This research draws from implicit social cognition, social identity, and self-categorization theories to address two research goals. First, to identify the mechanisms that underlie the impact of stereotypes on stigmatized individuals’ self and identity. Second, to test the situational interventions that protect individuals from the impact of stigma on their self and identity.

Self-stereotyping.  Social identity is the collective self, defined by group memberships and important and distinct group attributes. Because individuals develop a positive emotional attachment to their social groups, social identities can be a source of value and positive distinctiveness. Moreover, when individuals categorize with their social identity, they represent their self-concept in terms of their group’s characteristics, even if such qualities reflect negative cultural stereotypes – that is, group members self-stereotype.  From an implicit social cognition perspective, self-stereotyping in memory is best understood within a framework of dual processes – one that operates automatically and nonconsciously and is thus relatively implicit, and one that is governed by control and social motives and is thus relatively explicit. We experimentally examine these issues across various social groups.

Stigmatized identities.  Identities do not develop in a vacuum; their origin and maintenance are a function of experiences in individuals’ social environment. For some individuals, social experiences lead to categorizing with identities that are strongly stigmatized in society. From an implicit social cognition perspective, these individuals may wish to explicitly trivialize their stigmatized identities by engaging self-presentation motives stemming from impression management goals, but these same individuals may be unaware of, and thus unable to prevent, the effects of stigmatized experiences on their implicit identities. Our laboratory examines these identity processes in the context of individuals’ experiences with criminality and victimization.