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Intergroup Behavior

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 interactions 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.

Peer Support

As mental health needs on college campuses continue to rise across the United States (Gallagher, 2015), peer support programs have been a growing university response. Many trained peers can relate to or share overlapping experiences (e.g., academic or campus stressors) with struggling students and as a result, offer more impactful/unique support. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and in collaboration with Bass Connections, we have co-developed a SMS peer-support services called DukeLine. In this service, duke undergraduates are trained as paraprofessionals to offer mental health support to their duke peers. So far through this service, 100% of users have reported being “very” or “extremely” likely to use DukeLine again and recommend to a friend. Our goal is continue expanding DukeLine throughout dormitories on Duke Campus and eventually offer this service to Duke graduate/post-doctoral students in diverse disciplines

While positive benefits do exist for students whom receive support through peer services, there is significantly less work documenting the affect on peer supporters. As a result, across hundreds of peer support programs in North America, we seek to learn on the demands and benefits that peer supporters may experience through their role. These outcomes include feelings of burnout, life satisfaction,  and life fulfilment. Furthermore, we seek to understand if differences in these mental health outcomes exist between white and underrepresented supporters. Finally, we are examining the prevalence and nature of these North American peer support programs. Our research strives to educate programs to create more efficient monitoring systems of supporter well-being which in return can lead to more efficient service for students.

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Straka, B. C., Albuja, A., Leer, J., Brauher, K., Gaither, S. E. (2023). The rich get richer? Children’s reasoning about socioeconomic status predicts inclusion and resource bias. Developmental Psychology.

Halim, M. L. D., Atwood, S., Osornio, A. C., Pauker, K., Dunham, Y., Olson, K. R., Gaither, S. E. (2023). Parent and self-socialization of gender intergroup attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors among ethnically and geographically diverse young children. Developmental Psychology, 59(10), 1933–1950.

Adekunle, T. A., Knowles, J. M., Hantzmon, S. V., DasGupta, M. N., Pollack, K. I., Gaither, S. E. (2023). A qualitative analysis of trust and distrust within patient-clinician interactions.

Halim, M. L. D., Atwood, S., Osornio, A. C., Pauker, K., Dunham, Y., Olson, K. R., Gaither, S. E. (2023). Parent and self-socialization of gender intergroup attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors among ethnically and geographically diverse young children.

Ruba, A. L., McMutry, R., Gaither, S., & Wilbourn, M. (2022). How White American Children Develop Racial Biases in Emotion Reasoning. Affective Science.

Straka, B., Stanaland, A., Tomasello, M., & Gaither, S. (2021). Who Can Be in a Group? 3- to 5-Year-Old Children Construe Realistic Social Groups Through Mutual Intentionality. doi:10.31234/

Meyers, C., Aumer, K., Janicki, C., Pauker, K., Chang, E. C., Gaither, S. E., & Williams, A. (2020). Experiences with Microaggressions and Discrimination in Racially Diverse and Homogeneously White Contexts. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.

Straka, J. W., & Straka, B. C. (2020). Reframe policymaking dysfunction through bipartisan-inclusion leadership. Policy Sciences. doi:10.1007/s11077-020-09383-2

Loyd, A. B., & Gaither, S. E. (2018). Racial/ethnic socialization for White youth: What we know and future directions. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 59, 54–64. doi: 10.1016/j.appdev.2018.05.004

Chen, E. E., Corriveau, K. H., Lai, V. K. W., Poon, S. L., & Gaither, S. E. (2018). Learning and socializing preferences in Hong Kong Chinese children. Child Development, 89, 1-9. doi: 10.1111/cdev.13083

Dukes, K., & Gaither, S.E. (2017). Black racial stereotypes and victim blaming: Implications for media coverage and criminal proceedings in cases of police violence against racial and ethnic minorities. Journal of Social Issues, Special Issue: What social science research says about police violence against racial and ethnic minorities: Understanding the antecedents and consequences. doi 10.1111/josi.12248

Gomez, E., Young, D., Preston, A., Wilton, L., Gaither, S. E., & Kaiser, C. (2017). Loss and loyalty: Change in political identity among Clinton supporters after the 2016 Presidential Election. Self & Identity, Online First. doi: 10.1080/15298868.2017.1391873

Gaither, S. E., Apfelbaum, E. P., Birnbaum, H., Babbitt, L. G., & Sommers, S. R. (2018). Mere membership in a racially diverse group reduces conformity, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 402-410. doi 10.1177/1948550617708013

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