Identifying sources of threat in mainstream settings
Identifying sources and consequences of threat in mainstream settings
People who belong to stigmatized groups may question whether their group is valued in mainstream settings (e.g., workplaces, schools, religious settings), especially in settings where their group has faced historical stereotyping and discrimination. Because stigmatized group members’ concerns are tied to specific settings, we suggest such group members draw information from features or cues in these settings that hold relevance for the status of their group there. When cues signal that one’s group may be devalued, this causes stress and anxiety. I have investigated this hypothesis among three different groups who have faced historical devaluation in corporate settings: African-Americans, women, and sexual minorities. More recently, I have explored the cognitive consequences of these situational threats to identity. For example, our lab has used reaction time measures to explore identity compartmentalization and stigma concealment. We are also exploring the relationship between belongingness uncertainty in academic settings and preference for structure in the classroom.
Purdie-Vaughns, V., & Walton, G (2011). Is Multiculturalism bad for Black Americans? In R. Mallett & L. Tropp (Ed.) Beyond Prejudice Reduction: Pathways to Positive Intergroup Relations. American Psychological Association.
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.
Sedlovskaya, A., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Eibach, R. & LaFrance (under review). Concealable stigma and the distinction between public and private selves. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Combating threat in real world contexts:
Interventions to boost achievement
This project seeks to reduce the racial achievement gap by developing social-psychological interventions (self-affirmations) aimed at counteracting the effects of identity threat that can undermine minority performance. this project seeks to reduce the racial achievement gap by developing social-psychological interventions (self-affirmations) aimed at counteracting the effects of identity threat that can undermine minority performance. We explore how features of real-world educational contexts affect levels of identity threat and contribute to the performance of middle school students from under-represented groups. This research investigates the trajectory of identity threat over time, in an actual setting, as a chronic stressor. We have been awarded a Spencer Foundation grant to expand the scope of this line of research to see if self-affirmation can mitigate the effects of stereotype threat not just at the level of academic performance, but at the neurobiological level as well.
Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Purdie-Vaugns, V., Apfel, N., & Brzustoski, P. (2009). Recursive processes in self-affirmation: Intervening to close the minority achievement gap. Science, 324, 400-403.
Purdie-Vaughns, V., Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Sumner, R., Cook, J. C., & Apfel, N. H. (2009). Improving minority academic performance: How a values-affirmation intervention works. Teachers College Record, September 23, 2009.
The threat of invisibility: Contending with
multiple subordinate-group identities
People with two or more intersecting-group identities (e.g., black women, black gay males, white lesbian females) face a unique threat, the threat of invisibility. Because people with two or more subordinate identities do not fit the prototypes of their constituent subordinate groups, they may experience intersectional invisibility. Intersectional invisibility is the general failure to fully recognize people with intersecting identities as members of their constituent groups. In collaboration with Dr. Richard Eibach (University of Waterloo), we are building a theoretical model to explain the advantages and disadvantages that people with multiple subordinate-group identities face in American mainstream settings.
Purdie-Vaughns, V. & Eibach, R. (2008). Intersectional invisibility: The ideological sources and social consequences of non-prototypicality. Sex Roles. 59 (5), 377-391.
Psychology of diversity
Assumptions based on “diversity” and “cultural differences” influence numerous policies and practices from clinical training (i.e., cultural competency) to education (i.e., multicultural curricula, hiring policies). Yet little is known about how people decide what constitutes cultural difference, how social context affects these perceptions, and the consequences of these perceptions on how people with a diversity of identities interact. My interest in these issues has translated into investigations of (a) the role of mass and individual hiring practices on diverse hiring outcomes, and (b) individual differences in openness to diversity policies among minority and majority group members.
Purdie-Vaughns, V. & Ditlmann, R. (2010). Reflections on diversity science in social psychology. Psychological Inquiry, 21 (2) 153-159.
Purdie-Vaughns, V. & Ditlmann, R. (under review). Through the prism of colorblindness: Priming egalitarianism or bias affects construal of colorblind ideologies for racial minorities. Psychological Science (Short Reports).