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Statement on Diversity and Career Development of Students

(updated 1-13-12)

I have two main criteria for accepting graduate students into my lab:
1. You need to meet the standards necessary to gain admission to Rutgers Social Psychology Program
2. You convince me that you are going to work in my lab long, hard, diligently, and cooperatively on social psychological research. Fulfill your end, and I will do my damnedest to advance your career.

For undergraduates, the only criterion is #2 above.  For undergraduates, my lab is open admissions, meaning that no matter how bad your record is, if we have openings, the SPL will take you with open arms. One of my great pleasures has long been giving students who themselves have run into difficulty, a chance to “find themselves” by discovering the satisfaction that can come from deep involvement in psychological research.

Anyone, from any background whatsoever, regardless of race, gender, ethnic, religious, political, social class,sexual or gender orientation, and health or mental health status, and any other status or category not listed here is welcome in the Social Perception Lab (SPL), as long as you meet the standards articulated above.

The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) declared itself to have the goal of fostering: “the career development of students who come from underrepresented groups, i.e., ethnic or racial minorities, first generation college students, individuals with a physical disability, and or lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered students.”

I strongly endorse fostering the career development of such students.  One of the great pleasures of being at Rutgers is the extraordinary diversity of the students who come here.  My Social Perception Lab has produced honors students, and masters and PhD students from almost any background you can imagine, and, possibly, some you have never even heard of.

Second, however, SPSP’s statement clearly does not go far enough.  Here is Jon Haidt’s analysis of that statement: First, can we change “i.e.” to “e.g.?” Why should it be i.e.? Do we really want to say to the public that this is the official list of groups that get benefits? Second, can we tack on a phrase like: “or who bring helpful and underrepresented perspectives in other ways?”

Exactly!  What was SPSP’s diversity statement authors’ thinking?  What about social class?  Doeslifting one’s self out of poverty to get a college degree not “count”? Are they saying, “Its important to foster the careers of transgendered students, but impoverished students … not so much”?  I doubt that is what they meant, but it is very hard not to read it that way.  And, similarly, physical disabilities count, but psychological ones do not?  “If you are in a wheelchair we want to foster your career, but if you have issues with depression, you are on your own”?  Again, I doubt that’s what they meant, but, again, it is very hard not to read it this way.

And what about people with differeing political or religious views than most social psychologists?

Jon Haidt’s second point: or who bring helpful and underrepresented perspectives in other ways is also a dead-on bullseye.  One of the main intellectual arguments for diversity is that people from diverse backgrounds will often (not necessarily all the time, but in general) have different experiences and therefore different perspectives to bring to bear on solving scientific and social problems.  I agree.  So, that sounds like we should make a particular point of trying to encourage and support the careers of people who actually think differently than most of us.

And who might those people?  Two strong contenders are political nonliberals (including centrists, libertarians, and conservatives) and people who are highly religious. Indeed, social psychology (like most of the social sciences and humanities) is overwhelmingly dominated by researchers from largely secular and leftwing political backgrounds. You can read more about this here: and

Consequently, my view is that, for its own good (and regardless of my own particular
political and religious beliefs), social psychology would greatly benefit from an influx of people whose political and personal beliefs are different than those of the overwhelming secular and leftwing majority of current social psychologists.  You are perfectly welcome in my lab, regardless of your politics.

However, if you are not particularly political, or if you are a centrist, libertarian,
or a conservative, or deeply religious, I warmly encourage you to join us (assuming you meet the competence-based criteria described at the beginning of this page).  Social psychology particularly needs you for its own good.

Lee Jussim