Research Topics

At the Mind and Society Center, we are interested in how people think and act and how feelings and contextual influences shape people’s thoughts, decisions, and behaviors.

We are interested in questions like:

What makes life meaningful? How do people decide whether their life is meaningful? How might culture, religion, and our own decisions influence our well-being?

How do people come to believe things are true? Why do people believe weird things? And how does misinformation stick? We examine the variables that bias people to think things are true and why false information often takes hold.

What do people do when something feels effortful? Sometime people rise to a challenge, while other times they shy away. How does an experience of effort influence our actions and the way we think when we are working on a task? Is that a character trait or something easy to change?

How do we think about ourselves in the future? When we imagine our future selves, what does that look like and how does imagining our future selves affect how we act now?

How do we judge value? Does quantity matter, or do we place more emphasis on quality? How to consumers judge what something is worth?

What is the role of feelings in all of this? How do moods, emotions, and bodily sensations influence our thoughts?

What do we mean when we say something is due to culture or about culture? How does culture matter in the way we think and what we think about?


Post Doc Opportunities

The Mind and Society Center is seeking applications for a 2-year Post-Doctoral Research Associate beginning as soon as possible (two year postdoc broken into two one year segments, with opportunity for renewal at one year mark, assuming excellent performance and availability of funding). The postdoc will work closely with Dr. Oyserman on projects funded by IES (Institute for Educational Studies) and EIR (Education Innovation and Research), examining the consequences of an intervention to improve students identity-based motivation on their academic performance as part of the Pathways-to-Success program.

For more information about this opportunity, click here. 

Graduate Opportunities

Doctoral students at USC are trained through a mentorship model, working closely with faculty on research. Students are expected to engage in research activities and scholarship throughout their graduate training, leading up to and culminating in the doctoral dissertation. Expertise is also acquired by participating in courses, seminars, and colloquia. Most students also gain experience with teaching through guest lectures and teaching assistantships.

At the Mind and Society Center, you will have the opportunity to work with both Norbert Schwarz and Daphna Oyserman. On the theoretical side, all of our work shares a focus on how individual thinking, feeling, and doing is shaped by often subtle features of the immediate context and the broader societal and cultural environment, in which this context is embedded. On the applied side, our work aims to leverage insight into these processes to improve individual and societal decision making.

For more information about working with Professor Norbert Schwarz, click here.

For more information about working with Professor Daphna Oyserman, click here.

Research Assistant Opportunities

We are looking for motivated psychology students who are interested in gaining research experience for course credit (PSYC 290 or PSYC 490). Our research assistants can gain experience with all aspects of conducting research in psychology. At the planning stage, they help develop and pretest materials for our studies; at the data collection stage, they run experiments in our labs, recruit participants on campus and sometimes collect data in other locations; at the data analysis stage, they help with data entry, statistical analysis, and the graphing of results; they also help with programming online surveys and laboratory experiments.

If you are selected to be a Research Assistant in the Mind and Society Center, you will have the opportunity to work on exciting new lines of research with an active team of doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty. Participating in research gives you an insight into the latest advances in psychology and hands on experience in a busy and productive psychology lab.

If you are interested in applying for a Research Assistant position with us please read up on the requirements for PSYC 290 or PSYC 490 credits here. Note that one credit hour entails a commitment to contribute three hours a week to the research project. We recommend that our research assistants consider 2 credit hours, which is a time commitment of 6 hours per week.  The psychology site also has a list of other research opportunities.

If you are interested in applying for an RA position please fill out the form at this link.