My research seeks to understand the psychology of key actors and stakeholders in the education, media, and criminal justice systems, and to leverage behavioral science tools and methods to improve the lived experiences and outcomes of marginalized communities.
In order to thrive, students need to believe in their own capacity to learn and grow, and they need to know that their teachers believe this too. Teachers can achieve both of these goals by engaging in feedback practices that offers students agency; inviting students to be agents of their own learning. Students of color--who tend to be given less challenging material and less independence--are especially likely to benefit from this type of feedback.
Supporting Teachers of Color
Having even a single Black teacher can change the educational trajectory of a Black student in the U.S. Black teachers (and all teachers of color) are vastly underrepresented and more likely to leave the profession than their White colleagues. And yet, we know very little about the well-being and professional experiences of teachers of color, and the conditions pushing them out of the field. Our research is among the first to explore the well-being of teachers of color and approaches for better supporting them professionally.
White teachers experience psychological threat (the fear of being or being seen as prejudiced) when teaching in schools with a majority of students of color. This threat has the potential to undermine their teaching and the educational outcomes of their students. With Dr. Shannon Brady, we show that a values-affirmation intervention improves the well-being and instructional quality of first-year White teachers, as well as the academic growth potential for their students.
Understanding the Debate over School Race Talk
The last few years have seen explosive divisions between parents, teachers, schools, and districts on the question of whether or not schools should teach and discuss race, racism, or racial inequality (school race talk). These debates are rarely grounded in any scientific evidence, and the research suggests these conversations are critical for children's racial socialization. Beyond the headlines, little research has documented parents' opinions about school race talk. Dr. Kiara Sanchez and I experimentally tested Black and White parents' support for school race talk before (2019) and during (2022) the national debates on the topic.
Assessing the Impact of Racial Representation on Viewer Attitudes
Television and media reflect and shape culture, and it is where many of us learn about the world and people around us. Despite the common assumption that TV impacts peoples attitudes, there is little psychological evidence of this causal link. With my team at SPARQ, we are partnering with BET and Paramount on their Content for Change Initiative to run experimental studies testing the impact of racial representation and character portrayals on viewers' social and racial attitudes. Results from this research will inform the way content creators write and produce television shows in the future.
Demonstrating Disparities in Officer Language Towards Black and White Drivers
People of color have long decried the mistreatment of their communities by law enforcement during routine encounters. In collaboration with the Oakland Police Department and a team of computational linguists at Stanford, we (psychologists at Stanford SPARQ) leveraged Natural Language Processing methods to analyze body-worn camera footage from thousands of stops of Black and White drivers in Oakland. We found that officers use significantly less respectful language when speaking to Black drivers. Stanford SPARQ used these findings to develop trainings on respectful language for new and existing officers.