Dr. Meltem Yucel is a postdoctoral fellow funded by the NIH (NRSA; F32) at Duke University's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, working with Drs. Tamar Kushnir and Mike Tomasello. She received her PhD in Developmental Psychology with a concentration in Quantitative Psychology at the University of Virginia in 2021. Her research seeks to explain how humans perceive rule violations, why they respond to rule violations, whether this changes with age, and how their interventions may serve evolutionary functions. Dr. Yucel is one of the recipients of this year's SAGE Emerging Scholar Awards.

Briefly summarize your current research program

Our societies and institutions cannot function without cooperation. My research seeks to explain the ontogeny of norms, a fundamental mechanism underpinning this cooperation. Norms are more than mere guidelines for behavior; they are the scaffolding upon which societies build their expectations and values. And even young minds understand, follow, and sometimes amend such norms. My work is guided by the following central question: how do individuals, both young and old, make sense of different norms and those who violate them?

My research program lies at the intersection of social and developmental psychology and affective science. I conduct research with children and adults, employing behavioral, eye-tracking, pupillometry, survey, and network analysis methods. I also take a longitudinal and cross-cultural approach to explain variability in children's normative development. By combining data from both children and adults, my work offers a more comprehensive understanding of human moral behavior and development across the lifespan, with the ultimate goal of improving policies that benefit individuals of all ages.

Why did you join SPSP?

I joined SPSP because of its vibrant community, access to resources, and research support. I stayed as an SPSP member because the sense of belonging within the SPSP community is truly remarkable. Over the years, I have fostered collaboration, mentorship, and friendships that extended beyond professional boundaries. This supportive network has been instrumental in my academic and personal growth.

I'm immensely thankful for the support I've received from SPSP in various forms, including awards such as the 2024 SAGE Emerging Scholar Award, grants such as the 2020 Climate Impact Small Research Grant and the 2021 Community Catalyst Grant, as well as through the International Committee's support for the International Moral Psychology (IMP) List and Seminar Series I have co-created. These opportunities have been instrumental in advancing both my research endeavors and my commitment to serving the field.

What is your most memorable SPSP Annual Convention experience?

I will never forget my first SPSP in 2018, from attending the SPlish SPlash Networking Reception and Student Social Night at the Georgia Aquarium (I'd love more aquarium receptions, please!) to celebrating the successful end of the conference with the Clore Lab by turning our posters into oddly shaped crowns.

Do you have any advice for individuals who wish to pursue a career in personality and social psychology?

If you're considering a career in personality and social psychology, I have some general advice that might be helpful. One valuable resource to explore is PsychResearchList, a platform I established in 2020 (https://www.psychresearchlist.com/). This site serves as a comprehensive library, offering information on paid internships, post-baccalaureate positions, virtual graduate school information sessions, and other resources helpful for navigating the graduate school application process. For instance, for students who are trying to decide which graduate programs to apply to, free databases like PsychResearchList can be invaluable goldmines. It provides a wealth of information, allowing undergraduate students and post-bacs to attend virtual graduate school information sessions and gain insights into various programs and departments. Additionally, PsychResearchList features listings of paid internships, providing interested students with opportunities to further enhance their skill sets while preparing for their future careers.

What career path would you have chosen if you had decided to not pursue psychology?

A zookeeper! Back in 2014, during my undergraduate studies, I joined Dr. Mike Tomasello's summer internship program at Max Planck Institute's Wolfgang Koehler Primate Research Center, where I helped conduct studies with the great apes. Aside from being one of the best summers of my life, this experience also opened my eyes to evolutionary and comparative psychology. If I couldn't become a psychologist, I would find a way to work at a zoo, taking care of the great apes.

Outside of psychology, how do you spend your free time?

I love walking, running, skiing, reading, and watching Formula 1.