Social Cognition Lab (Jeff Sherman)

The Social Cognition Lab investigates the cognitive processes underlying social psychology and behavior. We are interested in how people perceive themselves, other people and groups of people. Much of our research focuses on stereotyping and prejudice.

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Research Topics

Automatic & Controlled Components of Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Self-Regulation 

Automatic and Controlled Components of Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Self-Regulation. Central questions about stereotyping and prejudice are the extent to which they occur without a person’s awareness or intent, and the extent to which they can or cannot be controlled. Do we exhibit subtle prejudicial behavior of which we are not aware? Where do we get these biases? How and when are we able to overcome them? In our research, we examine the ways in which automatic and controlled processes interact with and constrain one another to produce stereotyping and prejudice.

Stereotype Formation

In another line of work, we are studying how stereotypes form – that is, how particular attributes come to be associated with different groups. We have proposed that, when people learn about a new group, attention is directed toward those features of the group that most clearly differentiate it from groups that are already known. Other information about the new group (including information about attributes that may be highly descriptive of the group) is not attended to. Thus, what people actually learn about a group is not necessarily the features that best describe the group; rather, what is learned are the features that best distinguish the group from other groups.

Face Perception and Memory

In still other research, we are investigating many aspects of face perception and memory. One project aims to understand the phenomenon of hypo-descent, the tendency for people of mixed-race origin to be categorized as members of minority rather than majority groups (Barack Obama is seen as black not white). Though there are many factors that contribute to this tendency, we are particularly interested in the cognitive processes that contribute to it.  

Stereotypic Biases in Person Perception

We also examine the ways in which stereotypes and prejudices influence the impressions we form of other people. We are interested in how these beliefs affect the things we notice about another person, how we interpret their behavior, how we make judgments about them, and what we remember about them.