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Department of Psychology
111 Pryale Hall
Oakland University
Rochester, MI 48309              
(248) 370-2300
Fax: (248) 370-4612  

Graduate Programs

Our graduate programs will provide graduate students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary to become successful consumers and producers of psychological science.  Psychology is a broad discipline that interfaces with the biological and social sciences and our program is organized around five concentrations that together encapsulate the breadth of  psychological science:
  1. Social/Personality
  2. Behavioral Health
  3. Evolutionary and Comparative
  4. Developmental
  5. Cognition, Perception, and Neuroscience
These concentrations represent broad areas that focus on phenomena from different orientations in moderately overlapping but distinguishable content areas. Students seeking the MS degree will be broadly exposed to the content and methods in multiple concentrations. Students seeking the Ph.D. degree will have similar broad exposure to multiple concentrations which will be extended by an intensive inquiry specialized in one concentration.

SOCIAL/
PERSONALITY
BEHAVIORAL
HEALTH
EVOLUTIONARY
& COMPARATIVE
DEVELOPMENTAL
COGNITION, PERCEPTION,
& NEUROSCIENCE

The Master of Science (MS) with a concentration in Social-Personality Psychology is a two-year terminal degree program in experimental methodology. The Ph.D. is a four-year program aimed at preparing the candidate for an academic career in Social-Personality Psychology. As a graduate student in the Social-Personality concentration, you will be exposed to course work concerning the theoretical foundations of the discipline. You will also acquire the quantitative skills and expertise in research methodology that is necessary to contribute to the advancement of the field of social-personality psychology. Through formal and informal aspects of the program, you will develop skills in conceptual analysis of social-personality psychology, research design, data analysis, scientific writing, teaching, editorial reviewing, and scholarly presentations. 

Faculty in the Social-Personality Psychology concentration have varied, active research programs currently investigating several facets of psychological experience, including self-esteem, dark personality features (e.g., narcissism), post-traumatic growth, social influence (e.g., obedience, conformity), alcohol use, physiological correlates of social behavior (e.g., hormonal variations), romantic relationships, mate choice, sexual violence, sexual risk-taking, infidelity, and jealousy.

Faculty Interests
Dr. Melissa McDonald: My primary program of research attempts to improve our understanding of why intergroup bias is a pervasive feature of human societies. To this end, I adopt an interdisciplinary approach drawing on research from social and personality psychology as well as anthropology and evolutionary biology. Within this framework, I am interested in how the psychological systems that produce intergroup bias operate, with a particular emphasis on how these systems differ for men and women. For example, my research explores questions such as: Why is intergroup bias so often a male-on-male affair? What are the ultimate motivations of intergroup bias for men and women, and more specifically, when and why do they differ? And, how do situational features and individual differences shape the expression of intergroup bias? Most recently, I have become interested in developing practical interventions for reducing bias and conflict between groups. For more information, please visit: www.melissa-m-mcdonald.com

Dr. Michele Parkhill Purdie: My primary research interests concern the social psychological processes involved in the relationship between alcohol and sexual assault perpetration, victimization, and AIDS risk behaviors. I have established a strong program of research that focuses on both survey and experimental methodologies in examining how alcohol influences past sexual assault perpetration, the likelihood of engaging in sexual assault perpetration in the future, and the likelihood of engaging in sexual intercourse without a condom.

Dr. Todd Shackelford: Much of my research addresses sexual conflict between men and women, guided by an evolutionary psychological perspective. I am particularly interested in testing hypotheses derived from sperm competition theory. I use several methodologies in this research, including semen analysis, penile plethysmography, self-report and partner-report surveys, content analyses of pornographic DVDs and websites, and meta-analytic reviews of psychiatric case reports. For additional information and to download publications, please visit www.ToddKShackelford.com.

Dr. Kanako Taku: My research has centered on the construct of post-traumatic growth – positive psychological changes that may occur as a result of the struggle with major life crises or traumatic events. One of my primary research interests is developing a psycho-educational intervention program that aims to enhance cognitive abilities triggered by post-traumatic growth. Additionally, I am interested in challenging the definitions and conceptualization of post-traumatic growth from cross-cultural, social, and personality perspectives. I am also investigating different growth processes dependent on the nature of triggered experiences such as: experiencing trauma (e.g., earthquake); causing or enabling trauma (e.g., bullying); having non-traumatic but influential life experiences (e.g., having a baby or undertaking spiritual pilgrimages); and working with traumatized people (e.g., vicarious post-traumatic growth). For more information, please see the website.

