Mina Cikara

Mina Cikara
Harvard University | Harvard · Department of Psychology

Ph.D.

About

89
Publications
38,884
Reads
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6,308
Citations
Additional affiliations
August 2012 - June 2014
Carnegie Mellon University
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)

Publications

Publications (89)
Article
Full-text available
People are on the move in unprecedented numbers within and between countries. How does demographic change affect local intergroup dynamics? Complementing accounts that emphasize stereotypical features of groups as determinants of their treatment, we propose the group reference dependence hypothesis: violence and negative attitudes towards each mino...
Preprint
Does the racial composition of a crowd affect judgments about the group’s emotionality? In Experiments 1-2, we showed participants crowds of faces expressing different degrees of happiness or anger, manipulating the ratio of lighter-skinned faces racialized as White and darker-skinned faces racialized as Black. Greater proportion of Black faces inc...
Article
In contrast to Pietraszewski's account, latent structure learning neither requires conflict nor relies on observation of explicit coalitional behavior to support group inference. This alternative addresses how even non-conflict-based groups may be defined and is supported by experimental evidence in human behavior.
Article
Across phenomena and areas of inquiry, social psychology often emphasizes social categories as the unit of explanation. However, the primacy of categories often leads social psychologists to neglect contextual features that might shape people’s psychologies and behaviour, limiting social psychology theories and their real-world applications. In thi...
Preprint
People generally empathize with others and find harm aversive. Yet aggression, e.g., between groups, abounds. How do people learn to overcome this aversion in order to aggress? Most models of learning emphasize reward prediction errors—deviations from expected reward—but aggression may be fueled also by affective prediction errors (aPEs)—deviations...
Preprint
Individuals who have relatively higher levels of social dominance orientation (SDO; Ho et al., 2015) are more likely to support policies and engage in behaviors that harm marginalized groups through both passive (e.g., neglect) and active (e.g., subjugation) means. While SDO is positioned as a relevant antecedent to outcomes regarding intergroup co...
Article
Full-text available
Pervading global narratives suggest that political polarization is increasing, yet the accuracy of such group meta-perceptions has been drawn into question. A recent US study suggests that these beliefs are inaccurate and drive polarized beliefs about out-groups. However, it also found that informing people of inaccuracies reduces those negative be...
Preprint
Why, when, and how do stereotypes change? This paper develops a computational account based on the principles of structure learning: stereotypes are governed by probabilistic beliefs about the assignment of individuals to groups. Two aspects of this account are particularly important. First, groups are flexibly constructed based on the distribution...
Article
By many accounts politics is becoming more polarized, yielding dire consequences for democracy and trust in government. Yet a growing body of research on so-called false polarization finds that perceptions of ‘what the other side believes’ are inaccurate—specifically, overly pessimistic—and that these inaccuracies exacerbate intergroup conflict. Th...
Article
Affective empathy, feeling what others feel, is a powerful emotion that binds us to one another. Here we ask whether how we mentally represent the scene in which another suffers informs our emotions. For example, when we learn about someone suffering outside of the here and now, such as a refugee devastated by violence or famine, does a manipulatio...
Article
Should self-driving vehicles be prejudiced, e.g., deliberately harm the elderly over young children? When people make such forced-choices on the vehicle's behalf, they exhibit systematic preferences (e.g., favor young children), yet when their options are unconstrained they favor egalitarianism. So, which of these response patterns should guide AV...
Preprint
Which features of attitudes toward minoritized racial out-groups best predict majority-group members’ costly behaviors? Social attitudes research has typically measured the extremity of social group valence—ranging from negative to positive—to predict intergroup behavior, assuming that people with more extreme evaluations toward social out-groups w...
Article
Empathy is an integral part of socioemotional well-being, but recent research has highlighted some of its downsides. Here we examine literature that establishes when, how much, and what aspects of empathy promote specific outcomes. After reviewing a theoretical framework that characterizes empathy as a suite of separable components, we examine evid...
Preprint
Empathy is an integral part of socio-emotional well-being, yet recent research has highlighted some of its downsides. Here we examine literature that establishes when, how much, and what aspects of empathy promote specific outcomes. After reviewing a theoretical framework which characterizes empathy as a suite of separable components, we examine ev...
Preprint
Social dominance orientation (SDO)—the tendency to accept and endorse group-based dominance—has been linked with reduced empathy and increased schadenfreude (i.e., pleasure at the misfortunes of others) towards competitive others. Are these outcomes driven by a strategic motivation to feel emotions that facilitate hierarchy-reinforcing behaviors (a...
