Graduate Training in Social Psychology


Social Psychology at Rutgers/Newark emphasizes both basic and applied social psychology; we are interested in discovery, theory building, and addressing social issues.  Students work closely with faculty on topics ranging from attachment styles and criminality; implicit self-esteem and self-stereotyping; the efficacy of different forms of negotiation styles; and how social support affects perception of hills, heights, and spiders, and many other topics.
These varied interests introduce students to a commensurate range of research skills, including elaborate experimental designs, field studies, interviewing and focus groups, survey designs, and neuro-imaging.   Students are quickly involved in on-going research, and often begin presenting research at conferences and co-authoring papers by their second year of training.
Students are often introduced to other units on campus (such as the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice) and to faculty at other universities, due to extensive collaborations conducted by the social psychology faculty.  Graduate students also have access to training through the Rutgers Neuroimaging Center, funded cooperatively by Rutgers and the National Science Foundation.
The Social area is one of four total areas of training emphasis in the department, along with Neuroscience, Perception/Cognition, and Developmental psychology. Graduate students in our department receive broadly-based training across these areas through coursework and mentored research experiences.  Graduate students in the Department of psychology typically receive funding for five years of study, which includes tuition waivers and stipends through a mix of fellowships and assistantships. For more information about applying to our graduate program overall, please consult Admissions & Requirements.
The Social area faculty include Harold Siegel, Professor and Department Chair, Kent Harber, Associate Professor, Kenneth Kressel, Professor, and Luis Rivera, Assistant Professor. 

Harold I. Siegel, Professor & Chair of Psychology (Ph.D., Rutgers).  Research areas: attachment, adult attachment, attachment security/insecurity.  According to Attachment Theory, we are all capable of forming a strong attachment to our primary caregiver(s).  However, the nature of our attachment, secure or insecure, depends in large part on how we were raised by our attachment figure(s).  My research has focused on determining the role of attachment on a variety of behaviors including jury decision making, somatization, college student success, eating behavior, romantic relationships, and sexual offending.  In addition, we have used attachment as a pedagogical intervention to modify avoidant and ambivalent behaviors.



Kent D. Harber, Associate Professor of Psychology (Ph.D., Stanford).  Research areas: psychosocial resources; interracial feedback; communication and coping.  I study how peoples’ motives, emotions, and needs affect their perceptions, judgments, and behaviors. My Resources and Perception Model research shows that for people lacking social support, self-worth or other resources,  hills appear steeper, heights higher, tarantulas closer, and baby cries more extreme..  Resources also affect the Positive Feedback Bias, wherein whites provide more lenient feedback to minorities than to fellow whites.  The positive bias is greater among whites whose self-image has been threatened or who lack social support.  My Emotional Broadcaster Theory shows that the internal need to disclose major events turns people into news broadcasters, whose stories alert and inform others.  


Kenneth Kressel, Professor of Psychology (Ph.D., Columbia).  My research deals with the nature and management of social conflict, with a particular focus on the use of mediation as a method for resolving highly polarized conflicts. In my lab we have been primarily focused on professional conflict mediators. I have studied divorce mediators,  health care professionals with a reputation as skilled conflict resolvers, and mediator-ombudsmen at the National Institutes of Health. In my most recent investigation, my students and I brought professional mediators into the laboratory and observed them mediating a simulated conflict. We are learning that even in a relatively low level conflict mediators have very different approaches and that their conscious models of practice are often contradicted in significant ways by their implicit thinking and behavior. My colleagues and I are currently developing methods of helping mediators become more effective by becoming aware of their tacit models of practice.


Luis M. Rivera, Assistant Professor of Psychology (Ph.D., Massachusetts).  Research areas: implicit social cognition, stereotyped attitudes, self-concept, health.  My research examines the implicit social cognitive processes (mechanisms that lie outside of conscious awareness, intention, or control) that influence stereotyped attitudes and the self-concept.  With respect to stereotyped attitudes, I investigate the conditions under which the motivation to maintain one’s self- versus group-image leads to differential effects on prejudice; and the extent to which implicit prejudice leads to subtle and overt discriminatory behavioral actions.  With respect to the self-concept, I examine the implicit social cognitive processes that underlie the effect of cultural stereotypes on stigmatized individuals’ self-concept and identity; and how such processes in turn affect their health.