Dr. Lisa Welling: My research mainly focuses on hormonal and psychological sources of individual differences in human preferences, perception, and behavior. For example, my work has investigated how menstrual cycle effects, hormonal contraceptive use, and other sources of hormonal variation affect mate choice and person perception in men and women. Other research interests into individual differences in adaptive preferences have investigated penchants for sexually dimorphic cues, cues to kinship/relatedness, dominance, health, condition-dependent preferences, and salience of emotional expressions. Finally, given the incredible importance of mate choice and interpersonal relationships on reproduction and overall fitness, I am interested in human sexual behavior and adaptive preferences for underlying markers of mate quality. For more information and to download publications, please visit www.wellingresearchlab.com.

Dr. Virgil Zeigler-Hill: My primary research interests are in three interrelated areas: (1) self-esteem, (2) dark personality features (e.g., narcissism, psychopathy, spitefulness), and (3) interpersonal relationships. Though divergent at times, these substantive areas often overlap in my research so that much of my work reflects an integration of these topics. In my research concerning self-esteem, I have focused primarily on the causes and consequences of fragile high self-esteem as well as the development of the status-signaling model of self-esteem. My research concerning dark personality features is focused on identifying potentially maladaptive aspects of personality and examining their connections with important life outcomes (e.g., psychological adjustment). Finally, in the area of interpersonal relationships, I examine how personality features as well as beliefs about the self and one’s romantic partner influence intimacy, relationship satisfaction, jealousy, infidelity, and longevity in close relationships. For more information about my research and to download publications, please visit zeigler-hill.com.


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The Master of Science (MS) with a concentration in Behavioral Health is a two-year terminal degree program in experimental methodology aimed at developing the research skills necessary  to pursue doctoral training in health or applied areas. The Ph.D. is a four-year program aimed at preparing the candidate for an academic career in Behavioral Health. 

As a graduate student in the Behavioral Health concentration, you will be exposed to course-work concerning the theoretical foundations of the discipline. You will also acquire the quantitative skills and expertise in research methodology that is necessary to contribute to the advancement of the field of social-personality psychology. Faculty in the behavioral health concentration have active research programs investigating cardiovascular health, obesity, sexual risk taking, addictive behaviors, sleep, stress, trauma and emotion regulation.

Faculty Interests
Dr. Andrea Kozak: I am greatly concerned about the unhealthy behaviors and co-morbid health issues associated with overweight/obesity. Therefore, my research program is primarily focused on trying to understand factors that contribute to excess weight, ways to help people lose weight and keep it off, and the consequences of overweight and obesity. My work has also focused on managing heart failure symptoms and signs from a non-pharmacological perspective and on the relationship between health-related quality of life and a variety of diseases. I have used a variety of methods to answer my research questions of interest such as randomized controlled trials, correlational studies and systematic reviews/meta-analysis.

Dr. Scott Pickett: I am interested in examining risk and recovery factors associated with psychological trauma, such as emotion regulation strategies and positive health behaviors (e.g., adequate sleep quality). Using both correlational and experimental designs, I have examined the emotional contexts in which emotion regulation strategies are enacted and how health behaviors are impacted by these contexts and strategies. Given the reciprocal nature between emotion, emotion regulation and health outcomes, my research aims to understand the mechanisms involved in these relationships to inform prevention and intervention efforts.

Dr. Michele Parkhill Purdie: My primary research interests concern the social psychological processes involved in the relationship between alcohol and sexual assault perpetration, victimization, and AIDS risk behaviors. I have established a strong program of research that focuses on both survey and experimental methodologies in examining how alcohol influences past sexual assault perpetration, the likelihood of engaging in sexual assault perpetration in the future, and the likelihood of engaging in sexual intercourse without a condom.


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The Master of Science with a concentration in evolutionary and comparative psychology is a two-year terminal degree program in experimental methodology. The Ph.D. is a four-year program aimed at preparing the candidate for an academic career in evolutionary psychology or in comparative psychology. Research within this concentration has the principle goal of gaining a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of human and non-human psychology and behavior by exploring research questions as they pertain to natural and sexual selection.

The concentration targets the development of the research skills necessary to pursue (M.S.) or complete (Ph.D.) doctoral training in areas of psychology, such as evolutionary perspectives on cognitive processes, individual differences, and factors influencing behavior in both humans and non-humans. Faculty in the evolutionary and comparative psychology concentration have varied, active research programs currently investigating several facets of psychological experience, including human and non-human cognition, pro-sociality, cooperation, memory, concept formation, theory of mind, individual differences, behavioral endocrinology, mate choice, interpersonal relationships, mate guarding/jealousy, mate choice copying, person perception, preferences, attractiveness, human sexual behavior and animal/human interactions.

