Social Psychology at UC Santa Cruz

A Brief History

The University of California, Santa Cruz, has a rich and longstanding intellectual commitment to the study of social psychology. The first graduate program in the Department of Psychology (and one of the first at the University) was initiated in 1971 in Personality and Social Psychology. Founding faculty of the program included David Marlowe, Theodore Sarbin, Barry McLaughlin, M. Brewster Smith, Frank Barron, and G. William Domhoff. The early curriculum included courses in group dynamics, personality, psychobiography, and community psychology. Consistent with the program’s current emphasis on social justice, an early program statement described an emphasis on “research in natural settings which focuses on problems of contemporary social significance.”

Major thematic influences in the first decade of the program included the study of self and identity in social perspective (Sarbin, Smith), social movements (McLaughlin), power and social structure (Domhoff), personality and social behavior (Marlowe), the psychology of gender and sex roles (Nancy Adler, Wendy Martyna), desegregation in educational settings (Elliot Aronson), culture and ethnicity (Manuel Ramirez III, Chalsa Loo), psychology and law (Craig Haney), community psychology (Ramirez), and the social psychology of institutions (Haney).

In its second decade, the program welcomed the addition of new faculty who strengthened its emphasis on issues of social justice, including Thomas Pettigrew (United States race relations), Aída Hurtado (social identity, political consciousness, and intergroup relations), Judith Schwartz (attitudes, emotions, and social identity), and Anthony Pratkanis (attitudes, persuasion, propaganda, and social influence). In 1987, the name of the program was officially changed to Social Psychology to reflect the focus of faculty research.

Although a focus on social problems and on the application of theory and data to social action has been a consistent theme in the history of the program, a more explicit and concentrated emphasis on social justice emerged in the late 1990s, with the addition of faculty Heather Bullock (social class, poverty and economic justice), Faye Crosby (discrimination, gender, affirmative action), Colin Leach (racism and racial inequality), and Eileen Zurbriggen (power and sexuality). In the late-2000s, the program strengthened its emphasis on interdisciplinary scholarship and critical, multi-method approaches to social justice issues with addition of faculty Shelly Grabe (social activism, transnational feminism, human rights), Phillip Hammack (sexual identity, narrative, political conflict), Regina Langhout (educational inequalities based on race, class, and gender; participatory action research), and Aaronette White (Black feminist psychology, feminism of African American men, anti-rape movements, narrative methods). In the 2010s, the program welcomed a number of faculty who study race, ethnicity, and inequality, with the addition of Courtney Bonam (racial stereotyping, environmental racism, the multiracial experience, social justice education), Saskias Casanova (immigrant youth, Latinx psychology, educational equity, social identities, discrimination), and Rebecca Covarrubias (culture and identity, educational equity for marginalized students, culturally-grounded interventions). The commitment to fully integrate a social justice focus has resulted in a shift toward greater interdisciplinarity and social advocacy among students and faculty, while maintaining a commitment to rigorous training in the fundamentals of social psychology.

The current faculty identify as critical psychologists who are explicit in our commitment to social justice. We seek to produce knowledge that contributes both to theory-building in psychology and to direct social change. We believe in the use of empirical evidence to challenge oppression and inequality in all its forms, including on the basis of class, sex, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual identity, religion, nationality, ability, and immigration status. We critically interrogate relationships between persons and social settings, including institutions such as schools, prisons, social services, and organizations. We embrace multiple methods (e.g., survey, experimental, ethnographic, qualitative, participatory action research) and take an interdisciplinary approach to social justice issues, seeking to link our work to related fields such as sociology, politics, feminist studies, anthropology, and education.

With a mission grounded in Kurt Lewin’s notion of a “full-cycle” (theory-application-practice) social psychology, faculty and student research highlights the relationship between social structural forces, including policy and access to resources, and individual experience in diverse contexts and using diverse methods. 


Current faculty

Courtney Bonam

Heather E. Bullock

Saskias Casanova

Rebecca Covarrubias

Shelly A. Grabe

Phillip L. Hammack

Craig W. Haney

Regina Day Langhout

Eileen L. Zurbriggen



Elliot Aronson, Emeritus

Martin M. Chemers, Emeritus

William Domhoff, Emeritus

Barry McLaughlin, Emeritus

Thomas F. Pettigrew, Emeritus


Faculty affiliated with social psychology at UCSC, 1965-Present

Nancy E. Adler (1974-1977)

Elliot Aronson (1974-Present [Emeritus])

Frank X. Barron (1969-2002, deceased)

A. Wade Boykin (1987-1990)

Heather E. Bullock (1999-Present)

Catherine C. Byrne (2004-2007)

Martin M. Chemers (1996-Present [Emeritus])

Rebecca Covarrubias (2015-Present)

Faye J. Crosby (1998-2005)

William Domhoff (1965-Present [Emeritus])

Robert D. Frager (1969-1975)

Shelly A. Grabe (2009-Present)

Patricia Greenfield (1973-1974)

Phillip L. Hammack (2007-Present)

Craig W. Haney (1978-Present)

Li-Tze Hu (1992-2000)

Aída Hurtado (1984-2013)

Paula B. Johnson (1974-1977)

Bhuwan Joshi (1965-1977, deceased)

Michael Kahn (1970-1982, deceased)

Bert Kaplan (1965-2006, deceased)

Regina Day Langhout (2006-Present)

Colin W. Leach (1999-2005)

Chalsa M. Loo (1974-1987)

David Marlowe (1969-1990, deceased)

Wendy Martyna (1978-1983)

Barry McLaughlin (1966-1979)

Thomas F. Pettigrew (1981-Present [Emeritus])

Anthony R. Pratkanis (1988-1999)

Theodore Sarbin (1969-2006, deceased)

Judith C. Schwartz (1988-1991)

Valerie M. Simmons (1983-1990)

M. Brewster Smith (1970-2012, deceased)

Aaronette M. White (2009-2012, deceased)

Stephen C. Wright (1992-2005)

Eileen L. Zurbriggen (2000-Present)