Brenda Major

Brenda Major
University of California, Santa Barbara | UCSB · Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

Ph.D.

About

184
Publications
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Publications

Publications (184)
Article
Sleep has strong influences on affective and social experiences. However, less is known about the reciprocal effects of sleep, affect, and social experiences at a daily level, and little work has considered racial/ethnic minorities at high risk for social disconnection and discrimination. A 7-day daily experience study assessed the bidirectional re...
Article
Three experiments investigated how framing diversity as all-inclusive affects recognition of racial injustice. Among Whites, viewing a company mission statement that specifically included Whites/European Americans when defining diversity or made no mention of diversity led to increased recognition of unfair treatment of racial minorities relative t...
Article
Objective: Trust is fundamental to successful educational relationships. Yet, numerous barriers inhibit the development of trust between students of color (SOC) and White instructors. The current research examined a metacognitive obstacle to the development of cross-race classroom trust: Primarily External Race Motives (PERM). PERM was defined as...
Article
A growing body of research identifies weight stigma as a motivational barrier to physical activity (PA) participation. The purpose of this study was twofold: (1) to better understand the motivational processes involved in the associations between weight stigma and PA (motivation to avoid exercise and self-control resources); and (2) to examine this...
Article
Full-text available
Seven experiments explore whether organizational diversity initiatives heighten White Americans’ concerns about the respect and value afforded toward their racial group and increase their perceptions of anti-White bias. The presence (vs. absence) of organizational diversity initiatives (i.e., diversity awards, diversity training, diversity mission...
Article
Objectives: Belonging to a stigmatized group presents a predicament between relying on your group as a source of support versus renouncing your group to avoid stigma and discrimination. We investigate how perceived stigma affects changes in group identification and whether this depends on other axes of advantage to which participants have access....
Article
Discrimination and prejudice have substantial adverse consequences for the health and well‐being of discrimination targets. Three major mechanisms through which discrimination and prejudice undermine health include (a) the direct effects of unequal resource distribution and healthcare quality, (b) the stress‐related physiological consequences of en...
Article
Despite the widespread assumption that prodiversity values make companies more attractive workplaces for underrepresented groups, few experiments have tested this assumption. Two experiments investigated the impact of prodiversity messages in organizational recruitment materials for racial/ethnic minorities. In Study 1 ( N = 399), racial/ethnic min...
Article
The transition to college is a stressful experience. For members of underrepresented minority groups, the usual stresses are frequently accompanied by ethnicity-based stressors, including discrimination. This longitudinal study extends prior work on discrimination by examining the prospective associations between anticipated and experienced ethnic/...
Article
We hypothesized that exposure to weight stigma simultaneously increases motivation to lose or avoid gaining weight to avoid future stigma and decreases perceived capacity to do so, by heightening concerns about experiencing stigma and negative affect. Study 1 showed that more frequently experiencing weight-based discrimination was associated with g...
Article
Objective: For minority students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, attending university and succeeding despite social and academic stressors is often considered the ultimate marker of resilience. However, a growing body of work suggests that there may be health costs to upward mobility for such students. This study investigated whe...
Article
Organizational diversity initiatives—programs and policies intended to increase the fairness of organizations and promote the inclusion, hiring, retention, and promotion of underrepresented groups—are ubiquitous. Despite the widespread implementation of diversity initiatives, several empirical investigations point to challenges associated with thes...
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Background: In an era when obesity prevalence is high throughout much of the world, there is a correspondingly pervasive and strong culture of weight stigma. For example, representative studies show that some forms of weight discrimination are more prevalent even than discrimination based on race or ethnicity. Discussion: In this Opinion article...
Article
This experiment tested whether interacting with a peer who holds explicitly anti-fat attitudes leads to cognitive performance deficits and poorer psychological and cardiovascular outcomes among higher body weight women by increasing anticipated rejection. One hundred and forty six higher body weight women were randomly assigned to interact in a non...
Article
Background Stigmatized people exhibit blunted cortisol responses to many stressors. Purpose To examine the cortisol responses of individuals who are overweight to a stigma-related stressor involving interviewing for a weight-discriminatory company. Methods We recruited 170 men and women (mean age = 35.01) from towns located within about a 30-min...
Article
Objectives: This study investigated individual and situational factors that may make observing positive treatment of an ingroup member attributionally ambiguous and cognitively taxing for ethnic minority perceivers. Method: 163 Latino/a participants who varied in the perception that Whites are externally motivated to behave positively toward min...
