Research conducted by the members of SPSP helps shed light on many of society’s most pressing issues. This should be especially apparent given the many struggles and impactful events occurring in 2020 and the first few months of 2021.

With this in mind, SPSP’s Government Relations Committee (GRC) hosted the second “Why Social Science” submission contest in March and April 2021. This challenge asked early career and graduate student members to explain, in 100 words or less, how social psychological research can help address societal problems.

The committee received several submissions, which were evaluated blindly by committee members James Cornwell and John Paul Wilson, who selected their top 3 submissions. The winners—Kathryn Boucher (University of Indianapolis), Jonah Koetke (University of Pittsburgh), and Douglas Kievit (Florida State University)—will represent SPSP, along with committee Co-Chair Corey Cook, in meetings with Congress at COSSA’s annual Social Science Advocacy Day. 

The goals for Advocacy Day 2021 are to facilitate working relationships between Congress and the social scientists whose research provides understanding of the complex issues affected by legislation. “This event provides an opportunity to highlight the value of social psychology to those who fund our research and can use it to legislate for impactful changes” says Cook, who attended the event in 2019. 

The GRC also hopes that the contest submissions will encourage SPSP members to embrace concise, straightforward summaries as a way to advocate the value provided by our society and its members. 

Congratulations to Kathryn, Jonah, and Douglas, whose winning submissions are featured below! All submissions (including 2020 winners and submissions) can be viewed here

Image of teacher in classroomPsychologically-Attuned Teaching Practices Reduce Equity Gaps

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.

Multiracial hands togetherSocial Science Provides Insight into How to Heal Our Divided Nation

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.

Covid misinformationUsing Social Psychology to Reduce Online COVID-19 Misinformation

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.