Social psychology

Social psychology is a broad field that includes the study of individuals' cognitions, feelings, and behaviours in self-reflection and interaction with others.

The department's program in social psychology includes faculty who conduct research at a broad range of levels of analysis (i.e., individual, interpersonal, intragroup, intergroup, and societal levels), giving students the opportunity to master multiple perspectives on human behaviour.

Students are expected to seek a PhD once they complete an MSc and, in general, to work in a topic area that is compatible with the expertise of at least one faculty member (see their web pages).

For further information about applying (including on-line application forms), visit the Department's graduate admissions page.

Core faculty

Frederick Grouzet, Ph.D., Associate Professor

  • Motivation, goals and self-regulation
  • Self-determination theory
  • self and identity
  • Well-being and flourishing
  • Ecological well-being and sustainability
  • Research Methods and Structural Equation Modeling

 Kelci Harris, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

  • Friendship
  • Personality and Personality Development
  • Intergroup Relationships
  • Life Transitions​
  • Latent Variable Analysis
  • Multilevel Modeling

John K. Sakaluk, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

  • Close Relationships and Sexuality
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Latent Variable Analysis
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Methodology and Metascience

Danu Stinson, Ph.D., Associate Professor

  • Self-Esteem
  • Interpersonal Relationships
  • Health
  • Research Methods


Emeritus faculty

Janet Bavelas, Ph.D., Professor

  • face-to-face dialogue
  • microanalysis of communication
  • psychotherapy and medical interactions
  • research methods

Affiliated faculty

(Do not necessarily supervise students in the Social Psychology Graduate program; please contact them before applying)

Catherine Costigan, Associate Professor (Clinical Psychology)

  • Parenting
  • Immigration and acculturation
  • Immigrant families
  • Culture and parent-adolescent relationships

Marion Ehrenberg, Associate Professor (Clinical Psychology)

  • Familial adjustment to separation
  • Expression of depression in adolescence

Robert Gifford, Professor (Environmental Psychology)

Bonnie J. Leadbeater, Professor (Lifespan Psychology)

  • Developmental psychopathology
  • Early social emotional development
  • Gender differences in adolescence

Marsha Runtz, Associate Professor (Clinical Psychology)

  • Child abuse and family violence

Facilities and resources

The department has a Social Interaction Lab that is equipped with a control room, audiovisual and video recording equipment, and group testing facilities. Individual faculty members also have computer-equipped laboratory space for interviews and small-group studies, plus equipment for conducting reaction-time studies and assessment of neuroendocrine responses (i.e., salivary cortisol testing). Facilities are also available for conducting web-based survey research.

Graduate students also have the opportunity to participate in regular area discussion meetings (e.g., to present and receive feedback on their research), and we have a speaker series in which experts are invited to speak to our program area.

Masters degree program

18 units (15 units for students with an undergraduate Honours degree) (where 1.5 units is awarded for a course that meets for 3 hours per week for a 13-week term), including these required courses:

Plus 1.5 units of elective courses:

* If offered during the first or second year of student's master's training.

PhD program

30 units are required, including:

* If not taken during student's Master's training.

Graduate students

Boc, Morgan: MSc Social Psychology Program (supervisor: Leadbeater/Stinson)

  • Self-regulation and self-control
  • Behavioural addiction
  • Resilience and posttraumatic growth
  • Intrinsic and extrinsic goals

Fisher, Alexandra: PhD Social Psychology Program (supervisors: Dr. John Sakaluk & Dr. Danu Stinson) 

  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Gender and gender-based backlash
  • Identity, stigma, and well-being
  • Statistical methods

He, Theresa: MSc Social Psychology Program (Supervisor: Dr. Stinson)

  • Self-esteem
  • Interpersonal relationships

Huang, Eric: PhD Social Psychology Program (supervisor: Dr. Stinson)

  • Self-esteem
  • Interpersonal relationships

Logan, Shelby: MSc Social Psychology Program (supervisor: Dr. Grouzet)

