Social/Personality Psychology

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The Social/Personality Psychology program at Yale University has trained research scholars for more than sixty years. Under the influence of Carl Hovland in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the Yale program was concerned primarily with persuasion and attitude change. This group of psychologists, some of whom continue to be active in the Department even today, set the course for the Yale program through their investigation of problems such as the links between frustration and aggression, public opinion formation, and the cognitive basis of social behavior. During these years and the decades that followed, the program remained committed to training students interested in both laboratory-based methods as well as field research. The Social/Personality program has focused on advancing both basic knowledge about intrapersonal and interpersonal processes, while at the same time encouraging applications of these theoretically driven investigations.  
Since its inception, the character of the Social/Personality program has been unique in combining four training goals. First, we believe that training students in scientific fundamentals is the most effective way to influence progress in the field of psychology. Second, in addition to a strong emphasis on traditional laboratory experiments as the primary tool of the Social/Personality psychologist, the training focus has also encompassed diverse methodologies such as field experimentation, survey techniques, computer simulation, and case studies (where the “case” might be an individual, group, or organization). Third, the program attempts to foster an awareness among students of the use of applied contexts to test theoretically based ideas. Finally, the faculty in Social/Personality Psychology is committed to an integration of personality processes and interpersonal influences in the study of human behavior. We believe that meaningful analyses of human behavior can best be accomplished when researchers investigate interactions between intrapersonal processes (e.g., emotion, social cognition, motivation, attitudes, and belief systems) and social behavior (e.g., persuasion, communication, decision making, stereotyping, political behavior, health behavior, and intergroup cooperation or conflict).  
We believe that young investigators are best trained by a program emphasizing carefully supervised independent research with one or more members of the faculty. Although students receive classroom training in the essentials of general psychology theory, research methods, history, and the current literature, they are encouraged from their first days at Yale to develop a program of collaborative research with members of the faculty. There are only a few course requirements, and students are expected to construct a program consistent with their own research interests that includes elective courses in other areas of psychology and in other social science fields. The Social/Personality area meets as a group every Monday for research presentations and discussion. Individuals interested in specific areas of specialization such as political psychology, health psychology, emotion, or social cognition can attend additional weekly meetings of like-minded faculty and students.