• Department
  • Undergraduate Program
  • Graduate Program
  • People
  • Research
  • GIVE

    Area Head:   

    Social Personality Group

    The Social-Personality area at UC Davis has a long tradition of excellence in research and teaching, and has been ranked among the top five programs in the nation. With eleven core faculty members as well as several more in closely aligned areas, our program offers a unique combination of breadth and depth across both social and personality psychology. Students are exposed to cutting-edge research and methods, and trained to become independent contributors to the field. To learn more about our program, scroll down or use the links above.



    Phil Shaver is the 2013 Recipient of the SESP Distinguished Scientist Award

    The Society of Experimental Social Psychology has awarded Phil Shaver with its highest honor, the Distinguished Scientist Award. This award recognizes individuals who have made unusually important contributions to experimental social psychology.

    Dean Simonton is the 2013 Recipient of the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Media Psychology and Technology

    The Society for Media Psychology and Technology (Division 46 of the American Psychological Association) has awarded to Dean Simonton in recognition of his outstanding theoretical and empirical contributions.

    Jeffrey Sherman Receives an Anneliese Maier Research Award

    Jeffrey Sherman has been awarded a 2013 Anneliese Maier Research Award. Presented by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and valued at €250,000, the award is given annually to outstanding researchers from other countries with the aim of advancing the internationalization of academic research in Germany.

    UC Davis to Host 2013 Summer Institute in Social and Personality Psychology

    The Summer Institute in Social and Personality Psychology (SISPP) is a selective two-week intensive summer school for up to 80 pre-doctoral students in social and personality psychology. This program is funded by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology through a National Science Foundation grant and by contributions from the UC Davis Social Sciences Division and the European Association of Social Psychology.

    Phil Shaver Receives the 2012 Career Contribution Award 

    Phil Shaver has received the Society for Personality and Social Psychology's Career Contribution Award, which honors a scholar who has made theoretical and/or empirical contributions to social and personality psychology and recognizes distinguished scholarly contributions across long and productive careers.

    Rick Robins Receives the 2012 Diener Award in Personality

    The Society for Personality and Social Psychology has awarded Rick Robins the 2012 Diener Award in Personality, which recognizes a mid-career scholar whose work has made an outstanding contribution to the field of personality psychology by adding substantially to the body of knowledge in the personality field and/or connecting personality and social psychology.

    UC Davis Social/Personality Area Tops in Career Stage Impact

    The UC Davis Social-Personality area was ranked fourth in the nation for scientific impact in a recent study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the official journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. The study, titled "Cumulative and Career-Stage Citation Impact of Social-Personality Psychology Programs and Their Members," examined the degree to which published articles are cited by other researchers, and used these data to rank all of the social-personality areas in the United States and Canada. The study placed UC Davis at number four in terms of combined cumulative and career-stage impact indicators.

    Gregory Herek’s Expert Witness Testimony Featured in Prop. 8 Play

    Greg Herek’s expert witness testimony in the landmark Perry v. Schwarzenegger federal court case for marriage for gay and lesbian Americans is featured in the play “8” currently being staged across the United States.

    New Grants

    Alison Ledgerwood was recently awarded a two-year grant (2012-2014) from the National Science Foundation (along with Co-PI Amber Boydstun) to study the Asymmetric Sequential Effects of Gain and Loss Media Frames on Economic Attitudes.

    Robert Emmons received a $5.6 million grant from the John Templeton foundation to advance the science of gratitude. The grant will support a three-year project, “Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude,” incorporating researchers from UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., and California State University, Dominguez Hills. Read more about this grant


    Graduate Program Overview:

    The goal of graduate training in Social-Personality psychology at UC Davis is to produce researchers and teachers of the highest caliber. Entry into the graduate program is highly selective and only those applicants who are able to demonstrate a strong commitment to conducting research in social-personality psychology are accepted. The graduate program provides intensive training in research methods, statistical analysis, and a wide array of theoretical perspectives focusing on major issues in social and personality psychology. Students in the program are expected to devote themselves full-time to their research and other academic endeavors.

    Members of the UC Davis Social-Personality program study the affective, cognitive, socio-cultural, biological, and developmental underpinnings of human behavior, using a variety of methodological strategies. The learning atmosphere combines intellectual rigor and scientific curiosity with a collaborative and friendly environment.

    Graduate Training:

    The Social-Personality program at UC Davis is designed to provide students with intensive training in the psychological theories, methods, and principles that form the foundation of research in social-personality psychology. Our aim is to prepare students to be exceptional researchers and teachers who are highly competitive on the job market for the type of career that they seek.

