Today’s society is becoming increasingly more and more diverse which means that today’s children, youth and young adults need to be able to succeed in multicultural settings (whether those be school, home, work, club groups or other living situations such as roommates). However, America is still segregated within schools and neighborhoods, making it difficult for people to learn how to adapt to these multicultural settings later in life. So how do interracial, inter-gender interactions occur then? What makes these interactions more positive or more negative experiences? What types of intergroup contact affect future interracial inter-gender interaction tendencies?
In the Identity & Diversity Lab, we explore these questions through studies including adults and children. With adults, we examine how specific factors influence intergroup interactions (when we interact with someone of a different race and/or gender). How did these people feel about interacting, and how did it affect how they thought about the other group? Our research allows us to use these findings to uncover better ways to thrive in our diverse world.
Our other research focuses on how children view and treat others who are not of the same racial or gender background as themselves. Many studies have found that children are actually aware of race and diversity at very young ages, even as young as six months. Through processes such as socialization, childhood becomes a critical time to promote cultural awareness and inclusion. Therefore, by promoting awareness of diversity through multicultural materials in early-educational settings, children are more likely to be socially tolerant towards others and to maintain those positive interactiosn not only as children, but also as adults. We study how knowledge about race and gender (e.g., racial and gender essentialist or constancy beliefs) affects children’s perceptions and use of stereotypes and how they treat children from different racial and gender backgrounds. Additionally, we compare the experiences of biracial and monoracial children as a way to explore whether biracial children also have the same racial identity flexibility as seen with biracial adults. Lastly, we examine children’s intergroup contact and how it may affect how children perceive each other.
Gaither, S.E., Apfelbaum, E.P., Birnbaum, H.*, Babbitt, L.G., & Sommers, S.R. (in press). Mere membership in a racially diverse group reduces conformity. Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Babbitt, L., Gaither, S.E., Toosi, N., & Sommers, S.R. (in press). The role of gender in racial meta-stereotypes and stereotypes. Social Cognition, Special Issue: Intersectional and Dynamic Social Categories.
Gaither, S.E., Remedios, J.D., Schultz, J.R., Maddox, K.B., & Sommers, S.R. (2016). I-sharing improves racial attitudes but not interracial behavior. Social Psychology, 47, 125-135. doi: 10.1027/1864-9335/a000264
Schultz, J.R., Gaither, S.E., Urry, H., & Maddox, K.B. (2015). Reframing anxiety to encourage interracial interactions. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 1, 392-400. doi: 10.1037/tps0000048
Gaither, S.E., & Sommers, S.R. (2013). Living with an other-race roommate shapes Whites’ behavior in subsequent diverse settings. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 272-276. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.10.020
Gaither, S.E. & Sommers, S.R. (2013). Honk if you like minorities: Vuvuzela attitudes predict outgroup liking. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 48, 45-65. doi: 10.1177/1012690211429219.
Gaither, S.E., Sommers, S.R., & Ambady, N. (2013). When the half affects the whole: Priming identity for biracial individuals in social interactions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 368-371. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.12.012