Research

In the Social Perception and Intergroup Relations lab, we investigate how the impressions people form of others produce and sustain inequality. In particular, we examine how social category membership (e.g., ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender) and features of individuals (e.g., facial appearance, emotion expression, body shape) lead to discriminatory and dehumanizing judgments. We work hard to advance psychological theory and meaningfully impact social justice.

Several ongoing projects focus on discrimination in health and legal contexts. For instance, how do our impressions of others influence who we believe is capable of experiencing physical, social, and psychological pain and distress? How are rightfully and wrongfully convicted individuals stigmatized? What are the consequences of these biased beliefs for critical medical and legal outcomes?

Person Perception. The face is perhaps the single richest source of social information. We investigate how everyday face perception influences how we come to understand others’ cognitive capacities and emotional experiences. Here, we explore how face structure, features, and processing influence how we understand others’ minds (e.g., Alaei et al., 2021Deska et al., 2017; Deska et al., 2018; Khalid et al., 2016), emotional expressions (Deska et al., 2018), and experiences of pain (Deska & Hugenberg, 2018). We are also interested in the implications these impressions have across various applied settings, such as hiring and advertising (Deska, Hingston, DelVecchio, Stenstrom, & Hugenberg, invited revision; Deska, Hingston, Lundin, & Hugenberg, in prep). We also have ongoing projects examining how the features, shapes, and dynamics of the human body guide impression formation.

Social Categories. Although we benefit greatly from our membership in social groups, people often have prejudiced attitudes about other groups that can lead to discriminatory outcomes. We examine how social categories influence our willingness to trust others (Lloyd et al., 2017), learn from others’ mistakes (Walker et al., 2016) understand others’ pain experiences (Benbow et al., 2021; Deska et al., 2020; Summers et al., 2021; Deska et al., 2020, Pejic & Deska, in prep), and affect how we treat each other (Deska et al., 2020; Deska et al., 2020; Kunstman et al., 2016; Lloyd, Parsons, Deska, Clerkin, & Hugenberg, in prep; Hamovitch, Pejic, Zannella, & Deska, in prep; Tian, Deska, & Rule, under review). We’ve also examined our ability to accurately categorize others based on minimal facial cues (Deska, Nabutovsky, & Rule, in prep) and how the properties of groups influence the judgments we make about their members (Deska, Almaraz, & Hugenberg, in prep).

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