In social psychology's early days, if you wanted to study how different groups of people interacted with and felt about one another, you had to ask them. Today, you can do much more — scan their brains to monitor how looking at others activates certain brain regions, track their eye movements to see to whom they are attracted, and record their behaviors in similar scenarios with different groups of people, to name a few methodologies.
Covering the best research related to human interactions is the mission of APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes (IRGP). "Although we're still studying the same domains, we have so much more information about how these processes work at more basic and broader levels," says incoming editor Kerry Kawakami, PhD, a professor of psychology at York University in Toronto.
The journal, which has been published since 1965, focuses on research related to social relationships, including attraction, communication and relationship development, as well as group behavior, including social influence, group decision-making and aggression.
In her own work, Kawakami researches ways to reduce intergroup biases — a mission with personal relevance as a Canadian with mixed Japanese and Irish heritage. "How people from different groups are perceived, how we're categorized, how we're treated — these things were always a part of me growing up," she says.
As editor, Kawakami plans to highlight the field's broadening scope by encouraging multidisciplinary experiments that create a bridge between social psychology and other areas of research. Recent theories and methods, for example, stem from collaborations with neuroscience, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, animal behavior, psychophysiology, perception, emotion and genetics, she says. "It is an exciting time."
Previously an associate editor for the European Journal of Social Psychology and for Social Psychological and Personality Science, Kawakami is building an inclusive editorial board that will reflect the increasing ethnic, racial and gender diversity among social psychology's scholars. She is also committed to reducing the turnaround time between manuscript submission and decision by rewarding reviewers who meet their deadlines and establishing norms among the editorial team that support a quick review process.
The topics covered in IRGP inform national conversations on such topics as marriage, aggression and racial discrimination, says Kawakami. Reactions to the Trayvon Martin trial, for example, highlight the importance of social psychological research. "This case appears to be a classic example of intergroup biases at work in which these strong tendencies — that can be automatic — to categorize people can influence perceptions of target group members' behavior," she says.
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