Professor Cohen's research examines processes that shape people's sense of belonging and self and implications for social problems. He studies the big and small threats to belonging and self-integrity that people encounter in school, work, and health care settings, and strategies to create more inclusive spaces for people from all walks of life. He believes that the development of psychological theory is facilitated not only by descriptive and observational research but by theory-driven intervention. He has long been inspired by Kurt Lewin's quip, "The best way to try to understand something is to try to change it."

He is the author of a forthcoming book about the causes and consequences of a sense of belonging in school, work, our politics, health care, and other arenas of social life, Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides (Norton, September 2022). Learn more about Geoff and his new book at

Academic Appointments

Administrative Appointments

  • Associate Professor, Psychology, University of Colorado, Boulder (2006 - 2009)
  • Associate Professor, Psychology, Yale University (2005 - 2006)
  • Affiliated Appointment, Institute for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University (2003 - 2006)
  • Assistant Professor, Psychology, Yale University (1999 - 2005)

Professional Education

  • Ph.D., Stanford University, Psychology (1998)
  • Bachelor of Arts, Cornell University, Psychology

Research Interests

  • Diversity and Identity
  • Motivation
  • Poverty and Inequality
  • Psychology
  • Social and Emotional Learning

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Much of my research examines processes related to identity maintenance and their implications for social problems. One primary aim of my research is the development of theory-driven, rigorously tested intervention strategies that further our understanding of the processes underpinning social problems and that offer solutions to alleviate them. Two key questions lie at the core of my research: “Given that a problem exists, what are its underlying processes?” And, “Once identified, how can these processes be overcome?” One reason for this interest in intervention is my belief that a useful way to understand psychological processes and social systems is to try to change them. We also are interested in how and when seemingly brief interventions, attuned to underlying psychological processes, produce large and long-lasting psychological and behavioral change.

The methods that my lab uses include laboratory experiments, longitudinal studies, content analyses, and randomized field experiments. One specific area of research addresses the effects of group identity on achievement, with a focus on under-performance and racial and gender achievement gaps. Additional research programs address hiring discrimination, the psychology of closed-mindedness and inter-group conflict, and psychological processes underlying anti-social and health-risk behavior.

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • A brief social-belonging intervention in college improves adult outcomes for black Americans. Science advances Brady, S. T., Cohen, G. L., Jarvis, S. N., Walton, G. M. 2020; 6 (18): eaay3689


    Could mitigating persistent worries about belonging in the transition to college improve adult life for black Americans? To examine this question, we conducted a long-term follow-up of a randomized social-belonging intervention delivered in the first year of college. This 1-hour exercise represented social and academic adversity early in college as common and temporary. As previously reported in Science, the exercise improved black students' grades and well-being in college. The present study assessed the adult outcomes of these same participants. Examining adult life at an average age of 27, black adults who had received the treatment (versus control) exercise 7 to 11 years earlier reported significantly greater career satisfaction and success, psychological well-being, and community involvement and leadership. Gains were statistically mediated by greater college mentorship. The results suggest that addressing persistent social-psychological concerns via psychological intervention can shape the life course, partly by changing people's social realities.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/sciadv.aay3689

    View details for PubMedID 32426471

  • Stereotype threat and working memory among surgical residents (vol 216, pg 824, 2018) AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SURGERY Milam, L. A., Cohen, G. L., Mueller, C., Salles, A. 2019; 218 (3): 668
  • Targeted Identity-Safety Interventions Cause Lasting Reductions in Discipline Citations Among Negatively Stereotyped Boys JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Goyer, J., Cohen, G. L., Cook, J. E., Master, A., Apfel, N., Lee, W., Henderson, A. G., Reeves, S. L., Okonofua, J. A., Walton, G. M. 2019; 117 (2): 229–59


