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Broadly speaking, my research focuses on developing and testing theories about how people's social identities and group memberships interact with the contexts they encounter to affect their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, physiology, and motivation. I currently focus on three programs of research.
One aspect of my research program focuses on how situational cues in academic, organizational, and group environments affect people’s cognition, motivation, performance, and physiology. For example, many explanations for the under-representation and underperformance of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, and of minorities in academia, focus on biological and socialization factors that may contribute to these phenomena. My work posits and examines the cues hypothesis, testing how the structure, organization, and situational cues in a setting impact people with stereotyped or stigmatized social identities, making them cognitively and physiologically vigilant, depressing their sense of belonging, and decreasing their desire to continue to participate in the setting. I also examine the particular concerns situational cues engender among underrepresented groups, with an eye toward intervention. The Spencer Foundation and the National Science Foundation have funded this research.
Another line of research examines how organizations' philosophies of intelligence-whether organizations believe that intelligence is a fixed trait, or that it malleable and expandable by hard work and effort-shape the motivation of workers. Current work in this area examines representations of intelligence and genius in society and measures their effects on people's creativity, performance, and motivation in various work settings.
A final line of research examines situational cues in inter- and intra-racial interactions that affect people's levels of identity threat, emotional experiences, cognitive performance, and motivation to build friendships. In one paper, we have examined how a White interaction partner's friendship network has important meaning for racial minority students when they anticipate interacting with him/her. If the White partner has diverse friends, the minority student feels that they will be stereotyped less, experience fewer interpersonal concerns, and is more willing to discuss sensitive racial topics with their partner. Current work is examining other situational cues-such as interaction goals and diversity messages-in inter- and intra-racial settings that affect minority and majority members' psychological and physiological outcomes. The National Science Foundation is currently funding this research.