Social and Personality Psychology

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

Program Focus

Research Orientation

Brain Silhouette

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 Personality Psychology at UCDavis is to produce researchers and teachers of the highest caliber.

Areas of Research Emphasis

Magnifying Glass

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, 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, 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: Bleidorn, Emmons, Robins,Shaver, Simonton, Vazire•

Self, Social Identity and Culture

Faculty in the program study basic questions about the nature and operation ofthe 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, Pickett, Robins, Sherman, Vazire, Zane.

Research/Training Opportunities

Child at table

Social-Personality provides diverse and extensive training in research methods and statistic, including advanced statistical training, experimental methods, survey and questionnaire methods, neuroscience methods, and longitudinal methods. 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 UC Davis

Student on the quad in spring

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.