    High rates of discipline citations predict adverse life outcomes, a harm disproportionately borne by Black and Latino boys. We hypothesized that these citations arise in part from negative cycles of interaction between students and teachers, which unfold in contexts of social stereotypes. Can targeted interventions to facilitate identity safety-a sense of belonging, inclusion, and growth-for students help? Experiment 1 combined social-belonging, values-affirmation, and growth-mindset interventions delivered in several class sessions in 2 middle schools with a large Latino population (N = 669). This treatment reduced citations among negatively stereotyped boys in 7th and 8th grades by 57% as compared with a randomized control condition, 95% CI [-77%, -20%]. A growth-mindset only treatment was also effective (70% reduction, 95% CI [-84%, -43%]). Experiment 2 tested the social-belonging intervention alone, a grade earlier, at a third school with a large Black population and more overall citations (N = 137 sixth-grade students). In 2 class sessions, students reflected on stories from previous 7th-grade students, which represented worries about belonging and relationships with teachers early in middle school as normal and as improving with time. This exercise reduced citations among Black boys through the end of high school by 65%, 95% CI [-85%, -15%], closing the disparity with White boys over 7 years by 75%. Suggesting improved interactions with teachers, longitudinal analyses found that the intervention prevented rises in citations involving subjective judgments (e.g., "insubordination") within 6th and 7th grades. It also forestalled the emergence of worries about being seen stereotypically by the end of 7th grade. Identity threat can give rise to cycles of interaction that are maladaptive for both teachers and students in school; targeted exercises can interrupt these cycles to improve disciplinary outcomes over years. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

    View details for DOI 10.1037/pspa0000152

    View details for Web of Science ID 000474239500002

    View details for PubMedID 30920278

  • Bolstering trust and reducing discipline incidents at a diverse middle school: How self-affirmation affects behavioral conduct during the transition to adolescence. Journal of school psychology Binning, K. R., Cook, J. E., Purdie-Greenaway, V., Garcia, J., Chen, S., Apfel, N., Sherman, D. K., Cohen, G. L. 2019; 75: 74–88


    A three-year field experiment at an ethnically diverse middle school (N = 163) tested the hypothesis that periodic self-affirmation exercises delivered by classroom teachers bolsters students' school trust and improves their behavioral conduct. Students were randomly assigned to either a self-affirmation condition, where they wrote a series of in-class essays about personally important values, or a control condition, where they wrote essays about personally unimportant values. There were no behavioral effects of affirmation at the end of 6th grade, after students had completed four writing exercises. However, after four additional exercises in 7th grade, affirmed students had a significantly lower rate of discipline incidents than students in the control condition. The effect continued to grow and did not differ across ethnic groups, such that during 8th grade students in the affirmation condition on average received discipline at a 69% lower rate than students in the control condition. Analyses of student climate surveys revealed that affirmation was associated with higher school trust over time, a tendency that held across ethnic groups and partially mediated the affirmation effect on discipline. Repeated self-affirmation can bolster students' school trust and reduce the incidence of discipline in middle school, findings with both theoretical and practical implications.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jsp.2019.07.007

    View details for PubMedID 31474282

  • Why is it so hard to change? The role of self-integrity threat and affirmation in weight loss EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Logel, C., Hall, W., Page-Gould, E., Cohen, G. L. 2019; 49 (4): 748–59

    View details for DOI 10.1002/ejsp.2536

    View details for Web of Science ID 000471322500006

  • The Relationship Between Self-Efficacy and Well-Being Among Surgical Residents JOURNAL OF SURGICAL EDUCATION Milam, L. A., Cohen, G. L., Mueller, C., Salles, A. 2019; 76 (2): 321–28
  • Affirmation prevents long-term weight gain JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Logel, C., Kathmandu, A., Cohen, G. L. 2019; 81: 70–75
  • Feasibility of a 'Psychologically Smart' Community Pharmacy Intervention to Improve Patient Recognition and Response Time in Stroke. Malcolm, E., Spokoyny, I., Safaeinili, N., Tai, A., Govindarajan, P., Donelson, S., Door, T., Fotuhi, O., Wu, W., Cohen, G. LIPPINCOTT WILLIAMS & WILKINS. 2019
  • A Randomized Study of Values Affirmation to Promote Interest in Diabetes Prevention Among Women With a History of Gestational Diabetes. Medical care Brown, S. D., Fotuhi, O. n., Grijalva, C. S., Tsai, A. L., Quesenberry, C. P., Ritchie, J. L., Cohen, G. L., Ferrara, A. n. 2019


