Doctoral Program in Social Psychology

Department of Psychology
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
New York University

The Social Psychology program at New York University offers training in the psychological theories, principles, and research methods relevant to understanding the behavior of individuals and groups in social and organizational contexts. Students are exposed to a broad range of scholarship in social psychology, and receive research training that will enable them to become independent contributors to the field. What distinguishes our program from many others is the combination of quality and breadth. With fifteen core faculty and a number of affiliated faculty, our program is acclaimed for its cutting-edge research on a wide range of topics in the following areas:

Social cognition and attitudes: Person perception and social judgment (Emily Balcetis, Yaacov Trope, Jim Uleman, Jon Freeman, Jay Van Bavel, Tessa West); implicit social cognition (David Amodio), relational processes (Susan Andersen), inferences about self and other (Susan Andersen, Emily Balcetis); spontaneous trait inference, culture and social cognition (Jim Uleman), implicit/explicit attitudes, stereotypes, and prejudice (David Amodio, Liz Phelps); political attitudes and ideology (Eric Knowles, John Jost); developmental social cognition and social categorization (Marjorie Rhodes); social cognitive neuroscience (David Amodio, Jon Freeman, Jay Van Bavel, Liz Phelps).

Motivation, emotion, and self-regulation: Self-regulation (Yaacov Trope, Gabriele Oettingen, Jim Uleman); motivation and goal pursuit (Peter Gollwitzer, Emily Balcetis, Jay Van Bavel); system justification (John Jost), roles of emotion and motivation in self-regulation (David Amodio, Emily Balcetis), affect in the relational context (Susan Andersen), affective neuroscience (Liz Phelps, Jon Freeman).

Relationships, personality, and social development: Significant others and the self, social cognition and personality, hopelessness/depression (Susan Andersen); relationships, stress, and coping and methods for studying these processes (Patrick Shrout), attitudes and relationship formation (Tessa West); social cognitive development (Marjorie Rhodes).

Groups, organizations, and societies: Social justice and political ideology (John Jost, Eric Knowles, Maureen Craig), intergroup interactions (Tessa West), intergroup prejudice and stereotyping (David Amodio, Jon Freeman, Jay Van Bavel, Maureen Craig), and stereotyping and prejudice in the workplace (Madeline Heilman).

In addition, there is a major interest and presence in Social Neuroscience. Research within the program examines topic such as the neural mechanisms underlying activation and regulation of social biases (David Amodio), the neural substrates of social perception and evaluation (Jay Van Bavel), the neural mechanisms of face perception and categorization (Jon Freeman), the neural processes underlying impression formation (Jim Uleman with Liz Phelps and Lila Davachi), and social effects on neural processes of fear learning (Liz Phelps). Several other faculty members in the program collaborate on various other social neuroscience projects, and the Psychology Department hosts a Social Neuroscience Speaker Series. The Psychology Building houses facilities for fMRI, EEG/ERP, eye-tracking, and other psychophysiological methods.

Graduate study in the Social Psychology program at NYU means being part of an unusually active research culture. We share well-equipped laboratories, and we promote 'open door' relationships between professors and students. Although students typically have a primary home in one professor's laboratory, we require that students work in at least one other laboratory to promote breadth of training in a variety of methodological approaches and research issues. Our goal is to prepare students to be highly competitive in the job market for the type of career they seek, and we are proud of the steady success of our students over the past 15 years in obtaining academic positions at the best research universities as well as important teaching colleges.

The NYU social program has a history of a special communal, cooperative spirit, with very high morale among the students. A core component of this community is the weekly brownbag seminar, where students and faculty share their recent findings and research plans with the rest of the group. Students can bring this forum special expertise that they obtain in NYU’s programs in quantitative, neuroscience, and cognitive psychology, which supplement the core curriculum in social psychology.

Applications for Fall admission are due on December 1

To apply for admission to the Graduate Program in Social Psychology, you'll need the application form, which is available from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Apply for admission to the Department of Psychology. In the forms there is a place where you specify the particular program in which you are interested (e.g., Social Psychology), as well as whether you are also interested in the Developmental Concentration.

Academic Requirements

A total of 72 credits are required for the PhD degree.  Credits are earned through coursework, research seminars and independent study over a five year period.  A minimum of 24 credits must be earned through coursework with grades of B or higher.  Typically, students register for 9-12 credits (either course or research credits), with the central coursework in the first 2 years of study.  The minimum number of credits a student can take in a semester is 6.

Course Requirements

There is no single prescribed program for the PhD in social psychology.  Each student’s program is designed to fit his or her interests, needs and background.  The curriculum’s structure comes from a specification of certain distribution requirements that promote expertise and also breadth.

Required Distribution of Courses
The social psychology Ph.D. curriculum specifies the distribution of 8 courses, 5 content and 3 methods/statistics.  Other courses that students take are electives and should be chosen in consultation with their advisers or sponsors.  These may be structured courses, reading courses or research courses.

