Social and personality faculty members and doctoral students conduct theoretically rigorous research which address both basic and applied questions about human behavior at the intersection of individuals and their social environment.  The program trains students for research and teaching careers in a variety of settings.  Coursework provides students with foundational knowledge about classic and contemporary issues in social and personality psychology, research methods, and statistics.  Our research training philosophy is built on the apprenticeship model; students work closely on multiple research projects with one or more faculty members as they develop their research interests and methodological skills. 


Five Key Strengths of our Program:

 1.  Students become involved in many types of research, which provide opportunities to:

  • examine basic and applied research issues.
  • work with a variety of research methods including experimental designs, survey research, interventions, behavioral observation, experience sampling, alcohol administration, hormone assays, and implicit/automatic processing.
  • participate in a multidisciplinary research team.

 2.  Students minor in quantitative psychology, health psychology, or develop a specialized minor that meets their career goals.

 3.  Students develop teaching skills, first as a teaching assistant and later teaching an independent course.  There are multiple department and campus resources available to help students enhance their teaching effectiveness. 

 4.  Students have a mentoring team of three faculty members (their primary advisor and two others they choose) who provide career guidance throughout their time as a doctoral student.

 5.  Students participate in a weekly brownbag series that is organized by second and third year students.  Research presentations are made by students, program faculty, and faculty from other institutions.  Professional development sessions address a variety of topics including career options and research funding opportunities.

Areas of Research

Faculty members in the social-personality area are broadly interested in motivation, goal conflict, close relationships, personality, sexual aggression, stress, and health.   

Some of the specific research questions that faculty members are currently examining include: 

  • What are the processes underlying romantic relationship satisfaction and stability?
  • Is risk and self-defeating behavior a sign of self-regulatory failure or strategic pursuit of people’s goals?
  • How do interpersonal stressors affect health and behavior?
  • How can personality trait standing be modified to improve health status?
  • What psychological experiences mediate and moderate social status and racial health disparities?
  • Do stress biomarkers mediate the relationship between risky family environments and negative health outcomes?
  • What is alcohol’s role in sexual assault?
  • What risk and protective factors predict men’s likelihood of committing acts of sexual aggression?
  • How do insecurities affect people’s willingness to settle for less in relationships?
  • Why do some people have greater difficulty getting over their romantic ex-partners?
  • To what extent do personality traits, social investment and self-regulation influence someone’s probability of engaging in excessive alcohol consumption?
  • How do people solve goal conflict?
  • How do couples’ social networks (e.g., couple friendships) impact how happy people are in their relationships?


Social-Personality Courses Offered in Recent Years

  • Social Psychology: Research and Theory
  • Personality
  • Social Cognition
  • Close Relationships
  • Health Psychology I: Theory and Basic Research
  • Health Psychology III: Biobases of Health Psychology
  • Social Psychology of Motivation
  • Evolutionary Psychology of Emotions
  • Seminar in Experimental Social Psychology (special topics)


Area Faculty with Social-Personality Research Focus

Prospective graduate students should review faculty profiles and contact potential advisors directly prior to submitting an application to ensure the faculty member is currently accepting new students.

Antonia Abbey, Professor and Area Chair
Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1982

Interests: Women's health, sexual assault, sexual risk-taking, alcohol’s role in sexual assault & sexual risk-taking; perceptions of sexual cues; substance abuse prevention.

Tim Bogg, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2006

Interests: Personality, motivation, and health-related behaviors; personality-informed interventions for improved health status.

Catalina Kopetz, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Maryland, 2007

Interests: Social cognition, self-regulation, motivation, goals, applications to health behaviors. 

Sheldon G. Levy, Professor
Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1963

Interests: Political psychology, collective behavior, mass media, quantitative correlates of war.

Richard Slatcher, Professor
Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, 2007

Interests: Close relationships, personality, marriage and health, self-disclosure, intimacy processes in dating and marital relationships, stress, effects of family environments on child health

Stephanie Spielmann, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Toronto, 2013

Interests: Close relationships, breakups, adult attachment, fear of being single, emotional attachment to ex-partners, regulation of reward and threat in romantic relationships

Glenn E. Weisfeld, Professor
Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1978

Interests: Ethology and evolutionary psychology, dominance, marital satisfaction, adolescents.

Samuele Zilioli, Assistant Professor in Psychology and Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Science
Ph.D., Simon Fraser University, 2014

Interests: Social neuroendocrinology. Shedding light on the biopsychological mechanisms by which social status differences and related stressors affect health and behaviour.

Affiliated Faculty with Primary Appointment in Another Area

*Can be students’ co-advisor, not primary advisor


Todd Lucas, Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences
PhD., Wayne State University, 2005

Interests: Psychosocial and cross-cultural determinants of stress, health behavior, and wellbeing; social influence processes in communication





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