Society Of Experimental Social Psychology Dissertation Awards

Joni Sasaki, who earned her Ph. D. in 2012 in Social Psychology from UCSB Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences was the 2013 recipient of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology (SESP) Dissertation Award. Joni is an assistant professor at the Department of Psychology at York University in Toronto, Canada.

The Society of Experimental Social Psychology (SESP) is a major scientific organization dedicated to the advancement of social psychology. Founded in the 1960s, SESP is a prestigious society that holds an annual convention, publishes two scientific journals, and recognizes outstanding achievement with several awards at its annual convention each year. Membership is by invitation only, and typically one must be five years post-Ph.D. before being eligible for consideration for membership. Currently there are more than 900 members of SESP.

In 1972 SESP instituted the Outstanding Dissertation Award to recognize one person each year whose dissertation was deemed particularly outstanding. The award carries immediate membership into the Society and the award recipient presents a talk based on the dissertation at the annual convention. The award is both competitive and prestigious, and many past recipients have gone on to become prominent scientific leaders in the field.

For her dissertation, “Religion is what individuals and societies make of it: Moderators of religion’s effects at the level of person, situation, and culture” Joni was selected as the 2013 recipient of the Outstanding Dissertation Award. She received her award at the annual meeting on September 28th 2013, in Berkeley, California.

Joni described her dissertation: “Religion may be one of the oldest forms of large-scale social interaction, and it can be found in some form across every human culture. Nevertheless, many basic questions about religion have yet to be fully answered from a psychological perspective, and furthermore, religion has commonly been understood as having monolithic effects on psychology. In my dissertation, I demonstrate that the way religion impacts people’s thoughts and behaviors are not always uniform, but rather, may be qualified by aspects of the individual or circumstance. In particular, I investigate classic topics in social psychology—coping responses and values, politics, and prosocial behavior—to show how religion can have varying impacts on these outcomes depending on key moderators at the levels of culture, situation, and the individual.”

Joni is the first winner in the history of the UCSB Social Psychology Program, and she noted her appreciation for the training she received: “I am very fortunate for my training at UCSB, and I can't think of a better place to have done my graduate work. The atmosphere there was great for productivity because there is a tradition of honest criticism, and the standards are very high. I think this makes for really high-quality work, and I very much appreciated all the feedback I got from faculty and fellow students over the years. At the same time, so many people there were very supportive and encouraging. I think this was also important for the success of the grad students there.”

One noteworthy point regarding this award is that Dr. Sasaki’s graduate advisor at UCSB, Dr. Heejung Kim, was the recipient of the 2002 SESP Outstanding Dissertation Award. In the 41-year history of the award, this is only the second time that both mentor and student have been recipients of this award. Joni described her experience with Dr. Kim: “I am especially grateful for everything I learned from working with Heejung. I initially applied to work with her because I hoped to gain expertise in cultural psychology, but I left with so much more than that. My training in her lab, integrating cultural and biological approaches, has shaped the way I address and even think about research questions. Independent of her knowledge and expertise, she is a fantastic mentor, which I believe is one of the main reasons I have been successful. She really cares about and prioritizes her grad students, and I think it shows.”

SESP Dissertation Award winners have gone on to become leaders of the field of social psychology. UCSB has two on our faculty, Dr. Kim and Professor (and chair of the department) Diane Mackie. As to her ongoing and future research plans, Joni shared: “At York University, I've established the Culture and Religion Lab, and in my research, I hope to change the way religion is understood in psychology by situating it within the socio-cultural context in which it transpires and in the individual who experiences it. I also hope to continue integrating cultural and biological approaches, working toward stronger models of the process through which socio-cultural and biological factors interact and lead to psychological outcomes.”

The Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences congratulates Joni Sasaki on this auspicious award.

Article written by: David Sherman & Dave Hamilton Photographs by: Thai Chu (Sasaki) & Taraneh Mojaverian (Sasaki & Kim)

Dissertation Award Recipients

Dissertation Award Recipients

SESP has honored outstanding dissertation research since 1972. Listed below are the previous award winners (in bold) and finalists.