Preprint
A pervading global narrative suggests that political polarisation is increasing in the US and around the world. Beliefs in increased polarisation impact individual and group behaviours regardless of whether they are accurate or not. One driver of polarisation are beliefs about how members of the out-group perceive us, known as group meta-perception...
Article
Full-text available
How do people go about reading a room or taking the temperature of a crowd? When people catch a brief glimpse of an array of faces, they can only focus their attention on some of the faces. We propose that perceivers preferentially attend to faces exhibiting strong emotions, and that this generates a crowd emotion amplification effect—estimating a...
Preprint
Full-text available
Amid a sea of requests for aid, what factors affect decisions to donate? Researchers and practitioners continue to debate whether we ought to prioritize leveraging passion (e.g., appeal to people’s empathy) or reason (e.g., appeal to utilitarian drives). Here we circumvent the challenges of emotions and obligation as levers by investigating the eff...
Preprint
By many accounts politics is becoming more polarized, yielding dire consequences for democracy and trust in government. Yet a growing body of research on “false polarization” finds that perceptions of “what the other side believes” are inaccurate–specifically, overly pessimistic–and that these inaccuracies exacerbate intergroup conflict. Through a...
Article
Social-structure learning is the process by which social groups are identified on the basis of experience. Building on models of structure learning in other domains, we formalize this problem within a Bayesian framework. According to this framework, the probabilistic assignment of individuals to groups is computed by combining information about ind...
Preprint
Full-text available
Social norms can be an effective way to promote public health and encourage healthy behaviors among individuals. The global COVID-19 pandemic has prompted health officials to call for new behavioral norms to help prevent the disease’s spread, for example “social distancing” measures. Yet whether people actually intend to engage in these behaviors (...
Preprint
Should self-driving vehicles be prejudiced, e.g., deliberately harm the elderly over young children? When people make such forced-choices on the vehicle’s behalf, they exhibit systematic preferences (e.g., favor young children), yet when their options are unconstrained they favor egalitarianism. So, which of these response patterns should guide AV...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic represents a massive global health crisis. Because the crisis requires large-scale behaviour change and places significant psychological burdens on individuals, insights from the social and behavioural sciences can be used to help align human behaviour with the recommendations of epidemiologists and public health experts. Here...
Article
Full-text available
Across seven experiments and one survey (n = 4,282), people consistently overestimated out-group negativity towards the collective behaviour of their in-group. This negativity bias in group meta-perception was present across multiple competitive (but not cooperative) intergroup contexts and appears to be yoked to group psychology more generally; we...
Article
Full-text available
Humans form social coalitions in every society, yet we know little about how we learn and represent social group boundaries. Here we derive predictions from a computational model of latent structure learning to move beyond explicit category labels and interpersonal, or dyadic similarity as the sole inputs to social group representations. Using a mo...
Article
Full-text available
Humans form social coalitions in every society, yet we know little about how we learn and represent social group boundaries. Here we derive predictions from a computational model of latent structure learning to move beyond explicit category labels and interpersonal, or dyadic, similarity as the sole inputs to social group representations. Using a m...
Article
Full-text available
Humans form social coalitions in every society, yet we know little about how we learn and represent social group boundaries. Here we derive predictions from a computational model of latent structure learning to move beyond explicit category labels and interpersonal, or dyadic, similarity as the sole inputs to social group representations. Using a m...
Article
Full-text available
Sacrificial moral dilemmas elicit a strong conflict between the motive to not personally harm someone and the competing motive to achieving the greater good, which is often described as the "utilitarian" response. Some prior research suggests that reasoning abilities and deliberative cognitive style are associated with endorsement of utilitarian so...
Article
Decision-makers consistently exhibit violations of rational choice theory when they choose among several alternatives in a set (e.g., failing to buy the best product in a set when it is presented alongside high-quality alternatives). Many of society's most significant social decisions similarly involve the joint evaluation of multiple candidates. A...
Article
Full-text available
The capacity to empathize with others facilitates prosocial behavior. People's willingness and capacity to empathize, however, is often contingent upon the target's group membership – people are less empathic towards those they categorize as out-group members. In competitive or threatening intergroup contexts, people may even feel pleasure (counter...
