Nicole M. Stephens's research while affiliated with Northwestern University and other places

Publications (46)

Article
More than ever before, institutions of higher education are seeking to increase the racial and social class diversity of their student bodies. Given these efforts, the present research asks two broad questions. First, how frequently do intergroup interactions occur across the lines of race and social class, and to what extent do these interactions...
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A rich body of research throughout the social sciences demonstrates that bias—people’s tendency to display group-based preferences—is a major obstacle in the way of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. The current article moves beyond the single-level focus of prior theories of workplace bias to propose a novel theoretical m...
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Difference-education interventions teach people a contextual theory of difference: that social group difference comes from participating in and adapting to diverse sociocultural contexts. At two universities, we delivered difference-education interventions during the college transition and examined long-term academic and intergroup outcomes. Nearly...
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In the United States, underrepresented racial minority (URM) students continue to face psychological barriers that undermine their achievement and fuel disparities in academic outcomes. In the current research, we tested whether a multicultural ideology intervention could improve URM students’ grade point averages (GPAs) during the first 2 years of...
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Previous research has documented that people from working-class contexts have fewer skills linked to academic success than their middle-class counterparts (e.g., worse problem-solving skills). Challenging this idea, we propose that one reason why people from working-class contexts underperform is because U.S. measures of achievement tend to assess...
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Full-text available
United States higher education prioritizes independence as the cultural ideal. As a result, first-generation students (neither parent has a four-year degree) often confront an initial cultural mismatch early on in college settings: they endorse relatively interdependent cultural norms that diverge from the independent cultural ideal. This initial c...
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Today’s increasingly diverse and divided world requires the ability to understand and navigate across social-group differences. We propose that interventions that teach students about these differences can not only improve all students’ intergroup skills but also help disadvantaged students succeed in school. Drawing on interdisciplinary research,...
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Differences in structural resources and individual skills contribute to social-class disparities in both U.S. gateway institutions of higher education and professional workplaces. People from working-class contexts also experience cultural barriers that maintain these disparities. In this article, we focus on one critical cultural barrier—the cultu...
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A growing body of work suggests that teaching college students a contextual understanding of difference-that students' different experiences in college are the result of participating in different contexts before college-can improve the academic performance of first-generation students (i.e., students whose parents do not have 4-year college degree...
Article
Do cultural differences in emotion play a role in employment settings? We predicted that cultural differences in ideal affect—the states that people value and ideally want to feel—are reflected in: (a) how individuals present themselves when applying for a job, and (b) what individuals look for when hiring someone for a job. In Studies 1–2 ( N <sub...
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Choice is a behavioral act that has a variety of well-documented motivational consequences-it fosters independence by allowing people to simultaneously express themselves and influence the environment. Given the link between independence and analytic thinking, the current research tested whether choice also leads people to think in a more analytic...
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Understanding the sources of the social class achievement gap in education is an important step toward ensuring that education serves its purpose as an engine of social mobility. The goal of the current article is to provide a brief overview of the sources of the social class achievement gap as well as interventions aimed at closing this gap. We ou...
Article
The economic decline of the Great Recession has increased the need for a university degree, which can enhance individuals’ prospects of obtaining employment in a competitive, globalized market. Research in the social sciences has consistently demonstrated that students with low socio-economic status (SES) have fewer opportunities to succeed in univ...
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When and why do organizational diversity approaches that highlight the importance of social group differences (vs. equality) help stigmatized groups succeed? We theorize that social group members' numerical representation in an organization, compared with the majority group, influences concerns about their distinctiveness, and consequently, whether...
Article
We investigate whether women are targets of more severe punishment than men following ethical violations at work. Using a large sample of working adults, Study 1 finds that ethical behavior is more strongly prescribed for women than for men. Women face intensified ethical prescriptions, relative to a gender-neutral person. Study 2 experimentally te...
Article
In this commentary, we draw on two articles featured in this special issue to highlight the psychological and behavioral implications that the study of norms carries for underrepresented groups’ experience of fit and belonging in organizations. In particular, we discuss these implications with respect to our cultural mismatch theory of inequality....
