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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Sonia Roccas (1964-2019)

19.06.2019, by Tina Keil in announcement

Obituary by Adi Amit and Ido Liviatan

Sonia Roccas (18.3.1964 – 22.5.2019)
Sonia Roccas (18.3.1964 – 22.5.2019)

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the premature loss of our beloved colleague Sonia Roccas.

Sonia Roccas was a true scholar whose knowledge and interests extended much beyond psychological research. She was intrigued by history, art, politics, and more – all contributing to her quest to investigate questions with significant social implications. Sonia was particularly passionate about social psychology. She strongly believed that the field could provide a unique understanding of societal phenomena by building a bridge between a psychological perspective, focusing on the individual, and a sociological perspective, focusing on cultures, societies, and groups. In her own research, she thus sought to combine the two perspectives by integrating between personality and group processes.

Sonia's primary line of research focused on social identities. She viewed social identities as a complex structure at the core of meaningful group phenomena, such as intergroup hostility, ingroup guilt and suffering, and group identification. Her most notable contributions to this research domain are the conceptualizations of the construct of Social Identity Complexity, which refers to the subjective representations of the interrelationships among multiple social identities (Roccas & Brewer, 2002), and a multidimensional model of group identification, abbreviated CIDS, for the four components of identification it defines: Commitment, Importance, Deference, and Superiority (Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz, Halevy, & Eidelson, 2008). In formulating each of these ideas, Sonia integrated diverse lines of research into a unified theoretical framework. The review papers that outlined these concepts exemplify Sonia's intellectual scope and theorizing.

Sonia's other major line of research concerned individual differences in personal values. She investigated the broad influences of values, linking them to various aspects of people's lives, such as, religiosity, emotions, well-being, and work-related behaviors. Among her prominent contributions was research showing both communalities and differences between personal values and personality traits (e.g., Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz, & Knafo, 2002) and taking a cross-cultural perspective linking values and behavior (e.g., Roccas & Sagiv, 2017).

Sonia's research was pioneering in presenting an integration between values and social identities advancing the understanding of basic group processes. She viewed groups as social contexts that provide opportunities and resources to facilitate individuals’ pursuit and attainment of value priorities while, at the same time, imposing demands and constraints that may thwart their attainment. She applied this perspective to analyze societal processes such as tolerance, perceived social heterogeneity, collective guilt, acculturation, morality and more. The achievements and legacy she leaves for our community will serve as an invaluable guide to further advance the understanding of the joint role of personality and groups in social-psychological phenomena.

Sonia's contribution to the field extended beyond her innovative studies. She served as an associate editor for the journals of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and European Journal of Social Psychology, as a guest editor at the Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology, and on the editorial boards of the Journal of Social and Political Psychology and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

For those who have had the privilege of working or studying with Sonia, she will be forever remembered for her brilliant sharp ideas, her sensible decision making, her empowering mentoring, her warmth, and her shy and shining smile. In the words of her PhD supervisor and life-long colleague, Shalom Schwartz, “She was like no one else I ever met”. We will greatly miss her guidance and friendship.

Adi Amit and Ido Liviatan