Social Science: Social Psychology, Social Cognition

Department: Psychology and Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy

Supervising Faculty Members: Sophie Trawalter

Specialization: Social Psychology, Social Cognition

Research Focus: We will study how social identities such as race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status (SES) shape people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in intergroup contexts.  For example, we will study how SES and gender affect use of public space and sense of belonging at the University.  In our previous work, we have found that lower-SES students do not like and do not use public space on Grounds as much as high-SES students.  And these differences matter.  We found that use of public space is associated with feeling “at home” at the University.  As another example, we will study how race/ethnicity affects perceptions of pain.  In our previous work, we have found that people—including medical personnel—believe that Black people feel less pain than do White people.

Job Description: You will be asked to (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, Courses, Resources, or Background:  To do this job, you will need to communicate instructions to participants, follow study protocols, be punctual and professional, and be careful and meticulous.  The data you collect must be reliable and trustworthy.
Basic Excel knowledge/skill would be useful but not required.  We will train research assistants to enter and code data.

This job absolutely requires professionalism: as noted before, you will need to communicate instructions to participants—participants who will often be peers (i.e., other UVA students), follow study protocols, be punctual, and be careful and meticulous.  The data you collect must be reliable and trustworthy. In addition, it is absolutely crucial that research assistants respect the confidentiality of study participants.  Because participants are often peers, this can be difficult.  It can be tempting to discuss study participants’ behavior with friends if/when you know the study participants.  Tempting as it may be, it is not permissible. Failure to act in a professional and/or ethical manner could result in unreliable and/or unusable data.

To avoid any such issues, research assistants must complete the CITI human subjects training.  In addition, we have a wonderful lab manager who trains our research assistants and oversees study sessions (at least at the beginning of a study).  That way, if any questions arise, she is there to answer them.  Finally, research assistants attend bi-weekly lab meetings during which they and/or the graduate students and/or lab manager can raise questions and/or concerns, and discuss these in a “safe” space. 

Training: 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.