Social Psychology

Social psychology is a broad field that seeks to understand human experience and behavior in all its diverse forms, with a special appreciation for the “power of the situation”-–be that in the way that situational features shape our perceptions and reactions, the role of past and present life contexts, the dynamics of social relationships, groups, and organizations, or broader sociocultural, socioecological, and societal processes. 

Social psychology embraces research, teaching, and training across multiple levels of analysis, methods, and disciplines. In our program, we are collaboratively engaged in basic and applied work that intersects with other fields such as affective science, anthropology and cross-cultural psychology, behavioral economics, behavioral ecology, biology and genetics, cognitive science, communication, community psychology, health and medicine, human development, linguistics, network science, neuroscience, political science, public policy, religious studies, sociology, statistics, and more.

We are committed to building a vibrant community of scholars and scientists that is diverse, equitable, inclusive, and just.  We act on this commitment in many ways. In our admissions and hiring processes, we advocate for and work to reduce barriers to equitable opportunity and inclusion. In our research, we strive to generate high-quality, representative, generalizable, inclusive science. We are committed to open science because not only does this support a stronger, more just science but also reduces barriers to public access and dissemination. In our teaching and mentorship, we welcome and meet students where they are, recognizing the diversity of student backgrounds, life experiences, and opportunities.

Social Psychology Labs at UVA

Lab Principal Investigator Keywords Accepting graduate students for Fall 2024?
Behavior and Social Hierarchy Lab Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi social hierarchies; stereotyping/prejudice/discrimination; intergroup relations; psychology of religion; political psychology No
Emotion and Behavior Lab Adrienne Wood emotion; nonverbal behavior; conversation; social networks; culture No
Motivation Science Lab Abigail Scholer motivation; goal pursuit; self-regulation; social regulation; self-control; decision-making Yes
Social Behavior and Decisions Lab Benjamin Converse goal pursuit in social systems; social judgment; self regulation; decision making; cooperation; competition No
Social Cognition and Behavior Lab Sophie Trawalter social disparities; intergroup relations, with an eye toward systemic change No
Social Neuroscience Lab James Morris (Associate Dean) epigenetics; oxytocin; social cognition; neural development No
Timothy Wilson Lab Timothy Wilson (Emeritus) self-reflection; self-knowledge; social cognition; social psychological interventions; affective forecasting No
Virginia Affect and Interoception Lab Jennifer MacCormack emotion; stress; interoception; psychophysiology; social affective neuroscience; lifespan development; health No


Social Psychology Weekly Talk Series

The Social Psychology area hosts a brown bag talk series on Wednesdays 12:30-1:30 in Gilmer 484. Please see this link for upcoming talks.

Applying to the Social Psychology PhD Program

Please note:

The application for the PhD programs in the Department of Psychology has eliminated the GRE requirement, beginning with the applications for the 2021 admissions. 

Applicants to Social Psychology are admitted to the Social Psychology area and not to specific labs. The Department of Psychology at UVA is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary. As such, although all graduate students will have a primary advisor, students are actively encouraged to work with more than one faculty member during their graduate career.  All Social Psychology faculty are open to working with graduate students as a secondary advisor. The Social Psychology faculty who are available as primary advisors will vary from year to year (see above). 

PhD admission guarantees 5 years of stipend, including summer funding, health insurance, and tuition. Our Psychology Department no longer requires GREs for application submissions. Please see the Department’s website for more information on PhD admissions and the application process. Some applicants may be eligible for an application fee waiver

Prospective applicants who need more experience and mentorship before applying to a PhD program may wish to consider applying to the UVA Graduate School’s Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship (deadline March 1st each year).  Yes, we are recruiting even though we will likely not look at any additional applications beyond our bridge students.

Social Psychology PhD Curriculum and Milestones

The Department of Psychology’s first PhD in Social Psychology was conferred in 1974. Since then, we have built a research-intensive doctoral program that is dedicated to providing a diverse, interdisciplinary community wherein students can reach their potential as scientists, theorists, and methodologists. Broadly, we offer training in the theories, principles, and research methods necessary to investigate human experience and behavior within and across individuals, dyads, groups, organizations, and cultures. 