    Students become actively involved in a research project with a faculty member as soon as they arrive. Through this hands-on experience, as well as courses, brown bags, and lab meetings, students develop their understanding of social-personality psychology as a field and gain the methodological and statistical tools they need to take on a more primary role in the research process.

    Students are encouraged to work with at least two faculty members in order to broaden their exposure to different theoretical and methodological approaches. After completing the majority of required courses by the end of their second year, students work with their advisors to develop a reading list for a written examination (typically scheduled for the first week of the third year) designed to flexibly balance depth of knowledge in a student’s particular area of interest with a broad foundation in social-personality psychology.

    In their third, fourth, and fifth years, students focus primarily on research activities in collaboration with one or more faculty members. Student-faculty collaborations typically result in co-authored articles in top-tier journals and books, as well as presentations at national and international conferences.

    As students progress through the program, they identify their particular area or areas of interest and develop a line of research that culminates in their doctoral dissertation. Throughout their doctoral training, students are expected to maintain an active and productive research program and to proactively shape their education, learning the skills and seeking out the experiences they need to become independent scholars.

    The Social-Personality area has had a very successful track record of placing its graduates in top academic positions. Prominent alumni and their current departments include:

    Rodica Damian, 2013, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Yanine Hess, 2013, State University of New YorkPurchase College

    Anna Song, 2006, University of California, Merced

    Jessica Tracy, 2005, University of British Columbia

    Kali Trzesniewski, 2005, University of California, Davis

    Robin Edelstein, 2005, University of Michigan

    Christopher Fraley, 1999, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

    Michael Robinson, 1996, North Dakota State University

    Veronica Benet-Martinez, 1995, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

    Laura King, 1991, University of Missouri, Columbia
    Ken Sheldon, 1992, University of Missouri, Columbia

    Areas of Research Emphasis

    The Social-Personality area has several areas of emphasis that together provide graduate students in the program with the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research on a range of topics.

    Attitudes and Social Cognition

    The attitudes and social cognition approach is concerned with the interface of social cognition with overt behavior, affect, and motivation. Research within this approach addresses a broad range of topics within the general domains of intrapersonal, interpersonal, intragroup, and intergroup psychology and behavior. Faculty research interests in this area center on questions such as how basic attentional processes drive stereotyping; when and why are attitudes susceptible to individual and group level social influences; and how specific emotions influence information processing and persuasion. Faculty: Herek, Johnson, Ledgerwood, Moons, Pickett, Sherman.


    Faculty study the experience, expression, and perception of emotions with a specific focus on social emotions such as pride. The role of emotions in enhancing or impairing interpersonal and intergroup relationships is examined in various contexts. The implications of emotion for health including cardiovascular, endocrine and immune function are also being investigated. Faculty:  Emmons, Moons, Pickett, Robins, Shaver.

    Intergroup Processes: Stigma, Prejudice and Stereotyping

    Research in this area focuses on the social psychological underpinnings of stereotyping, prejudice, and stigma. These issues are examined from a number of perspectives, including sociocultural, motivational, and cognitive approaches. Topics covered include the origins of stereotyping and prejudice, the ways in which these constructs are maintained and perpetuated, the ways in which they may be changed, the extent to which their expression is intended and controllable, and the effects on those who are targets of stereotyping, prejudice, and stigma. Faculty: Herek, Ledgerwood, Pickett, Sherman.

    Personality Processes and Development

    The study of the interplay between personality and behavior, emotions, coping, health, and motivation is another research emphasis at UC Davis.  Topics being studied include personality and religion, goals and motivation, gratitude and well-being, personality and self esteem development, genius, creativity, and leadership, and attachment and close relationships. Faculty: Emmons, Robins, Shaver, Simonton

    Self, Social Identity, and Culture

    Faculty in the program study basic questions about the nature and operation of the self as well as how the self is shaped by individuals’ group memberships and the cultures in which they live. The research being conducted within the Social-Personality area covers a wide array of specific topics including self and emotion, self-perception, social identification processes, the achievement of group identity goals, and cultural variables that influence the processes and outcomes of psychosocial interventions. Faculty: Herek, Johnson, Ledgerwood, Moons, Pickett, Robins, Sherman, Zane

    Additional Program Highlights

    Additional highlights of the Social-Personality graduate program include:

    • Close collaboration between faculty and doctoral students
      • Students have the opportunity to work with multiple faculty members
      • Students individually tailor their training plans in relation to their interests
      • Interdisciplinary research is encouraged and boundaries between areas are fluid
    • Diverse and extensive training in research methods and statistics
    • Affiliations with several internationally renowned, interdisciplinary units
    • A weekly Social-Personality Brownbag and a Departmental Distinguished Speaker Series that feature national and international speakers in addition to showcasing the research of UC Davis graduate students and faculty.

