Personality and social psychologists, with a wealth of expertise in human behavior and relationships, can play a key role in driving positive social change. SPSP's Government Relations Committee advocates for federal agencies and lawmakers to consider psychological research when drafting policies that address societal concerns.

In 2022, the Government Relations Committee asked student members of SPSP to write short summaries (100 words or less) of psychological research that focuses on pressing social issues. This vignette competition is an excellent opportunity to help future advocates learn how to communicate their work by constructing a concise and compelling message.

This year's competition received 37 submissions. Two members of the committee scored each submission (with all identifying information removed) based on the importance of the societal issue, its timeliness in terms of the current landscape, the submission's level of interestingness, its readability and quality of writing, and the extent to which it highlights social psychology research. The full committee then reviewed the eight highest-scoring submissions and selected their top three choices. This year's vote total included a tie, so we are proud to announce the four competition winners.

The four winners—Ellen Carroll, a PhD student at the University of Arizona, Jaweria Qaiser, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, Margaret Meyer, a PhD student at the University of Michigan, and Melissa Tier, a PhD candidate at Princeton University—will each receive a complimentary registration to SPSP's 2023 Annual Convention.

Check out the winning submissions below and join us in congratulating Ellen, Jaweria, Margaret, and Melissa. We look forward to seeing them, whether virtually or in person, during the Annual Convention!

Achieving Effective Organizational DEI Initiatives Through Social Psychological Insights

Ellen Carroll, University of Arizona

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are ubiquitous in organizations. Despite their popularity, however, DEI initiatives often backfire. Social psychologists have demonstrated that majority group members often react to DEI initiatives with feelings of threat and hostility. These negative reactions can undermine organizations' DEI goals, as majority group members may refuse to participate in egalitarian efforts and/or project their hostility onto colleagues viewed as the beneficiaries of DEI initiatives. By highlighting the shortcomings of contemporary DEI practices, social psychologists pave the way for data-driven approaches to amending DEI initiatives that will result in stronger, more effective organizational policies and practices.

A Pandemic of Disconnect: Using Social Psychology to Reconnect

Jaweria Qaiser, University of Toronto

During the COVID-19 pandemic, physical distancing measures unintentionally led to feelings of social isolation. These feelings persist even today, at a time when we need each other more than ever. Research in social psychology reveals that feeling compassion towards the self, or others, can reduce our feelings of disconnect, anxiety, depression, and distress. Feeling self-compassionate allows us to better regulate our emotions, while feeling compassion for others cultivates relationships and buffers against psychological distress. Luckily, today, there are several established, research-based interventions that promote feelings of compassion and can help curb the impending catastrophe of social disconnect.

Social Psychologists Shed Light on Police Bias and Offer Solutions

Margaret Meyer, University of Michigan

Despite rising media coverage and surging cries for police reform, police officers engage in acts of brutality against Black and Brown community members. Social psychologists investigate racially biased policing from a multitude of angles including shooter bias, investigatory stops, officer-citizen interactions, false confessions, jury bias, and wrongful convictions. Utilizing novel data sources, including body-worn cameras and national police stops databases, psychologists find overwhelming evidence of racial bias across the timespan of a police investigation. Informed by theories from Judgment and Decision Making, mathematical models can disentangle normative and biased police behavior, allowing for targeted interventions that address fundamental processes.

Social Psychology Insights for Environmentally Just Climate Adaptation

Melissa Tier, Princeton University

On par with the pursuit of rapid global de-carbonization is the need to expand climate adaptation efforts, owing to the confluence of historical and ongoing environmental injustices, current experience with climate-induced disasters, and locked-in effects of past emissions. Social psychological concepts can help to design more just and equitable climate adaptation solutions by demonstrating key interactions between individual-scale (e.g., bounded cognitive processes), community-scale (e.g., social norms), and institutional-scale (e.g., complex systems models) risk perceptions and decision-making. The insights are critically important for meeting the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.