Students are required to take three doctoral social psychology courses, and these should span at least two the four core areas of the program:  (1) social cognition; (2) motivation and self-regulation; (3) relationships, personality and social development; and (4) organizational processes

In addition to courses in these prescribed areas of social psychology, students are required to take two additional content courses.  To ensure a broad exposure to psychology and other related fields, students are encouraged to take at least one of these courses outside of the NYU social program.  This course can be in another area within the psychology department (those offered in Cognition & Perception); in another Department, such as Economics, Sociology, Philosophy, Political Science, or Neural Science in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, or at the Stern School of Business (e.g., in Organizational Behavior) or the Steinhardt School of Education (e.g., in Applied Psychology); or elsewhere (e.g. through the Inter-university Doctoral Consortium).

Students are also required to take a three-course methods and statistics sequence including Research Methods I, and the statistics courses of Intermediate Statistics and Advanced Statistics (either ANOVA or Regression).  Although not required, many students take additional statistics and methods courses as electives.  Possible courses include Psychometric Theory, Structural Equation Modeling, Analysis of Change and Research Methods II.

Further Study
After completing the required courses, each student’s program is individually tailored to take maximum advantage of course offerings in areas relevant to his or her selected areas of interest. While a minimum of eight courses is required, many students take additional courses in social psychology and related fields.  Some also choose to minor in another subfield of psychology, such as developmental, quantitative, or cognition and perception.  Arrangements can additionally be made for students to take courses in other universities that participate in the New York City Inter-University Consortium, including Columbia, Princeton, and CUNY.

Other than through coursework, the remaining points may be earned through a combination of reading courses (G89.3305/3306), pre-dissertation research courses (G89.3303/3304), or dissertation research courses (for those who have passed their proposal hearing: G89.3301/3302).  No more than 12 points may be taken in each of the last three categories.  

Each student’s program of study must receive the approval of his/her adviser each semester.  The faculty adviser is the primary research mentor for the student.  If a student is working jointly with two faculty members, one faculty member should be asked to serve the role of academic adviser.  Students are also encouraged to seek advice from the program coordinator about courses and program degree requirements.  The Departmental Academic Affairs Coordinator is available to help advise on GSAS degree requirements.

Research Requirements

Research Training
Students are expected to work actively in the laboratory group of at least one NYU social psychology faculty member during all terms in residence.  In addition to their primary placement in a faculty research laboratory, students are required to work in at least one additional laboratory during the five years of their training.  Some students begin to work in a second lab during the first or second year of training, whereas other students wait for the third or fourth year to add breadth to their research training.  Often a first step toward adding research diversity is attending lab meetings beyond their primary lab.  As students explore possible diversity experiences they should inform their primary research adviser. In particular, students should inform their adviser of any plans to begin a new research project outside of their primary laboratory.

Brown Bag Seminar
All members of the program are expected to participate in the weekly Brown Bag seminar. The seminar meets informally, over lunch, and is a forum for presenting current and planned research.  Each student is required to present on his or her research once a year.  The seminar is a key component of student training over the five years of doctoral study.

Second Year Paper
Students are required to complete a Second Year Paper consisting of a formal write-up of the primary research project from their first two years of doctoral training.  When approved, this paper satisfies the requirements for the Masters Degree.  Although filing the paperwork for the Masters Degree is not required, completing the Second Year Paper is a program requirement.  The Second Year Paper is due at the end of the Summer of the 2nd year, as the student’s 3rd year is about to begin.  This project is done in collaboration with one or more faculty members and the write up of the project is done in conjunction with the student’s research adviser. 

Third Year Paper
Students are also required to submit a Third Year Paper, which is a theoretically motivated, integrative literature review that is guided by a coherent set of theoretical purposes or questions.  It covers at least two relevant research literatures and is organized along the lines of an article in Psychological Bulletin or Personality and Social Psychology Review.  The paper extends well beyond the scope of the two or three lines of research in which the student is engaged and is on a topic of the student's choosing.  It can be started as soon as the student formulates and writes a proposal for the paper’s content and substance (developed in conjunction with one or more faculty in the program), which is then approved by a Third Year Paper Committee in the program.   The proposal is due at the end of fall of the 3rd Year.  The proposal is a one-page single-spaced abstract that states the theoretical purposes of the work and the empirical literatures the student intends to review.  The proposal will be evaluated in terms of whether or not it (a) is guided by a theoretical purpose that is coherently laid out; (b) is integrative in nature, by bringing together two or more different literatures; and (c) has scholarly merit.  The Third Year Paper itself is 35-45 text pages (not including references).  The completed paper is due the first week of September of the fourth year.  It is independent of the Second Year Paper, although the papers can be in related domains, if desired, and they can be supervised by the same research adviser, if desired.  This requirement serves the function of a comprehensive examination.

The Third Year Paper Committee: (a) is appointed by the program; (b) implements this program requirement; (c) evaluates and approves or disapproves paper proposals; (c) assigns readers for each completed paper based on faculty expertise (one of whom may be the student’s research adviser).

