Psychology professor named Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues Fellow

Colorado State University Professor of Psychology Silvia Sara Canetto has been elected Fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI).

Election as a SPSSI Fellow honors those who have made outstanding contributions to the psychological study of social issues.

“Congratulations to Dr. Canetto whose research is impactful and recognized nationally and internationally,” said Jan Nerger, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “This is a well-deserved honor.”

The primary branch of Canetto’s social-issues research focuses on cultural scripts of gender and suicidal behaviors, including suicide beliefs and attitudes, intersectionally. An innovation of her research is that it uses a cultural lens to make sense of the suicidality of socially dominant groups, specifically white men in the United States.

“Culture matters for everyone,” she said.

“Dr. Canetto’s primary area of research, on the gendering of scripts associated with suicidality, has brought in an intersectional perspective to the literature by examining the interplay of gender with age, [and] culture … cross-nationally,” wrote Jyotsna Vaid, a professor of cognition and cognitive neuroscience at Texas A&M University, who nominated Canetto for the Fellowship. “This work on factors influencing suicidal ideation brings to the foreground a host of pressing social issues associated with mental health.”

Canetto — who earned a Doctor of Experimental/Physiological Psychology from the University of Padua, Italy, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago— has also researched gender narratives regarding interest, persistence, and leadership in science and engineering. Her research findings have challenged the view that women’s underrepresentation in leadership within science and engineering is mostly a choice.

Canetto received the 2020 Dublin award, the American Association of Suicidology’s highest national award for longstanding contributions to suicide prevention; and the Denmark-Gunvald Research Award of the International Council of Psychologists. She will be an invited speaker at the 2022 Colorado suicide prevention conference: Bridging the Divide.

Psychology has a long tradition of studying the individual via lab studies, that is, out of social and cultural context. It is only recently that attention to context and culture has been broadly embraced as necessary for quality psychological science and practice. Therefore Canetto, who for decades has included social-issues and cultural perspectives in her research and teaching, especially appreciates the timing of this SPSSI honor.

“Election to Fellow in SPSSI represents a recognition, by distinguished social-issues scholars, of the scientific value and impact of my research,” she said. “My research and teaching have always centered on social issues. Election to Fellow of SPSSI affirms and reinvigorates my commitment to social-issues questions and perspectives.”