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This article describes how intergroup processes and stigma contribute to pervasive health disparities that exist between LGB and heterosexual individuals. In particular, we focus on how the hierarchical organization of groups and the intergroup dynamics that arise from this structure operate at structural, interpersonal, and intrapersonal levels to...
Article
This article discusses the role that ideology plays in justifying and perpetuating group-based inequality. We begin by defining and describing status ideologies and their characteristics. We then review research illustrating how endorsing or rejecting status-legitimizing ideologies influences group stereotyping, group differences in perceived entit...
Article
What accounts for the widespread support for Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential race? This experiment demonstrates that the changing racial demographics of America contribute to Trump’s success as a presidential candidate among White Americans whose race/ethnicity is central to their identity. Reminding White Americans high in ethnic identi...
Article
The American Medical Association hoped that labeling obesity a disease would not only highlight the seriousness of the epidemic and elicit resources but also reduce stigma against obese individuals. In the current work, we tested the consequences of this decision for prejudice against obese individuals. In doing so, we highlighted the complicated l...
Article
Perceived discrimination is associated with increased engagement in unhealthy behaviors. We propose an identity-based pathway to explain this link. Drawing on an identity-based motivation model of health behaviors (Oyserman, Fryberg, & Yoder, 2007), we propose that perceptions of discrimination lead individuals to engage in ingroup-prototypical beh...
Article
The present research tested the hypothesis that the negative effects of weight stigma among higher body-weight individuals are mediated by expectations of social rejection. Women and men who varied in objective body-weight (body mass index; BMI) gave a speech describing why they would make a good date. Half believed that a potential dating partner...
Article
Extending the group affirmation literature to the domain of prejudice, this study investigated whether group affirmation buffers the self-esteem of women exposed to blatant sexism. In accordance with Self-Affirmation Theory and group affirmation research, we hypothesized that when one aspect of the collective self is threatened (gender identity), s...
Article
Past research has reliably demonstrated that both perceiving oneself as a target of discrimination and a tendency to blame negative events on oneself undermine psychological and physical health. These two literatures, however, have evolved largely independently of one another. The present research sought to develop a deeper understanding of the hea...
Article
Strong social and legal norms in the United States discourage the overt expression of bias against ethnic and racial minorities, increasing the attributional ambiguity of Whites' positive behavior to ethnic minorities. Minorities who suspect that Whites' positive overtures toward minorities are motivated more by their fear of appearing racist than...
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Members of high-status groups may perceive pro-diversity messages from organizations as threatening to their group's status. Two initial studies (. N=. 322) demonstrate that when imagining applying for a job, whites-and not ethnic/racial minorities-expressed more concerns about being treated unfairly and about anti-white discrimination when the com...
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As a result of prevalent pressure to inhibit prejudice, racial minorities may wonder whether White people’s nonprejudiced behavior is primarily motivated by personal commitments to egalitarianism (i.e., internal motivation) or superficial efforts to appear nonprejudiced (i.e., external motivation). The present work investigated whether minority gro...
Article
Weight stigma is pervasive, and a number of scholars argue that this profound stigma contributes to the negative effects of weight on psychological and physical health. Some lay individuals and health professionals assume that stigmatizing weight can actually motivate healthier behaviors and promote weight loss. However, as we review, weight stigma...
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Full-text available
Does the presence (versus absence) of an organizational diversity award increase the perceived fairness of biased personnel procedures? Participants examined fair or unfair personnel procedures at a company that had received a diversity award or an award unrelated to diversity. When the company had received a diversity award (versus a control award...
Article
Three experiments tested the hypothesis that the mere presence (vs. absence) of diversity structures makes it more difficult for women to detect sexism. In Experiment 1, even when a company's hiring decisions disadvantaged women, women perceived the company as more procedurally just for women and were less supportive of sexism litigation when the c...
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Objective: Weight stigma is pervasive in the United States. We tested the hypothesis that stigma may be a mechanism through which obesity negatively affects self-reported health. Two studies examined whether perceived weight-based discrimination and concerns over weight stigma mediated the association between BMI and self-reported psychological he...
Article
Diversity initiatives aim to improve outcomes for low-status groups in organizations. Yet they also may ironically act as legitimizing cues, leading to an assumption of fairness and reducing the detection of discrimination. We explored how group status (high-status majority vs. low-status minority) and beliefs about the fairness of the system influ...