Preprint
Empathy, feeling what others feel, is a powerful emotion that binds us to one another. Here we ask whether how we mentally represent others’ suffering informs our empathy for those who are not directly in front of us. For example, when we learn about someone suffering outside of the here and now, such as a refugee devastated by violence or famine,...
Preprint
We present a new research task and a dataset to understand human social interactions via computational methods, to ultimately endow machines with the ability to encode and decode a broad channel of social signals humans use. This research direction is essential to make a machine that genuinely communicates with humans, which we call Social Artifici...
Preprint
Full-text available
The capacity to empathize with others facilitates prosocial behavior. People’s willingness and capacity to empathize, however, is often contingent upon the target’s group membership – people are less empathic towards those they categorize as out-group members. In competitive or threatening intergroup contexts, people may even feel pleasure (counter...
Preprint
Across seven experiments and one survey (N=4282) people consistently overestimated out-group negativity towards the collective behavior of their in-group. This negativity bias in group meta-perception was present across multiple competitive (but not cooperative) intergroup contexts, and appears to be yoked to group psychology more generally; we obs...
Preprint
Humans form social coalitions in every society, yet we know little about how we learn and represent social group boundaries. We derive predictions from a computational model of latent structure learning to move beyond explicit category labels and interpersonal, or dyadic similarity as the sole inputs to social group representations. Using a model-b...
Preprint
Decision-makers consistently exhibit violations of rational choice theory when they choose among several alternatives in a set (e.g., failing to buy the best product in a set when it is presented alongside high-quality alternatives). Many of society’s most significant social decisions similarly involve the joint evaluation of multiple candidates. A...
Preprint
Full-text available
Scholars from across the social and media sciences have issued a clarion call to address a recent resurgence in criminalized characterizations of immigrants. Do these characterizations meaningfully impact individuals’ beliefs about immigrants and immigration? Across two online convenience samples (N = 1,054 adult U.S. residents), we applied a novel...
Preprint
In certain threatening social encounters, humans seem to act distrustfully, uncooperatively, even aggressively by default, and must reason themselves towards comity and moderation. Yet, the contemporary scientific literature mostly supports the opposite view, according to which we are “intuitively prosocial”: acting cooperatively by default in posi...
Preprint
Brady and Crockett [1] agree with us that moral outrage can have positive social consequences. However, they argue that these benefits are outweighed by outrage’s costs: reducing effectiveness of collective action, limiting participation, and exacerbating intergroup conflict. At a high level, we take their commentary to ask: is outrage on balance a...
Article
A debate has emerged across disciplines about why people engage in costly helping. Empathy is one mechanism. We highlight a second, more controversial motivator: moral outrage. Integrating findings from moral psychology and intergroup literatures, we suggest outrage is a critical force for collective action and highlight directions for future resea...
Article
Humans form social coalitions in every society on earth, yet we know very little about how social group boundaries are learned and represented. We derive predictions from a computational model of latent structure learning to move beyond explicit category labels and mere similarity as the sole inputs to social group representations. Four experiments...
Article
Many of society's most significant social decisions are made over sets of individuals: for example, evaluating a collection of job candidates when making a hiring decision. Rational theories of choice dictate that decision makers' preferences between any two options should remain the same irrespective of the number or quality of other options. Yet...
Article
Starmans and Bloom ([1]; henceforth S&B) argue that research on the centrality of morality in people’s intuitions about personal identity does not reveal much about people’s notions of personal identity (whether an individual is the same person at timea and timea+1), but only something about their notions of similarity (how much the person at timea...
Article
What happens to our emotions and in our brains when we experience the world through the lens of our group memberships rather than as individuals? Here we review recent advances in social and affective neuroscience that have identified potential input variables and processing mechanisms underlying one widely studied emotion in intergroup contexts: e...
Preprint
Many of society's most significant social decisions are made over sets of individuals: for example, evaluating a collection of job candidates when making a hiring decision. Rational theories of choice dictate that decision makers' preferences between any two options should remain the same irrespective of the number or quality of other options. Yet...
Article
By many accounts cooperation appears to be a default strategy in social interaction. There are, however, several documented instances in which reflexive responding favors aggressive behaviors: for example, interactions with out-group members. We conduct a rigorous test of potential boundary conditions of intuitive prosociality by looking at whether...
Article
Gervais & Fessler's analysis collapses across two orthogonal dimensions of social value to explain contempt: relational value, predicted by cooperation, and agentic value, predicted by status. These dimensions interact to potentiate specific social emotions and behaviors in intergroup contexts. By neglecting the unique roles of these dimensions – a...
