Social & Personality Training Area

Missouri Social/Personality Area Ranks #1 in Career Stage Impact

According to a recent analysis published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Nosek et al., 2010), the social/personality psychology program at the University of Missouri ranks first out of 97 U.S. and Canadian social psychology programs in terms of the impact of faculty publications (i.e., the number of publications and frequency with which they are cited by others), when accounting for the career stage of its faculty. Nosek et al. amassed publication citations for 611 scientists working in the U.S. and Canada and used a novel approach to determining scientific impact that controls for the number of years since a given scientist (or the scientists in given programs) earned the Ph.D., because overall impact (what Nosek et al. called “cumulative impact”) is largely determined by the number of years a given scientist has been publishing. Moreover, three of our faculty (Jamie Arndt, Laura King, and Ken Sheldon) ranked in the top 10% of all social/personality psychologists in terms of their career stage impact. In other words, publications by our faculty have a major impact on the field, perhaps the single most important indicator of the quality of the science being conducted here.

Our Approach to Research and Graduate Training

For centuries social scientists have known that a full understanding of human social behavior can be attained only when psychological processes are examined at three levels: (1) the individual level; (2) the contextual level (or social level); and (3) the interaction of the individual and contextual levels. In line with this classic recognition, our graduate program is uniquely positioned with the combined expertise and motivation to substantially address all three levels of analysis vital to fully understanding human psychology. The Social/Personality Program at MU is distinctive because it embraces - in its research approaches and interests, as well as its graduate training - this multifaceted view of social behavior, and therefore has distinguished itself nationally.

Particular research foci in the area include the sources of motivation, both individual and social; the nature of meaning-making, both existential and interpersonal; the determinants of optimal group functioning, both within and between groups; the causes of psychological well-being, as well as its effects; and understanding the interplay of automatic and controlled modes of cognition in determining evaluation, behavior, and neurological activity.

The area is further integrated into the Department of Psychological Sciences by informing broader traditions of research in psychology, including cognition, cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, developmental trajectories, addictive behaviors, and health psychology. The Social/Personality Program has situated itself at the rich nexus of research integrating the psychology of the person and the situation, with the goal of understanding the psychological processes that underlie people's emotions, motivations, beliefs, and actions.

Research Opportunities

The Social/Personality training area at the University of Missouri represents a unique and vibrant collection of active scholars. This energetic community provides the basis for collaborative endeavors among faculty and students, with the goal of making groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of human behavior. An important strength of the area is the broad range of questions and topics that our research addresses. Importantly, students interested in these topics are exposed to a broad range of sophisticated empirical and quantitative methods ranging from laboratory experimentation to narrative analysis to everyday experience (or diary) methods to longitudinal designs. Further, the area is uniquely positioned to bring rigorous research to bear on a variety of applied questions in the areas of health and risk-taking, well-being, and intergroup relations.

The program subscribes to an "apprenticeship" model of training in which students work closely with a primary advisor or mentor on research of mutual interest. From the first year, students are actively involved in their advisors ongoing research program. The exact nature of this involvement is determined by the interests and needs of both parties, and may entail attending research meetings, designing research studies, running subjects, analyzing data, and/or writing research reports. All students and faculty attend a weekly social seminar in which students present their research, and students and faculty discuss a variety of topics of interest to social and personality psychologists. The hands-on research experience coupled with coursework and other program requirements (see the Graduate Student Handbook and the Supplement to the Graduate Student Handbook for Social/Personality Students for more information) provides students with a firm grounding in the theory and methods of social/personality psychology, as well as the skills to conduct and publish their own research. Armed with such skills, a number of our recent PhD's have gone on to become established research scholars in their own right. Other students have launched successful careers in more applied settings such as personnel and marketing research, consulting, administration, post-secondary education, and government.

Facilities and Resources

In addition to state-of-the-art facilities and resources offered by the department and the university, the Social/Personality Psychology program maintains its own library within McAlester Hall, which contains many classic works as well as current and previous issues of the most prominent social/personality psychology journals. The Social/Personality program also maintains diverse laboratory facilities amenable to a wide variety of experimental and nonexperimental research paradigms, including psychophysiological work, reaction time and other cognitive paradigms, and group experiments.

Financial Support

In addition to graduate teaching assistantships and fellowships, financial support is available in the form of research assistantships on specific research projects conducted by faculty members of the Social/Personality Psychology Training Program. Social/Personality faculty have multimillion dollar state and federal grants.

All students in good standing are guaranteed four years of financial support. Because of the large number of grant-funded projects our faculty has, students routinely receive support beyond the 4th year and during the summers as well. See the Graduate Program for more information.

Crowded Beach

Social and Personality Research Labs

Lab Director Lab Location
Adolescent & Young Adult Health Risk Study Lynne Cooper 124 Psychology Building
Attitude and Decision Making Lab Laura Scherer Psychology Building 202/204
Existential Motivation Lab Jamie Arndt
Mindfulness of Interpersonal and Intergroup Relations
PDF icon Mindfulness and Intergroup Relations Lab flyer
Ann Bettencourt
Personality Dynamics Lab
PDF icon Personality Dynamics Lab Flyer
Laura A. King 319 Noyes Hall
Sheldon Motivation lab
We study goals, motivation, well-being, priming, personality, materialism, and values (and that's just the short list!)
Ken Sheldon 102 Noyes
Social Cognitive and Addiction Neuroscience Lab
The Social Cognitive and Addiction Neuroscience Lab is focused on understanding the neurocognitive and affective mechanisms underlying cognitive control; its importance for social behaviors; its impairment by alcohol consumption; and its status as an endophenotype for alcohol use disorder.
PDF icon Flyer
Bruce D. Bartholow 121 Psychology Building