  • Intrinsic vs. extrinsic goals
  • Human-nature relations
  • Experimental existential psychology
  • Well-being

Maillet, Myles: PhD Social Psychology Program (supervisor: Dr. Grouzet)

  • Eating behaviours
  • Self-regulation
  • Mindfulness & well-being

Reddoch, Lisa: PhD Social Psychology Program (supervisor: Dr. Stinson)

  • Self-esteem
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Sociometer theory

Spence, Tom: MSc Social Psychology Program (supervisor: Dr. Grouzet)

  • Intrinsic vs. extrinsic goals
  • Hypo-egoic self
  • Human-nature relations
  • Materialism
  • Mindfulness

Abrami, Jessica
(MSc; supervisor: Grouzet)

Bezeau, Colleen
(PhD; supervisor: Grouzet)

Carey, Tyler
(PhD; supervisor: Grouzet)

Durocher, Lisa
(MSc; supervisor: Grouzet)

Gibson, Taylor
(MSc; supervisor: Grouzet)

Healing, Sara
(MSc; supervisor: Bavelas)

Joordens, Chantele:
(MSc; supervisor: Stinson)

Lee, Elliott
(PhD; supervisor: Grouzet)

Rush, Jonathan
(MSc; supervisor: Grouzet)

Tomori, Christine
(MSc; supervisor: Bavelas)

Werner, Kaitlyn
(MSc; supervisor: Grouzet)

The Social Seminar Series

The Social Seminar Series is a series of presentations (or discussions) of current research by faculty, students, visiting scholars, and guests of the faculty.

Students, graduates, and members of the public are welcome to attend.

The Social Seminar Series is held in the Reading Room, Second Floor, Cornett Building (COR-A228) (unless indicated otherwise), on Tuesdays between 2:30pm and 4:00pm.

Coordinator: Frederick Grouzet

Past (2010)

February 19, 2010
Speaker: Michael Ross (U Waterloo)
Presentation Title: Coping with Aging Memory

March 25th, 2010
Speaker: Rod Lindsay (Queens University)
Presentation Title: VLSSL: Very Large Sequential-Simultaneous Lineups

Abstract: Wrongful convictions based on erroneous eyewitness identification remain a problem. One way to reduce false identifications is to dramatically increase lineup size (to 100 or more). I will discuss the history of the eyewitness identification area which led me to pursue this approach, pilot work on the proposed method, and some possible approaches that we will test soon.

Past (2008)

January 8th, 2008

Speaker: Dr. Bob Gifford (UVic), with Leila Scannell, Christine Kormos, and 23 other international authors
Presentation Title: "Problem? What Problem? The Problem is Later, and Over There:" Temporal Pessimism and Spatial Optimism in Environmental Assessments

Abstract: The assessments of the current and expected future state of the environment by 3130 community respondents in 18 countries were investigated at the local, national, and global spatial levels. These assessments were compared to a ranking of each country's environmental quality by an expert panel. Temporal pessimism (“things will get worse”) characterized the assessments at all three spatial levels. Spatial optimism bias (“things are better here than there”) occurred in the assessments of current environmental conditions in 15 of 18 countries, but not in the assessments of the future. All countries except one exhibited temporal pessimism, but significant differences between them were common (guess who was most and least pessimistic?). Evaluations of current environmental conditions also differed by country. Aside from the value of understanding global trends in environmental assessments, the results have important implications for environmental policy and risk management strategies.

January 22nd, 2008
Co-Sponsorized by the Youth & Society Center

Speaker: Dr. Sherry L. Beaumont (UNBC)
Presentation Title: Identity, Positive Growth, and Personal Wisdom During Early Adulthood

Abstract: Following from the seminal work of Erikson on psychosocial development, considerable research has focused on the role of identity in the psychological adjustment of adolescents and young adults. Much of this research examines the detrimental impact of not having a clear or committed sense of identity on mental health outcomes (e.g., low self-esteem and depression). In contrast, my research focuses on the role of identity processing for positive well-being, with a focus on individual differences in how adults process identity-related issues and questions. This presentation will summarize research findings on the positive impact of an open, explorative and self-reflective form of identity processing on positive growth and personal wisdom during late adolescence and early adulthood.

