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Word cloud of paper abstracts; generated by Wordle.com

I research motivated support for the status quo and inequality, focusing on the broad question: Why do people defend social systems that are unfair, or endorse beliefs and ideologies that put them at a personal disadvantage? In one line of research I investigate how existential motivations in individuals, such as needs for order and control, shape beliefs about how broader social groups (e.g., companies, governments, societies) should be organized. I also investigate how subtle cues, such as systematic biases in language or stereotypes, reinforce the status quo in male-dominated occupations.  In other research, I have found that unfalsifiable or untestable beliefs allow people to defend their cherished political and religious views, and express those views with more zeal. More recently, I have been using eye-tracking to investigate how visual gaze differs when viewing someone from another race, and how top-down motivations, such as needs to trust or connect with people, influence those processes. I also have a SSHRC grant, also using eye-tracking methods, to study how people process their physical environments in order to determine belonging and fit within those spaces.

Finally, I am collaborating on SSHRC-funded research examining how stereotypes and system justification affect acceptance of immigrants, and how to promote belongingness among newcomers to Canada. We have found that the system-justification motive, when combined with pro-migrant ideologies espoused by representatives of the system, can increase the positivity of migrant stereotypes over time. This project is part of the Pathways to Prosperity Partnership, "an alliance of university, community, and government partners dedicated to fostering welcoming communities and promoting the integration of immigrants and minorities in Canada." [link to project]

Of course, all of this work has been done in collaboration with others and full citations are listed under Publications.

Student Research

Recent honours theses that I have supervised include:

  • Why sweat may equal threat: Women’s perceptions of threat and belonging in gym environments (Alesha Frederickson, 2018)

  • Queue jumper or refugee? The effects of system justification and stereotypes (Jenessa Suszynski, 2018)

  • Too long didn’t read: The effect of information complexity on unfalsifiable beliefs (Jamie-Lee Vallotton, 2018)

  • Emotion processing and racial attitudes within interracial contexts (Taylor Jonasson, 2017)

  • Effects of mindfulness on emotion recognition in intergroup contexts (Premika Perera, 2017)