Article
Intergroup bias - preference for one's in-group relative to out-groups - is one of the most robust phenomena in all of psychology. Here we investigate whether a positive bias that operates at the individual-level, belief in a good true self, may be leveraged to reduce intergroup bias. We find that even stereotypically threatening out-group agents a...
Preprint
By many accounts cooperation appears to be a default strategy in social interaction. There are, however, several documented instances in which reflexive responding favors aggressive behaviors: for example, interactions with out-group members. We conduct a rigorous test of potential boundary conditions of intuitive prosociality by looking at whether...
Article
Full-text available
Correctly identifying friends and foes is integral to successful group living. Here, we use repetition suppression to examine the neural circuitry underlying generalized group categorization—the process of categorizing in-group and out-group members across multiple social categories. Participants assigned to an arbitrary team (i.e., Eagles or Rattl...
Article
Full-text available
Empathic failures are common in hostile intergroup contexts; repairing empathy is therefore a major focus of peacebuilding efforts. However, it is unclear which aspect of empathy is most relevant to intergroup conflict. Although trait empathic concern predicts prosociality in interpersonal settings, we hypothesized that the best predictor of meanin...
Article
Despite differences in beliefs about the self across cultures and relevant individual differences, recent evidence suggests that people universally believe in a 'true self' that is morally good. We propose that this belief arises from a general tendency: psychological essentialism (PE).
Preprint
Despite differences in beliefs about the self across cultures and relevant individual differences, recent evidence suggests that people universally believe in a ‘true self’ that is morally good. We propose that this belief arises from a general tendency: psychological essentialism.
Article
Full-text available
Humans form social coalitions in every society on earth, yet we know very little about how the general concepts us and them are represented in the brain. Evolutionary psychologists have argued that the human capacity for group affiliation is a byproduct of adaptations that evolved for tracking coalitions in general. These theories suggest that huma...
Preprint
Intergroup bias — preference for one’s in-group relative to out-groups — is one of the most robust phenomena in all of psychology. Here we investigate whether a positive bias that operates at the individual-level, belief in a good true self, may be leveraged to reduce intergroup bias. We find that even stereotypically threatening out-group agents a...
Article
How does the brain infer social status? A new study by Kumaran et al. (2016) identifies a region of the medial prefrontal cortex that, in concert with the amygdala and hippocampus, subserves updating of probabilistic beliefs about the status of individuals in a social hierarchy.
Article
We investigated how group membership impacts valence judgments of ingroup and outgroup members' emotional expressions. In Experiment 1, participants, randomized into 2 novel, competitive groups, rated the valence of in- and outgroup members' facial expressions (e.g., fearful, happy, neutral) using a circumplex affect grid. Across all emotions, part...
Article
Intergroup threat is one catalyst that shifts us from out-group disregard to out-group hostility. We review recent inter-disciplinary research that explores the effects of intergroup threat on mind, brain, and behavior. A rapidly growing literature indicates that several types of intergroup threat — for example, realistic threats such as competitio...
Article
Plural societies require individuals to forecast how others—both in-group and out-group members—will respond to gains and setbacks. Typically, correcting affective forecasts to include more relevant information improves their accuracy by reducing their extremity. In contrast, we found that providing affective forecasters with social-category inform...
Article
In this article we address why and when people feel schadenfreude (pleasure at the misfortunes of others) in both interpersonal and intergroup contexts. Using findings from our own research programmes we show that schadenfreude is intensified when people are chronically or momentarily threatened in their self-worth, whereas it is attenuated when th...
Article
Empathy is critical for social functioning, but it often wanes when it is needed most. Resulting empathic failures precipitate and worsen social conflict. Accordingly, conflict-reduction interventions prioritize developing empathy in order to achieve harmony. Recent research has indicated that such interventions can benefit from a more nuanced unde...
Article
Full-text available
In three experiments, we examine parochial empathy (feeling more empathy for in-group than out-group members) across novel group boundaries, and test whether we can mitigate parochial empathy with brief narrative descriptions. In the absence of individuating information, participants consistently report more empathy for members of their own assigne...
Article
Full-text available
The positive role of secure attachment in reducing intergroup biases has been suggested in prior studies. We extend this work by testing the effects of secure attachment primes on negative emotions and aggressive behaviors toward outgroup members across four experiments. Results from Studies 1A and 1B reveal that secure attachment prime, relative t...
