Social and Personality Psychology

The UC Davis Department of Psychology contains five major "areas": Developmental, Perception-Cognition, Biological Psychology, Quantitative and Social-Personality. Boundaries between the areas are fluid, and students are encouraged to take seminars in all five.

Social-personality students examine the affective, cognitive, socio-cultural, biological, and developmental underpinnings of human behavior, using a variety of methodological strategies. These methods range from archival and field-observational methods to computerized reaction-time tasks and neuroscientific techniques.

  • Research Orientation
  • Social-personality offers close collaboration between faculty and doctoral students. Students individually tailor their training plans in relation to their interests and have the opportunity to work with multiple faculty members. The goal of graduate training in Social and Personality Psychology at UC Davis is to produce researchers and teachers of the highest caliber.
  • Areas of Research Emphasis
  • Attitudes and Social Cognition
    The attitudes and social cognition approach is concerned with understanding the basic processes and principles that characterize human social perception, evaluation, motivation, cognition, and action. 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; basic principles governing negativity and positivity biases; how people learn about their own likes and dislikes; and cognitive processes underlying perspective taking and mental-state reasoning. 

    Close Relationships and Interpersonal Perception
    Faculty study the interpersonal processes that characterize the way people form impressions of others, initiate and maintain close relationships, and interact in family contexts. Ongoing research programs focus on questions like: Can people articulate which attributes appeal to them in an ideal partner? To what extent is the outcome of a romantic relationship predictable ahead of time? How do parent-child relationships influence socio-emotional development? What are the differences between how people see themselves and how close others see them? 

    Faculty study the experience, expression, regulation, and perception of emotions with a specific focus on social emotions such as pride and gratitude. The role of emotions in enhancing or impairing psychological functioning and interpersonal and intergroup relationships is examined in various contexts. 

    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. 

    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 traits, goals and motivation, within-person fluctuations, well-being, assessment, psychopathology, and lifespan development. 
  • Research Training Opportunities
  • Social-Personality provides diverse and extensive training in research methods and statistics, including advanced statistical training, experimental methods, survey and questionnaire methods, longitudinal and dyadic methods, behavioral observation, and meta-science. The program also offers affiliations with several internationally renowned, interdisciplinary units including the Center for Mind and Brain, the Center for Neuroscience, the California Regional Primate Center and the MIND (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute.

  • Why UCDavis
  • The city of Davis and the surrounding areas offer rich intellectual, cultural, and recreational opportunities. UC Davis sponsors a number of cultural events, including world-class performances, distinguished speakers, free summer concerts, and innovative exhibits at galleries and museums. The campus is located about 15 miles from Sacramento (the state capital), roughly 50 miles from the beautiful Napa and Sonoma valleys (wine country), 72 miles from the cosmopolitan Bay Area (Berkeley and San Francisco), and about 150 miles from such spectacular resort and wilderness areas as Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. Northern California, including Davis, is known for its outstanding quality of life.