Intergroup Relations: Majority and minority perspectives

Instructors: Sapna Cheryan, Maureen Craig

This class will examine prejudice, identity, stereotyping, and discrimination from both minority and majority group member perspectives. Drawing on theories of intergroup relations from social psychology and related fields (e.g., sociology, political science), we explore both minority-majority (e.g., Black-White) and minority-minority (e.g., Black-Latino) relations. We also consider how processes associated with social identity manifest at various levels of society (intrapersonal, interpersonal, intergroup, and structural) and examine interventions working at these different levels to improve intergroup relations.

From the majority perspective, sample topics include the paradox of diversity (i.e., threat and contact), majority group identity, allyship, privilege, the impact of norms and institutions, and different forms of prejudice and discrimination. From the minority perspective, topics may include differential concerns in intergroup interactions, intra-minority relations, social identity threats, identification, collective action, health, concealability and disclosure, and different experiences of prejudice and discrimination. We will also discuss current open questions and challenges that highlight important avenues for future research.

Person-Environment Fit: Personality-environment transactions through life

Instructors: Jaap Denissen, Antonio Terracciano

Does our personality predict what kind of choices we make in life, and do these choices in turn influence how we develop as a person? This basic question is what constitutes personality-environment transactions through life. In reviewing the field, we focus on 3 subquestions. First, how stable are traits and environments within each life stage and across the lifespan? Second, to what extent do traits and environments affect each other? Third, what are the causes and conditions of stability and change? We will review major theoretical perspectives (e.g., lifespan psychology) and discuss relevant empirical studies, including prospective research on person-environment transactions (e.g., on life events and personality change). We will highlight important limitations of this work and develop new research ideas. Finally, we will introduce different types of longitudinal designs and statistical modeling approaches including hands-on examples using representative longitudinal data.

Political Psychology: Social and Individual Difference Perspectives

Instructors: Chris Dawes, Eric Knowles

What role do social identities—such as race, religion, and gender—play in people’s political attitudes and behaviors? What factors are driving the rise of xenophobia and nationalism in American and European politics? Why do some people vote while others stay home? This course will explore these and other important topics in political psychology. We will seek to understand how people’s political opinions and electoral behaviors are shaped by contextual factors (e.g., economic conditions and large-scale demographic changes), individual differences (e.g., authoritarianism and political ideology), and interactions between them. Along the way, we will become familiar with new developments in political psychology, including political neuroscience, genopolitics, and the study of physiological differences.

Social Psychology in the Wild: Behavioral Science to Advance Psychological Theory and Public Policy

Instructors: Crystal Hall, Leaf Van Boven

In recent years, there has been growing interest in using insights from psychology to generate and improve evidence-based policy at all levels of government. In the United States, this was catalyzed, in part, by the work of federal agencies that provided guidance to federal agencies to consider behavioral science as a tool for policy design and implementation. The cornerstone of these efforts has been evidence built through rigorous field studies in the psychological sciences.

We will explore the ever-expanding world of field research in social psychology. There will be three primary objectives: (1) review existing literature of behavioral field interventions, (2) learn general principles and best practices on conducting this type of research, (3) discuss benefits to theory and broader impacts for public policy. Students will develop research ideas over the length of the course, with focus on a sound foundation in theory and realistic consideration of practical constraints.

Moral Psychology: Individuals, groups and organizations

Instructors: Paul Bloom, Azim Shariff

This course will provide a high-level introduction to the modern science of how we make moral decisions—as children, as adults and as groups. We’ll initially introduce basic groundwork for moral psychology, but devote most of the course to exploring various controversies in the field, exploring where insights from moral psychology are relevant to matters of practical importance. Possible topics include the role of empathy in moral judgment, developing intuitions about inequality and unfairness, the influence of religion on altruism; we will discuss animal rights, self-driving cars, young children, and sexbots; we will draw on psychological, philosophy, and other disciplines. We’ll look to our moral origins in our evolutionary past and speculate on the moral challenges of the near future.