Article
America's war on obesity has intensified stigmatization of overweight and obese individuals. This experiment tested the prediction that exposure to weight-stigmatizing messages threatens the social identity of individuals who perceive themselves as overweight, depleting executive resources necessary for exercising self-control when presented with h...
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Although higher social class carries mental and physical health benefits, these advantages are less robust among members of racial and ethnic minority groups than among European Americans. We explore whether differential reactions to discrimination may be a factor in explaining why. Working-class and middle-class Latino American women engaged in an...
Article
We assessed whether unfair treatment leads to different attributional, emotional, behavioral, and cardiovascular responses depending on whether or not the treatment is group-based. Latino and White men (N = 209) were treated fairly or unfairly by an ingroup or outgroup member. As expected, attributions to discrimination were greatest among those tr...
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This research investigated status asymmetry and stereotype asymmetry features of the racial discrimination prototype. Consistent with status asymmetry predictions, Black observers made greater attributions to discrimination when the victim was Black and the perpetrator was White than when the roles were reversed. In contrast, White observers made s...
Article
According to the meaning maintenance model, people may respond to meaning violations by affirming unrelated beliefs to which they are committed. While this affirmation generally moves in the direction of social inequality, meaning violations that are not personally threatening—but that nevertheless evoke uncertainty—should evoke a heightened prefer...
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Objective: This article considers how the social psychology of intergroup processes helps to explain the presence and persistence of health disparities between members of socially advantaged and disadvantaged groups. Method: Social psychological theory and research on intergroup relations, including prejudice, discrimination, stereotyping, stigm...
Article
Whites' nonprejudiced behavior toward racial/ethnic minorities can be attributionally ambiguous for perceivers, who may wonder whether the behavior was motivated by a genuine internal commitment to egalitarianism or was externally motivated by desires to avoid appearing prejudiced to others. This article reports the development of a scale that meas...
Article
This research tests the hypothesis that the presence (vs. absence) of organizational diversity structures causes high-status group members (Whites, men) to perceive organizations with diversity structures as procedurally fairer environments for underrepresented groups (racial minorities, women), even when it is clear that underrepresented groups ha...
Article
The authors theorized that overweight individuals experience social identity threat in situations that activate concerns about weight stigma, causing them to experience increased stress and reduced self-control. To test these predictions, women who varied in body mass index (BMI) gave a speech on why they would make a good dating partner. Half thou...
Article
The present research examined the attributions that people make when an individual rejects a member of his or her own group in favor of a member of an outgroup (i.e., ingroup rejection). Study 1 showed that Latinos rejected by an ingroup member (perpetrator) made more attributions to discrimination than Whites under similar circumstances. Study 2 s...
Article
Two experiments examined responses to bystanders who claimed that another person experienced discrimination. Participants read about a woman or man who experienced sexism and whose co-worker (male or female) either expressed sympathy or claimed that the target experienced sexism. Participants then evaluated the co-worker (bystander). Overall, parti...
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We examined the impact of inducing performance-avoidance and approach goals (versus no goal) on women’s math performance in stereotype threatening versus nonthreatening situations. Two experiments showed that inducing either stereotype threat (versus no-threat) or a performance-avoidance goal (versus no goal) alone led to decreased math performance...
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We sought to demonstrate that individuals who anticipate interacting with a prejudiced cross-race/ethnicity partner show an exacerbated stress response, as measured through both self-report and hemodynamic and vascular responses, compared with individuals anticipating interacting with a nonprejudiced cross-race/ethnicity partner. Through a question...
Article
Two studies examine the relationship between system-justifying beliefs and perceived pay entitlement and how this relationship differs as a function of gender. In Study 1, personal endorsement of system-justifying beliefs was associated with higher levels of pay entitlement among men. In contrast, personal endorsement of system-justifying beliefs w...
Article
Membership in a group that is stigmatized in academics, a domain that is of importance in social life, poses a potential threat to an individual's personal and social identity. Stigmatized individuals are assumed to possess characteristics which convey a social identity that is devalued in a specific social context. Within the academic context, man...
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Perceiving discrimination is a chronic stressor that may negatively impact health. We predicted that the relationship between chronic perceptions of discrimination and chronic stress, as indexed by resting blood pressure, would be moderated by individual differences in system-justifying beliefs (SJBs), specifically the extent to which people believ...
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The authors examined women's neuroendocrine stress responses associated with sexism. They predicted that, when being evaluated by a man, women who chronically perceive more sexism would experience more stress unless the situation contained overt cues that sexism would not occur. The authors measured stress as the end product of the primary stress s...
