Research on Diversity
The department of psychology is proud to be the home of talented faculty and students who highlight the importance of diversity, broadly speaking, in their scholarship. These projects may be linked to our departmental initiatives in culture and context, social disparities and inequality, or may reflect the intersection of other research themes with diversity. Below is a representative sample of the diversity research conducted within the department, as well as a list of funding mechanisms that help support this type of research, both within and outside of the university.
Research conducted in the Culture, Health and Emotion Lab has two primary foci:
- Exploring and understanding the ways in which culture influences basic emotional processes such as emotional experience and expression, emotion regulation and emotion perception
- Understanding the consequences of cultural variations in emotion, especially in terms of health, mental health and well-being. We are also interested in how individuals from diverse cultures react to and prepare for stressors that occur within the individual (e.g., psychopathology and disease) as well as external stressors in the environment (e.g., discrimination and racism).
Projects being conducted in the Azar Lab typically involve mothers from diverse racial backgrounds and of diverse socioeconomic status and who are involved in the child protection system, living in poverty and in crime ridden neighborhoods of Philadelphia. Some of these studies in my lab deal with social inequalities associated with decision making by child protection services and the court system, as well as bias in professionals judgments for parents with developmental disabilities.
The REDI (Research-based, Developmentally Informed) Program enhances Head Start and preschool classroom and home-visiting programs, in order to enrich the early learning experiences and school readiness of children growing up in poverty. Over 500 children represent a diverse sample (55% European American, 25% African American, 19% Latino; 49% male) are participating in follow-up assessments designed to evaluate the benefits of these early learning enrichments on adolescent social-emotional and academic adjustment.
Development of Toddlers Study (D.O.T.S.). The goal of this study is to understand the role of early childhood language levels and growth in relation to the development of children’s emotion regulation in economically strained families living in rural and semi-rural communities. SES is a robust predictor of children’s language development, and one viewpoint is that economic disadvantage that affects language can also affect emotional development. But most related research is in urban settings and with very poor families. We investigate both variations in language status and speech as it relates to children’s ability to regulate their own disappointment and frustration, examining the role of parental education, household income (income to needs), and daily hassles.
The research conducted in the Coping and Regulation of Environmental Stress (CaRES) lab involves both basic and applied studies of children and families geared toward understanding and ameliorating racial and socioeconomic health disparities. We study sources of toxic stress that stem from economic and racial inequality and seek to identify malleable mechanisms of resilience. Our interventions such as the Building a Strong Identity and Coping Skills (BaSICS), seek to restore and protect children’s brains and bodies from toxic stress by (1) building broad-based flexible coping repertoires, (2) enhancing cultural identity development and identifying sources of strength in one’s family, culture, and community, and (3) developing social action projects to combat societal ills and build a stronger community in which to flourish and thrive.
Parents and Children Together (PACT), A Penn State and Harrisburg Community Alliance, is a community partnership and interdisciplinary research center located in Harrisburg, PA. The goals of the center are two-fold: (1) to engage a diverse urban community in the research process and; (2) to enhance our scientific understanding of how diverse contexts and cultures influence early child development.
Dr. Jacobs is currently working in the area of adverse impact in selection tests for public sector jobs. Adverse impact refers to differential results for various groups such as more men passing a physical abilities test for firefighter or Whites scoring more highly than Blacks on a test to select police officers. When this happens one important question arises, “Is the test fair?” His research involves large data sets from police officer, firefighter, and bus operator selection programs used by agencies across the country. He is investigating the role of personality tests, test score banding, and other factors in reducing adverse impact. He advocates that the laws governing testing begin to take into account many of the realities that are found in selection programs.
The Diversity Recruitment and Retention Lab focuses seeks to understand and increase diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Specifically, Kisha Jones and her students study factors related to the entry (to careers and organizations), selection, and retention of individuals from diverse racial/ethnic, gender, and mental health backgrounds. Her work considers how people view jobs and occupations when they are planning out their future career path, the recruitment strategies that organizations can use to increase their levels of diversity, and methods of reducing hiring and retention disparities among these groups in the workplace.
Recently my lab, the Social Vision and Interpersonal Perception Lab, in conjunction with several collaborating researchers, has revealed a striking intracultural/racial advantage in mental state decoding (i.e., ability to read complex mental states in others) among Asian, Black, and White students, evident both in performance and neural responsivity. To our knowledge this is the first demonstration of such variation giving rise to a number of related questions whose answers await our continued research efforts.
Daryl Cameron is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Rock Ethics Institute. Daryl’s research focuses on psychological processes involved in empathy and moral decision-making. Much of his work examines motivational factors that shape empathic emotions and behaviors toward others, particularly in response to large-scale crises (e.g., natural disasters, genocides) and in intergroup situations. He has also examined how people make moral judgments about implicit racial bias."
Research conducted in Jes Matsick's lab integrates social psychological and feminist theories and methods to examine the perspectives and experiences of underrepresented groups. For example, how do members of minority groups feel and think toward dominant groups? How might these perceptions affect their experiences of minority stress and well-being? Much of her research focuses on issues related to sexual orientation and gender diversity. She also critically evaluates ways to diversify science. In particular, she examines (a) efforts to recruit and retain underrepresented group members in STEM fields and academia, and (b) strategies to produce inclusive and representative research for groups historically underrepresented in psychology.