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A growing social psychological literature reveals that brief interventions can benefit disadvantaged students. We tested a key component of the theoretical assumption that interventions exert long-term effects because they initiate recursive processes. Focusing on how interventions alter students' responses to specific situations over time, we cond...
Article
Social class disparities in higher education between working-class students (i.e., students who are low income and/or do not have parents with four-year college degrees) and middle-class students (i.e., students who are high income and/or have at least one parent with a four year-degree) are on the rise. There is an urgent need for interventions, o...
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Full-text available
Social resources (i.e., number and nature of relationships with family and friends) are an important, yet largely unrecognized, feature of the sociocultural contexts of social class that influence psychological functioning. To assess the nature and content of social resources, we conducted semistructured interviews with American women living in pov...
Article
College students who do not have parents with 4-year degrees (first-generation students) earn lower grades and encounter more obstacles to success than do students who have at least one parent with a 4-year degree (continuing-generation students). In the study reported here, we tested a novel intervention designed to reduce this social-class achiev...
Article
America's unprecedented levels of inequality have far-reaching negative consequences for society as a whole. Although differential access to resources contributes to inequality, the current review illuminates how ongoing participation in different social class contexts also gives rise to culture-specific selves and patterns of thinking, feeling, an...
Article
Two studies utilized firsthand accounts from survivors of two major natural disasters—Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Chilean earthquake in 2010—to investigate (1) how people make sense of their disaster experiences and (2) who understands these events in religious terms. We found that describing the disasters as an act of God was among the most...
Article
First-generation students experience a cultural mismatch in university settings. ► This mismatch leads to an aversive state that affects biological functioning. ► Independent norms produced a social class gap in cortisol and negative emotions. ► Interdependent norms eliminated the social class gap in cortisol and negative emotions. American univers...
Article
The literature on social class disparities in health and education contains 2 underlying, yet often opposed, models of behavior: the individual model and the structural model. These models refer to largely unacknowledged assumptions about the sources of human behavior that are foundational to research and interventions. Our review and theoretical i...
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Though the scientific study of social class is over a century old, theories regarding how social class shapes psychological experience are in their infancy. In this review, we provide a road map for the empirical study of an emerging psychology of social class. Specifically, we outline key measurement issues in the study of social class – including...
Article
American universities increasingly admit first-generation college students whose parents do not have 4-year degrees. Once admitted, these students tend to struggle academically, compared with continuing-generation students--students who have at least 1 parent with a 4-year degree. We propose a cultural mismatch theory that identifies 1 important so...
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Full-text available
American women still confront workplace barriers (e.g., bias against mothers, inflexible policies) that hinder their advancement at the upper levels of organizations. However, most Americans fail to recognize that such gender barriers still exist. Focusing on mothers who have left the workforce, we propose that the prevalent American assumption tha...
Article
Choice makes North Americans feel more in control, free, and independent, and thus has many positive consequences for individuals' motivation and well-being. We report five studies that uncovered novel consequences of choice for public policy and interpersonal judgments. Studies 1 through 3 found that activating the concept of choice decreases supp...
Article
The media plays an important role in how the American public understands controversial social and political issues, such as immigration. The purpose of this article is to examine how key features of the media, such as location (Arizona vs. National) and political ideology (Liberal vs. Conservative), affect the framing of arguments supporting and op...
Article
The psychological literature indicates that people prefer to choose for themselves, but this finding largely represents a middle-class American perspective. The three studies reported here test the hypothesis that, given the material and social demands of working-class contexts, a concern for others can be normative and take precedence over individ...
Article
Models of agency--powerful implicit assumptions about what constitutes normatively "good" action--shaped how observers and survivors made meaning after Hurricane Katrina. In Study 1, we analyzed how 461 observers perceived survivors who evacuated (leavers) or stayed (stayers) in New Orleans. Observers described leavers positively (as agentic, indep...
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Full-text available
Social class is one important source of models of agency--normative guidelines for how to be a "good" person. Using choice as a prototypically agentic action, 5 studies test the hypotheses that models of agency prevalent in working-class (WK) contexts reflect a normative preference for similarity to others, whereas models prevalent in middle-class...

