Student Supervision & Volunteer Opportunities

I am currently available to supervise PhD, Masters, and Honours students.

By Jen Overbeck in student supervision

July 24, 2021

Join an existing project

I have many active projects, as well as some ideas that I haven’t had time or help to develop. It’s Psych Fourth Year (honours) season, so here are details on projects currently open for incoming students. First come, best dressed, you can pick project A or B. Upon request, we can consider one of the ‘backup’ projects listed below, but my priorities are A and B. Thanks!

Project A - How people use power

  • Lay theories of power - punishing deviants. Power can be used in two different ways: Associative power is “power WITH” others, whereas dissociative power is “power AGAINST” others. These reflect fundamentally different approaches; the response to disagreement is also likely to be very different. This project seeks to map out what, exactly, people do to use power in these ways. Associative power may look like engaging in a respectful discussion, for example, whereas dissociative power may look like giving orders or making threats. The project has two stages, one collecting responses to a variety of survey measures and ordering them on a continuum of associative-dissociative; the other conducting an experiment to see how associative and dissociative power holders respond to resistance. This project has implications not only for workplace relations, but for political polarisation as well. For further reading see:
    • Belmi, P., & Laurin, K. (2016). Who wants to get to the top? Class and lay theories about power. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111(4), 505-529.
    • ten Brinke, L., & Keltner, D. (2020). Theories of power: Perceived strategies for gaining and maintaining power. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Advanced Online Publication. doi:

Project B - Who can exclude others?

  • Social exclusion and ostracism have been studied extensively by social psychologists–but the focus is virtually always on the person being excluded. This project examines the role of the person trying to exclude someone else. How does that person’s status affect whether they can exclude someone? And if a low-status person tries to exclude another group member, can that backfire on them so that they end up excluded, themself? One study will involve an online cyberball paradigm, where we manipulate the status of a (fake) person who asks participants to join in excluding another person. A second study will use natural language processing (if you have strong tech skills) or a scenario design. For further reading see:

Backup Projects

  • Who gets monitored? In a past series of studies, my colleagues and I found that low-power people are generally viewed as having poorer moral character than the powerful. We also found evidence that people think the powerless need to be monitored more carefully than the powerful. This study extends the line of research, using an online/remote work paradigm to test whether people are more inclined to monitor those with or without power. For further reading see:

  • What does it mean to be “respectful” or “collegial” at work? People have different definitions. This project aims to create a Guttman scale (such as the Bogardus Social Distance scale) to capture what people see as respectful behaviour at work. We will conduct a study to collect examples of people’s experiences at work, then use them to develop scale items. Then we will conduct studies to order the items and validate the scale. Finally, we will run a study to explore how the resulting scale predicts various workplace dynamics (conflict, psychological safety, information sharing). This is a lot of stages, so the thesis may only represent part of the work. For further reading see:

  • How do people advance in power? One path to power involves being given opportunities by those who have more power than you. They offer advancement–but generally that advancement has strings attached. People may be asked to compromise their values, to carry out some unpleasant task, or to do harm to others. This project will use a daily diary study to assess how often people perceive that they are offered opportunities with strings attached, whether taking up those opportunities is predicted by one’s lay theory of power and world view (competitive or hierarchical), and whether moral evaluations change over the study period for those who accept more opportunities.

  • Participatory agency - After the 2016 US election, scholars debated whether economic or racial concerns motivated support for Trump. This project explores whether uncertainty about one’s social status may motivate a desire for “participatory agency”–joining with others (or following a leader) to take actions (particularly around excluding or denigrating others) to bolster one’s own sense of status. This project requires higher-level tech skills; some programming would be desirable. We will run an experiment (online, most likely) where participants interact with “bots”. For further reading see:

Someday, I’ll also explore:

  • Is power a solution to the tradeoff between freedom and relatedness?
  • How does destabilisation of job opportunities in one’s local region predict compensatory power behaviours?
  • Are cultural logics really lay theories of how power works?
  • Several more!

Propose your own idea

Please be sure to read my work and review current projects and talks to be sure that your interests have some degree of overlap with mine. I am open to diverse ideas and working with independent-minded students…as long as there’s good fit between us!

Posted on:
July 24, 2021
5 minute read, 1065 words
student supervision
See Also:
Company Research Partnership