Doctoral Dissertation
In consultation with a faculty adviser, students select a dissertation topic, develop it, and prepare a dissertation proposal.  The proposal should provide a rationale for the importance of the research problem or issue, provide an overview of the literature in which the contribution of the research would be situated, present the theoretical rationale, purposes, and hypotheses of the research, and provide a detailed description of the methods and analyses of the proposed dissertation studies, as well as its likely implications.  The proposal must be approved by a three-member dissertation committee in a formal proposal hearing.  Students are advised to start thinking about prospective dissertation topics early in the doctoral training.  Students should plan to complete their dissertation proposal and defend that proposal by the end of the fourth year of study, if not earlier.

Students should bear in mind that the dissertation is expected to be a major piece of independent research by the candidate.  Although interaction between the candidate and his/her dissertation committee is expected and desirable, the student takes the lead on this research and the committee serves mainly in an advisory and evaluative capacity.   The dissertation should be submitted by the end of the 5th Year. After the dissertation has been completed, it must be defended in an oral examination before the three-member dissertation committee supplemented by two additional committee members designated as readers.  Students typically register for two semesters (6 points) of dissertation credit during their fifth year of doctoral study while conducting their dissertation research and writing their dissertation.

For more information about the dissertation process, see the Psychology Department’s document, Dissertation and Graduation Procedures for Doctoral Students.

Teaching Experience

Graduate students at NYU have the opportunity to take appointments as adjunct faculty in psychology courses.  One kind of adjunct appointment involves assisting a faculty member with his/her instructional activities.  Teaching provides valuable experience in presenting ideas to others, and forms an integral part of doctoral education in preparation for future academic jobs.  The Social Program asks that students acquire teaching experience for at least two undergraduate or graduate psychology courses during the first five years of study.  Because teaching obligations may compete with research obligations, the Program advises students to limit the teaching commitments during the academic year to five or fewer experiences.

Training Sequence

In their first two years, students focus on mentored research projects and coursework.  Over this period they complete their eight required courses.  With the exception of research methods and two statistics courses, all of which must be taken in the first two semesters, students are free to fulfill their course requirements in any order they wish, typically enrolling in three courses a semester.

During the second year, students work on the Second Year Paper, and during the third year they work on the Third Year Paper (see above)

Students spend their third, fourth and fifth years taking additional coursework, as desired, and focusing primarily on their research activities, culminating in their doctoral dissertation research. 

At the end of the first semester of their third year, they also propose their Third Year Paper (an integrative literature that combines differing literatures and addresses a coherent set of theoretical questions), which is then due in final form the first week of September of the fourth year.

Students should aim to prepare and defend their dissertation proposal not later than the end of their 4th year, and to complete their dissertation toward the end of their 5th year.

Students who are making adequate progress toward their degree requirements are guaranteed full financial support for five years of doctoral study.


General Requirements for the Doctorate at NYU

The graduate school of Arts and Science home page provides information about transfer credits and other general requirements for the doctorate at NYU.  It is expected that students will fulfill the course requirements, complete the doctoral research and defend the thesis within five years.


Keeping Track of Progress Toward Requirements

Each spring the Social Program Faculty meet to review the progress of the doctoral students in the program.  In preparation for this meeting, students are asked to provide updated CVs and reports of research activities.  With input from the faculty members, the Coordinator provides each student with written feedback about the review.  If a student would like to request special consideration of research or academic requirements, this is an excellent time to make the request. In some cases a requirement will be waived if a compelling case can be made.



Courses in the four core areas of doctoral social psychology vary from year to year, but the following list provides examples of courses that have been taught in each of the categories since 2008 or that are planned for 2010 or 2011

Social Cognition and Attitudes
--Person Perception: Cognitive (G89.2286)
--Social Judgment and Decision Making (G89.2282)
--Social Neuroscience (G89.3404)
--Stereotyping and Prejudice (G89.3380)
--Self and Social Judgment

Motivation and Self-Regulation
--Self-Regulation (G89.3393)
--Conflict and Psychological Control (G89.3394)

Relationships, Personality and Social Development
--Developmental Social Cognition
--Social Cognitive Processes in Personality
--The Relational Self (G89.2297)
--Person Perception: Interpersonal

Groups, organizations, and societies
--Psychology of Justice
--System Justification Theory
--Psychology and Design of Legal Institutions
--Political Psychology (G89.3399)

Example of Advanced Electives
--Theories in Social Psychology (G89.2216)


Methods and Statistics Courses
--Research Methods in Social Psychology I (G89.2217)
--Research Methods in Social Psychology II (G89.2217)
--Math Tools for Cognitive Science and Neuroscience (G89.2211)
--Intermediate Statistical Methods (G89.2228)
--Advanced Regression Analysis (G89.2229)
--Advanced ANOVA Methods (G89.2239)
--Structural Equation Modeling (G89.2247)
--Analysis of Change (G89.2248)      


David Amodio, Susan Andersen, Emily Balcetis, Maureen Craig, Jon Freeman, Peter Gollwitzer, Madeline Heilman, John Jost, Eric Knowles, Gabriele Oettingen, Elizabeth Phelps (primary appointment in C&P), Marjorie Rhodes (primary appointment in C&P), Diane Ruble (Emeritus), Patrick Shrout, Yaacov Trope, Jay Van Bavel, Jim Uleman, Tessa West

Social Program, NYU
September 2011