February 26th, 2008

Speaker: Prof. Peter Suedfeld (UBC)
Presentation Title: Let Us Now Praise Human Strength: Resilience and Growth from the Inferno to the Starry Skies

Abstract: Both the mass media and many professionals believe that extremely challenging and stressful events not only cause immediate psychological damage but also have destructive long-term effects. Recent research has shown that while this can be true, there is another side to the story: the side of resilience, salutogenesis, post-traumatic growth, and positive psychology. The talk will present research results on people who have experienced the worst kinds of trauma (survivors of the Nazi Holocaust) and those who have faced some of the most unusual stressors every encountered by human beings (astronauts and cosmonauts), and will explore both how they coped with those experiences and their long-term adaptation since then.

FRIDAY March 16th, 2008

Speaker: Dr. Mark Schaller (UBC)
Presentation Title: Infectious Disease, Adaptive Cognition, and the Creation of Culture

Abstract: The assessments of the current and expected future state of the environment by 3130 community Infectious diseases have posed a problem to human (and pre-human) populations for a very long time. Recent research proceeding from this fact has revealed many novel psychological phenomena pertaining to prejudice, person perception, and other aspects of social cognition. This line of inquiry also has additional implications that help us to understand the origins of culture, and the existance of many contemporary cross-cultural differences.

March 18th, 2008

Speaker: Dr. Saffron O'Neill (University of East Anglia, UK)
Presentation Title: An Iconic Approach to Communicating Climate Change

Abstract: Dr. Saffron O'Neill will present results from her PhD research, where she explored new methods of climate change communication using an interdisciplinary framework. An 'iconic' approach was developed, designed to harness the emotive and visual power of icons with a rigorous scientific analysis of possible changes under a different climate future. The iconic approach increases emotional and cognitive engagament with climate change, encouraging attitudinal change towards mitigative and adaptive action.

April 1st, 2008

Speaker: Dr. Johanna Wolf (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, UK)
Presentation Title: Cognitive and Behavioural Barriers to Adapting to Climate Change

Abstract: Heat waves are among the projected future health impacts of climate change in Europe. Epidemiological research suggests that the elderly (75+ years of age) are most vulnerable to the effects of heat waves. Surprisingly few studies consider individuals' perceptions of vulnerability to extreme heat and how these perceptions might affect behaviour. This research draws on interviews with elderly people and their carers in two locations in the UK. It shows that individuals' perceptions of vulnerability to the effects of heat waves constitute significant obstacles to achieving adaptation.

April 8th, 2008

Speaker: Dr. Fabio Iglesias (Brazil)
Presentation Title: Waiting at the crossroads of Brazilian social psychology: A multi-method approach to queuing behavior

Past (2007)

January 9th, 2007

Speaker: Dr. Brandon M. Wagar (UVic)
Presentation Title: Culture and the Self: An Analysis of the Personal and Collective Self in Long-term Memory

February 13th, 2007

Speaker: Dr. Steven Heine (UBC)
Presentation Title: Meaning Maintenance Model: The Case of the Transmogrifying Experimenter

February 27th, 2007

Speaker: Dr. Mike Ross (U. of Waterloo)
Presentation Title: The Psychology of Apology

March 13th, 2007

Speaker: Dr. Andrea Hussong (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Presentation Title: Models of Adolescent Alcohol Use and Abuse: A Focus on Self-Medication

Abstract: Dr. Andrea Hussong is an Associate Professor in the clinical psychology program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She will present her work on the social influences impacting adolescent and young adult substance use, highlighting the use of alcohol and drugs as a means of self-medication. Relevant findings are based on longitudinal studies of community-based samples of children of alcoholic parents and matched controls assessed collectively from ages 2 to 33 as well as intensive experience sampling studies examining the daily covariation of negative mood and substance use in college students and youth transitioning to high school.

