Newsletter Article

Edward's Lectures 2011: Diversity, Culture and Behavior

Image of Allen EdwardsIn each year since 2004, the Psychology Department has hosted a public lecture series made possible by a generous endowment by Professor Allen Louis Edwards who was affiliated with the University of Washington Department of Psychology from his arrival in 1944 as an Associate Professor to his death in 1994. In this lecture series, world renowned leaders in a variety of Psychology subdisciplines join our faculty for three evening public lectures on important issues facing our society. These lectures are recorded for future viewing on UWTV.

This year, the Public lecture series addresses the theme of Diversity, Culture, and Behavior. Our three featured faculty include: Dr. Sapna Cheryan (Feb. 16), Dr. Cheryl Kaiser (Feb. 23), and Dr. Jane Simoni (Mar. 2). Descriptions of their individual research programs can be found below. Also you will find the names of the world renowned colleagues who have been invited to participate in each of the lectures. Save the date, and we hope to see you there!

Gender Stereotypes: How They Discourage Unconventional Career Choices and Limit Opportunities

February 16, 2011, 7-9 pm, Kane Hall Room 120

Sapna Cheryan, Assistant Professor

Image of Sapna Cheryan

Despite having made significant inroads into a variety of traditionally male-dominated fields, women continue to be underrepresented in computer science and engineering (CS&E). Many theories have been put forth to explain this phenomenon, ranging from innate female inferiority in quantitative skills to an unwillingness by women to put in late hours. Dr. Cheryan’s research shifts the explanation for this underrepresentation away from women’s deficiencies and instead examines whether it is the image of CS&E, fueled by inaccurate stereotypes, that interferes with women’s ability to see themselves in these fields.

Dr. Cheryan’s research demonstrates that current perceptions of computer scientists as “computer nerds” deter women, but not men, from the field. She shows that women report being less similar to computer scientists than men and that this lack of perceived similarity is important in explaining their lower interest in the field. However, women express more interest in CS and believe they will perform better when the field’s prominent stereotypes are altered. For instance, women who are exposed to objects stereotypically associated with the field (e.g., Star Trek posters, video games) are less likely to consider majoring in CS than women who are exposed to non-stereotypical objects (e.g., art posters, water bottles). Further experiments addressed perceptions by women already in the field and found that reminding female engineers of their engineering identity caused them to distance themselves from their feminine identity.              

This research suggests that broadening the image of male-dominated fields – for instance, using environments, the media, and role models – may be fundamentally important to increasing women’s interest in them and their ability to be successful once there.

For more information on Professor Cheryan’s research, visit her website at:

For recent news coverage, see:

Dr. Alice Eagly (Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University) will be joining Dr. Cheryan on February 16, 2011.

How Diversity Science Research Informs Law and Policy

February 23, 2011, 7-9pm, Kane Hall Room 120

Cheryl Kaiser, Associate Professor

Image of Cheryl KaiserDespite the popular assumption that women and members of minority groups liberally play the “race or sex card” by frequently claiming to be the target of discrimination, an abundance of social science research shows that this image is false. When women and minorities recognize discrimination, their most common response is to keep this information to themselves. Why would people who believe that they are targets of discrimination be reluctant to report it? Dr. Kaiser’s research shows that this reluctance is due to the perception and reality that people experience retaliation when they air claims of discrimination. For example, her experimental research shows that majority group members respond negatively toward members of minority groups who claim to experience discrimination, even when discrimination claims are clearly reasonable. And when exposed to discrimination claims in more naturalistic contexts, such as news media reports about the role of racism in the Hurricane Katrina response, White Americans express more biased intergroup attitudes. Dr. Kaiser’s research highlights the barriers that people face when they experience discrimination and it highlights how people will avoid speaking up about discrimination, even when they notice it and are bothered by it.

Dr. Kaiser’s research shows how theoretically-driven psychological science has important implications for policies aimed at remedying discrimination. This research is of direct relevance to employment discrimination law and organizational policies which commonly assume that people who experience discrimination speak up about it and that when they do so, they are treated fairly. Dr Kaiser’s research offers evidence-based strategies that can improve discrimination-related policy and law.

For more information on Professor Kaiser’s research, visit her website at:

For recent news coverage of Professor Kaiser’s research, see:

Dr. Linda Tropp (Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program, University of Massachusetts) will be joining Dr. Kaiser for the February 23, 2011 lecture.

Global mental health and HIV: Intervention research in China and on the U.S.-Mexico Border

March 2, 2011, 7-9pm, Kane Hall Room 120

Jane Simoni, Professor

Image of Jane SimoniMental disorders and psychological health vary across cultures, yet most of what we know in the field of clinical psychology has been based on the experiences of middle-class White Americans. Related, mental health professionals have developed over 400 different forms of psychotherapy, but how many – if any – are relevant for individuals outside of the West where they were originated? Even if the treatments are effective, how will they be implemented in settings in which mental health professionals are scarce? These are pressing concerns in current initiatives to address global mental health.

Dr. Simoni’s work in this area has focused on two developmental projects: one in China and one on the US-Mexico border. In China, Dr. Simoni and colleagues developed and evaluated a nurse-delivered counseling program to assist individuals living with HIV to take their medications as prescribed and address psycho-social concerns around their HIV diagnosis. She is about to begin a new project in China to examine how, in the absence of appropriately trained therapists, computer-based technologies might be harnessed to address the acute stress of newly HIV diagnosed individuals. On the U.S.-Mexico border, Dr. Simoni and colleagues at the University of El Paso are adapting an intervention to address depression and HIV medication adherence among HIV-positive adults. Modifications of the cognitive-behavior intervention involved addressing cultural proscriptions against homosexuality, widespread HIV stigma, and the importance of family and community support.

For more information on Professor Simoni’s research, visit her websites at:

Recent media

Elevated rates of sexual, physical trauma may put urban American Indian women at increased risk for contracting HIV

Dr. Craig Van Dyke (Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Global Mental Health Program, University of California, San Francisco) will be joining Dr. Simoni for the March 2, 2011 lecture.