Claremont Symposium on Applied Social Psychologytwo heads made of puzzle pieces

Diversity Science: Emerging Perspectives for the 21st Century

Saturday, March 1, 2014

9:00 AM to 4:30 PM; Reception to Follow

The 28th Annual Claremont Symposium on Applied Social Psychology brings together a group of distinguished scholars to discuss the emerging interdisciplinary field of diversity science. Topics will include developmental, cross-cultural, socioeconomic, and multiethnic approaches to the study of diversity and highlight new applications to health care, organizations, education, and law. The symposium will conclude with a discussion of the current state of the field, new approaches to integrating science and practice, and avenues for future exploration.

Official Schedule:

Continental breakfast/registration: 8:00 to 9:00 AM

Opening remarks: Dr. Jenessa Shapiro. 9:00 – 9:10 AM

Morning presentations: 9:10 AM – 12:05 PM

  • 9:10 – 9:40.  Kristina Olson
  • 9:50 – 10:20.  Sophie Trawalter
  • Morning Break. 10:30 – 10:45.
  • 10:45 – 11:15.  Cheryl Kaiser
  • 11:25 – 11:55.  Victoria Plaut

Lunch 12:05 – 2:00 PM

Opening remarks: Dr. Adam Pearson. 2:00 – 2:10 PM

Afternoon presentations: 2:10 – 4:25

  • 2:10 – 2:40.  Geoffrey Cohen
  • 2:50 – 3:20.  Nicole Stephens
  • Afternoon Break. 3:30 – 3:45
  • 3:45 – 4:15.  Margaret Shih

Discussion/Concluding Remarks: 4:15 – 4:45 PM

Wine and cheese reception: 4:45 – 6:00 PM

Geoffrey Cohen, Stanford University
Title and description forthcoming

Cheryl Kaiser, University of Washington
Protected by Policy: Organizational Diversity Initiatives Impede the Detection of Discrimination

Although organizational diversity initiatives aim to create inclusive environments for low status groups such as women and racial minorities, these initiatives may also have ironic negative consequences for the very groups they intend to benefit. This talk describes a program of research grounded in theories of legitimacy revealing that the presence (vs. absence) of organizational diversity initiatives causes high status groups to perceive organizations with diversity initiatives as procedurally fair environments for low status groups, even when it is clear that low status groups are disadvantaged within these organizations. Specifically, the mere presence of diversity initiatives (diversity policies, diversity training, and diversity awards) caused high status groups (men, Whites) to legitimize disparate outcomes by not seeing discrimination targeted at low status groups and reacting harshly toward low status group members who claimed discrimination. Low status group members’ reactions were more complex, with women reacting much like high status groups and ethnic minorities varying in how they responded to diversity initiatives as a function of their personal endorsement of legitimizing beliefs. Implications for organizational diversity, judicial decision making, and employment discrimination law will be discussed.

Kristina Olson, University of Washington
Separate and Unequal: The earliest roots of racism and classism in children

In countries throughout the world, race and class pervade and predict outcomes as diverse as one’s neighborhood, access to healthcare, and social network. In this talk I discuss work that asks how children come to think about and internalize these inequalities as well as how they color children’s perceptions of what is and what should be. First I will briefly describe work showing that even young infants are attuned to racial distinctions. Then I describe our cross-cultural work showing that by the preschool years race and social class cloud children’s judgments, noting that children at this age not only prefer members of higher status races and social classes, but are also aware of the relationship between race and social class. Together this work shows how children, often thought to be unaware of race and social class divides, have surprisingly profound understandings of inequality.

Victoria Plaut, University of California-Berkeley
The Psychology of Colorblindness and Multiculturalism: Insights from Diversity Science for Creating Inclusive Environments

Conceptions of diversity have important implications for the construction of fair and inclusive environments. In this talk, I will first lay out some principles of diversity science, as articulated in “Diversity science: How and why difference makes a difference” (Plaut, 2010). The central insight of this approach is that intergroup relations do not occur in a vacuum. They unfold with certain sociocultural understandings—embedded in law, policy, and institutional practices—about how difference should be understood and dealt with. In the context of racial differences, these conceptions of diversity help people not only to make sense of racial realities but also to reinforce them. With this principle in mind, I will review research on the roots and consequences of two common ways to think about racial/ethnic differences in higher education and the workplace: colorblindness and multiculturalism. The picture that emerges is complex: a variety of color-blind approaches have paradoxical negative effects on inclusion, but diversity-conscious approaches can also threaten inclusion, and these effects differ by racial group. For example, colorblind approaches have been linked to lower psychological engagement for employees of color, but diversity-conscious approaches provoke feelings of exclusion among dominant-group members. In light of these findings, workplaces and schools should carefully think through the implications of their approach to difference.

