May 22, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

Psychology: Social-Personality PhD

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: A-Z Program List

Social psychology is the scientific study of how behavior is influenced by the presence of other people. The topical areas of study in our doctoral program include: attitudes, automaticity, close relationships, goal pursuit, pro-social and anti-social behavior, self and self-regulation, social perception, stereotyping and intergroup relations, and stress and coping. Students work within the general program requirements to tailor their education to fit their own interests and professional goals through the selection of research projects and electives.

Required courses - 18 credits

The following courses are required of all students in the Social Psychology program:

Distribution courses in (two of three are required for Ph.D)

Minimum Research Requirements

Students are expected to be actively involved in research throughout their graduate careers. As they progress in the program, the expectation is that students will take increasing intellectual ownership of their research projects, ultimately culminating in students’ ability to conduct research independent of their faculty advisors. To aid in that goal, the area sets three minimum research requirements. However, all students are expected to be involved in conducting further research and writing papers for publication that go beyond satisfying these minimum requirements. 

  1. Second-year research project: The goal of the second-year project is to develop students’ skills in leading a research project from start to finish. The student devises a hypothesis and an appropriate methodology to test it, collects the data and then writes an APA-style paper reporting the results. A committee of three social faculty members, including the student’s advisor, supervises and evaluates the project. The following steps are involved: (1) a written proposal, including an introduction, proposed method, and proposed analysis, must be approved by the committee after an oral defense, (2) the student performs the project, and (3) the student writes up an APA-style paper and orally defends the project to the committee.
  2. Third-year preliminary paper: There are multiple options for a third-year paper, but the typical format is an empirical paper, the goal of which is to provide students with training in writing publishable empirical articles. The final version of the paper should be submitted for publication. A committee of three social faculty members, including the student’s advisor, evaluates the project. The following steps are involved: (1) the student prepares a 3 to 5 page statement of goals, which is presented to prospective committee members, (2) after the committee approves the proposal, the student prepares a paper in consultation with the committee, and (3) the committee approves the paper (or suggests required revisions) and the student orally defends the final product.
  3. Dissertation: The goal of the dissertation is to develop students’ skills in establishing a program of research. The procedures for forming a dissertation committee, gaining approval of a dissertation proposal, and having the final product evaluated are spelled out in the Department’s Graduate Student Manual. A student must get the approval of his or her advisory committee before beginning serious dissertation research. There are multiple forms that a dissertation can take, but its typical form requires a fairly extensive written dissertation proposal involving a history of research and thinking on the topic, a rationale for the proposed research, a statement of the research problem and hypotheses, and a description of the proposed method, including statistical analyses. Students are encouraged to gather pilot data before submitting the proposal.

Completion Timeline

Most students finish the program in five years; the timetable below is based on a five-year plan for completion. Occasionally, students have completed the program in less than five years.

First Year

Students begin conducting research with their primary advisor. This research often provides a foundation for students’ first major first-authored research paper (the Second-Year Project). Students also begin taking required classes, such as Advanced Social Psychology (680), Research Methods in Social Psychology, regression and ANOVA, elective social seminars, and/or one of the required breadth courses in Behavioral Neuroscience, Clinical or Cognitive.

Second Year

Students continue to conduct research with their primary advisor and plan and conduct a Second-Year Project (the equivalent of a Master’s Thesis).  By the end of their second year, students might also start secondary research collaborations with a secondary faculty member.  Students also take Multivariate Statistics, one or two departmental breadth requirements and elective social seminars.

Third Year

Students conduct increasingly independent research under the guidance of their primary and perhaps secondary mentor and plan and complete the Third-Year Paper.  Developed in consultation with the primary advisor and two secondary area members, this paper is typically an empirical paper ready to submit for publication.  Students typically finish their required coursework by the end of their third year.

Fourth and Fifth Years

Research is the primary focus as students prepare manuscripts for publication and plan and conduct their dissertations.  Students may also acquire experience teaching undergraduate classes in service of their professional development.

Credits Required

  • 72 Hours

Instruction Method

  • In Person (100 percent of courses offered in person)

Full/Part Time Options

  • Full Time


  • 5 Years

Application Fee

  • $75

Admissions Tests**

  • GRE

Program Contact

Mary Wlodarczyk
213 Park Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260
Phone: 716-645-8617
Fax: 716-645-3801

SED Statement

This program is officially registered with the New York State Education Department (SED).

Online programs/courses may require students to come to campus on occasion. Time-to-degree and number of credit hours may vary based on full/part time status, degree, track and/or certification option chosen. Time-to-degree is based on calendar year(s). Contact the department for details.

** At least one of the admissions tests are required for admission. Test and score requirements/exceptions vary by program. Contact the department for details.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: A-Z Program List