    The objective of this study was to test whether 2 interventions promote interest in diabetes prevention among women with a history of gestational diabetes mellitus, who face high lifetime risk for diabetes.We designed an email outreach message promoting an existing preventive lifestyle program. The message incorporated values affirmation, a theory-based intervention that can improve openness to health information but typically relies on a writing exercise less practical in health care settings. In a 3-arm randomized study, 237 women with elevated body mass index and a history of gestational diabetes mellitus were randomized to read an outreach message containing either no affirmation (control) or 1 of 2 affirmations, streamlined to remove the typical writing exercise: either a values affirmation prompting reflection on any personal value, or a parenting affirmation prompting reflection on caregiving-related values. Outcomes included demonstrating interest in the lifestyle program (seeking information about it or intending to join) and seeking publicly-available health information about diabetes prevention.Compared with control, participants randomized to the values affirmation more frequently demonstrated interest in the lifestyle program (59.0% vs. 74.4%; adjusted relative risk: 1.31; 95% confidence interval: 1.04-1.66) and sought information about diabetes prevention (59.0% vs. 73.4%; adjusted relative risk: 1.22; 95% confidence interval: 0.97-1.54). The parenting affirmation yielded no significant differences in either outcome.A streamlined values affirmation, designed for feasibility in a health care setting, can promote interest in diabetes prevention among women at high risk. Research is needed to evaluate its effects on diabetes prevention program enrollment and clinical outcomes.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001133

    View details for PubMedID 31107396

  • Corrigendum to 'Stereotype threat and working memory among surgical residents' [Am J Orthop Surg 216 (2018) 824-829]. American journal of surgery Milam, L. A., Cohen, G. L., Mueller, C., Salles, A. 2018

    View details for PubMedID 30390935

  • Reconceptualizing Self-Affirmation With the Trigger and Channel Framework: Lessons From the Health Domain. Personality and social psychology review : an official journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc Ferrer, R. A., Cohen, G. L. 2018: 1088868318797036


    Self-affirmation-a theory-based technique to affirm the adaptive adequacy of the self-can promote positive behavior change and adaptive outcomes, although effects are variable. We extend a novel framework (Trigger and Channel), proposing three conditions that facilitate self-affirmation-induced behavior change: (a) presence of psychological threat, (b) presence of resources to foster change, and (c) timeliness of the self-affirmation with respect to threat and resources. Using health behavior as a focus, we present meta-analytic evidence demonstrating that when these conditions are met, self-affirmation acts as a psychological trigger into a positive channel of resources that facilitate behavior change. The presence of a timely threat and the availability of timely resources independently predicted larger self-affirmation effects on behavior change, and the two interacted synergistically to predict still larger effects. The results illustrate the conditionality of self-affirmation effects and offer guidelines for when, where, and for whom self-affirmation will be most effective.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/1088868318797036

    View details for PubMedID 30295141

  • Stereotype threat and working memory among surgical residents AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SURGERY Milam, L. A., Cohen, G. L., Mueller, C., Salles, A. 2018; 216 (4): 824–29


    Stereotype threat is a situational threat in which a member of a stereotyped group fears conforming to a negative stereotype. In this study, we examined the impact of stereotype threat on surgical performance and working memory among surgical residents.Residents at one institution were randomized to either the threat condition or the no-threat condition. We administered the Vandenberg Mental Rotation Test and the reading span task to assess residents' mental rotation and working memory, respectively.102 residents participated in this study (response rate 61%). In multivariable analysis, we found significant gender differences. Men outperformed women in mental rotation, and women outperformed men in working memory. There was no effect of condition on performance on the mental rotation or working memory test.No effect of condition on either test suggests that high-achieving women may be less susceptible to stereotype threat. This could be due to self-selection or adapted resilience, or women in this context may be more qualified to reach the same level of achievement as their male colleagues.