We are an intentionally smaller program, in order to provide higher-quality, personalized investment into each student’s doctoral training and experience. Students work with a primary advisor but are encouraged to work with secondary mentors as well. In addition to coursework and the Social Psychology Program’s brown bag talk series, students attend regular lab or journal club and mentorship meetings. Students work with their advisors to develop a PhD curriculum tailored to their own unique scholarship needs while also gaining competency in core social psychology areas. All students are expected to complete their PhD within 5 years. Below we provide more details on our core curriculum and milestones.

Curriculum Requirements

For a complete list of general program requirements, see this document (updated August 2023). 

  • PSYC 7710 Quantitative Methods I

  • PSYC 7720 Quantitative Methods II

  • PSYC 8040 Forum on Scientific and Professional Ethics (1 credit)

  • PSYC 9560/9561/9562 Teaching Psychology (1 credit)

  • PSYC 9605 Oral Presentations of Research (1 credit)

  • PSYC 7506 Contemporary Issues: Social Psychology (i.e., brownbag; 2 credits every year)

  • A minimum of 9 graded credits in Social Psychology offered by UVA faculty. Examples of courses offered:

    • PSYC 5500 Social Dynamics

    • PSYC 5620 Psychophysiology

    • PSYC 7155 Subjective Well-Being

    • PSYC 7160 Emotion and Cognition 

    • PSYC 7430 Psychology of Inequality

    • PSYC 7559 Socioecological Psychology

    • PSYC 7600 Social Psychology 

    • PSYC 7610 Advanced Research Methods in Social Psychology 

  • An additional 5 “out-of-area” courses. These can go towards an optional Quantitative Psychology Concentration.

Doctoral Milestones

See this document for more information about each milestone and other Social Psychology program expectations. 

  • Pre-dissertation: Due September 1 at the beginning of your third year. A written research project that makes a novel contribution to the scientific literature, usually in the style of a journal article.

  • Qualifying exam (Comps): Should be submitted to your advisor by July 1 after your third year. After your advisor approves the documents, you will submit them to your committee by July 15 and meet for an oral defense before August 1. You must make this deadline to remain a student in good standing in the Graduate School. 

    • Depth requirement: Write either a review article or a grant proposal to demonstrate your expertise on a specific topic in Social Psychology.

    • Professional development requirement: A 2-3 page research statement. This document is meant to discuss your research interests and trajectory, akin to a research statement that is requested for academic job materials.

  • Dissertation: Each student must complete a dissertation. The student together with their adviser will select a Dissertation Committee, consisting of at least three faculty members from the Department of Psychology and one outside member. Plan to submit a written Dissertation Proposal to your committee and meet with them around the start of your final year. Submit your final Dissertation two weeks before your scheduled Dissertation Defense, which usually occurs at the end of your final academic year.

Social Psychology PhD Alumni Spotlights

Sara Algoe, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Jordan Axt, McGill University 

Nick Buttrick, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Elizabeth Dunn, University of British Columbia

Jane (Tucker) Dyrk, Nike 

Casey Eggleston U.S Census Bureau

Jesse Graham, University of Utah

Jeff Huntsinger, Loyola Chicago

Kelly Hoffman, Coqual

Lindsay Juarez, Behavioral science consultant

Selin Kesebir, London Business School

Minkyung Koo, University of New Mexico

Jamie Kurtz, James Madison University

Janetta Lun, NIH

Matt Motyl, Meta

Brandon Ng, University of Richmond

Kate Ratliff, University of Florida

David Reinhard, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Gary Sherman, SUNY Stony Brook

Colin Smith, University of Florida

Thomas Talhelm, University of Chicago

Erin Westgate, University of Florida

Thalia Wheatley, Dartmouth College

Erin Whitchurch, FBI

(alums: email Adrienne Wood for additions/updates!)

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