Power, Identity, and Politics

Diversity policies and threat. This research explains how people view a setting with diversity policies as identity-threatening or safe, and details the cognitive, motivational, and health consequences of such views. Colorblindness and multiculturalism are two such policies under investigation. Our studies show that diversity policies in schools and workplaces indicate the range of vulnerabilities and opportunities afforded to a person based on their social identities—our lab refers to this process as social identity contingencies. When diversity policies signal that one’s social identity contingencies are negative, the setting can be characterized as threatening; when positive, the setting can be characterized as identity-safe. Threat and safety influence interpersonal and organizational trust as well as motivation.

Case-by-case decisions vs. the choice of a group and diversity in hiring. This research compare selection decisions involving the choice of a series of individuals, where decisions are made on a case-by-case basis with each decision seen as unrelated to the next, to selection decisions involving the choice of a group, where multiple selections are made simultaneously or as a unit. Empirical research demonstrates that case-by-case decision-making contributes to racial and gender discrimination, and that such discrimination can be greatly reduced when the identical series of decisions is framed in terms of hiring “a group” rather than “a series of individuals.”

The meaning of national identity and immigrant-citizen relations. This research examines how people in different cultures define “insiders” and outsiders” based on what national identity means to them. Empirical research in the United States and Germany shows that for Americans, national identity is associated with ideology-based concepts (e.g., freedom and democracy). For Germans, national identity is associated with heritage-based concepts (e.g., ancestors and cultural traditions). Although both American and Germans may show bias against immigrants in their respective cultures, the conditions under which they show bias varies by national identity type. Recent research examines a fuller range of citizens by sampling political fringe groups and those with a wide range of professions in both cultures.

Identity and politics in the age of Obama. This research examines the relationship between African Americans’ racial identities, perception of President Obama as a symbol of achievement, support for his political agenda, and political efficacy.

Sample Publications

Ditlmann, R., Purdie-Vaughns, V. & Eibach, R.. (2011). Heritage and ideology-based national identities and their implications for immigrant citizen relations in the United States and in Germany. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35(4), 395-405. | download pdf

Purdie-Vaughns, V. & Ditlmann, R. (2010). Reflections on diversity science in social psychology. Psychological Inquiry, 21(2), 153-159. | download pdf

Purdie-Vaughns, V., Steele, C.M., Davies, P., Ditlmann, R., Randall Crosby, J. (2008). Identity contingency threat: How diversity cues signal threat or safety for African-Americans in mainstream settings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 94(4), 615-630. | download pdf

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