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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Report on SISPP/SPSP Summer School 2017

12.12.2017, by Sibylle Classen in meeting report

Report by EASP Postgraduate Members Harriet Baird, Emilie Gonzalez, Meghan McNamara, Ángel Sánchez-Rodríguez, & Mariko Visserman


Five EASP postgraduate members (Harriet Baird, Emilie Gonzalez, Meghan McNamara, Ángel Sánchez-Rodríguez, and Mariko Visserman) attended the 2017 SPSP Summer Institute in Social and Personality Psychology (SISPP) at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. SISPP offered five two-week courses (Behavior Change, Computational Social Psychology, Psychology of Inequality, Interventions, and Personality in Context) and two one-day workshops (Self-Reports and Big Data). Each postgraduate member attended a different course, but all attended the Self Reports workshop, which was taught by Arthur A. Stone (University of Southern California).

Harriet Baird (University of Sheffield) attended the Behaviour Change course, led by Professor Wendy Wood and Professor Kathleen Vohs. This course aimed to tackle one of the fundamental challenges facing social psychologists – how to promote positive and lasting changes in people’s behaviour. Over the course of two weeks, this class explored a variety of different factors and processes that have been found to influence people’s behaviour, ranging from intentions and social norms to emotions and technology. Each day was centred on a core theme and key papers from the literature (for a full list of themes and papers, please see The class debated these readings and discussed the effectiveness of different strategies and techniques designed to encourage people to make changes to their behaviour. We also had some fantastic guest speakers who discussed their research both within and outside of academia. These included David Neal (Duke University and Founder of Catalyst Behavioral Sciences), Todd Rodgers (Harvard University), Hal Hershfield (University of California), and Katy Milkman and Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania). The class also worked in groups to design their own behaviour change experiments that were presented to the rest of the group on the final day of the course. This allowed each group to obtain feedback on their study design with the hope of implementing these studies in the future. Beyond the opportunity for learning, this summer school provided a fantastic opportunity to network with leading experts and other early career researchers in the field of social psychology, and provided a platform to establish future collaborations on an international scale. It was a unique and exciting opportunity that will be a highlight of our PhD studies. A big thank you to Wendy, Kathleen, EASP, and SISPP for an unforgettable two weeks!

Emilie Gonzalez (University of Bordeaux) attended the Interventions course. This course was aimed at showing that building a good intervention to address social issue require to start from a robust theory and to find the more effective way to operationalize it. The two teachers were Jeff Fisher (University of Connecticut) and David Sherman (University of California, Santa Barbara). All lectures were based on their great experience of this thematic. Jeff Fisher presented how to build interventions relying on the Information-Motivation-Behavioral skills Model (Fisher & Fisher, 1992) by using examples of his own researches in the area of HIV prevention. David Sherman gave us lectures on the use of the self-affirmation to enhance academic performance of students belonging to ethnic minorities for example. The morning was mostly dedicated to the class and the afternoon was dedicated to group discussions and the construction of our personal projects. Indeed, each student had to build an intervention consistent with his work and his research area. This personal project started the first day with a presentation of our work and ended the last day with a final presentation in the colloquium organized by all the class. During those two weeks, each afternoon, group discussions, feedbacks of the teachers, article reading and personal work allowed us to support our intervention. Some class time was also devoted to discussing and sharing our knowledge of the academic domain and scientific world. We discussed about funding, about publishing and about the career of a researcher in the area of social interventions talking, for example, by talking about ethical issues. Between each day of classes, we had to read articles to prepare classes, watch videos, build our personal project and do exercises, so these two weeks were intense and offered a unique personal enrichment. We also had the chance to attend guest lectures as Tiffany Brannon (University of California, Los Angeles), Peter Clarke (University of Southern California), Susan Evans (University of Southern California) and Dallas Swendemann (University of California, Los Angeles). I would like to thank Jeff and David for their lectures, advice, feedbacks on our personal work and especially their kindness. Thanks also to all the guests, and our excellent teacher assistant Oliver Fisher who has done everything to ensure we have two good weeks, and EASP.

Meghan McNamara (University of St Andrews) attended Psychology of Inequality, which was led by Jean-Claude Croizet (Université de Poitiers) and Nicole M. Stephens (Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University). The course had four major aims: first, to contextualize inequality and educate the class about different theoretical approaches to inequality within psychology, second, to inspire critical discussion about these issues and theories, and third, to give students the opportunity to design studies in small groups. Each day, we started the morning session with an ethnographic analysis of everyday inequality incidents that were observed by students. Then, we discussed and critiqued the day’s assigned readings. In the afternoon, we met in small groups to design our studies. At the end of the second week, all groups presented their project designs to the class, and students and staff offered suggestions on how to improve them. Thanks to EASP for the opportunity to attend the 2017 SISPP, Jean-Claude and Nicole for their instruction and conversation, and the Psychology of Inequality course attendees for sharing their perspectives and personal expertise. As the class was comprised of students interested in a wide range of topics germane to inequality (e.g., discrimination, prejudice, identity, intergroup relations, dehumanization, gender, race, social class, and social change), the dialogue and debate was quite lively. Finally, it was superb to meet international postgraduate students, discuss collaboration ideas, and generate questions to drive future research. This was additionally supported by the fact that the SISPP conveners assigned dormitory suites to students who attended different courses; this facilitated cross-subject social and intellectual engagement.

Ángel Sánchez-Rodríguez (University of Granada) participated in the Personality in Context course. During two weeks we dealt with relevant topics in the field of personality and cultural differences and thanks to the great contributions of David Funder (University of California) and Shige Oishi (University of Virginia) we broaden our knowledge on these topics. More concretely, the first week, supervised by David, addressed the importance of traits and situation, whereas the second one, led by Shige, focused on historical and geographical changes in personality and happiness. Our every day classes consisted in actively discussing several papers that we have previously read individually. In addition, we had the opportunity to present our work and receive interesting feedback and suggestions from senior scholars and from the other postgraduate students. This gave us the opportunity to improve the quality of our work and promoted future collaborations. I also really appreciate the fact that David and Shige shared with us their very helpful and practical knowledge on research career, addressing topics like publishing, getting a job after finishing the PhD program, or balance between family and work. I would like to thank David and Shige for sharing their valuable knowledge and insights, and for creating a very comfortable and inspiring work environment, and EASP for chance to attend SISPP.

Mariko Visserman (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) participated in the course Computational Social Psychology. In this course we received readings as well as hands on experience with statistical models and programs. The course was divided in two parts. In the first week we learned all about computational modeling, led by Steve Read (University of Southern California). We learned all about how to build and simulate a model in the program Emergent, and the role of the input layer, output layer, and the hidden layer that bridges the input to the output. The second week was led by Niall Bolger (Colombia University), and was all about intensive longitudinal modeling, for example data from studies that have collected information from participants over time (e.g., a treatment and a control group followed over time). This also extended to dyadic longitudinal data (e.g., romantic couples followed in an experience sampling procedure), which was very applicable to my own research on dyadic processes in romantic relationships in daily life. We received hands on experience with several statistical programs, and also touched on topics such as statistical power (and how to calculate this in multilevel models, e.g., in Mplus). It was very valuable to be able to immerse in these topics non-stop for two weeks, and I greatly appreciated that the teachers actively participated in each other’s classes. We could pick both of their brains at all times, and they were even picking each other’s brains (which also illustrated the always continuing process of learning new statistical methods and programs). Also, the two teachers had a great dynamic (it made some participants end up in tears from laughter)—who knew statistics could be so much fun! A big thank you to Steve and Niall and EASP as well!

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