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Social and Health Psychology Overview

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Program of Study

The Doctoral Program in Social and Health Psychology offers courses and research training leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. This program is a good choice for students who are interested in a research career in social psychology, health psychology, or the interface between these two disciplines (e.g., application of social psychology theory to health problems). Social psychology focuses on topics such as social comparison processes, social support processes, prejudice and racism, stereotyping, the representation and processing of social experience, social cognition, and social neuroscience.  Health psychology focuses on identifying, evaluating, and enhancing the psychosocial and behavioral factors that promote health, prevent disease, or affect adjustment to disease. Students also have the opportunity to participate in a departmental close relationships concentration that includes faculty members and students in other areas. Students in our graduate program work collaboratively with faculty members on research projects of mutual interest.

A variety of courses are offered so that students can fulfill requirements by selecting the courses that best fit their interests and needs. Within the first three years, students are required to take Statistics.  They also select 3 courses within the Social and Health Area, and three departmental breadth courses. In addition, students have the opportunity to receive training in methodological and quantitative techniques such as structural equation modeling and meta-analysis and they may elect to complete a quantitative concentration. Students may also take courses in other departments of the university. Some students complete a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies. A noteworthy feature of the program is that considerable emphasis is placed on professional socialization. Seminars are offered on topics such as career issues, teaching methods, and grant writing.  Another important feature of our program is its cultural and ethnic diversity.  Every effort is made to recruit members of underrepresented groups.  We strive to integrate cultural and ethnic concerns into all aspects of graduate training.  Students also receive guidance and practice in teaching, including at least two semesters of direct instruction of undergraduates.  A second-year research paper is required. Students are expected to complete a Specialties Project (e.g., literature review, meta-analysis, grant proposal, or research project) and to advance to candidacy for the Ph.D. at the end of the third year. The dissertation is ordinarily completed in the fourth or fifth year (see Social and Health Area Requirements for further information).

The Faculty and Their Research

Areas of particular strength in the faculty’s research include the study of close relationships; prejudice, racism, and stereotyping; the representation and processing of social experience, motivation, and self-regulation; social rejection; lifespan development and ageing; the impact of stress and coping on health; women’s health issues, including breast cancer, pregnancy, and childbirth; and methodology.

Antonio Freitas, Associate Professor and Co-Area Head; Ph.D., Yale, 2002. Social cognition, motivation, self-regulation.

Sheri Levy, Professor; Ph.D., Columbia, 1998. Development, maintenance, and reduction of prejudice among adults and children; social cognition and prosocial behavior.

Marci Lobel, Professor; Ph.D., UCLA, 1989. Stress, coping, and physical health; psychosocial factors in women’s reproductive health; social comparison processes.

Bonita London, Associate Professor; Ph.D., Columbia University, 2006.  Social identity, stereotyping and prejudice, gender- and race-based marginalization, stress and coping, social and motivational factors in academic engagement.

Anne Moyer, Associate Professor and  Co-Area Head; Ph.D., Yale, 1995. Psychosocial issues surrounding cancer risk and treatment, women’s health, research synthesis, research methodology.

Stacey B. Scott, Associate Professor; Ph.D., University of Notre Dame, 2009. Stress, emotions, health, lifespan development, longitudinal and intensive measurement designs and analysis.

Everett Waters, (Emeritus); Ph.D., Minnesota, 1977. Social and personality development, parent-child and adult-adult attachment relationships.

Harriet Salatas Waters, (Emerita); Ph.D., Minnesota, 1976. Social cognitive development, parent-child co-construction of event representations, representation of early experience in memory.

Camille Wortman, (Emerita) Professor; Ph.D., Duke, 1972. Reactions to stressful life experiences, particularly bereavement; role of social support and coping strategies in ameliorating the impact of life stress; others’ reactions to those who experience life crises. 

Associated Faculty in Other Stony Brook Departments

Barbara Burkhard, Ph.D., University at Stony Brook, 1976. Child abuse and neglect.

Peter Caprariello, Ph.D., University of Rochester,  2012. Consumer relationship processes; how consumers spend money pursuing happiness.

Judith A. Crowell, M.D., University of Vermont, 1978. Child and adolescent psychiatry; the attachment system across the life span; parent-child and adult-adult interactions.

Manuel London, Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 1974. Performance management, career development, group learning.

Brittain Mahaffey, Ph.D., University of North Carolina, 2013. Perinatal stress and anxiety disorders; behavioral intervention development; telemedicine and e-health interventions.   

Joyce Sprafkin, Ph.D., University at Stony Brook, 1978. Child psychopathology; AHDH; tic disorders; effects of television on child behavior.

Sarah Sternglanz, (Emerita) Ph.D., Stanford University, 1973.  Gender and gender expression  development; including bidirectional associations with school experience, choice of major/career, and media representations. 

Research Facilities

The Social and Health Area maintains active laboratories with state-of-the-art facilities for research and graduate training. At present, researchers are conducting laboratory and field studies on attachment, reproductive health, close relationships, social neuroscience, stress and coping, social/cognitive development, prejudice, social cognition, academic engagement, volunteerism, meta-analysis, and medical decision making. Social and Health Area faculty members also have affiliations with a number of other departments in the university, including Stony Brook University Medical School.

Financial Aid

Ph.D. students who remain in good standing normally receive five years of financial support, which is currently $20,000 for the 9-month academic year . This funding is associated with teaching or research responsibilities. Social and Health students making good progress receive additional summer funding from sources such as summer teaching assignments, work-study programs, and faculty research grants; summer support currently averages $2,500.

Student Group

The Department of Psychology is one of Stony Brook’s largest graduate departments. More than 600 Ph.D. degrees have been awarded since the program began more than forty years ago.

Student Outcomes

The Social and Health program prepares students who are highly competitive for top research and teaching positions in academic institutions, research organizations, policy institutes, government agencies, and health-care settings. Most students graduate with publications in top journals, including Psychological Bulletin, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Health Psychology, and the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Placements include assistant professor positions at Case Western Reserve University, University of Maryland, University of Vermont, Syracuse University, Cornell Medical School, Penn State University, SUNY Oswego, California State University,  Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Pace University, City University of New York, as well as postdoctoral or research positions at Ohio State University, Yale University, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, University of North Carolina,  University of California, the National Institutes of Health, and other institutions.


Stony Brook is located on the North Shore of Long Island in a region of beaches and small historic villages. It is 60 miles east of New York City, conveniently connected by the Long Island Railroad (which stops at the edge of campus). Nearby research facilities at Cold Spring Harbor and Brookhaven National Laboratories provide additional advantages for the scientific community.

The University

Stony Brook University , flagship campus of the SUNY system, is a world-class, student-centered research university. Stony Brook is ranked in the top 1 percent of the world's higher education institutions by the  Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The University has more than 20,000 students, including nearly 8,000 graduate students.


The application deadline is December 1.  For more information, prospective students can visit. or   Online applications are required.  They should be submitted to the Graduate School at