Gina Philogene

PhD, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. Interests in social and cultural psychology, history of psychology, race, and social identity, as well as social representations. Author of From Black to African American: A New Representation, The Representations of the Social: Bridging Theoretical Traditions (with Kay Deaux), Racial Identity in Context: The Legacy of Kenneth B. Clark, and the forthcoming How the Right Made It Wrong: Names in the Shadow of the Political Correctness. Recipient of several grants, including the National Science Foundation and the American Psychological Association. Published several articles in professional journals and currently an associate editor of the Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology. SLC, 1998–

Undergraduate Courses 2021-2022

Psychology

Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon, whereby people move into another nation with the intention of making a better life for themselves and/or residing there temporarily or permanently. While anchored in a multidisciplinary perspective, this seminar explores the crucial role of psychology in understanding the processes associated with our conceptualizations of immigrants and immigration. The course begins with some theoretical perspectives on immigration, as well as a brief historical overview of sociological and social psychological research on immigrants. We then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. We will analyze the processes through which “illegality” is constructed by reflecting on the lives of undocumented immigrants. We will look at how the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and culture shape the psychological experience of immigrants. Seeking to extend our analysis to immigration’s impact on the host population, we conclude the course by discussing several social psychological issues, such as intergroup relations, discrimination, and modes of adaptation.

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First-Year Studies: The Realities of Groups

Open, FYS—Year

One of the most important aspects of our lives is the web of group affiliations in which we engage. Groups are an inescapable aspect of our existence. From the very beginning of one’s life, the idea of group pervades most dimensions of our existence—from family structures to nation states. Groups orient, guide, and shape individual perceptions, interpretations, and actions in the social world. Several classic studies in social psychology have demonstrated that an individual is essentially, if not entirely, a product of the various groups to which he or she belongs. This first-year seminar explores the defining characteristics of groups and the extent to which we are indeed shaped by our groups. We will focus, in particular, on three questions: How and why do individuals come to form specific groups? What are the dynamics operating within the group, transforming it into a cohesive unit that is more than the sum of its parts? Which processes rule the interactions between groups; in particular, the “us” vs. “them” dimension? The first two questions will be the objects of discussion during the first semester. In the course of the second semester, we shall address the third question while also highlighting how the realities of groups get transformed in the emerging cultural context of the internet and social media.

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The Psychology of Social Influence

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

Individuals are often influenced by others and by the social situations in which they find themselves. Social influence refers to the processes by which a person or group changes, or attempts to change, the opinions, beliefs, and/or behaviors of another person or group. This process can be either intentional or unintentional. In this seminar, we will examine the basic concepts, theories, and applications of social influence by reviewing four of its key areas: conformity, innovation, compliance, and obedience. Additionally, we will explore some related topics to demonstrate the pervasive nature of social influence. The topics to be addressed include attitude measurement and attitude change, propaganda, cults, subliminal persuasion, and the use and abuse of persuasion in our current social context. The seminar will make use of case studies and situations in daily life to better illustrate how social influence works.

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Previous Courses

Psychology

History of Social Psychology

Open, Lecture—Fall

Before the emergence of social psychology as a formal discipline in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is clear that some philosophers, religious authorities, and various individuals using their conventional wisdom had already articulated many different perspectives on human interactions with others and with their social environments. The roots of the discipline point to an embedding of the field in both sociology and psychology at the same time. This resulted in the development of two different social psychologies, which evolved differently and were more likely organized along a geographical axis between Europe and North America. Such a division made it difficult to have an integrative and independent social psychology, rendering it very complicated to reach a common definition. This lecture explores the origins and evolution of social psychology in the United States. More specifically, we will look at three interrelated issues in the evolution of the field. First, we will review the various definitions of the field and what impact these have had on the type of research we have designed. Second, we will analyze the succession of crises that the field has faced throughout its history and how those have contributed to a lack of cohesion between the different perspectives. Finally, we will look at how the field has evolved in other parts of the world, often marked and structured by a history of colonialism.

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Introduction to Social Psychology

Open, Seminar—Year

This course introduces students to the key ideas of social psychology. We will examine the social dimensions underlying the cognitive existence of individuals by examining some theories, methodologies, and key findings of social psychology. We will look at human relations at various levels, with a primary focus on the tension between the individual and society. For this purpose, we will compare different theoretical (cognitive, interpersonal, and cultural) perspectives. During the first semester, the course will investigate the role of unconscious processes in our interpretations and explanations of the social world, emphasizing in particular our mistakes in judgment and our misperceptions of causation. The individual as a social cognizer will be explored further to see how we derive interpretations for our own behavior in comparison to those attributed to others’ behavior. In the second semester, we will focus on the contextualization of these different processes in order to analyze the defining characteristics of groups and the extent to which we are, indeed, shaped by our groups.

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Mobilization and Social Change

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

In light of recent national—as well as international—calls for racial justice, which have propelled several movements, this course will analyze the chronology of the various theories and research in both cultural and social psychology, highlighting the need to re-examine intolerance not only in the heads of people but also in the world. Given that these biases are often defined as individual prejudice, even though their persistence is systemic, we will see how they crystallize in ways that are marked in the cultural fabric, the various artifacts, the ideological discourse, and most institutional realities that all work in synchronicity with individual biases. In this class, we will highlight various examples of historically derived ideas and cultural patterns that maintain present-day inequalities (gender, sexualities, class, persons with disabilities, and various other forms of social injustice). We will first explore the theory of minority influence, a theory that stands in contra-distinction to conformity, providing a model to develop and articulate change. With the help of cultural psychology, we will then see how injustices are anchored and objectified in our everyday world. We will analyze how our preferences and selections are maintained through the contexts of our interactions. This perspective will lead us to explore the theory of social representations, moving us away from individual tendencies to focus on changing the structures in which collectively elaborated understanding is maintained and reproduced as a system.

