Orange Alert

Grad Student Spotlight: Sargent

Posted on: Jan. 29, 2019

We’re wrapping up January 2019 with a Graduate Student Spotlight!

Rikki Sargent is in her third year of the Social Psychology Doctoral Program at Syracuse University. Rikki works as a graduate student in the Newman Lab, run by her advisor Dr. Leonard Newman, and as a Teaching Assistant/Lab Instructor for PSY 313 (Introduction to Research Methodology). Rikki received her M.S. from Syracuse University in 2018 and her B.A. in Psychology from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania with a minor in Disability Studies. Rikki is originally from Olney, Maryland.

Rikki is interested in the underlying cognitive components that influence interpersonal and intergroup behavior. Recently, Rikki has become increasingly focused on the assessment of a specific social psychological phenomenon, pluralistic ignorance—simply put, the situation in which there is a group-level misinterpretation of others’ attitudes informed by the observation of others’ behavior. This, in turn, is expected to influence individuals to behave in line with a misperceived majority. In her investigations, Rikki specifically examines situations unique to stigmatized social groups (e.g., people with mental illness) and/or under examined social groups (e.g., police officers). In sum, her work has both theoretical and applied implications.

Most recently, Rikki has completed a series of three studies for her thesis work examining civilian implicit attitudes toward police officers. In study 1, Rikki found civilians to experience increased safety (versus fear) construct activation when primed with police (versus civilians) among a college student sample. Among a more diverse sample (study 2), Rikki found both safety and fear constructs to be activated when primed with police. In a third study assessing implicit associations (as opposed to implicit construct activation), Rikki consistently found stronger implicit associations between police and bad/fear as opposed to police and good/safety.

Rikki’s other ongoing research projects include the investigation of the contextual components that influence anticipated police behavior in police-civilian interactions, the assessment of the relationship between gun violence and attitudes toward people with mental illness, and the examination of pluralistic ignorance with respect to mental health service use on college campuses. Rikki is excited and eager to continue her research endeavors at SU, and welcomes any students interested in her work and/or in learning about her graduate school experience to reach out (

As Rikki’s students know, she spends most of her free time talking about and hanging out with her cat, Milo.