The graduate program in Personality and Social Contexts is designed for students who are interested in careers either in teaching and research, or else in applied settings (such as research institutes, industry, government, or non-profit organizations). The program emphasizes both the specialized advanced training that will prepare students for productive teaching and research in their chosen areas and also the diversity of background that is a prerequisite for excellence in classroom, laboratory, and applied settings.
The Personality & Social Contexts Area of the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan is focused on the interplay of individual differences and social contexts. As individuals, we each have a personality (a unique, integrated pattern of traits, motives, and cognitive structures that makes us both different from and similar to one another) that affects how we think, feel, and behave. At the same time, our cognition, affect, and behavior are channeled and constrained by the immediate situation as well as broader social contexts, such as gender, family, schools, neighborhoods, social class, workplaces, organizations, communities, political structures, religion, ethnicity, culture, and history. We are committed to the analysis and interpretation of individuals in all of these contexts.
Within psychology and the social sciences, the Personality & Social Contexts Area constitutes a mediating link between the experimental analysis of fundamental processes that characterize general experimental psychology, and the analysis of human relations, group dynamics, organizations, community, and society. We work at many different levels of analysis. While our theoretical and research interests range widely, much of our work can be subsumed under five broad themes: identity (the balance of internally experienced and socially reflected selves), motivation (forces that energize, direct, and select behavior), power (processes by which one person affects the behavior and emotions of others), oppression (negative psychological effects of hierarchical social structures), and culture (shared beliefs, practices, symbols, and meanings that bind groups together).
Working from a core conception of individuals-in-context, many of our faculty and students also pursue research and training in other areas of psychology, other social sciences, natural sciences, the humanities, and the joint doctoral programs in Psychology and Women’s Studies and Psychology and Social Work. Faculty and students in our area have expertise in a wide variety of methods:
standard personality inventories and scales,
content analysis and narrative methods, survey methods, secondary analysis of archived datasets, interviews and observations, case studies and life history analysis, feminist and ethnographic methods, cross-cultural perspectives and methods, projective techniques, bio-psychological and psycho-physiological assessment, measurement of cognitive processes, archival methods, program evaluation, and laboratory experimentation.