Social Sciences: Social Psychology

Department: Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and Psychology

Supervising Faculty Member: Sophie Trawalter

Specialization: Social Psychology

Research Focus: Our lab studies psychological processes that contribute to prejudice and discrimination, and ultimately, social disparities. In one line of research, we examine common perceptions (and misperceptions) that contribute to social disparities. We have considered how racial bias in perceptions of others’ pain can give rise to racial disparities in healthcare, how socioeconomic differences in perceptions of public space can give rise to socioeconomic disparities in education, and how gender differences in perceptions of safety can give rise to gender disparities in academia, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In a second line of research, we examine lay conceptions of diversity. We have examined how majority and minority group members define diversity, and what strategies work to promote racial diversity. In a third line of research, we explore the dynamics of interracial contact. We have shown that White Americans appraise Black people as a threat, experience stress during interracial contact, and cope with that stress, often unsuccessfully. We have also tested strategies that can make interracial interactions more positive. Taken together, the aim of this research is to help people thrive in diverse groups, organizations, and society.

Position Description: Research assistants in our lab do the following: (1) run experiments with human participants, (2) enter data, (3) code data; for example, code nonverbal behavior from videotapes of participant interactions, (4) participate in lab meetings.

Required skills: To do this job, research assistants  need to communicate instructions to participants, follow study protocols, be punctual and professional, and be meticulous.  The data research assistants collect must be reliable and trustworthy.

Computer software: Basic Excel knowledge/skill would be useful but not required.

Training/certification: All research assistants will need to complete the CITI human subjects training.  They will do this once they begin working in the lab.  They need not complete this ahead of time.

What you will learn: You will learn how behavioral research is conducted; specifically, you will learn to think about research questions, develop hypotheses, and design studies.  More advanced students will also learn to analyze data and interpret results.  In addition, you will learn about graduate school (e.g., what it’s like to be a graduate student, what motivates students to go to graduate school, what it takes to get into and go to graduate school).  Finally, you will become an educated consumer of behavioral science.

Web site link to research: http://batten.virginia.edu/school/people/sophie-trawalter