Date published: 8/7/2015

How do negative stereotypes undermine performance on important tasks, like SAT tests and final exams? And, if we can understand this, are there simple interventions that can protect students’ performance against the harmful effects of these stereotypes?

In our lab we examine a phenomenon called stereotype threat—the concern that one’s performance could be seen through the lens of a negative stereotype. What is interesting about stereotype threat is that because it is a concern, it is distracting, and as a result can undermine performance on important tasks, like standardized achievement tests and final exams. Stereotype threat has been shown to arise as a result of simple situational triggers, such as being the only person of your gender or race/ethnicity in the room. We have found that stereotype threat can include concerns about personally being seen through the lens of a negative stereotype or that one’s performance will be used as an indication of the group’s abilities. In our studies we look at how different interventions work to reduce these concerns and protect student performance.

What do modern forms of prejudice and discrimination look like?

In another line of research we are interested in modern forms of discrimination. Although we still see some blatant forms of discrimination, modern forms of discrimination can look a lot different. In our lab we study more interpersonal forms of discrimination—eye contact, nonverbal behavior, friendliness, etc. We find that potential employers, teachers, and customer service representatives, for example, are more likely to engage in these interpersonal forms of discrimination when interacting with someone from a negatively stereotyped group. We also find that this has important implications. If a potential employer is less friendly and is less engaged during a job interview with one person, this person is less likely to excel in this interview. If a teacher is less friendly and less engaged during an important training, the student is less likely to learn the material. Thus, it is extremely important to consider both blatant and subtle forms of discrimination.

My lab includes both undergraduate and graduate students. We use lab and field studies to ask our research questions.

I am originally from Miami, Florida. For undergraduate school I ventured west to Texas, graduating from Rice University with a BA in Psychology and Art. I continued west for graduate school, earning a PhD in social psychology from Arizona State University where I worked with Dr. Steven Neuberg. After graduating in 2008 I moved as far west as possible in the continental US, joining UCLA as a faculty member. I hold a split appointment between the Psychology Department and the Anderson School of Management and I teach undergraduate, PhD, and MBA courses.