Inequality has been a topic of interest among social scientists for decades. Psychology has been a leading discipline in this area, producing an incredible wealth of knowledge on topics including the academic achievement gap, racial health disparities, unconscious bias and intergroup relations, social class and social hierarchy. Recently psychologists, including members of the Princeton faculty, have focused not only on conducting basic scientific research to understand the psychological processes associated with inequality but have also been invested in developing interventions to reduce inequality. Moreover, there has been an emphasis on developing a set of best practices that can be used by individuals and organizations. When seeking to describe how inequality, stereotyping and prejudice infects society it is common to characterize them as shaping individuals through biased media depictions and institutions that subjugate some while rewarding others. In contrast, the work done in this lab examines how interpersonal interactions translate culturally held prejudices into individual thoughts and actions. One line of research on social tuning, shows individuals’ prejudices and stereotype-relevant self-views adjust to the apparent views of social interaction partners, without conscious effort or awareness, when they like the other person or feel uncertain. A complementary line of research on implicit homophily shows that perceivers are interpersonally drawn to others whose intergroup attitudes and experiences seem similar to their own, even when those intergroup attitudes are consciously disavowed by perceivers and instead measured implicitly. Taken together these bodies of work suggest people may unknowingly be immersed in social networks characterized by a corresponding degree of intergroup bias. We are in the initial stages of several projects considering the ramifications of this possibility for the health and intellectual performance of members of stigmatized groups.
About Professor Stacey Sinclair
Professor Sinclair is a social psychologist at Princeton University examining the translation of interpersonal interactions with culturally held prejudices on both the level of significant societal movement, and the level of individual thoughts and actions. Sinclair is Professor of Psychology & African American Studies. She is the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Psychology and holds multiple roles in the Department of African American Studies. She joined the Princeton faculty as an associate professor in 2007 from the Department of Psychology at the University of Virginia. She earned her Ph.D from UCLA, specializing in social psychology with a secondary interest in measurement and psychometrics. She has contributed chapters to many books, including Mind in Context (2010), The Diversity Challenge: Social Identity and Intergroup Relations on the College Campus (2008) and the textbook New Horizons in Multicultural Counseling (2007). She is author, or co-author, of dozens of articles in peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Personality, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Social Psychology and Personality Science, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, among many others. Many of these articles are available to view on the Publications page of this site, courtesy of the Princeton Open Access Policy. She has been a visiting fellow with the Russell Sage Foundation, as well as the recipient of a Foundation Fellowship. She received the New Minority Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health for her work on the role of interpersonal processes in self-stereotyping. She also received the Templeton Foundation Young Scholar Grant for her work on interpersonal relationships fostering egalitarianism. Sinclair is particularly known for her work on social tuning, which is defined as, “the process whereby people adopt another person’s attitudes.” Findings on social tuning suggest people are more prone to adopt the views of others through social tuning when they like that person. This aspect of social tuning could be explained by the psychological assumption that people want to be liked by those that they themselves like, and therefore people will shape their views to match those of a person from whom they seek social acceptance.
Collaborate with the SRSI Lab
The Social Relations and Societal Interactions Lab includes Ph.D doctoral candidates, undergraduate students and affiliated faculty. Individuals seeking admission to the Department of Psychology Ph.D program should contact Professor Sinclair to inquire if the lab is currently accepting new researchers, and demonstrate their background in research areas related to the work of the lab. Professor Sinclair is the current director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Psychology and able to answer specific questions about the Ph.D program at Princeton, and whether the course of study is best suited to your interests. Princeton does not grant a M.A. in psychology. At Princeton the M.A. degree is an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy. The funded length of the Ph.D program is five years. Applications are due on December 1st, though most successful candidates should have interaction with the Department far before this date. See the Psychology website or the Psychology page of the Graduate School site for full information. Undergraduates interested in joining the lab should have coursework in psychology, preferably having familiarity with topics related to inequality, and seek Professor Sinclair as an advisor for independent study in their junior year and/or senior year.