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Scholarly Enterprise: Celebrated Contributions and Underappreciated Works

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

This seminar will review some of the underappreciated works of key figures in social psychology (Wilhelm Wundt, Kurt Lewin, Muzafer Sherif, Serge Moscovici, Leon Festinger, and others) while, at the same time, also contrasting those works with the better-known contributions of these famous thinkers. What made each of these social psychologists justifiably prominent was their respective ability to help advance the dominant paradigm(s) of their historical era while, at the same time, also capturing the zeitgeist of the period so that their work entered common-sense thinking and thus could reach a broader audience. But philosophy of science also tells us that the most celebrated contribution of an author is not necessarily what he or she had ideally conceived as his/her most valuable work. With that in mind, we shall explore those masters’ lesser-known works and how they contributed perhaps even more meaningfully to the development of social psychology and its dominant paradigms over the last century and a half. In that context, we shall take a closer look at the social process involved in the dissemination of scientific ideas in order to explore the reciprocal dynamic between the social psychologist and his/her audience, a novel approach to studying the history of thought in this fascinating field.

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The Epistemological Relevance of Social Psychology

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

This class is dedicated to Clarence Edwin Ayres (1891-1972), who nearly a century ago (1918) started asking questions about the role of social psychology in the social sciences, as well as its relevance to everyday life. He questioned the duality between a quantitative and a qualitative social psychology. In other words, one type of social psychology systematically uses the purity of the scientific method (commonly referred to as “Methodenreinheit”), rooted in the perceived objectivity of experimentation, to explain the social world. Yet, at the same time, another type of social psychology tries to capture the complexity of individual humans as social beings, which often escapes standard methods of quantitative measurements and, therefore, calls for a different methodology. This seminar is an epistemological exploration of the duality between the sociological forms of social psychology and the psychological forms of social psychology. In fostering the emergence of social psychology, the psychological perspective encouraged greater collaboration with the natural sciences and the pursuit of truth with the use of the scientific method. Similarly in sociology, key thinkers of the discipline have failed to recognize the role of social psychology in the social sciences and quickly discarded it as simply a “subfield.” Social psychology is still struggling with how to reconcile this dichotomy into a more productive synthesis. We will examine some of the issues that have prevented social psychology from playing a more important role in dealing with the complexities of human affairs in relation to their social world.

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The Historical Evolution of Psychological Thought

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

This seminar aims at presenting the historical evolution of psychology as a distinct discipline, starting with Wundt in 1879 at Leipzig. Its short history notwithstanding, psychology has benefited from a long and rich past—tracing its roots, for the most part, in philosophy. As early as the fifth century B.C., Aristotle and other Greek scholars grappled with some of the same problems that concern psychologists today; namely, memory, learning, motivation, perception, dreams, and abnormal behavior. A discipline such as psychology does not develop in a vacuum but, rather, is shaped by human personalities, institutions, and the societal context. Therefore, our critical and historical analyses will focus on comprehending the cultural context from which ideas, concepts, and theories have emerged and evolved. This approach will provide a unifying framework for a thorough reexamination of the different systems of psychology in the United States.

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The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open, Seminar—Spring

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon in which people move into another nation with the intention of making a better life for themselves and/or residing there temporarily or permanently. While anchored in a multidisciplinary perspective, this seminar explores the crucial role of psychology in understanding the processes associated with our conceptualizations of immigrants and immigration. The course will begin with some theoretical perspectives on immigration, as well as a brief historical overview of some sociological and some social psychological research on immigrants. We will then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. We will explore the processes through which “illegality” is constructed by reflecting on the lives of undocumented immigrants. We will also look very closely at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and culture to see how they shape the psychological experience of immigrants. Seeking to extend our analysis to immigration’s impact on the host population, we will conclude the course by discussing several social psychological issues, such as intergroup relations, discrimination, and modes of adaptation.

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Thinking Evil: A Social Psychological Exploration

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

The attributional power of the concept of “evil,” in its various representations, has been quite dominant recently. The concept has manifested itself not just in public discourse or theological mystification but also in the work of social scientists, politicians, philosophers, and journalists. “Evil” may even be seen as part of how social media has evolved. Various atrocities and horrors over the past hundred years are proof of “evil's” omnipresence—the prominence of lynching in the South of the United States, the Holocaust, different genocides (e.g., Armenians, Leopold II in the Congo, America’s occupation of Haiti, Pol Pot in Cambodia, China’s Cultural Revolution, Rwanda), and more recently the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and in Paris. Of course, this notion of “evil” is well anchored in most of our religious imaginations. In this century, we have experienced continuous processes of “glorification” of “evil” through the reemergence of religion, facilitating the propagation of various hegemonic representations of “evil.” This seminar seeks to explore the nature of “evil” in our moral, political, and legal discussions. Is it an outdated concept that we should no longer use? What are the conditions defining an action as “evil?” What do we mean when we identify an individual as being “evil?” Is there a relation between the action and the individual committing those acts? These are all questions that we will seek to address from a social-psychological (and thus rather interdisciplinary) perspective.

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