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11.04 and 11.05 Resilience at a Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Coping with Social Devaluation (shared postdoc position) (Completed)

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Project Summary
The goal of this project is to examine the processes through which disadvantaged groups develop resilience to cope with the social devaluation they face, such as prejudice and discrimination. The project will incorporate three different levels of analysis: the neuro-cognitive level, the individual level, and the community level, an approach we believe has important integrative potential. Resilience in the face of social disadvantage is an important predictor of psychological health, social functioning, and general well-being, and as such this topic has considerable societal importance. In Sociology, resilience has been studied as a feature of groups and social networks that enables them to cope with resource challenges. Research in Social Psychology has identified group identities as a source of resilience, through the solidarity, efficacy, social support they provide. Finally, at the micro level, Experimental Psychology studies resilience in terms of an individual’s ability to control the effects of stress on information processing and attention. In sum, though the concept of resilience has received substantial research attention, this research is currently fragmented and lacks systematic integration. The proposed project provides an interdisciplinary perspective across the different levels of analysis, and systematically studies the contribution of each to resilience amongst members of disadvantaged groups. We believe the combination of EEG methods with identity and network methods is a particular strength of this project.

Research Design and Data
3 behavioural studies, and 1 EEG study. The methodology of the studies will be primarily experimental, and proceed in two phases. In the first phase (1 year), we will examine the factors that distinguish those with greater resilience from those with lower resilience, focusing specifically on the relationships between contributing factors at macro and micro levels of analysis. Across different studies, we will focus on different societal groups that face disadvantage, such as ethnic groups, and those with non-heterosexual orientations. In the second phase (9 months) we will attempt to encourage resilience amongst those members of disadvantaged groups who would not normally show it, by manipulating the crucial aspects identified during the first phase.

Dr. Susie Wang & Dr. Berry van den Berg

Prof. dr. Russell Spears
Prof. dr. Monicque Lorist
Prof. dr. Rafael Wittek 

University of Groningen, Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, Department of Social Psychology

Psychology, Sociology

March 1, 2018 - September 30, 2020

Innovation Fund, Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Groningen


Final report

Our project aimed to use EEG and behavioural methods to understand how disadvantaged group members (women) respond to  and process value threats to their group.

In our first study (in preparation), we demonstrated that, among woman, images that present women in stereotypical roles receive more attention (N200) during relatively early stages of information processing than other image types. Moreover, when participants were required to “accept” the stereotypical image with a yes response, we saw indications of conflict, namely a slow-wave (fronto)-central negative deflection starting at 350ms and lasting until 1100ms. The present study thus identifies an attentional bias from women towards female stereotypes, as well as conflict-related processes when required to accept them implicitly. As such, this study provides a unique window into the neural (sub) processes evoked when women encounter stereotypes of their group, demonstrating how concerns related to social identity can induce conflict.

The second study (in preparation) was a behavioural study challenging the assumption that stereotypes are “mental shortcuts”, heuristic devices to speed up learning and decision-making (Macrae et al., 1994; Lippmann, 1922). We argue that this may not be the case if the stereotypical information concerns you or your group. In fact, stereotypes of one’s own group may create internal conflict for the individual, particularly for members of marginalised groups, where stereotypical information can have a negative or low-status value. In this study, we use a basic reward association task to look at how learned stereotype information about one’s group can actually interfere with a basic learning process. Our participants were women, and in a between-subjects study, they had to learn a reward pattern that included stereotypical, counterstereotypical and neutral images. In one condition, women only saw images of women, and in another, they only saw images of men. We found support for our hypotheses: in line with the standard view of stereotypes as heuristics, when women looked at stereotypes of men, learning rate was higher and reaction times were faster for stereotypes than counter-stereotypes and neutral images. However, when women looked at stereotypes of women, female stereotypes slowed down women’s responses, and reduced the rate of learning. This suggests that, counter to what is typically assumed, stereotypes do not facilitate learning in all contexts, and particularly when they concern your own group, may affect be detrimental to performance.

Data collection is still ongoing for a third study, and we are also writing a review paper to summarise the literature in this area.

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