Oklahoma State University
July 2014
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Sociology Scholarships


Social psychology studies the ways in which social processes influence action or as Cook, Fine, and House (1995) state, how self and social system interpenetrate. Sociologists working in this area are interested in understanding the relationships between group structures and processes.

Much of the research and theory in social psychology has focused on the nature of social interaction and interpersonal relationships and the various factors which influence small group dynamics (e.g., work groups, study groups, youth societies, groups of friends, teams, juries, clubs, task groups in experimental research, etc.).

Social psychology is also concerned with how various social settings and individuals' roles and behaviors are interconnected. Much research examines how individuals' perceptions, belief systems, moralities, identities, and behaviors are influenced by their positions in social space (and how the former may also influence these positions and larger structural arrangements). Research dealing with the impact of peoples’ social positions includes:

  • early life and adult socialization;
  • the intersection of social history and actors’ biographies, such as coming of age during a time of depression or war;
  • a person’s location within the stratification orders of gender, age, ethnicity/ race, and social class;
  • peoples’ roles within the institutional orders of religion, work, community, and family;
  • the geographic context of childhood, such as region of the country or the size of cities wherein people live;
  • actors’ membership in and identification with various social groups;
  • the dynamics by which social movements and other forms of collective behavior both shape and are determined by participants’ beliefs, cognitions, feelings, and actions.


Social psychology graduate courses in the Department of Sociology cover topics such as the nature of social interaction, social influence in small group settings, how and why social structure and structured inequalities emerge in groups, major theoretical/research traditions in social psychology (especially “sociological social psychology”), constructing and negotiating social reality with others (symbolic interactionism and other micro sociologies of daily life), and the ways social movements and collective behavior operate and important aspects of these collective episodes (e.g., cognitive frames, collective identity, power).

Other issues addressed include social factors shaping perceptions and decision making (belief systems and emotions); the social dynamics occurring in different kinds of social institutions and arrangements (e.g., stratification/inequality structures involving race, gender, and class; family, religion; work, leisure and consumerism; mass media; political systems, the urban world); self types and their differences across the life cycle; and nature vs. nurture debates revolving around body/self, gender and sex.

The following graduate seminars and opportunities for independent study are available to graduate students:

  • Sociology 6653 – Seminar in Social Psychology
  • Sociology 6853 – Seminar in Symbolic Interactionism
  • Sociology 6213 – Seminar in Social Structure
  • Sociology 5323 – Seminar in Collective Behavior and Social Movements
  • Sociology 5990 – Independent Graduate Study (This option allows more advanced graduate students specializing in social psychology to pursue a focused and in-depth study of some particular theoretical/research topic with one of the core faculty in social psychology.)



Faculty members are actively engaged in numerous projects which contribute to social psychological theory and research. Research interests of the faculty include group processes and structures (especially in regard to the role of ritual in social interaction and groups), symbolic interactionist theory and its intellectual roots, and research on social movements and their social psychological components (see individual faculty webpage for information about each individual's research interests, vitas, and contact information). Many of these projects are collaborative in nature involving current and former graduate students. The faculty members are:

For more information about the graduate social psychology concentration area, please contact:

Dr. Tom Shriver
Department of Sociology
Oklahoma State University
431 Murray
Stillwater, OK 74078-4062
Phone: (405) 744-6105
Fax: (405) 744-5780
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