Social Psychology Overview

Coordinator: Jeff Lucas |  (301) 405-6435 |  jlucas2@umd.edu 

The University of Maryland’s Department of Sociology offers a rich and varied program in Social Psychology that spans multiple levels of analysis and methodological approaches. Three regular faculty members identify social psychology as a principal area of interest. Eight courses in social psychology are offered at the graduate level. We also offer a strong program of training in the methodology and statistics of contemporary social psychology.

The social psychology area at Maryland has achieved national distinction (ranked 16th in the U.S. in 2006) and has been very popular among graduate students. Our faculty is unified through strengths in micro approaches to stratification (e.g., gender, race, and socioeconomic status) and also thrives in covering all three major social psychological perspectives (symbolic interaction, group processes, and social structure and personality) and several methodological approaches. 

Associated Research Centers

Ties between the social psychology program and the Joint Program in Survey Methodology, an interdisciplinary graduate training program, provide a unique resource for graduate student training in public opinion and survey methodology. Our social psychology faculty is also connected to the Maryland Population Research Center on campus. Our associated research centers provide opportunities for faculty and graduate research and training, as does the experimental laboratory for the study of group processes.

Faculty Interests

Sociology faculty with major research interests in social psychology include Jeff Lucas, Stanley Presser,  and Rashawn Ray. Carmi Schooler joined our program in 2007 as Senior Research Scientist.

The social psychology faculty is actively engaged in numerous research projects. Lucas and Schooler are PIs on a National Science Foundation grant to examine effects of social structures on trust, commitment, and cognitive orientation in groups; Presser’s research explores how the measurement of attitudes and behavior is intertwined in complex ways with social psychological processes; and Ray is currently examining how racially mixed and segregated communities influence physical activity levels across racial/ethnic groups and contribute to healthy lifestyles and obesity rates.

The social psychology faculty has diverse orientations and represents an array of theoretical perspectives.  Both quantitative and qualitative methodologies employed by social psychologists are represented in the faculty's empirical studies, including surveys, experiments, observational studies, content analysis, in-depth interviewing, and cross-cultural research designs.

Graduate Student Research Opportunities and Employment

In addition to working with individual faculty on research, graduate students can find employment as research assistants in a variety of projects within the department and in the Washington DC area. Students are encouraged to present papers at regional and national professional meetings and to publish their work in professional journals. There are also many opportunities to develop teaching skills that will be helpful in future employment, as social psychology is perennially popular in the sociology undergraduate curriculum. Recent graduates have positions as faculty members in both research universities and liberal arts colleges, as well as in government and nonprofit research organizations.