Overview & Training Model

Ph.D. Social Psychology
Overview & Training Model

Training Model & Program Goals

Graduate training in the Social Psychology PhD Program at the University of Arizona is based on the Research Mentorship Model. Graduate students are admitted to the Ph.D. program based not only on their merit but also on the basis of the fit of their research interests to those of faculty members in the program.

The primary purpose of our Ph.D. program is to train graduate students to become expert social and personality psychologists who will go on to contribute to society in the following ways:

  • Through high-quality research to advance the scientific knowledge in social/personality psychology.
  • Through high-quality research and application of scientific knowledge in social/personality psychology in non-academic settings (e.g., industry, government, and non-governmental organizations)
  • Through high-quality teaching of scientific knowledge in social/personality psychology in academic and non-academic settings

Our program is further committed to training graduate students to use the scientific knowledge in social/personality psychology to understand and help address issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

To be an effective social/personality psychologist, when you graduate from the program, we want you to have:

  • A broad knowledge base within social/personality psychology as well as relevant knowledge from neighboring disciplines that intersect with social/personality psychology
  • A strong understanding of (experimental and non-experimental) research methods
  • A strong understanding of statistical methods and data science
  • Extensive experience with the full research process from idea generation to publication
  • Experience with teaching courses in social/personality psychology

Curriculum Overview

Graduate students in our program receive broad training in social/personality psychology and it's intersecting disciplines as well as in quantitative methods and statistics. Additionally, the program aims to bridge the “notorious methods divide” and trains students in both laboratory (e.g., experimental approaches) and field methods (e.g., ambulatory assessment). Specific program requirements are outlined in the Department's Graduate Program Handbook

To achieve the program goals, the curriculum includes:

Graduate courses provide background in specific areas of social psychology. They also represent a forum for scholarly discussion, feedback, brainstorming and developing collaborations for future research. The Social Program has faculty with expertise in topics of:

  • Prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination
  • Social identity
  • Wellbeing
  • Attitudes
  • Existential social psychology
  • Personality psychology
  • Psychology and law
  • Social-cultural psychology
  • Social-health psychology

Students should actively participate in research from the first semester in the program until completion of the Ph.D. The department maintains a large subject pool and each faculty member has ample lab space for their students’ research endeavors.

Specific research training requirements are outlined in the Graduate Program Handbook and include:

  • A Master's Thesis or Master’s Project (to be completed by the end of the second year)
  • Written and oral comprehensive examinations
  • An empirical Doctoral dissertation (to be completed by the end of the fifth year)

Teaching is an important way to develop breadth of knowledge and to practice teaching and mentoring.

Completing a minor provides breadth to your research and studies. lt adds knowledge and skills that are often useful in seeking employment upon completion of the Ph.D.

Your choice of minors in the department include: clinical, cognitive, health, neuropsychology, statistics, or an individualized (“eclectic”) minor comprising three courses totaling at least 9 credits. Minors outside the department (e.g., Family Studies and Human Development, Communication, Public Health, Marketing, Gender and Women’s Studies) are also possible with your advisor's permission.

The Social Psychology Brown Bag Series is the “cultural heart” of the program. It is the one consistent time where the entire program comes together to discuss research and other issues pertaining to training and careers in social/personality psychology.

At the end of the first year in the program, graduate students present on their research in form of a Brownbag presentation. This presentation can take different forms, taking into account the status of the project at the time of the presentation (e.g., whether data collection and/or analysis is active or completed).

  • Colloquia and other activities involving visiting Social/Personality psychologists. The Department Colloquium Series usually includes 2-3 social/personality psychologists; occasionally unofficial visits occur as well. Students have the opportunity to meet and help host visiting colloquium speakers. Engaging with visiting scientists is a great way to extend your intellectual network beyond the department.

  • Participation in recruitment of new graduate students and faculty job searches. Getting involved with various recruitment activities provides students with insight into the job market and experience with evaluating applicants. Current graduate students are expected to support the recruitment of new graduate students (e.g., participation in the yearly events around Recruitment Day).

  • Lab meetings provide an important opportunity for all aspects of research, training, and careers in social/personality psychology, particularly as they pertain to your specific interests and subarea.

Scientific conferences provide excellent opportunities to get to know and acquire broad knowledge in the field of social/personality psychology, present your research, meet other people and form connections. Conferences also provide helpful platforms for career questions including forums on and connections to non-academic job opportunities. The annual conference of the Society for Social and Personality Psychology (SPSP) is our field’s “home conference”.

Because our program is small, we cannot offer coursework to cover all areas within social/personality psychology. Therefore, to develop a broad knowledge base of the field, graduate students read broadly, including classic and contemporaneous work, and keep up with theoretical and empirical progress in the field. At the end of the program, students will be familiar with the major theories, state of research, and trends in all of the field’s main areas. Regular browsing/reading of selected social/personality and general psychology journals as well as key handbooks and series within the field will greatly aid this effort. Your mentor(s) will help guide you in these efforts (e.g., help you decide which journals and handbooks or series are a good fit for you).

The following are the major areas about which you should have knowledge of the fundamental theories and methodologies:

  • Aggression
  • Attitudes and Persuasion
  • Culture
  • Emotion
  • Group Dynamics
  • Health, Stress, and Coping
  • Interpersonal Attraction and Close Relationships
  • Interpersonal and Intergroup Conflict
  • Personality Variables and Processes
  • Prejudice and Stereotypes
  • Prosocial Behavior
  • The Self
  • Social Cognition
  • Social Influence
  • Social Neuroscience

Finally, to be successful on the (academic and/or non-academic) job market, graduate students need to go beyond the minimal department and program requirements and make their doctorate “their own” in the sense of shaping the content of their training to fit their training and career goals. This includes (but is not limited to) going beyond the provided standard training (e.g., coursework) in statistical methods (e.g., acquiring experiences in data science and/or qualitative methods) and identifying and preparing for career opportunities outside of academia (e.g., participating in job panels, doing an industry practicum).


If you are highly motivated to be productive and influential in the field of social psychology, the training and experience provided by our program should provide you the record necessary to compete successfully in the job market and allow you to launch a fulfilling career in the field of social psychology.

Updated: 01/24/24