Article
Despite its early origins and adaptive functions, empathy is not inevitable; people routinely fail to empathize with others, especially members of different social or cultural groups. In five experiments, we systematically explore how social identity, functional relations between groups, competitive threat, and perceived entitativity contribute to...
Article
We review emerging research on the psychological and biological factors that underlie social group formation, cooperation, and conflict in humans. Our aim is to integrate the intergroup neuroscience literature with classic theories of group processes and intergroup relations in an effort to move beyond merely describing the effects of specific soci...
Chapter
Full-text available
But it is Schadenfreude, a mischievous delight in the misfortunes of others, which remains the worst trait in human nature … In general, it may be said that it takes the place which pity ought to take – pity which is its opposite, and the true source of all real justice and charity … Envy, although it is a reprehensible feeling, still admits of som...
Article
People often fail to empathize with others, and sometimes even experience schadenfreude-pleasure at others' misfortunes. One potent predictor of schadenfreude is envy, which, according to the stereotype content model, is elicited by high-status, competitive targets. Here we review our recent research program investigating the relationships among st...
Article
The capacity for coordinated action is the foundation of much of humanity's greatest social and cultural achievements. Yet there are conditions under which cooperative behaviors do more harm than good, within and between groups. We review current research from a variety of social science disciplines exploring the oft‐unquestioned ironic effects of...
Article
Publication in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a flagship indicator of scientific prestige, shows dramatic gender disparities. A bibliometric analysis included yoked-control authors matched for Ph.D. prestige and cohort. Though women publish less, at slower annual rates, they are more cited in handbooks and textbooks per JPSP-arti...
Article
Full-text available
People often fail to empathize with outgroup members, and sometimes even experience Schadenfreude-pleasure-in response to their misfortunes. One potent predictor of Schadenfreude is envy. According to the Stereotype Content Model, envy is elicited by groups whose stereotypes comprise status and competitiveness. These are the first studies to invest...
Article
The current study investigates whether mere stereotypes are sufficient to modulate empathic responses to other people's (mis)fortunes, how these modulations manifest in the brain, and whether affective and neural responses relate to endorsing harm against different outgroup targets. Participants feel least bad when misfortunes befall envied targets...
Article
People are often motivated to increase others' positive experiences and to alleviate others' suffering. These tendencies to care about and help one another form the foundation of human society. When the target is an outgroup member, however, people may have powerful motivations not to care about or help that “other.” In such cases, empathic respons...
Article
Intergroup competition makes social identity salient, which in turn affects how people respond to competitors' hardships. The failures of an in-group member are painful, whereas those of a rival out-group member may give pleasure-a feeling that may motivate harming rivals. The present study examined whether valuation-related neural responses to riv...
Article
Navigating social life requires accurately calibrated sensitivity to external feedback, thus extreme sensitivity to external feedback may be maladaptive. Using a daily diary design, the authors investigated whether the relationship between social hypersensitivity and daily events predicted level, lability, and reactivity of both self-esteem and aff...
Article
Agency attribution is a hallmark of mind perception; thus, diminished attributions of agency may disrupt social-cognition processes typically elicited by human targets. The current studies examine the effect of perceivers' sexist attitudes on associations of agency with, and neural responses to, images of sexualized and clothed men and women. In St...
Article
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Using moral dilemmas, we (i) investigate whether stereotypes motivate people to value ingroup lives over outgroup lives and (ii) examine the neurobiological correlates of relative social valuation using fMRI. Saving ingroup members, who seem warm and competent (e.g. Americans), was most morally acceptable in the context of a dilemma where one perso...
Chapter
Full-text available
People have an affective response to others based on their perceived social category. This group-based affect is influenced by the target's perceived warmth and competence, and affects subsequent behavioral tendencies toward the target. One such group-based emotion is envy, an ambivalent reaction that entails both admiration and dislike to social t...
Article
Full-text available
According to ambivalent sexism theory (AST; Glick & Fiske, 1996; 2001), sex-ism combines complementary gender ideologies, held by both men and women worldwide, which serve to justify social hierarchy. This chapter reviews how be-nevolent and hostile attitudes toward women operate in concert, ultimately main-taining gender inequity. Research specifi...
Article
Debate over the possibility of a female U.S. presidential candidate has centered on criticizing her lack of warmth; Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, and Golda Meir had the same problem. In contrast, debate over Harriet Miers as a potential U.S. Supreme Court nominee targeted her lack of competence. Rare is the successful woman who is seen as both...