Advisor: Karen Bierman, PI and Project Advisor: Linda Caldwell
Mojdeh Motamedi is interested in how to increase the use of evidence-based programs (EBPs) in diverse, traditionally underserved communities. Currently she is researching HealthWise, an EBP targeting risky behaviors among youth in South Africa. Through a diversity grant she obtained, she has also collected data on HealthWise’s implementation and sustainability
Publications and Presentations:
Motamedi, M. (2016, September). What stays when the money is gone? The sustainability of a HIV/substance use prevention program in South Africa. Talk for the African Research Center Luncheon Series, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA.
Motamedi, M., Caldwell, L. L., Wegner, L., Smith, E. A., & Jones, D. (2016). Girls just want to know where to have fun: Preventing substance use initiation in an under resourced community in South Africa through HealthWise. Prevention Science, 17, 700-709.
Motamedi, M., Caldwell, L. L., Graham, J., Smith, E. A., Jacobs, J., & Wegner, L. (2015, May). Why feeling valued and satisfied in teaching make a difference in deciding how to foster better program implementation.Symposium talk at the Society for Prevention Research 23rd Annual Meeting, Washington, DC.
Motamedi, M., Caldwell, L. L., Graham, J., Smith, E. A., Jacobs, J., & Wegner, L. (2015, May). Using school climate to determine a school’s readiness for quality program implementation and adoption. Symposium talk at the Society for Prevention Research 23rd Annual Meeting, Washington, DC.
Advisor: Aaron Pincus
Leila Wu is interested in personality disorders, personality assessment and interpersonal difficulties, especially the application of personality assessment in Chinese population. She is working with Dr. Aaron Pincus on assessing personality disorders and interpersonal problems associated with interpersonal theory and circumplex structure.
- Liberal Arts College Enrichment Funds for Summer Research
- Schreyer Honors Thesis Research Grants
Publications and Presentations:
Wu, L.Z., Roche, M.J., Dowgwillo, E.A., Wang, S., & Pincus, A.L. (2015). A Chinese language translation of the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems Short Circumplex (IIP-SC). Journal of Personality Assessment, 97(2), 153-162.
Wu, L.Z. (In progress). English and Chinese Language Assessment of DSM-5 Personality Disorders and Interpersonal Problems in Bilingual Speakers. (Master Thesis)
Heather J. MacArthur
Advisor: Stephanie A. Shields
In her work, Heather examines the politics of gender in everyday life, or the subtle ways that gendered hierarchies are enacted and maintained in our day-to-day thoughts and behaviors. In particular, she studies the micro-politics of emotion, language, and humor to reveal the ways that gender biases may be manifested in these commonplace aspects of our lives.
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Publications and Presentations:
MacArthur, H. J., & Shields, S. A. (2015). There’s no crying in baseball, or is there? Male athletes, tears, and masculinity in North America. Emotion Review, 7, 39-46. doi: 10.1177/1754073914544476
MacArthur, H. J., & Cundiff, J. L. (2016). When women are called “girls”: The effect of infantilizing labels on women’s self-perceptions. Poster presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, San Diego, California.
Advisor: Jonathan Cook
Michael researchers how stigma and prejudice affect various social identities, including race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. Additionally, Michael is interested in the development and implementation of psychological interventions designed to buffer individuals from the negative consequences of real or perceived prejudice and to foster a more equitable society.
- Michael’s research has been funded by a National Science Graduate Research Fellowship and by the Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (APA Division 36).
Publications and Presentations:
Pasek, M. H., Filip-Crawford, G., & Cook, J. E. (in press). Identity concealment and social change: Balancing advocacy goals against individual needs. Journal of Social Issues.
Pasek, M. H., & Cook, J. E. (2017, January). Religion from the target’s perspective: A portrait of religious threat and its consequences in the United States. In M. H. Pasek & J. E. Cook (Chairs), Expanding theory on identity threat: New populations and diverse outcomes. Symposium conducted at the annual conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, San Antonio, TX.
Natalia Van Doren
Advisor: Jose A. Soto
Natalia’s current research examines how gendered norms and expectations of emotional expression may contribute to gender differences in emotion regulation and expression; and, in turn, how this may negatively impact women’s mental health. Her past work has also examined how personality variables and backlash motivate women to avoid powerful positions at work.
- Association for Psychological Science
Publications and Presentations:
Van Doren, N., John, O.P. (In preparation). Where do you sit? Effects of gender, personality, and motivation.
Van Doren, N., Soto, J.A. (April 2017) Do Women Incur Greater Costs than Men for Expressing Anger? Talk presented at the Pennsylvania State Psychology Department. State College, PA.
Van Doren, N., Soto, J.A. (March 2017) Anger Suppression in a Relationally-Interdependent Context Predicts Gender Differences in Well-being. Poster presented at the Pennsylvania State University Annual Graduate Exhibition. State College, PA.
Van Doren, N., John, O.P. (January 2017) Where do you sit? Motivation and Personality account for Gender Differences in Power Preferences. Poster presented at the Society for Personality and Social Research Annual Meeting. San Antonio, TX.
PSU Funding Resources
Outside Funding Resources
Ford Foundation Fellowships (Underrepresented and Ethnic Minority Students)
APA division 45 Student Awards (Culture and Ethnic Minority Psychology)
APA Division 35 Student Awards (Feminist Psychology)