March 27th, 2007

Speaker: Dr. Hildy Ross (U. of Waterloo)
Presentation Title: Parent Intervention in Sibling Conflict: From Adjudication to Mediation

Abstract: Many parents regard their children's fighting as among the most disruptive problems in their families. In the face of this, experts often advise parents to not intervene, and let the children resolve their differences on their own. In this way, it is argued, children can acquire the conflict management skills that will allow them to resolve divisive issues productively both within and outside of their families. We disagree. Based on research over the past 20 years we provide evidence that parent intervention can assist young children in resolving differences with one another. I will present research detailing the dynamics of sibling conflict, how parents of young children react to their children's fighting, and how parents can do more to help their children acquire conflict-resolution skills.

April 10th, 2007

Speaker: Dr. Key Sun (Central Washington University)
Presentation Title: Taoist Psychology: A New Social-Cognitive Model for Understanding and Overcoming Interpersonal and Mental Conflicts

Abstract: Taoist psychology is derived from Taoist philosophy, which has had a profound impact on the Eastern sciences, literature, arts, traditional Chinese medicine, Tai Chi, and Western psychologists like Carl G. Jung. This presentation will give a review of the essence of Taoist psychology and show how the Taoist model of unity of opposites can shed new light on the issues of mental conflicts (depression and anxiety), mind, awareness and interpersonal communications.

April 24th, 2007

Speaker: Dr. Catherine Costigan (UVic)
Presentation Title: Negotiating Acculturation in a Family Context: The Experience of Immigrant Chinese Families

Abstract: Immigrants to Canada face numerous psychological challenges and opportunities. This presentation will provide a general overview of these issues, followed by a detailed examination of the challenges associated with the acculturation process. Following migration, individuals must find a balance between retaining features of their ethnic culture and adopting features of the new culture. Members of the same family may work through these acculturative issues at different rates, resulting in acculturation differences. Drawing on data from a study of immigrant Chinese families, this presentation will examine the extensiveness of parent-child acculturation differences, and evaluate whether the magnitude of acculturation differences is associated with levels of individual and family well-being.

November 6th, 2007

Moderator: Dr. Frederick Grouzet (UVic)
Discussion Session: Social Psychology at UVic

November 27th, 2007

Speaker: Dr. Del Paulhus (UBC)
Presentation Title: Over-Claiming: A Concrete Measure of Self-Presentation

Abstract: The Over-Claiming Technique (OCT) was designed to overcome problems with traditional measures of socially desirable responding on questionnaires. Respondents rate their familiarity with a list of items relevant to a particular domain. Because foils are included in the item list, signal detection analysis can be used to measure both self-exaggeration and accurate knowledge. Research to-date suggests that accuracy, that is, the ability to distinguish real items from foils predicts IQ scores. This association holds true for almost any content domain: Academic topics, current music, sports, etc. Knowledge of certain domains actually indicates low IQ. Exaggeration (the general tendency to over-claim) is most pronounced in those who score high on narcissism and self-deceptive enhancement. Experimental work has shown that, under low demand for self-presentation, overclaiming is an automatic process that is independently influenced by personality- and memory bias. Our most recent research demonstrated applications to educational and marketing research.

Past (2006)

October 10th, 2006

Speaker: Dr. Robert Gifford (UVic)
Presentation Title: How and Why Do We Appraise Others? Social Evaluation Theory

November 14th, 2006

Speaker: Dr. David L. Hamilton (University of California, Santa Barbara; UVic)
Presentation Title: Perceiving the Groupness of Groups: Complexities and Consequences

December 12th, 2006

Speaker: Janet Stepaniuk & Dr. Julie Rodgers (UVic)
Presentation Title: Neurondocrine responses in situations of threatened group identity