterns of thinking are learned and maintained. He is also exploring factors that drive cultural change. In his work he uses a broad variety of approaches ranging from analysis of secondary datasets (i.e., census data), to social psychological lab experiments, to neuroimaging. His work has been published in top-tier journals including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, Psychological Science, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Annual Review of Psychology, and NeuroImage. Research Lab: Cultural Neuroscience Lab

Affliliated Department Faculty

Leona Aiken, PhD, President's Professor. Leona is not only a member of the social psychology program but is also the area head for the department's Quantitative Program. She maintains a dual research program in health psychology and quantitative methods. Her current research focuses on health protective and health risk behavior in women across the lifespan, including mammography screening and postmenopausal hormone therapy in mature women, and risky sexual behavior, calcium consumption, and sun protection against skin cancer in young women. Leona is former president of APA’s Division 5 (Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics) and of Western Psychological Association, and has been president of the Society for Multivariate Experimental Psychology. She has been an associate editor of the American Psychologist and serves of the editorial boards of Psychological Methods and Multivariate Behavioral Research. With Stephen West, she is co–author of "Multiple Regression: Testing and Interpreting Interactions" and is co-author of the classic multiple regression text, "Applied Multiple Regression/Correlation Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences" (Cohen, Cohen, West, and Aiken).

Emeritus

Sanford Braver, PhD, (Emeritus Professor). Sandy moved his long–standing theoretical interest in bargaining and conflict resolution into the applied social psychology domain. For the last 20 years, he explored the social psychology of families. Researched originally with two large grants from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, Sandy had a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to explore the meanings family members attach to one another and the impact this has on children undergoing the adolescent transition. The author of "Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myth," Sandy is a sought–after consultant at the interface of psychology and family law. He was also affiliated with the Department's Prevention Research Center (PRC), under which he had two more large grants that explore issues of taking social psychological interventions and principles into the wider community.

Robert Cialdini, PhD, (Emeritus Regents Professor). Bob's interests in persuasion and social influence have continued over the years, manifesting in a focus on consumer psychology, which became  a large part of his graduate and undergraduate courses in interpersonal influence. Bob's interest in the influence process is also evident in his projects to investigate the factors that incline people to behave according to the norms of the society (e.g., to preserve the natural environment), and that incline people toward altruistic action. In addition to many articles in the field’s top research journals, Bob is author of "Influence: Science and Practice," author of a chapter on social influence in the newest edition of the Handbook of Social Psychology, and co–author with ASU colleagues Doug Kenrick and Steve Neuberg of, "Social Psychology: Unraveling the Mystery." He has received the Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award from the Society of Consumer Psychology, the Donald T. Campbell Award for Distinguished Contributions in Social Psychology from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and the inaugural Peitho Award for Distinguished Contributions to the study of social influence.

Nancy Felipe Russo, PhD, (Emeritus Regents Professor). Nancy was involved in a variety of research projects related to gender, health, and achievement, including examination of the mental health implications of violence against women, with special attention to implications of that information for mental health, law, and public policy. Nancy’s national reputation was reflected in her election to the presidency of APA's Division of the Psychology of Women and appointment to numerous committees and task forces, including the APA Task Forces on Women in Academe, Women in Science and Technology, and Male Violence against Women, among others. She has been an editor of the Psychology of Women Quarterly and  of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Mental Health and Social Justice. The 1992 winner of ASU's Faculty Achievement Award, she was the 1996 recipient of APA’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Research in the Public Interest, and in 2003 won the Distinguished International Psychologist Award from APA’s Division of International Psychology. She has been active in APA’s Society for Ethnic Minority and Cross–Cultural Psychology, and has served on the Board of Governors of the Arizona Arts, Sciences, and Technology Academy. In 2006, Nancy became the director of ASU’s Center for Academic Institutional and Cultural Change, a presidential initiative aimed at improving outcomes for academic women through research, education, and leadership development. 

 

Fellowships for Social Psychology Doctoral Students

Robert B. Cialdini Project Prize in Social Psychology

The Robert B. Cialdini Dissertation Project Prize in Social Psychology will be given annually to one or more deserving doctoral students who have passed the proposal stage of their dissertation in the area of social psychology. The Social Psychology graduate program trains graduate students to use rigorous scientific methods to uncover the fundamental principles underlying social behavior and to address practical questions about everyday relations among people.

Eligibility Requirements. The nominated student must:

  • be enrolled in the Social Psychology Graduate Program in the ASU Department of Psychology during the academic year;
  • have demonstrated excellence in research and classroom performance in experimental social psychology as broadly defined; and
  • have successfully defended their dissertation proposal or have scheduled their proposal defense in the semester that they are applying for the award. 

Application Process. ASU faculty members may nominate students by (a) contacting the student to confirm eligibility; and (b) providing the student with the application form. 

The nominating faculty member writes a letter of support that addresses (a) the student’s contributions and potential for future contributions to research in experimental social psychology as broadly defined; (b) the student’s progress toward completing the PhD; and (c) the quality of the student’s proposed dissertation research and its likely impact on social psychology. This letter should be independently delivered to the Award Committee by the nominator in signed hard-copy form and via email. 

The student should: 

  • request a second letter of recommendation from another faculty member. This letter should be independently delivered to the Award Committee by the recommender in signed hard-copy form and via email; and
  • complete the application form and attach (a) a statement of purpose that describes his/her academic history and career goals; (b) an up-to-date CV; and (c) a copy of his/her dissertation proposal. 

Darwyn and Marie Linder Graduate Fellowship in Social Psychology

The Darwyn and Marie Linder Graduate Fellowship in Social Psychology is awarded to a continuing graduate student in the social psychology program who has best demonstrated excellence in research and classroom performance in experimental social psychology as broadly defined. 

Eligibility Requirements.The nominated student must:

  • be enrolled in the Social Psychology Graduate Program in the ASU Department of Psychology during the academic year; and
  • have demonstrated excellence in research and classroom performance in experimental social psychology, which is to be broadly defined. 

Application Process. ASU faculty members may nominate students by: (a) contacting the student to confirm eligibility; and (b) providing the student with the application form.

The nominating faculty member writes a letter of support that addresses (a) the student’s contributions and potential for future contributions to research in experimental social psychology as broadly defined; and (b) the student’s progress toward completing the PhD. This letter should be independently delivered to the Award Committee by the nominator in signed hardcopy form and via email.

The student should:

  • request a second letter of recommendation from another faculty member. This letter should be independently delivered to the Award Committee by the recommender in signed hardcopy form and via email; and
  • complete the application form and attach (a) a statement of purpose that describes his/her academic history and career goals; and (b) an up-to-date CV.

Social Psychology Research Laboratories

CARMA Lab (Cohen)
Evolutionary Social Cognition Lab (Kenrick-Neuberg-Becker)
Neuberg Lab (Neuberg)
SPLAT Lab (Shiota)
.

Degree Offered

Psychology (PhD)
Liberal Arts & Sciences, College of

Location
Tempe

Plan of Study

The Plan of Study is the required curriculum to complete the program.

View Plan of Study

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