    View details for PubMedID 30249337

  • The Relationship Between Self-Efficacy and Well-Being Among Surgical Residents. Journal of surgical education Milam, L. A., Cohen, G. L., Mueller, C., Salles, A. 2018


    OBJECTIVE: Residency is a challenging time in the lives of physicians. In this study, we examined the relationship between general self-efficacy, defined as the belief in one's own capabilities in a variety of situations, and burnout and psychological well-being in a sample of surgical residents.DESIGN: In the context of a larger study, a cross-sectional survey was administered to residents. The survey included measures of general self-efficacy, the emotional exhaustion and personal accomplishment domains of burnout, and general psychological well-being. We examined correlations between self-efficacy and these well-being outcomes and used multivariable linear regression models that controlled for age, gender, postgraduate year, ethnicity, and the interaction between gender and self-efficacy.SETTING: We surveyed residents at Stanford Health Care, a tertiary care center, between the fall of 2010 and the spring of 2013.PARTICIPANTS: One hundred and seventy nine residents from 9 surgical subspecialties responded to the survey for a response rate of 76%.RESULTS: Residents reported high levels of self-efficacy, and over a third reported high emotional exhaustion. Eighty-nine percent of residents had average or high personal accomplishment. In adjusted regression analyses, general self-efficacy was negatively predictive of emotional exhaustion (B = -0.43, p = 0.0127) and positively predictive of personal accomplishment (B = 0.33, p = 0.0185) and general psychological well-being (B = 0.34, p = 0.0010). There was no interaction between gender and general self-efficacy in regression analyses (ps ≥ 0.6776).CONCLUSIONS: Among other factors, self-efficacy appears to be significantly predictive of resident well-being. High self-efficacy suggests that residents feel prepared and capable. Interventions to improve residents' general self-efficacy should be explored as a possible mechanism to improve well-being.

    View details for PubMedID 30245061

  • The relationship between perceived gender judgment and well-being among surgical residents AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SURGERY Salles, A., Milam, L., Cohen, G., Mueller, C. 2018; 215 (2): 233–37


    Physician well-being is a significant problem. Here we explore whether one factor, a resident's concern for being judged by one's gender, influences well-being.Over two years at one institution, we surveyed surgical residents on validated measures of well-being as well as the extent to which they felt they were judged because of their gender (gender judgment). We used correlations and linear regression to investigate the relationships between gender judgment and well-being.There were 193 unique respondents (87% response rate). Women had significantly more concerns about gender judgment than men (M = 2.39, SD = 0.73 vs. M = 1.46, SD = 0.62, t = -9.47, p < 0.00001). In regression analyses, gender judgment concerns were significantly associated with all three well-being outcomes (Bs -0.34, 0.50, and 0.39, respectively for well-being, emotional exhaustion, and depersonalization, all p < 0.013).The degree to which residents, both male and female, are concerned about being judged for their gender is significantly associated with worse well-being.

    View details for PubMedID 29223304

  • Solace in Solidarity: Disability Friendship Networks Buffer Well-Being REHABILITATION PSYCHOLOGY Silverman, A. M., Molton, I. R., Smith, A. E., Jensen, M. P., Cohen, G. L. 2017; 62 (4): 525–33


    To determine whether having friends who share one's disability experiences is associated with higher well-being, and whether these friendships buffer well-being from disability-related stressors. Research Method/Design: In 2 cross-sectional studies, adults with long-term physical disabilities identified close friends who shared their diagnosis. We assessed well-being as a function of the number of friends that participants identified in each group. Study 1 included 71 adults with legal blindness living in the United States, while Study 2 included 1,453 adults in the United States with either muscular dystrophy (MD), multiple sclerosis (MS), post-polio syndrome (PPS), or spinal cord injury (SCI).In Study 1, having more friends sharing a blindness diagnosis was associated with higher life satisfaction, even controlling for the number of friends who were not blind. In Study 2, Participants with more friends sharing their diagnosis reported higher quality of life and satisfaction with social role participation. Participants with more friends sharing their diagnosis also showed and attenuated associations between the severity of their functional impairment and their quality of life and social role satisfaction, suggesting that their friendships buffered the impact of their functional impairment on well-being. Participants reporting more friends with any physical disability showed similar benefits.Friends with disabilities can offer uniquely important informational and emotional support resources that buffer the impact of a functional impairment on well-being. Psychosocial interventions should help people with long-term disabilities build their peer support networks. (PsycINFO Database Record