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The present research used validated cardiovascular measures to examine threat reactions among members of stigmatized groups when interacting with members of nonstigmatized groups who were, or were not, prejudiced against their group. The authors hypothesized that people's beliefs about the fairness of the status system would moderate their experien...
Article
A growing body of research has demonstrated the importance of intergroup contact in reducing fear, threat and anxiety in intergroup domains. Here we focus on the regulatory benefits of intergroup contact. We hypothesized that past intergroup contact would facilitate recovery from a stressful intergroup evaluation. White and Black participants compl...
Article
This study examined whether expecting prejudice is demotivating. Women were led to believe they were being evaluated for a co-manager position. They were randomly assigned to receive information that the evaluator held negative attitudes toward women or that he did not. We hypothesized that compared to women led to believe that the evaluator was un...
Article
This article addresses the role of comparison processes in the persistence of the gender wage gap, its toleration by those most disadvantaged by it, and resistance to comparable worth as a corrective strategy. It proposes that the gender segregation of jobs and the underpayment of women and women's jobs lead women and men to use different compariso...
Article
Research is reviewed demonstrating that although wives contribute a disproportionate share of the unpaid labor of the family (e.g., housework and childcare) compared to their husbands, they nonetheless report relative contentment with this unequal distribution. It is argued that wives' paradoxical contentment can be understood by considering men's...
Article
Psychosocial factors that may serve as “risk factors” for the experience of short-term distress following induced abortion are reviewed. Factors found to be predictive of affective distress include blaming the pregnancy on one's character, low preabortion coping expectancies, low levels of perceived social support from important others, and a diffi...
Article
The current research examined whether group identification moderates the extent to which perceived ingroup discrimination is threatening, as indexed by physiological and self-report measures. Women read and gave a speech summarizing an article describing sexism as prevalent or rare. They then completed a distraction task and sat for a recovery peri...
Chapter
Coping with bias This chapter reviews theory and research on how people cope with stigma-related threats to their identity. It adopts a coping perspective, in which targets of prejudice, discrimination, and negative stereotypes are viewed as active agents who negotiate their social interactions so as to achieve desired goals. Prior theoretical pers...
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The authors evaluated empirical research addressing the relationship between induced abortion and women's mental health. Two issues were addressed: (a) the relative risks associated with abortion compared with the risks associated with its alternatives and (b) sources of variability in women's responses following abortion. This article reflects and...
Article
This chapter examines the relationship between group status and feelings of personal entitlement. Considered are two mechanisms that affect feelings of personal entitlement: social comparison processes and system justification. Biases to compare one's outcomes with the outcomes of similar others and with one's own past outcomes lead to different re...
Article
We predicted that adopting a performance-approach vs. performance-avoidance goal would lead to physiological responses characteristic of psychological states of challenge vs. threat appraisals, respectively. Furthermore, we predicted that these states would mediate the effects of goals on performance. Twenty-seven undergraduate females performed a...
Article
Discrimination is often ambiguous and difficult to establish with certainty. Considered in isolation, actions usually have a number of potential causes. Objective standards by which to establish discrimination are rarely available. Thus, judgments of discrimination are often subjective, subject to human error, and prone to dispute. Furthermore, the...
Article
Are individuals who chronically expect to be treated prejudicially biased toward perceiving rejecting emotions in the faces of out-group others? In two studies, participants watched a series of computer-generated movies showing animated faces morphing from expressions of rejection (i.e., contempt and anger) to acceptance, and indicated when the ini...
Article
Past research suggests a status-asymmetry effect in attributions to discrimination such that people are more likely to make attributions to discrimination when the victim is from a lower status group than the perpetrator as compared to when the victim is from a higher status group than the perpetrator. The present studies test a stereotype-asymmetr...
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The authors examined White and Black participants' emotional, physiological, and behavioral responses to same-race or different-race evaluators, following rejecting social feedback or accepting social feedback. As expected, in ingroup interactions, the authors observed deleterious responses to social rejection and benign responses to social accepta...
Chapter
Allport's Views on Prejudice from the Target's PerspectiveDevelopments Since AllportA New FrameworkHas Allport Been Supported?Future Directions
Article
We compared how evaluations by out-group members and evaluations by in-group members affected participants' stress responses--their neuroendocrine reactivity, cognitive appraisals, and observed anxiety--and how participants' implicit racial bias moderated these responses. Specifically, White participants completed measures of racial bias prior to t...
