GENERAL LAB RESEARCH AREAS
Interventions aimed a reducing gender and racial bias.
Feelings of belonging and threat for stigmatized individuals.
Positive/negative biases in attitude formation and generalization.
Interventions aimed at modifying negative biases.
The Weighting of Positives and Negative Information
In some of my (Dr. Pietri's) earlier research, I explored how individuals’ general proclivities regarding the weighting of positive and negative information related to their judgments and behaviors. Employing a cognitive modification intervention, my colleagues and I also help individuals to give less weight to negative information, which had variety of beneficial downstream consequences including reduction in negative interpretations, fear of rejection generally, and detrimental risk behaviors. More recently, we found that White individuals tend to overweight negative information when anticipating how they feel during an intergroup online interaction. Training individuals to give less weight to negative information encouraged less intergroup anxiety, which ultimately predicted participants’ decision to take part in the interaction.
Very generally, the lab's research investigates how basic processes in social cognition and attitudes influence a variety of domains that are pertinent to real-world issues.
Visual Media As Diversity Interventions
One line of research aims to address negative beliefs directed at women in the sciences by employing a diversity intervention that teaches about gender bias and ultimately reduces this bias using visual media. In particular, we have relied on Video Interventions for Diversity in STEM (VIDS). VIDS utilizes short high-quality videos and consist of two presentational styles that each demonstrate empirical evidence of gender bias. The narrative videos entail stories demonstrating examples of gender discrimination, which are grounded in empirical research from published papers. The expert interview videos feature interviews with a psychology professor (in reality a professional actor), who explains research findings from the same papers illustrated in the associated narratives. We have found that VIDS increased individuals’ ability to notice subtle gender bias and promoted speaking out against this unfair behavior.
How Do Women React to Learning About Gender Bias in STEM?
Because many diversity interventions encourage awareness of bias, we also explore the beneficial and detrimental consequences of learning about gender bias for women and develop techniques to attenuate the negative effects. For example, we have found that teaching women about gender bias in STEM may decrease their sense of belonging in the sciences. However, providing women with successful female role models in STEM protects women from the harmful effects of learning about gender bias. Additionally, increasing women’s awareness of gender bias in STEM fields encourages women to identify more strongly with and have more positive impressions of female scientists (even those who are slightly awkward). We hope this line of research will yield important results relevant to best practices for bias awareness diversity interventions in STEM. Additionally, this research may may suggest beneficial techniques for increasing identification with women in STEM who could function as helpful role models, but are a bit awkward and lack relatability.
Intersectional Identities and Role Models
In another related area of research, we explore how women with multiple identities (i.e., women of color) relate to various role models. For example, one experiment found Black women felt more similar to Black female and male scientists than a White female scientist. Feeling similar to the scientist ultimately promoted belonging in a STEM environment. However, teaching Black women about gender bias in STEM encourages their identification with a White female scientist. We have also explored how we can help make more of color role models available for Black and Latina female students. For example, we have explored the benefits of video role model interventions, and held Latina women in STEM panels for Latina HS students.
We have partnered with a local Indianapolis organization, La Plaza, to conduct some of this research. This research is also funded by the Spencer Foundation, and was featured on the Spencer Foundation website.
PSIA Lab Research
In a closely related research project, we examine the benefits of using visual over written media to address gender and racial biases. Although there is a higher cost and level of effort to produce videos than written interventions, our research suggestions that videos can communicate a vast set of cues and other important information, which is unavailable in written formats. The information presented in videos appears to be critical for reducing biases and reliance on stereotypes.
Example of VIDS Narrative
Example of VIDS Expert Interview
We employ a variety of methods to address our research questions. We use a shared laboratory space with a Tobii eye-tracker, Noldus stationary dome cameras with 12x zoom, and computers equipped with Medialab, Direct RT, and Inquisit software. We also use various surveys, reaction time tasks, behavioral measures, and recently have begun using the Reverse Correlation Image Classification (RCIC) task, a data-driven approach to generate an approximation of the participants’ mental representations. For example, this semester we are running experiments exploring what factors predict undergraduate women’s belonging in STEM majors with the eye-tracker to measure attentional bias to female versus male faces and the RCIC task to assess mental representations of female scientists.