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Michael Olson

Michael OlsonMichael Olson
Ph.D., Indiana University (2003)

Web site:

Key words: Social Psychology, attitude change, social cognition

Research Interests

Social Psychology, attitude change, social cognition

Research Statement

Most of my research involves the overlapping areas of attitude formation and change, implicit social cognition, racial prejudice, and intergroup relations.  With respect to attitude formation and change, we employ an evaluative conditioning paradigm that allows us to study how people come to evaluate objects in their environment without their awareness or intent.  In related work, we attempt to uncover pre-existing automatic (and sometimes unconscious) information in the mind using implicit measurement tools that have the potential to uncover a person's feelings and beliefs without having to ask the person explicitly.  Finally, our lab has a long-standing interest in prejudice, and we address basic questions about how prejudice develops, how it is detected, and how it manifests in behavior using some of the approaches mentioned above.  Informed by the MODE model of attitude-behavior relations, we often examine the interaction between automatic information and more thoughtful, deliberate cognitions on race-related judgments and behaviors.

Current and Future Directions

Currently my lab is investigating applications of evaluative conditioning in media, politics, and health, as well as more basic questions regarding its underlying attentional mechanisms.  This work is informed by the "Implicit Misattribution Model" of evaluative conditioning my colleagues and I have recently developed.  We are also working on a model of interracial interaction content that attempts to describe the content (what it is people actually talk about) in interracial interactions, as well as the determinants and consequences of interaction content.

  • Associate Editor, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (2010-2013)
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2007-present)
  • University of Tennessee Psi Chi Undergraduate Teaching Award, 2012
  • Illinois State University Psychology Alumni Early Career Achievement Award, 2010
  • UTK David V. & Kathryn G. White Teaching Award, 2010
  • UTK Chancellor's Award in the Social Sciences and Humanities

McNulty, J. K., Olson, M. A., Meltzer, A. L. & Shaffer, M. J.  (in press). Though they may be unaware, newlyweds implicitly know whether their marriage will fail.  Science.

Fazio, R. H., & Olson, M. A. (in press).  The MODE model: Attitude-Behavior Processes as a Function of Motivation and Opportunity.  In Sherman, J. W., Gawronski, B., & Trope, Y. (Eds.). Dual process theories of the social mind. New York: Guilford Press.

Widman, L., & Olson, M. A.  (2013). On the relationship between automatic attitudes and self-reported sexual assault in men.  Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 813-823.

Kendrick, R. V., & Olson, M. A. (2012).  When feeling right leads to being right in the reporting of implicitly-formed attitudes, or how I learned to stop worrying and trust my gut.  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 1316-1321.

Jones, C. R., Olson, M. A., & Fazio (2010). Evaluative Conditioning: The "How" Question. Chapter in J. M. Olson & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 43). San Diego: Academic Press.

Johnson, C. S., Olson, M. A., & Fazio, R. H. (2009). The contents of getting acquainted in interracial interactions: Avoiding intimacy but approaching race.  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 557-571.

Olson, M. A., & Crawford, M. T., & Devlin, W. (2009).  Evidence for the underestimation of implicit in-group favoritism among low status groups. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 1111-1116.

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