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Full-text available
Self-affirmation theory proposes that people can respond to threats to the self by affirming alternative sources of self-integrity, resulting in greater openness to self-threatening information. The present research examines this at a group level by investigating whether a group affirmation (affirming an important group value) increases acceptance...
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In 3 studies, the authors tested the hypothesis that discrimination targets' worldview moderates the impact of perceived discrimination on self-esteem among devalued groups. In Study 1, perceiving discrimination against the ingroup was negatively associated with self-esteem among Latino Americans who endorsed a meritocracy worldview (e.g., believed...
Article
The belief that status in society is based on merit is a central feature of the American Dream. This belief system justifies status inequalities by locating the cause of status differences in the individual talents and efforts of group members. We hypothesized that activating meritocratic beliefs increases the extent to which individuals psychologi...
Article
This article reviews social psychological theory and empirical research on perceiving and reporting discrimination. The article begins with an examination of factors that affect whether individuals perceive themselves as targets of discrimination. We then turn toward addressing whether individuals who perceive discrimination are willing to report t...
Article
Previous research suggests that women have lower pay expectations and a lower sense of personal entitlement with respect to pay than similarly qualified men (cf. Major & Konar, in press; Major, McFarlin, & Gagnon, 1984). The present research examined, in two liking simulation experiments, the impact of a job applicant's pay expectations and gender...
Article
Research on attitudes toward the stigmatized indicates that negative feelings and stereotypes toward the stigmatized are often mixed with positive feelings of sympathy and concern. Three studies investigate the hypothesis that positive outcomes for the stigmatized that are motivated by sympathy may have unintended negative consequences for self-est...
Article
This analog study examined how the presence and absence of explicit social comparison standards and performance feedback influenced women's and men's perceptions of personal entitlement for pay. In the absence of both comparison information and performance feedback, women felt they deserved less pay than did men. However, these gender differences w...
Article
Two studies examined whether chronic and situational expectations about being stigmatized predict attention toward cues that are threatening to social identity. In Study 1, women's chronic expectations about experiencing sexism were positively associated with their attention toward subliminal cues threatening to their social identity. In Study 2, w...
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Full-text available
This study tested the hypothesis that appraisals of discrimination (i.e. its perceived severity, global aspects, stability, and uncontrollability) mediate the relationship between attributions to discrimination and personal self-esteem. It also tested three models of how ethnic group identification is related to discrimination attributions, discrim...
Article
This research examined the relationship between endorsing system-justifying beliefs and psychological well-being among individuals from ethnic groups that vary in social status. System-justifying beliefs are beliefs that imply that status in society is fair, deserved, and merited; examples of system-justifying beliefs in the United States include t...
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This chapter addresses the psychological effects of social stigma. Stigma directly affects the stigmatized via mechanisms of discrimination, expectancy confirmation, and automatic stereotype activation, and indirectly via threats to personal and social identity. We review and organize recent theory and empirical research within an identity threat m...
Chapter
This chapter reviews social psychological theory and research examining the extent and conditions under which people perceive themselves as victims of discrimination and/or publicly claim that they have been discriminated against. Evidence indicates that perceptions of discrimination directed against the self vary widely, and depend on characterist...
Chapter
This chapter reviews social psychological theory and research examining the extent and conditions under which people perceive themselves as victims of discrimination and/or publicly claim that they have been discriminated against. Evidence indicates that perceptions of discrimination directed against the self vary widely, and depend on characterist...
Article
Exclusion is an essential aspect of stigmatization. Excluding the stigmatized serves several functions for those who exclude, including self-esteem enhancement, anxiety reduction, system justification, and reduction of the costs associated with group living. Exposure to stigma-based exclusion is a stressor, however, for those who are excluded. We p...
Article
We prospectively examined the relationship between individuals' belief in a just world and their desire for revenge against the perpetrators of the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. Eighty-three undergraduate students who had completed a measure of just-world beliefs prior to the terrorist attacks were assessed approximately...
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Three studies tested the hypothesis that possessing a pessimistic outlook on life moderates the effects of perceiving sexism on emotions and self-esteem. Across all studies, a pessimistic outlook on life (either dispositionally held or experimentally induced) served as a source of emotional vulnerability among women (Studies 1-3) and men (Study 1)...
Article
Authors discuss their seminal scientific exploration, "Social stigma and self-esteem: The self-protective properties of stigma" (Crocker and Major, 1989). The authors also discuss the genesis of the idea for this research, which was nominated as part of the modern classics and overlooked gems in social psychology from the 1980s and 1990s series. (P...