Social Psychology Research

Social psychologists at USC conduct research on four broad topics.

Social Cognition. Research on social cognition strives to understand the cognitive processes that underlie social behavior. This work includes specific topics such as causal reasoning, person perception, and attribution (Steve Read, Jesse Graham, Norbert Schwarz, Daphna Oyserman), cognitive dissonance and attitude change (Norman Miller, Steve Read, Norbert Schwarz, Wendy Wood), social categorization and stereotyping (Norman Miller, Daphna Oyserman, Steve Read, Norbert Schwarz, Wendy Wood), legal, moral and everyday decision making (Dan Simon, Steve Read, Lynn Miller, John Monterosso, Jesse Graham, Norbert Schwarz, Daphna Oyserman), the role of feelings and bodily sensations in social judgment (Norbert Schwarz, Daphna Oyserman), effects of cultural mindsets in reasoning (Steve Read, Daphna Oyserman, Wendy Wood, Jesse Graham), identity processes as situated cognition (Daphna Oyserman) and automaticity in behavior (Jesse Graham, Wendy Wood).

Motivation and Emotion. Motivation and emotional processes play an important role in social behavior. Research on motivation and emotion conducted by social psychologists at USC includes work on anger and aggression (Norman Miller), self-regulation (John Monterosso, Daphna Oyserman, Wendy Wood), the interplay of feeling and thinking in judgment and decision making (Norbert Schwarz), motivational structures of ideological and moral convictions (Jesse Graham, Steve Read), group memberships such as gender as a basis for identity and motivation (Norman Miller, Wendy Wood, Jesse Graham, Daphna Oyserman), and developing computer models of personality, motivation and affective processes (Steve Read, Lynn Miller).

Interpersonal Relationships. Social relationships between individuals form the basis for much social behavior. Understanding the psychological bases of interpersonal behavior is a major goal of social psychologists. Specific areas of research on interpersonal relationships at USC include work on attraction and attachment in romantic relationships (Lynn Miller, Steve Read), relational correlates of political orientations (Jesse Graham), and decision-making and interpersonal negotiation in risky sexual behavior (Lynn Miller, Steve Read).

Intergroup Relations. Groups are centrally important for regulating human behavior, and relations between human groups are often antagonistic. Researchers at USC are investigating the cognitive and affective mechanisms that underlie affiliation with antisocial groups such as urban street gangs (Karen Hennigan), political and religious ideologies as they affect intergroup behavior (Jesse Graham, Wendy Wood, Daphna Oyserman), aggression between groups (Norman Miller, Karen Hennigan, Jesse Graham), and ways to reduce prejudice through intergroup friendships, contact, and cross-group identification (Norman Miller, Wendy Wood).


  • Department of Psychology
  • University of Southern California
  • SGM 501
  • 3620 South McClintock Ave.
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061