Social psychology

Clark University’s Ph.D. Program in Social Psychology: An Overview

An Introduction to the Program:

This program focuses on basic social psychological processes that underlie pressing social and political issues - locally, nationally, and globally. At Clark, this includes primarily the study of intergroup relations, societal peace and conflict, violence, health disparities, and commitment to social change, including political action and intervention. More generally, we examine the interaction of individual differences and social structures in producing and reflecting political attitudes, behavior, and health. We pay particular attention to how human experience—thought, behavior, feelings— is shaped by history and intersectionality of group memberships, and how social structure reinforces power relations. Students and faculty in the program use a wide variety of quantitative methods and qualitative methods, including lab and field experiments, surveys, interviews, focus groups, and archival research. The program encourages contextualized and interdisciplinary research, novel theoretical work, and methodological integration. For further information, contact Dr. Johanna Ray Vollhardt, head of the Social Psychology program.

Goals of the Program:

This program prepares students for academic, research, and policy careers in social psychology. Such preparation requires a student to: (1) develop a strong theoretical and methodological foundation and (2) begin a systematic program of research that will sustain them through the early stages of a career. Along the way, we provide opportunities to practice and perfect the skills of an academic. These include:

• designing and conducting research projects with multiple methods
• assisting in and teaching courses
• working with undergraduate researchers
• applying for grants
• presenting posters and papers at conferences and colloquia
• publishing collaborative and individual work in the scholarly journals of the field

Social graduate students are encouraged to work closely with one another, with advanced undergraduate students, and with faculty colleagues in developing their research programs. Over the course of the first three years, students can select from graduate courses, advanced undergraduate courses, courses at neighboring institutions, and courses developed for their needs with the social faculty. The primary training settings of the program though are the Department's research groups, forums, and lab meetings. These are groupings of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students drawn together regularly by common theoretical concerns, research interests, or training needs. All graduate students and faculty from the program meet weekly at our Social Forum, for which students receive course credit.

Graduate Education and Research Groups:

The principal educational settings of the program are the Department's research groups, forums, and lab meetings. These are groups of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students drawn together by common theoretical concerns and research interests. Groups are initiated both by faculty and by graduate students. All graduate students and faculty from the program meet weekly at our Social Forum, for which students receive course credit. Other coursework is minimal and includes elective courses within and beyond the Psychology department, with the aim of providing a strong theoretical and methodological foundation for the students’ program of research.

Interdisciplinary and Diversity Emphasis:

This program provides an interdisciplinary emphasis as well as an emphasis on diversity in its graduate education and research. Students are encouraged to work with diverse populations and community samples.  Through the faculty members’ affiliations, the program has interdisciplinary ties to:

Additionally, there is a track in which students can receive a Ph.D. in (Social) Psychology, with an interdisciplinary concentration in Holocaust and Genocide Studies (HGS). For more information click here.

Graduate Education

Overview of Graduate Coursework in Social Psychology at Clark:

Graduate students in our program are encouraged to work closely with one another, with advanced undergraduate students, and with faculty colleagues in developing their systematic program of research—as this is the central focus. Students have a good deal of freedom in choosing their research methodologies. The number of required courses is minimal. Students should choose their remaining course choices to develop a strong theoretical and methodological foundation to complement their program of research.

Department Requirements:

All first year graduate students take the following courses:

  • Psyc 301 – Theory and Method: Research Design (taken in the first semester)
  • Psyc 302 – Statistical Methods (taken in the first and second semesters)

In addition, all social psychology students typically take Psyc 308 (Social Forum) every semester.

Other (elective) courses include occasional graduate courses as well as joint graduate and undergraduate courses (Capstone seminars) in social and cultural psychology, such as:

  • Advanced Social Psychology
  • Social and Cultural Psychology of Genocides
  • Stereotypes & Prejudice
  • Intersectional Psychology
  • The Social Psychology of Ethnic Violence and its Aftermath
  • Using Social Science Research to Influence Public Policy

These courses are supplemented by directed studies. Depending on their research interests, students also take courses offered by members of our Clinical and Developmental Psychology Programs, as well as courses in the International Development and Social Change Program, the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, or the graduate program in Geography.