Citations

... Additionally, many universities are based on historically White values and cultural expectations; thus, Black students transitioning into a predominately White university may struggle to feel like they socially belong (Birnbaum et al., 2020;Walton & Cohen, 2011). Black emerging adults may experience conflict between the intersection of their Black identity and their developing identity as a college student. ...
... Competition is emphasized more by individualist cultures than collectivist cultures (Triandis et al., 1990), while cooperation is more likely to be chosen by those from collective communities over individualist communities (Allison, 1982;Doucleff, 2014;Friedman et al., 1995;Kagan & Madsen, 1971;Madsen, 1967;Parks & Vu, 1994). In contrast to those raised in a rural setting, urban populations tend to be more individualistic (Barnes, 2000;Triandis, 1995) but these populations are not simply a homogenous group, as individuals from working class backgrounds may have stronger interpersonal skills and perform better in cooperation-oriented tasks than their middle-class counterparts (Dittmann et al., 2020). ...
... 3 Given this increasingly heterogeneous student population, it could be that differently advantaged student groups experienced COVID-19's social impacts unequally (e.g. Phillips et al. 2020). ...
... The d-school at UCT did not shy away from differences and created a space for their students to share different aspects of their diverse social identities and livedexperiences. Stephens et al. (2019) emphasis that "difference matters"; In today's diverse and divided world, instead of avoiding conversations around social-group differences, educators need to embrace them and help their students "to better understand the contextual nature of these differences". They argue that such discussions will benefit students and "help ensure that 21 st -century students will be equipped with the intergroup skills they need to navigate today's increasingly unequal, diverse, and multicultural world." ...
... The present paper extended this literature by evidencing concealment of social background among first-generation students. Universities are environments that are tailored to middle-class culture, norms, and values (Bourdieu, 1985;Stephens et al., 2019). As a consequence, students from working-class backgrounds often feel less comfortable in this environment and can even feel stigmatized due to negative stereotypes surrounding lower social classes and education (Easterbrook et al., 2019). ...
... Teachers with essentialist beliefs were more likely to make stereotypical track recommendations, recommending boys to STEM-oriented schools and girls to languageoriented schools [40]. Conversely, expressing contextual beliefs about group differences to studentsthat differences arise from normal variation in life experiences and can be an assethas closed socioeconomic disparities in achievement [41][42][43]. ...
... In fact, emotion and homophily (i.e., the tendency to have ties with people who share similar sociodemographic, behavioral, and personal characteristics) were the most prevalent factors affecting the assessment of candidates in job interviews (Rivera, 2015). Complementing this line of research, a recent study found that the way job candidates display emotions during job interviews affects the likelihood of them being hired (Bencharit et al., 2018). This effect is positive if there is a match between the emotions (i. ...
... Theoretical: Our study provides support to the idea that the concept of success implies nuances that need to be considered and that these nuances can be explained considering an intersectional approach (see Markus & Stephens, 2017), particularly in terms of gender and SSS, as we found SSS differences in how women conceptualise success. Furthermore, our study provides insights to understand how what it might be as a goal for some women (work life balance) it is indeed seen as a challenge difficult to pursue for others. ...
... Narcissistic female leaders, compared to narcissistic male leaders, who lack prescribed traits like kindness and warmth or possess proscribed traits such as arrogance, were perceived as less effective leaders by subordinates [55]. Kennedy and colleagues leverage experimental and field data to show that female attorneys were expected to conform to professional ethics codes more and were punished more harshly for ethical transgressions than male attorneys [56]. Echoing this finding, female financial advisers were punished more harshly following misconduct, were more likely to be fired and less likely to find a new job relative to male financial advisers [57]. ...
... Other studies suggest that grit personality traits are variables which cause a person to develop either positive or negative performance . Grit personality includes perseverance and passion in achieving long-term goals of which someone will consistently fight for (Duckworth, 2016;Duckworth, Peterson, Mathews & Kelly, 2007: as cited in Smallets, Townsend & Stephens, 2017). ...