Margaret Shih, University of California Los Angeles
Stickiness of Stigma: Stigmas continue after group exit

Despite efforts to dispel discrimination, discrimination towards people belonging to stigmatized groups still occurs. Some stigmatized group memberships, such as unemployment and obesity, however, can be temporary and individuals can exit the group.  The little research available on exiting stigmatized identity categories has focused almost exclusively on the experiences of the individual doing the exiting. This research has found that it is difficult for these previously stigmatized individuals to disidentify psychologically from the stigmas.  Up until recently, there has no empirical research on how individuals who have exited a devalued social identity are perceived by others. While one might expect that stigmas should no longer be applied to individuals who no longer belong to a group, we find evidence that stigmas continue to impact social judgments even after the individual has left the stigmatized group.  We find that unemployed individuals continues to be stigmatized even after attaining employment, and previously obese individuals are continued to be disadvantaged even after attaining a healthy weight.

Nicole Stephens, Northwestern University
Closing the Social-Class Achievement Gap: A Difference-Education Intervention Improves First-Generation Students’ Academic Performance and All Students’ College Transition

Over the past 50 years, U.S. colleges and universities have continued to reproduce and widen, rather than close, the social-class achievement gap. Specifically, college students who do not have parents with 4-year degrees (first-generation students) earn lower grades, experience a more difficult college transition, and encounter more obstacles to success than do students who have at least one parent with a 4-year degree (continuing-generation students). In this talk, I will describe results from an intervention designed to reduce this social-class achievement gap. Using senior college students’ real-life stories, we conducted an intervention with incoming students that educated them about how their diverse backgrounds can shape what they experience in college. Compared with a standard intervention that provided similar stories of college adjustment without highlighting students’ different backgrounds, the difference-education intervention eliminated the social-class achievement gap by increasing first-generation students’ tendency to seek out college resources (e.g., meeting with professors) and, in turn, improving their end-of-year grade point averages. The difference-education intervention also improved the college transition for all students on numerous psychosocial outcomes (e.g., mental health and engagement). This approach has the potential to not only equip students to more effectively participate in higher education but also provide them with the skills to be informed, engaged, and productive citizens in our multicultural world.

Sophie Trawalter, University of Virginia
On the Importance of Public Space for Perpetuating and Reducing Social Inequity

Relative to students from privileged groups, students from stigmatized groups (e.g., racial/ethnic minorities, students from lower socioeconomic status) tend to feel less at home in higher education, historically male, predominantly White and affluent universities in particular. The present research examines whether the physical context—specifically, students’ use of public space at the University—reflects and contributes to these disparities. Consistent with our predictions, we find that lower-SES students’ use of public space at the University is restricted. Compared with high-SES students, they feel less comfortable using public space and prefer smaller, more private spaces on campus. They are also more likely to perceive public space on campus as restricted—as requiring permission or an invitation. These differences matter. We find that use of space mediates the relationship between SES and sense of place at the University. Moreover, we find that empowering students to use public space increases students’ sense of place at the University. Taken together, these studies document the importance of public space. They contribute to our understanding of social disparities in education and suggest that one way we might reduce these disparities is through empowered use of public spaces.

Symposium Organizers

Adam Pearson, Pomona College

Adam Pearson received his PhD in social psychology from Yale University (2011) and a BS from Cornell University (2003). He is currently Assistant Professor of Psychology at Pomona College, where he directs the Pomona Social Cognition and Interaction Lab. His research explores how people navigate intergroup interactions, with a particular interest in the role of nonconscious processes in intergroup perception, communication, and nonverbal behavior.

Jenessa Shapiro, University of California Los Angeles

I am a social psychologist at UCLA. I am an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department in the Social Psychology and the Diversity Science areas as well as Anderson School of Management in the Management & Organizations area. My research focuses on intergroup interaction and social stigma. For more information about my research, please visit my research page or my lab page (SISSL).

Location and Registration

We are proud to offer attendance for the Claremont Symposium on Applied Social Psychology at the following rates:

  • Students: $25
  • Professionals and Academics: $50
  • Free to Claremont Colleges faculty, students, and staff (must register in advance by emailing

The symposium will take place in:
Albrecht Auditorium in the Stauffer Hall of Learning
Claremont Graduate University
925 N. Dartmouth Ave
Claremont CA 91711

Claremont Graduate University is located off of the I-10 Freeway, around 30 miles east of Los Angeles, CA.

For more information, e-mail Richard Dowlat, External Affairs Coordinator for the Division of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences in the School of Social Science, Policy & Evaluation, at or call (909) 607-9013.