Social Psychology Concentration

The Ph.D. in psychology with a concentration in social psychology is grounded in a research mentorship model.

With seven core faculty and approximately 10-12 graduate students, the social concentration is relatively small by national standards. This allows for faculty and graduate students to develop deeply collaborative and productive working relationships. 

The concentration is designed as a four to five-year, research-intensive doctoral program to prepare students for scholarly careers in academic and other research settings. A wide variety of courses are offered, with opportunities to customize a set of courses to best suit each student's training goals. Developing a strong record of peer-reviewed publications is encouraged and careful guidance in developing a high quality program of research is provided. Students earn a Master of Science degree as part of their training, but not as a terminal degree.

Please see the VCU Bulletin for additional degree information.

Program Goals

The social psychology concentration is dedicated to three fundamental goals: The discovery of new knowledge about social behavior, the application of that knowledge to address social problems, and the dissemination of research findings to educate students and the general public. 

Our students develop a number of important skills during their training, including:

  • Knowledge of social psychological science. Students become proficient in key areas within social psychology, including attitudes and attitude change, social cognition, self and identity, relationships, and stereotyping and prejudice.
  • Expertise in theory development, research design and publication. Students accrue extensive experience with the research process, from idea generation to publication - learning to conceptualize research problems, develop testable hypotheses, become proficient in laboratory and field research skills, and publish in high impact journals. There are ample opportunities to present new research through the program’s bi-weekly colloquium, and students are supported in presenting their work at regional and national conferences.
  • Statistical know-how. Students take a rigorous two-semester course sequence in statistical methods during their first year, and are urged to take advanced statistical courses. The department, and the university more broadly, offer courses in meta-analysis, multilevel modeling, structural equation modeling and more.
  • Instructor skills. Our instructor training is exemplary, and social concentration students have won a very high percentage of departmental Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher of the Year awards. Graduate students typically serve as teaching assistants in two or three different courses. Upon completion of their master’s thesis, students can teach undergraduate psychology courses during summer sessions.
  • Mentorship skill development. Students have opportunities to supervise undergraduate research assistants and junior graduate students in their faculty advisor’s research lab. In addition, the Preparing Future Faculty Program provides excellent preparation for academic positions.