    View details for PubMedID 28394146

  • Self-Efficacy, Sex, and Resident Performance Milam, L., Mueller, C., Cohen, G., Salles, A. ELSEVIER SCIENCE INC. 2017: E159–E160
  • Eight-minute self-regulation intervention raises educational attainment at scale in individualist but not collectivist cultures PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Kizilcec, R. F., Cohen, G. L. 2017; 114 (17): 4348-4353


    Academic credentials open up a wealth of opportunities. However, many people drop out of educational programs, such as community college and online courses. Prior research found that a brief self-regulation strategy can improve self-discipline and academic outcomes. Could this strategy support learners at large scale? Mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII) involves writing about positive outcomes associated with a goal, the obstacles to achieving it, and concrete if-then plans to overcome them. The strategy was developed in Western countries (United States, Germany) and appeals to individualist tendencies, which may reduce its efficacy in collectivist cultures such as India or China. We tested this hypothesis in two randomized controlled experiments in online courses (n = 17,963). Learners in individualist cultures were 32% (first experiment) and 15% (second experiment) more likely to complete the course following the MCII intervention than a control activity. In contrast, learners in collectivist cultures were unaffected by MCII. Natural language processing of written responses revealed that MCII was effective when a learner's primary obstacle was predictable and surmountable, such as everyday work or family obligations but not a practical constraint (e.g., Internet access) or a lack of time. By revealing heterogeneity in MCII's effectiveness, this research advances theory on self-regulation and illuminates how even highly efficacious interventions may be culturally bounded in their effects.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1611898114

    View details for Web of Science ID 000399995600042

    View details for PubMedID 28396404

  • Attainable and Relevant Moral Exemplars Are More Effective than Extraordinary Exemplars in Promoting Voluntary Service Engagement FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY Han, H., Kim, J., Jeong, C., Cohen, G. L. 2017; 8


    The present study aimed to develop effective moral educational interventions based on social psychology by using stories of moral exemplars. We tested whether motivation to engage in voluntary service as a form of moral behavior was better promoted by attainable and relevant exemplars or by unattainable and irrelevant exemplars. First, experiment 1, conducted in a lab, showed that stories of attainable exemplars more effectively promoted voluntary service activity engagement among undergraduate students compared with stories of unattainable exemplars and non-moral stories. Second, experiment 2, a middle school classroom-level experiment with a quasi-experimental design, demonstrated that peer exemplars, who are perceived to be attainable and relevant to students, better promoted service engagement compared with historic figures in moral education classes.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00283

    View details for Web of Science ID 000395565700001

    View details for PubMedID 28326045

  • Feeling left out, but affirmed: Protecting against the negative effects of low belonging in college JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Layous, K., Davis, E. M., Garcia, J., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Cook, J. E., Cohen, G. L. 2017; 69: 227-231
  • Loss of Institutional Trust Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Adolescents: A Consequence of Procedural Injustice and a Cause of Life-Span Outcomes CHILD DEVELOPMENT Yeager, D. S., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Hooper, S. Y., Cohen, G. L. 2017; 88 (2): 658-676


    This research tested a social-developmental process model of trust discernment. From sixth to eighth grade, White and African American students were surveyed twice yearly (ages 11-14; Study 1, N = 277). African American students were more aware of racial bias in school disciplinary decisions, and as this awareness grew it predicted a loss of trust in school, leading to a large trust gap in seventh grade. Loss of trust by spring of seventh grade predicted African Americans' subsequent discipline infractions and 4-year college enrollment. Causality was confirmed with a trust-restoring "wise feedback" treatment delivered in spring of seventh grade that improved African Americans' eighth-grade discipline and college outcomes. Correlational findings were replicated with Latino and White students (ages 11-14; Study 2, N = 206).

