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Washington State University
College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology

Social Psychology


Laboratory-based studies are utilized to study social psychological processes including cooperation, individual differences in social behavior, the interface between social factors and physical health, and social cognitive processes. Graduates in this area may find employment in academic settings, government agencies, private research firms, and businesses.

Associated faculty: Canning, Liu, Magnan, Meidenbauer

Research interests within this area include:

Aggression and crime (Meidenbauer)

Education (Canning)

Health behavior (Magnan)


Building Opportunities for Learning & Development

Elizabeth Canning
In the BOLD (Building Opportunities for Learning & Development) lab, we use experimental methods to understand the subtle interpersonal and organizational messages that perpetuate bias and inequality. We specifically focus on subtle messages about belonging, value, talent, and ability that are communicated by institutions, employers, instructors, and peers. We use social-psychological theory to design and implement field-based interventions that address important social inequalities, such as racial and social-class achievement gaps.
Chang Liu
My research program centers on understanding the developmental processes and mechanisms leading to resilience vs. maladjustment in children and mothers, aiming to promote child health and well-being. My work integrates multiple levels of analysis, including prenatal adversities, genetic influences, and early parental hostility and efficacy in the study of risk and resilience within children and mothers over time. This has led to three lines of research. One line focuses on characterizing dynamic change processes for child social-emotional development and how parents and children co-regulate emotions during interactions. A second line of research examines how genes, prenatal environment (e.g., prenatal exposure to drugs), and postnatal environment work together to influence child emotional and behavioral regulation vs. maladjustment. A third line of research examines risk and resilience in minority children and mothers and how different contexts of development influence child emotional and behavioral regulation vs. maladjustment. Most of my previous work has focused on mental health outcomes. Most recently, I have become interested in examining the emergence of childhood obesity. Specifically, I have started to examine the impact of child temperament, genetic risks, and environmental exposures (e.g., prenatal exposure to drugs, neighborhood characteristics) on normative versus atypical development in child body mass index (BMI) over time.
renee_magnan-ThumbRenee E. Magnan
I apply social psychological theory to address issues in preventive health behaviors and health behavior promotion. Specifically, much of the research in my lab focuses on understanding the role that affect (e.g., worry) plays on health decisions and behavior (e.g., smoking cessation, exercise, cannabis). I am interested in both how one’s feelings about health behaviors may influence their decisions to engage in health behavior and also how health behaviors may influence one’s feelings. Both perspectives can provide important insight to identify targets for interventions to prevent negative health consequences and promote wellness.
Kim Meidenbauer
Research in Dr. Meidenbauer’s Social, Cognitive, & Environmental Neuroscience (SCENe) Lab examines how features of the physical and social environment affect individuals’ brains and their behavior. Currently, the lab’s work focuses on how heat exposure can lead to deleterious psychological outcomes and antisocial behaviors, and how greenspace interventions can be used to buffer against the effects of heat stress. Our research employs an environmental justice lens, working with community organizations to examine how place-based interventions may address the compounding effects of economic marginalization and environmental racism. The SCENe lab is also interested in the creation and validation of research methods that allow us to “take the lab outside”, via browser-based tasks, mobile neuroimaging (fNIRS), and experience sampling techniques. We advocate for and prioritize the use of open science practices, including the ethical sharing of data and study materials, providing open and reproducible code, and pre-registering data collection and analysis plans.