Advocacy and Policy
Advocacy and Policy
The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) advocates for research among the various legislative and executive agencies. In addition, the SPSP Government Relations Committee (GRC) monitors federal legislation affecting science, advocates for funding for social and personality psychology, and collaborates with other social science organizations to do the same.
Advocating on Behalf of Social Psychology
The GRC regularly holds the “Why Social Science” contest—challenging early career and graduate student members to explain, in 100 words or less, how social psychological research can help address societal problems. Read the submissions from our most recent contest, including the three winning entries.
Bringing Social Psychology to the Policymakers
Social Science Advocacy Day - SPSP members are welcome to attend the Consortium of Social Science Association (COSSA) Advocacy Day to ensure social and personality psychologists voices are heard by policymakers.
Strong government policy requires the input of researchers who can effectively communicate their science to legislators.
Advocacy Priority Areas
Mitigating the effects of environmental harm, including but not limited to climate change, over-reliance on plastics, and ecologically unsustainable resource use, will require major behavioral shifts at the individual and societal level. Personality and social psychologists should play a crucial role in ensuring that legislation and policies designed to change people’s environmental impact is evidence-based, consistent with known mechanisms of social cognition and behavior (e.g., social norms, self-regulation, motivation), and positioned to drive meaningful, lasting change.
Systemic racism and injustice have been at the center of the systems governing the United States since its inception, and are pervasive in many other nations and cultures as well. Findings central to personality and social psychology research document cognitive, social, and situational mechanisms by which inequities are perpetuated (e.g., implicit bias, attribution biases, intergroup anxiety, stereotype threat). Social and personality psychology research also provides evidence regarding intervention approaches that are likely to advance DEI goals and positive intergroup relationships – as well as those that are not. These findings should inform policy-making designed to support people who have historically been marginalized and mistreated.
Political and ideological polarization are growing rapidly, both within the U.S. and in other regions. Personality and social psychologists can provide evidence regarding mechanisms promoting polarization, including geographical sorting based on ideology, as well as a more general withdrawal from non-ideological institutions. Polarization has also been exacerbated by anonymous, fragmented, and targeted digital environments (e.g., social media, YouTube) in which users are deliberately guided toward content that reinforces existing preference and beliefs, and hostility can be expressed without the social consequences that typically characterize real-life interaction and communication in ongoing relationships. Findings from personality and social psychology on intergroup attitudes and interactions can help policy-makers understand the processes behind the spread of polarization, and guide us toward solutions that help bridge the divide between those who disagree.
The impact of behavior on physical health, and power of preventive measures in reducing the burden of disease, are increasingly recognized by policy-makers. From global health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic to the ongoing need to promote healthy diet, exercise, and other preventive measures, public health policy aims to encourage behavior most conducive to physical well-being. Social and personality psychology offers great expertise regarding the communication and environmental intervention approaches that are most likely to be efficacious in promoting desired behavior change (e.g., persuasion, normative and other social influence, environmental “nudging,” adaptation to cultural context). Communicating these findings and their implications to public health policy-makers in a clear and actionable way, and helping to guide development of efficacious interventions, is an important policy area for SPSP.
Researchers in personality and social psychology, especially those within the affective science domain, have developed a strong evidence base regarding the cognitive, behavioral, and environmental factors that facilitate psychological health and well-being, at both the individual and group/community levels. Personality and social psychologists can also investigate key factors that affect well-being, including satisfaction and meaning in life, as well as social capital and pro-social behavior. This work should be at the forefront of growing efforts to promote widespread well-being as a societal aim on par with economic growth.
The explosive expansion and fragmentation of the media environment, as well as growing distrust of institutions in the U.S. and beyond, has led to increasing spread of disinformation. Evidence from social and personality psychology addresses fundamental social cognitive mechanisms by which disinformation takes root (e.g., confirmation bias, identity-related processes); and research on social influence, in particular, offers many lessons as to communication techniques that are and are not likely to be effective at combating the spread of disinformation.
Congress will be preparing legislation over the coming months that will determine funding for federal science and data agencies for next year (FY 2023). Now is the time to tell them to fight for social and behavioral science funding. Learn how COSSA can connect you with your member of Congress today.