Throughout their time in the program, students are expected to engage in various research groups and forums while working towards their portfolio and dissertation.

Research Groups, Labs, and Forums

Currently active groups within the social program include:

Research in Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation (RICC) (Vollhardt):
This group consists of undergraduate and graduate students working on research related to intergroup conflict and cooperation. We meet weekly to discuss ongoing projects and relevant literature. Topics include prosocial behavior and solidarity between members of different groups, how people respond to group-based violence and victimization, and psychological processes during and in the aftermath of genocide. Researchers in this group use various methods, ranging from experiments and surveys to content analyses of interviews and archival materials, including oral testimonies.  

Research on Violence and Aggression (Hines):
This group consists of undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in various aspects of research on violence and aggression. Some students participate in the evaluation of the Clark Anti-Violence Education program, a series of programs and research projects aimed at preventing sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking on college campuses. Other students participate in the Men’s Experiences with Partner Aggression Project, a series of research projects aimed at understanding the relationship experiences, mental health, and help-seeking experiences of male victims of partner violence and their children. Students may also elect to get involved in the planning and implementation of the annual Massachusetts Family Impact Seminar, where we present policy-relevant university-based research to state legislators on topics they are currently debating.

Ideology and Intergroup Violence Lab (IIVL) (Stewart):
The Ideology and Intergroup Violence Lab at Clark University investigates the ideological foundations of violence at multiple levels of analysis (e.g., the individual and society), while also identifying ways to reduce violence and discrimination through protest, collective action, and social psychological interventions. We explore the complex dynamics of ideology and violence across a variety of intergroup relations, including gender, race, nationality, and sexual orientation.

Intersectionality, Stigma, and Health Lab (Overstreet):
The Intersectionality, Stigma, and Health Lab examines the connection between stigma and health on an individual, interpersonal, and structural level. We focus on stigmatized attributes that are visible, such as race and gender, and those that are concealable, such as mental illness, sexual minority status, and HIV/AIDS. Through an intersectionality framework, we explore how intersections of race, class, gender, and sexual oppression can be used to address important issues in psychology.

Social Forum:
This is a forum on research and theory in social psychology, in which members (all social graduate students and faculty, joined by several graduate students from other programs) discuss theoretical and methodological issues, plan new research, share updates on ongoing projects, and receive feedback on manuscripts in preparation for publication.

Social Psychology Faculty

Nicole Overstreet, Ph.D.
The relation between stigma, stereotyping, and health in marginalized groups. I am particularly interested in examining the role of stigma and stereotyping on mental and sexual health outcomes as it relates to experiences of intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual objectification.

Andrew Stewart, Ph.D.
The consequences of ideological norms (e.g., sexism, anti-immigrant beliefs) for violence, discrimination, and inequality and also on how to disrupt those norms in order to prevent violence (e.g., sexual assault prevention) and encourage hierarchy-attenuating behavior (e.g., collective action).

Johanna Ray Vollhardt, Ph.D.
Social psychological processes underlying responses to group-based victimization; inclusive and exclusive victim consciousness; acknowledgment; prosocial behavior between groups (especially between minority groups); psychology of genocide.

Affiliated Faculty:

Denise Hines, Ph.D.
Family violence and intimate partner aggression; male victims and other underserved victims of intimate partner violence; prevention of dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking; translating research for policymakers and practitioners.

Visiting Faculty:

None at this time

Emeritus Faculty:

Jaan Valsiner, Ph.D.

Roger Bibace, Ph.D.

Joseph de Rivera, Ph.D.

James D. Laird, Ph.D.

Nicholas S. Thompson, Ph.D.