Social Psychology

The University of Michigan has had a long tradition of distinguished scholarship in social psychology that spans a full century, beginning with the pioneering work of Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929). Today, the social psychology program in sociology remains a leader in the field and ranks among the top social psychology programs in the country.

Sociological social psychology focuses on the relationship between individuals and social structures. The defining core of sociology is the study of social structure and organization. But all social structures emerge out of interactions among individuals. Thus, to fully understand the nature, causes and consequences of social structures, we must also understand the relationship between these structures and the individuals whose behavior constitutes them. The founders of the discipline understood the importance of social psychology. Marx's concept of alienation, Weber's Protestant Ethic and Durkheim's concept of anomie are all ideas that concern the individual-society relationship. The relationship between the individual and social structure has, therefore, been a core concern of sociology since its inception.

Social psychology is one of the major approaches to studying the major substantive areas in sociology, and Michigan's social psychology faculty use social psychological concepts and theories to study a wide variety of substantive areas. These areas include, for example, deviance, socialization, group dynamics, social interaction, social influence, stratification, health, aging, race and ethnicity, and gender. We study a wide variety of topics, including obedience and disobedience to authority during the Holocaust; social factors and inequalities in health; how inner-city African American men view the American dream; psychological consequences of work and family roles; the quality of life of cancer survivors; life-and-death decisions in medical settings, the development of gender and body image; and race discrimination and health. We also use a wide range of research strategies to study these phenomena, including surveys, observation, qualitative in-depth interviews and historical-comparative approaches. Some of our faculty have strong interdisciplinary connections with the Institute for Social Research, psychology, public health and women's studies.

Click here for a listing of faculty currently associated with this program area.