–By Taylor Feenstra
Maybe I’ll just SIPP on it.
Thanks to support from the Charles Center, the Government Department, and the SNaPP Lab, I had the opportunity to spend three weeks at the Summer Institute in Political Psychology (SIPP) at Stanford University this summer. This program had its origin at the Ohio State University in 1991 with Professor Margaret Hermann at the helm. It has been hosted at Stanford University since 2005, coordinated by Professor Jon Krosnick. The program is designed to offer students, professors, and professionals in the field intensive training in the latest methods in political psychology, exposure to cutting edge research, and opportunities for collaboration and networking with other political psychology gurus. My experience at SIPP absolutely accomplished all three of these goals.
Each day at SIPP featured a new guest lecturer with expertise in an area of political psychology. The Institute begins with a lecture from Jon Krosnick explaining exactly what political psychology is: is it designed to better understand psychology by using the political context, or is it designed to better understand politics by using psychological methods and principles? Most of the research falls into the latter category, more appropriately called “psychological political science,” although the jury is still out as to which direction is “proper.” Because of the interdisciplinary nature of political psychology, we had lecturers who were social psychologists, political scientists, and sociologists. These fields complement each other quite well and under the umbrella of political psychology, they have led to some invaluable discoveries that have fundamentally changed the way we view the political world.
One thing that was particularly valuable about SIPP was seeing how the lectures connected to one another sans planning or coordination among the lecturers. I often found myself thinking about how Lee Ross’ Naïve Realism connects to Rob MacCoun’s research on experts and how both of these connect to framing effects presented by Amber Boydstun and Robb Willer among others. Furthermore, in discussion groups (held each day between the morning and afternoon lectures) we would discuss the implications of these connections in addition to introducing other literature we were familiar with from our diverse backgrounds. These connections led to more questions and sparked many ideas for future research. My legal pad from SIPP is not only completely soaked in my classic red-ink notes, but it has research project ideas scribbled all over the margins. This is what SIPP is all about.
Although I learned an unfathomable amount from the lectures at SIPP, my favorite part of any lecture was when they talked about the heart of the process. A few lecturers explained why they asked the questions they did and how sometimes their foundational discoveries came from “accidents.” As Jon Krosnick iterated on the first day, research is supposed to be annoying. When it annoys you, that’s when you create your own study to try to better understand it and that’s where discovery awaits. These stories and advisory tales are incredibly motivating for aspiring future graduate students like me and really for anyone involved in research. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in SIPP as it has undoubtedly electrified my passion for research.