    Financial Support

    The Psychology Department has a highly successful track record of providing funding to graduate students in the Psychology Department (in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and/or fellowships). Students who are in good standing typically receive funding for 5 years, which includes both academic and summer support. Many current students are supported by fellowships from NSF and NIH. Students receiving NSF fellowships are granted an additional year of funding from the UC Davis Graduate Division.  Four 3-year fellowships are available through an NIH-Funded multi-university training program in Affective Science (administered with Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UC San Francisco).


    Davis (pop. 65,000) is a university town that offers a wealth of intellectual, cultural, and recreational opportunities. It has beautiful parks, miles of bicycle paths, and a friendly neighborhood atmosphere. The University sponsors a number of cultural events, including world-class performances, distinguished speakers, free summer concerts, and a number of galleries and museums. The campus is 15 minutes from Sacramento (the state capital); 45 minutes from the Napa and Sonoma wine country; 60 minutes from Berkeley and San Francisco; and a couple of hours from the Pacific Ocean, Lake Tahoe, and Yosemite National Park.






    Core Faculty

              Robert Emmons's website
    ( Professor, Ph.D., University of Illinois, 1986)
    Personality and religion, goals and motivation, gratitude and well-being
              Gregory Herek's website
    ( Professor, Ph.D., University of California, Davis; 1983)
    Stigma and prejudice; lesbian/gay and sexual minority issues; AIDS stigma; antigay violence
              Alison Ledgerwood's website
    ( Assistant Professor, Ph.D., New York University, 2008)
    Attitudes, social influence, social cognition, intergroup conflict
              Wesley Moons's website
    ( Assistant Professor, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2008)
    Emotion and cognition, forecasting emotion, attitude change, biomarkers of emotion and stress
              Cynthia Pickett's website
    ( Associate Professor, Ph.D., Ohio State University, 1999)
    self and social identity, social cognition, social exclusion
              Richard Robins's website
    ( Professor, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1995)
    Personality and self esteem development, self and emotion, interpersonal perception
              Phillip Shaver's website
    ( Distinguished Professor, Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1970)
    Close relationships, attachment theory, emotion
              Jeff Sherman's website
    ( Professor, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1994)
    Social cognition; stereotyping and prejudice, impression formation, self-perception
              Dean Simonton's website
    ( Distinguished Professor, Ph.D., Harvard University, 1975)
    Genius, creativity, leadership, talent, esthetics, historiometrics
    (Emeriti)           Stanley Sue's website
    (Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 1971 )
    Cross-cultural and ethnic psychology; community psychology
              Nolan Zane's website
    ( Professor, Ph.D., University of Washington, 1987)
    Treatment processes and outcomes, ethnic minority psychology, addictive behaviors


    Related Faculty

    *           Jay Belsky's website
    (Professor, Ph.D., Cornell University, 1978)
    The effects of day care, parent-child relations during the infancy and early childhood years, the transition to parenthood, the etiology of child maltreatment and the evolutionary basis of parent and child functioning
              John Capitanio's website
    (Research Psychologist, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 1982)
    Primate social relationships and personality, psychoneuroimmunology
    *           Rand Conger's website
    ( Professor, Ph.D., University of Washington, 1976)
    Social and economic stress; Life course development; Family interaction processes; Family research methods
              Emilio Ferrer's website
    (Professor, Ph.D., University of Virginia, 2002)
    Longitudinal data analysis techniques, conceptualizing developmental processes, motivational development
    *           Amanda Guyer's website
    ( Assistant Professor, Ph.D., Yale University, 2003)
    Behavioral and neural function in typical and atypical development, developmental psychopathology, mood and anxiety disorders, behavioral inhibition, social-emotional cue processing, interplay between fear and reward response systems.
              Paul Hastings's website
    (Professor, Ph.D., University of Toronto, 1995)
    Socialization, emotion regulation, prosocial development, psychopathology
    *           Robert Huckfeldt's website
    (Professor, Ph.D., Washington University, 1977)
    Electoral politics, urban politics, political participation, political communication, and public opinion
              Kristin Lagattuta's website
    ( Associate Professor, Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1999)
    Children's knowledge about thinking and emotion, early psychological understanding
              Ross Thompson's website
    (Distinguished Professor, Ph.D., University of Michigan 1981)
    Early social and personality development; relational influences on emotion understanding, conscience development, emotional regulation, and self-understanding; developmental science and public policy
    *           Kali Trzesniewski's website
    (Associate Professor, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2003)
    Self-esteem and achievement processes and development

    *Faculty members affiliated with the Social-Personality area who have primary appointments in other departments.


    Visiting Faculty, Research Faculty, and Postdocs

    Jacqueline Chen           Jacqueline Chen's website
    (Postdoctoral Researcher, )