YearRecipient and Runners-UpPh.D. InstitutionAdvisor
2017Alex KochUniversity of CologneChristian Unkelbach
 Peter Van DesselUniversity of GhentJan De Houwer
 Evan CarrUC-San DiegoPiotr Winkielman
 Yonat ZwebnerHebrew UniversityJacob Goldenberg
2016Yuthika GirmeUniversity of AucklandNickola Overall
 Jennifer HowellUniversity of FloridaJames Shepperd
 Amit KumarCornell UniversityTom Gilovich
2015Namkje KoudenburgUniversity of GroningenTom Postmes & Ernestine Gordijn
 Shana ColeNew York UniversityEmily Balcetis
 Jozefien De LeersnyderKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenBatja Mesquita & Karen Phalet
2014Paul ConwayUniversity of Western OntarioJames Olson & Bertram Gawronski
 Lottie BullensUniversity of AmsterdamJens Förster & Joop van der Pligt
 Erin P. HennesNew York UniversityJohn Jost
2013Joni SasakiUniversity of California, Santa BarbaraHeejung Kim
 Jon FreemanTufts UniversityNalini Ambady
 Ann-Christin PostenUniversity of KolnThomas Mussweiler
2012Ron DotschRadboud University NijmegenDaniël Wigboldus & Ad van Knippenberg
 Dylan WagnerDartmouth UniversityTodd Heatherton
 Francesca RighettiVrije UniversiteitPaul van Lange & Catrin Finkenauer
2011Matthijs BaasUniversity of AmsterdamCarsten de Dreu
 Mina CikaraPrinceton UniversitySusan Fiske
 Jesse GrahamUniversity of VirginiaJon Haidt
2010Paul EastwickNorthwestern UniversityEli Finkel, Alice Eagly
 Evan ApfelbaumTufts UniversitySam Sommers
 Marret NoordewierTilburg UniversityDiederik Stapel
2009Kristina OlsonHarvard UniversityMahzarin R. Banaji
 Jay J. Van BavelUniversity of TorontoWilliam A. Cunningham
 Cheryl WakslakNew York UniversityYaacov Trope
2008Edward LemayYale UniversityMargaret Clark
 Emily AmanatullahColumbia UniversityMichael W. Morris
 Stéphane DandeneauMcGill UniversityMark Baldwin
 Mark J. LandauUniversity of ArizonaJeff Greenberg
2007Emily BalcetisCornell UniversityDavid Dunning
 Markus DenzlerJacobs University BremenJens Förster
 Carey MorewedgeHarvard UniversityDaniel Wegner, Daniel Gilbert
2006Gregory WaltonYale UniversityGeoff Cohen
 Naomi EisenbergerUCLAShelly Gable, Shelley Taylor
 Aaron KayStanford UniversityJohn Jost, Lee Ross
2005Pamela K. SmithNew York UniversityYaacov Trope
 Etsuko H. BrowneUniversity of WaterlooSteven Spencer, Mark Zanna
 Erica CarranzaPrinceton UniversityDeborah Prentice
 Gerben van KleefUniversity of AmsterdamC. de Dreu, Tony Manstead
2004Rick van BaarenUniversity of NijmegenKnippenberg, Kawakami
 Zakary L. TormalaOhio State UniversityRichard Petty
 J. Mark WeberNorthwestern UniversityKeith Murnighan
2003Faby GagnéMcGill UniversityJohn Lydon
 Bianca BeersmaAmsterdam UniversityCarsten de Dreu
 Anja EllerUniversity of KentDominic Abrams
2002Heejung S. KimStanford UniversityHazel Markus
 Nicholas EpleyCornell UniversityTom Gilovich
 Michael InzlichtBrown UniversityTalia Ben-Zeev
2001Bernard NijstadUniversity of UtrechtWolfgang Stroebe
 Jason PlaksColumbia UniversityCarol Dweck
 E. Ashby PlantUniversity of WisconsinPatricia Devine
2000Ayelet FishbachTel Aviv UniversityYaacov Trope
 Tanya ChartrandNew York UniversityJohn Bargh
 Nanmathi ManianUniversity of WisconsinTimothy Strauman
1999Blair JarvisOhio State UniversityRichard Petty
 Adam GalinskyPrinceton UniversityGordon Moskowitz
 Ian SkurnikPrinceton UniversityGordon Moskowitz
1998S. Sethi-IyengarStanford UniversityMark Lepper