Faculty Interests
Dr. Melissa McDonald: My primary program of research attempts to improve our understanding of why intergroup bias is a pervasive feature of human societies. To this end, I adopt an interdisciplinary approach drawing on research from social and personality psychology as well as anthropology and evolutionary biology. Within this framework, I am interested in how the psychological systems that produce intergroup bias operate, with a particular emphasis on how these systems differ for men and women. For example, my research explores questions such as: Why is intergroup bias so often a male-on-male affair? What are the ultimate motivations of intergroup bias for men and women, and more specifically, when and why do they differ? And, how do situational features and individual differences shape the expression of intergroup bias? Most recently, I have become interested in developing practical interventions for reducing bias and conflict between groups. For more information, please visit: www.melissa-m-mcdonald.com

Dr. Todd Shackelford: Much of my research addresses sexual conflict between men and women, guided by an evolutionary psychological perspective. I am particularly interested in testing hypotheses derived from sperm competition theory. I use several methodologies in this research, including semen analysis, penile plethysmography, self-report and partner-report surveys, content analyses of pornographic DVDs and websites, and meta-analytic reviews of psychiatric case reports. For additional information and to download publications, please visit www.ToddKShackelford.com.

Dr. Jennifer Vonk: I am a comparative/cognitive psychologist with primary research interests in two overlapping areas: (1) animal cognition, and (2) cognitive development. The underlying goal of my work is to examine cognitive continuities and discontinuities between humans and both closely and distantly related species. Thus, my work focuses on examining both phylogenetic and ontogenetic origins of cognitive processes that may or may not be shared with humans. Current work centers on social cognition, such as theory of mind, co-operation, prosociality, and reasoning about emotions, as well as physical cognition, such as causal reasoning, analogical reasoning, numerosity, and natural concept formation. I am collaborating with the Center for Zoo Animal Welfare at the Detroit Zoo and the Organization for Bat Conservation to tackle issue of animal welfare as well. Recent work with humans is focused on examining the effects of religiosity, attachment, and perspective-taking on human decision-making processes. For additional information and to download publications, please visit www.jennifervonk.com.

Dr. Lisa Welling: My research mainly focuses on hormonal and psychological sources of individual differences in human preferences, perception, and behavior. For example, my work has investigated how menstrual cycle effects, hormonal contraceptive use, and other sources of hormonal variation affect mate choice and person perception in men and women. Other research interests into individual differences in adaptive preferences have investigated penchants for sexually dimorphic cues, cues to kinship/relatedness, dominance, health, condition-dependent preferences, and salience of emotional expressions. Finally, given the incredible importance of mate choice and interpersonal relationships on reproduction and overall fitness, I am interested in human sexual behavior and adaptive preferences for underlying markers of mate quality. For more information and to download publications, please visit www.wellingresearchlab.com.

Dr. Virgil Zeigler-Hill: My primary research interests are in three interrelated areas: (1) self-esteem, (2) dark personality features (e.g., narcissism, psychopathy, spitefulness), and (3) interpersonal relationships. Though divergent at times, these substantive areas often overlap in my research so that much of my work reflects an integration of these topics. In my research concerning self-esteem, I have focused primarily on the causes and consequences of fragile high self-esteem as well as the development of the status-signaling model of self-esteem. My research concerning dark personality features is focused on identifying potentially maladaptive aspects of personality and examining their connections with important life outcomes (e.g., psychological adjustment). Finally, in the area of interpersonal relationships, I examine how personality features as well as beliefs about the self and one’s romantic partner influence intimacy, relationship satisfaction, jealousy, infidelity, and longevity in close relationships. For more information about my research and to download publications, please visit zeigler-hill.com.


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The Master of Science with a concentration in developmental psychology is a two-year terminal degree program in experimental methodology. The Ph.D. is a four-year program provided to prepare the candidate for an academic career in developmental psychology. This focus is to gain a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of developmental processes. 

The concentration is aimed at developing the research skills necessary to pursue (MS) or complete (Ph.D.) doctoral training in developmental psychology. Faculty in the developmental concentration have varied, active research programs currently investigating several facets of developmental psychology including pro-sociality, attachment, age-related changes in language comprehension, theories of health, and theory of mind.

Faculty Interests
Dr. Mary Lewis: I am a developmental psychologist with research interests in the following areas: 1) Investigating the interpersonal and relational correlates of adolescent prosocial behavior, including volunteerism and everyday prosocial behavior; 2) The nature and dynamics of parent and adolescent relationships with a particular emphasis on prosocial behavior; 3) The development of prosocial morality among adolescents; and 4) Side interest in attachment and parent separation anxiety from adolescents during the transition to college.