Advocacy and Policy
Kathryn Boucher, University of Indianapolis
Equity gaps in retention and graduation rates occur for first generation college students, students of color, and students with high financial stress. Social psychological research demonstrates that how students experience the classroom environment relates to their academic performance and persistence. When faculty utilize teaching practices that communicate their belief that all students can succeed and that they care about students’ belonging, students feel supported, trust their instructors, and are not worried about being treated as a stereotype. Attenuating equity gaps in students’ experiences can help more students continue through to graduation.
Douglas Kievit, Florida State University
Current levels of political intolerance and incivility in our society prevent us from working together to overcome our common challenges, like those posed by the ongoing pandemic and current economic crisis. Research in social and political psychology reveals how to foster greater cooperation between people who disagree politically. For example, reflecting on one’s own positive qualities/valued skills (i.e., self-affirmation) increases open-mindedness and fosters greater compromise with those on the other side of the aisle. Moreover, simply interacting with someone who holds different political opinions can correct misperceptions of how extreme the opposing side’s views are and illuminate areas of agreement.
Jonah Koetke, University of Pittsburgh
Over the last year, online misinformation about COVID-19 has increased at alarming rates, even causing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to label this an “infodemic.” Misinformation about the virus can lead to distrust of medical advice, and ultimately more infections. Social Psychologists work to prevent COVID-19 misinformation by (1) understanding the psychological antecedents to believing, sharing, and fact checking misinformation, and (2) developing effective interventions to reduce reliance on misinformation. Over the last year, there have been several published papers with research-based explanations, interventions, and suggestions of how to prevent this dangerous misinformation from spreading.
Adam Pearson, Pomona College
To a psychologist, climate change looks as if it was designed to be ignored: It is a vast, slow-moving problem, with no single villain, affecting communities and ecosystems around the globe. As each new round of climate negotiations reveals, climate change is also profoundly social: how people understand and engage with the issue is powerfully influenced by how others respond to the problem. From leveraging social norms and climate-friendly defaults, to combating misinformation and bridging social and political divides, social and personality psychologists are uniquely positioned to help society address one of the defining global issues of our time.
Felipe Vilanova, Pontificial Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul
Psychology has shown that corruption happens in a slippery-slope manner and is significantly predicted by institutional competition. Hence, curbing ethically questionable administrative behaviors and providing institutional policies that do not focus on competition are effective ways to reduce corruption either in the public or private sphere. Investment of federal government in psychological science could thus help to promote interventions that significantly reduce corruption and go beyond legal punishments.
David Choi, Harvard University Extension School
"Uncertainty lies ahead.
Social scientists, unite!
Shine truth and wisdom!"
Zena Toh, University at Buffalo
Compassion is lacking in our world. The field of social science has been studying ways to cultivate kindness and compassion towards others, particularly when we use the Internet. Research conducted shows that eliciting compassion can prevent sharing of content that are harmful towards others, and make people share wholesome content instead. From this, intervention program targeted at adolescents and young children have been curated to prevent cyberbullying tendencies.
Nick Byrd, Stevens Institute of Technology
Some leaders compared COVID19 to flu in 2020 despite public health officials explaining that COVID19 is caused by a different virus, spreads more easily, has a longer period of contagion, causes more serious illness, and was not yet preventable via vaccination (CDC, 2020; Piroth et al., 2020). Some worry that these flu comparisons decreased adoption of public health recommendations (e.g., mask-wearing) and thereby increased COVID19 deaths (Brooks, 2020). Multiple pre-registered experiments on about 1000 adults in the US confirmed this compliance-reducing effect of flu comparisons (Byrd & Białek, 2021), demonstrating how social science can quantify life-or-death consequences of ill-conceived rhetoric.
Lindsay Wing, Avila University
There is a well-established framework outlining the various types of race-based microaggressions and the harm they cause. This framework has not been widely applied to larger-bodied individuals. Doing so through a social psychology lens would allow researchers to both bring this issue to the attention of the general public and policy makers. This could potentially help reduce the occurrence of social microaggressions (e.g., bullying, talking about diets, victim blaming), and reduce the instance of microaggressions that occur in one’s environment (e.g., chairs not large enough, exam tables not accommodating one’s weight, no clothing sizes available in stores).
Advocacy and Policy
For more information on getting involved with SPSP Advocacy Activities, contact any member of the Government Relations Committee.
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“Why Social Science?” Blog - COSSA's blog focuses on the impact of social science research on the world by answering "Why Social Science?" Find out "why" today.