    View details for DOI 10.1111/cdev.12697

    View details for Web of Science ID 000396008000028

    View details for PubMedID 28176299

  • Closing global achievement gaps in MOOCs SCIENCE Kizilcec, R. F., Saltarelli, A. J., Reich, J., Cohen, G. L. 2017; 355 (6322): 251–52

    View details for PubMedID 28104856

  • Self-affirmation facilitates minority middle schoolers' progress along college trajectories. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Goyer, J. P., Garcia, J. n., Purdie-Vaughns, V. n., Binning, K. R., Cook, J. E., Reeves, S. L., Apfel, N. n., Taborsky-Barba, S. n., Sherman, D. K., Cohen, G. L. 2017; 114 (29): 7594–99


    Small but timely experiences can have long-term benefits when their psychological effects interact with institutional processes. In a follow-up of two randomized field experiments, a brief values affirmation intervention designed to buffer minority middle schoolers against the threat of negative stereotypes had long-term benefits on college-relevant outcomes. In study 1, conducted in the Mountain West, the intervention increased Latino Americans' probability of entering a college readiness track rather than a remedial one near the transition to high school 2 y later. In study 2, conducted in the Northeast, the intervention increased African Americans' probability of college enrollment 7-9 y later. Among those who enrolled in college, affirmed African Americans attended relatively more selective colleges. Lifting a psychological barrier at a key transition can facilitate students' access to positive institutional channels, giving rise to accumulative benefits.

    View details for PubMedID 28630338

  • Teaching a lay theory before college narrows achievement gaps at scale PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Yeager, D. S., Walton, G. M., Brady, S. T., Akcinar, E. N., Paunesku, D., Keane, L., Kamentz, D., Ritter, G., Duckworth, A. L., Urstein, R., Gomez, E. M., Markus, H. R., Cohen, G. L., Dweck, C. S. 2016; 113 (24): E3341-E3348


    Previous experiments have shown that college students benefit when they understand that challenges in the transition to college are common and improvable and, thus, that early struggles need not portend a permanent lack of belonging or potential. Could such an approach-called a lay theory intervention-be effective before college matriculation? Could this strategy reduce a portion of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic achievement gaps for entire institutions? Three double-blind experiments tested this possibility. Ninety percent of first-year college students from three institutions were randomly assigned to complete single-session, online lay theory or control materials before matriculation (n > 9,500). The lay theory interventions raised first-year full-time college enrollment among students from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds exiting a high-performing charter high school network or entering a public flagship university (experiments 1 and 2) and, at a selective private university, raised disadvantaged students' cumulative first-year grade point average (experiment 3). These gains correspond to 31-40% reductions of the raw (unadjusted) institutional achievement gaps between students from disadvantaged and nondisadvantaged backgrounds at those institutions. Further, follow-up surveys suggest that the interventions improved disadvantaged students' overall college experiences, promoting use of student support services and the development of friendship networks and mentor relationships. This research therefore provides a basis for further tests of the generalizability of preparatory lay theories interventions and of their potential to reduce social inequality and improve other major life transitions.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1524360113

    View details for PubMedID 27247409

  • The Psychology of the Affirmed Learner: Spontaneous Self-Affirmation in the Face of Stress JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY Brady, S. T., Reeves, S. L., Garcia, J., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Cook, J. E., Taborsky-Barba, S., Tomasetti, S., Davis, E. M., Cohen, G. L. 2016; 108 (3): 353-373

    View details for DOI 10.1037/edu0000091

    View details for Web of Science ID 000373687300006

  • Instructional Interventions That Motivate Classroom Learning INTRODUCTION JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY Lin-Siegler, X., Dweck, C. S., Cohen, G. L. 2016; 108 (3): 295–99

    View details for DOI 10.1037/edu0000124

    View details for Web of Science ID 000373687300001

  • Changing Environments by Changing Individuals: The Emergent Effects of Psychological Intervention PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE Powers, J. T., Cook, J. E., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Cohen, G. L. 2016; 27 (2): 150-160