Dr. Deb McGinnis: Recently I published a series of articles examining age-related changes in language comprehension and reading with distraction, with an emphasis on neurological and educational predictors. Currently, I am conducting research on proverb comprehension and factors associated with proficient comprehension of proverbs.

Dr. Lakshmi Raman: My research focuses on children and adults' theories of health. One line of research examines the causal factors children and adults entertain in the manifestation of physical illnesses. A second line of research examines children's and adults' understanding of the impact of nutrition on health.

Dr. Jennifer Vonk: I am a comparative/cognitive psychologist with primary research interests in two overlapping areas: (1) animal cognition, and (2) cognitive development. The underlying goal of my work is to examine cognitive continuities and discontinuities between humans and both closely and distantly related species. Thus, my work focuses on examining both phylogenetic and ontogenetic origins of cognitive processes that may or may not be shared with humans. Current work centers on social cognition, such as theory of mind, co-operation, pro-sociality, and reasoning about emotions, as well as physical cognition, such as causal reasoning, analogical reasoning, numerosity, and natural concept formation. Recent work with humans is focused on examining the effects of religiosity, attachment, and perspective-taking on human decision making processes.


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The Master of Science with a concentration in cognition perception and neuroscience is a two-year terminal degree program in experimental methodology. The Ph.D. is a four-year program provided to prepare the candidate for an academic career in cognitive, perceptual or neurological psychology. This focus of these fields is to gain a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of human and non-human cognitive and physiological processes by exploring research questions as they pertain to creativity, memory, vision, categorization, and physiological and behavioral effects of drug use. 

The concentration is aimed at developing the research skills necessary to pursue (MS) or complete (Ph.D.) doctoral training in areas of psychology, such as cognitive, perceptual and neurological processes. Faculty in the cognition perception and neuroscience concentration have varied, active research programs currently investigating several facets of psychological experience, including human and animal cognition and physiology, memory, theory of mind, religiosity, categorization, creativity, face and emotion processing, and drug interactions.

Faculty Interests
Dr. Dean Purcell: Primary research interests are in the area of visual perception with specific interest in the impact of emotional content on faces on speed of responding. I also study the impact of stimulus organization on detection thresholds and am interested in the theory of evolution as it applies to perceptual systems.

Dr. Cynthia Sifonis: I am interested in the relationship between category representation and category use; specifically, the manner in which the use of category knowledge affects the representation of that knowledge and how the category representation affects category use. In terms of creativity, I am interested in how concepts and categories are used when creating novel products and how examples constrain creativity when viewed immediately before generating new ideas. With regard to analogy, I am interested in how a person's understanding and representation of a problem interact with the characteristics of the prior knowledge during analogical problem solving.

Dr. Jennifer Vonk: I am a comparative/cognitive psychologist with primary research interests in two overlapping areas: (1) animal cognition, and (2) cognitive development. The underlying goal of my work is to examine cognitive continuities and discontinuities between humans and both closely and distantly related species. Thus, my work focuses on examining both phylogenetic and ontogenetic origins of cognitive processes that may or may not be shared with humans. Current work centers on social cognition, such as theory of mind, co-operation, pro-sociality, and reasoning about emotions, as well as physical cognition, such as causal reasoning, analogical reasoning, numerosity, and natural concept formation. Recent work with humans is focused on examining the effects of religiosity, attachment, and perspective-taking on human decision making processes.

Dr. Lisa Welling: My research mainly focuses on hormonal and psychological sources of individual differences in human preferences, perception, and behavior. For example, my work has investigated how menstrual cycle effects, hormonal contraceptive use, and other sources of hormonal variation affect mate choice and person perception in men and women. Other research interests into individual differences in adaptive preferences have investigated penchants for sexually dimorphic cues, cues to kinship/relatedness, dominance, health, condition-dependent preferences, and salience of emotional expressions. Finally, given the incredible importance of mate choice and interpersonal relationships on reproduction and overall fitness, I am interested in human sexual behavior and adaptive preferences for underlying markers of mate quality.

Dr. Keith Williams: Alcoholism and drug addiction continue to plague society despite recent progress in the treatment of these problems and the understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms. Research has shown that behavioral and biological factors influence drug consumption. My focus is on bridging the gap between the behavioral and biological components that modulate drug-taking behavior and addiction. My interests include the pharmacological and behavioral mechanisms of drug reinforcement and craving, drug discriminative stimulus properties, hormonal influences on drug self-administration, and contribution of food intake mechanisms on drug consumption.


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