 Nira LibermanTel Aviv UniversityYaacov Trope
 Patrick VargasOhio State UniversityRich Petty, Bill von Hippel
1997Lorella LeporeUniversity of KentRupert Brown
 Steven HeineUniv. of British ColumbiaDarrin Lehman
 C. Raymond KneeUniversity of RochesterMiron Zuckerman
1996Victoria MedvecCornell UniversityThomas Gilovich
1995Bertram MalleStanford UniversityLeonard Horowitz
 Sandra MurrayUniversity of WaterlooJohn Holmes
 Duane WegenerOhio State UniversityRichard Petty
1994Deb GruenfeldUniversity of IllinoisRobert Wyer, Joe McGrath
 Eric DepretUniv. of MassachusettsSusan Fiske
 Andrea HollingsheadUniversity of IllinoisJoe McGrath
 Steve SpencerUniversity of MichiganClaude Steele
1993Michael MorrisUniversity of MichiganRichard Nisbett
 Sara BakerOhio State UniversityRichard Petty
 David BersoffYale UniversityJoan Miller
 Yi-Cheng LinUniversity of RochesterHarry Reis
1992Kari EdwardsUniversity of MichiganP. Ellsworth, R. Zajonc
 Deborah KashyUniversity of ConnecticutDavid Kenny
 Mark KlingerUniversity of WashingtonAnthony Greenwald
 Margo MonteithUniversity of WisconsinPatricia Devine
1991Yuichi ShodaColumbia UniversityWalter Mischel
 Sheila MurphyUniversity of MichiganRobert Zajonc
 Michael ZáratePurdue UniversityEliot Smith
1990Leonard NewmanNew York UniversityDiane Ruble
 David HoustonIndiana UniversitySteven J. Sherman
 Brett PelhamUniv. of Texas--AustinDaniel Gilbert
 Rasyid SanitiosoPrinceton UniversityZiva Kunda
1989Yechiel KlarUniversity of MarylandArie Kruglanski
 Shinobu KitayamaUniversity of MichiganRobert Zajonc
 Leigh ThompsonNorthwestern UniversityReid Hastie
1988Lee JussimUniversity of MichiganLerita Coleman
 Timothy StraumanNew York UniversityE. Tory Higgins
 Steven NeubergCarnegie Mellon Univ.Susan Fiske
1987Peter ShapiroUniv. of WisconsinVernon Allen
 Edward HirtIndiana UniversitySteven J. Sherman
 Charles StangorNew York UniversityE. Tory Higgins
1986Roderick KramerUCLAMarilynn Brewer
 Ziva KundaUniversity of MichiganRichard Nisbett
 Patricia DevineOhio State UniversityThomas Ostrom
 Ralph ErberCarnegie Mellon Univ.Susan Fiske
1985Diane MackiePrinceton UniversityJoel Cooper
 Stan KleinHarvard UniversityPeter Gordon
 Laraine WinterNew York UniversityJim Uleman
1984Leonard MartinUNC--GreensboroJohn Seta
 Steven BrecklerOhio State UniversityAnthony Greenwald
1983Paget GrossPrinceton UniversityJohn Darley
 Renee WeberNorthwestern UniversityReid Hastie
1982John BarghUniversity of MichiganRobert Zajonc
 Susan AndersenStanford UniversityLee Ross
 Richard RyanUniversity of RochesterEd Deci
1981Ann BoggianoPrinceton UniversityDiane Ruble
1980Steven PenrodHarvard UniversityReid Hastie
 Fred RhodewaltPrinceton UniversityRonald Comer
1979Nancy CantorStanford UniversityWalter Mischel
 Susan FiskeHarvard UniversityShelley Taylor
1978Donal CarlstonUniversity of IllinoisRobert Wyer
 Teresa AmabileStanford UniversityMark Lepper
 Richard PettyOhio State UniversityTimothy Brock
1977Richard LippaStanford UniversityDaryl Bem
 Malcolm BrennerUniversity of MichiganRobert Zajonc
 Harriet ShakleeUniversity of OregonRobyn Dawes
1976Thomas SrullUniversity of IllinoisRobert Wyer
1975Yaacov TropeUniversity of MichiganEugene Burnstein
1974David WilderUniversity of WisconsinVernon Allen
1973Mark SnyderStanford UniversityDaryl Bem
1972Darren NewtsonUniversity of WisconsinVernon Allen

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