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Much of my research examines processes related to self-evaluation and identity maintenance and their implications for social problems. These processes, we find, help to explain how and when seemingly brief social interventions produce non-intuitively large and long-lasting psychological and behavioral changes. I am interested in the intersection of social psychology and social policy, and in using experimental methods to understand how social psychological processes play out over time, how they interact with other factors in social environments, and how they contribute to the maintenance of under-performance, social conflict, and inequality.
One specific area of research addresses the effects on achievement motivation of people's group identities, with a focus on how stigmatization shapes intellectual identity and performance in the short- and long-term. A second area of research examines resistance to persuasion and intransigence in social conflict, with a focus on the processes of identity maintenance that underlie these phenomena. The guiding strategy of my laboratory is to examine the social-psychological processes involved in important social problems and phenomena and to use the acquired knowledge to develop, test, and refine interventions. Findings from field-based intervention studies typically raise new conceptual questions, which serve as a basis for further laboratory experimentation and theory development. This often leads us in new and unexpected directions. Our research entails a continual dialogue between lab and field, with the findings from one informing the questions asked in the other. Additional research projects in my lab address, among other topics, the subtle psychological processes that permit people to discriminate while maintaining a perception of personal objectivity, the processes involved in the formation and change of strong political beliefs, and the social psychological processes involved in aggression and health-risk behavior.
A sample of some publications from our lab:
Cohen, G. L., & Garcia, J. (in press). Identity, belonging, and achievement: A model, interventions, implications. Current Directions in Psychological Science.
Garcia, J., & Cohen, G. L. (in press). Social psychology and educational intervention. Chapter to appear in E. Shafir (Ed.), The behavioral foundations of policy.
Uhlmann, E., & Cohen, G. L. (in press). “I think it, therefore it’s true”: Effects of self-perceived objectivity on hiring discrimination. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
Cohen, G. L., Sherman, D. K., Bastardi, A., Hsu, L., McGoey, M., & Ross, L. (2007). Bridging the partisan divide: Self-affirmation reduces ideological closed-mindedness and inflexibility in negotiation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 415-430.
Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2007). A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 82-96.
Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., & Master, A. (2006). Reducing the racial achievement gap: A social-psychological intervention. Science, 313, 1307-1310.
Cohen, G. L., & Prinstein, M. J. (2006). Peer contagion of aggression and health-risk behavior among adolescent males: An experimental investigation of effects on public conduct and private attitudes. Child Development, 77, 967-983.
Sherman, D. K., & Cohen, G. L. (2006). The psychology of self-defense: Self-affirmation theory. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 38, pp. 183-242). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Cohen, G. L. & Garcia, J. (2005). “I am us”: Negative stereotypes as collective threats. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 566-582.
Uhlmann, E., & Cohen, G. L. (2005). Constructed criteria: Redefining merit to justify discrimination. Psychological Science, 16, 474-480.
Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2005). Stereotype threat and the social and scientific contexts of the race achievement gap [response]. American Psychologist, 60, 270-271.
Cohen, G. L. (2003). Party over policy: The dominating impact of group influence on political beliefs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 808-822.
Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2003). Stereotype lift. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 456-467.
Cohen, G. L., & Steele, C. M. (2002). A barrier of mistrust: How negative stereotypes affect cross-race mentoring. In J. Aronson (Ed.), Improving academic achievement: Impact of psychological factors on education (pp. 303-328). San Diego: Academic Press.