    The two studies reported here tested whether a classroom-based psychological intervention that benefited a few African American 7th graders could trigger emergent ecological effects that benefited their entire classrooms. Multilevel analyses were conducted on data that previously documented the benefits of values affirmations on African American students' grades. The density of African American students who received the intervention in each classroom (i.e., treatment density) was used as an independent predictor of grades. Within a classroom, the greater the density of African American students who participated in the intervention exercise, the higher the grades of all classmates on average, regardless of their race or whether they participated in the intervention exercise. Benefits of treatment density were most pronounced among students with a history of poor performance. Results suggest that the benefits of psychological intervention do not end with the individual. Changed individuals can improve their social environments, and such improvements can benefit others regardless of whether they participated in the intervention. These findings have implications for understanding the emergence of ecological consequences from psychological processes.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0956797615614591

    View details for Web of Science ID 000370419600003

    View details for PubMedID 26671909

  • Exploring the Relationship Between Stereotype Perception and Residents' Well-Being JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF SURGEONS Salles, A., Mueller, C. M., Cohen, G. L. 2016; 222 (1): 52-58


    Medicine has historically been a male-dominated field, and there remains a stereotype that men are better physicians than women. For female residents, and in particular female surgical residents, chronically contending with this stereotype can exact a toll on their psychological health. The objective of this study was to determine the relationship between women surgeons' psychological health and their perception of other people's endorsement of the stereotype (stereotype perception).This is a correlational study based on survey data collected from 14 residency programs at one medical center from September 2010 to March 2011. The participants were 384 residents (representing an 80% response rate). The main survey measures were the Dupuy Psychological General Well-Being Scale and the Maslach Burnout Inventory.Among female surgical residents, we found that those with higher degrees of stereotype perception had poorer psychological health than those with lower degrees of stereotype perception (β = -0.44, p = 0.002). For men, there was no relationship between stereotype perception and psychological health (β = 0.015; p = 0.92). Among nonsurgeons, there was no relationship between stereotype perception and psychological health for either women or men (β = -0.016; p = 0.78; β = -0.0050; p = 0.97, respectively).The data suggest that women in surgical training, but not men, can face a stressor--stereotype perception--that is negatively associated with their psychological health. This same relationship does not seem to exist for women in nonsurgical training programs. Efforts should be made to further understand this relationship and investigate possible interventions to level the playing field for male and female surgical trainees.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2015.10.004

    View details for Web of Science ID 000367097300006

    View details for PubMedID 26616033

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4862580

  • A values affirmation intervention to improve female residents' surgical performance Journal of graduate medical education Salles, A., Mueller, C. M., Cohen, G. L. 2016; 8 (3): 378-383
  • Peer Influence, Peer Status, and Prosocial Behavior: An Experimental Investigation of Peer Socialization of Adolescents' Intentions to Volunteer JOURNAL OF YOUTH AND ADOLESCENCE Choukas-Bradley, S., Giletta, M., Cohen, G. L., Prinstein, M. J. 2015; 44 (12): 2197-2210


    Peer influence processes have been documented extensively for a wide range of maladaptive adolescent behaviors. However, peer socialization is not inherently deleterious, and little is known about whether adolescents influence each other's prosocial behaviors, or whether some peers are more influential than others towards positive youth outcomes. This study addressed these questions using an experimental "chat room" paradigm to examine in vivo peer influence of prosocial behavior endorsement. A school-based sample of 304 early adolescents (55% female, 45% male; M(age) = 12.68) believed they were interacting electronically with same-gender grademates (i.e., "e-confederates"), whose peer status was experimentally manipulated. The participants' intent to engage in prosocial behaviors was measured pre-experiment and in subsequent "public" and "private" experimental sessions. Overall, the adolescents conformed to the e-confederates' prosocial responses in public; yet, these peer influence effects were moderated by the peer status of the e-confederates, such that youth more strongly conformed to the high-status e-confederates than to the low-status ones. There also was some evidence that these peer influence effects were maintained in the private session, indicating potential internalization of prosocial peer norms. These findings help bridge the positive youth development and peer influence literatures, with potential implications for campaigns to increase prosocial behaviors.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s10964-015-0373-2

    View details for Web of Science ID 000364572900001

    View details for PubMedID 26525387

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5985442

  • Threats to Social Identity Can Trigger Social Deviance PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN Belmi, P., Barragan, R. C., Neale, M. A., Cohen, G. L. 2015; 41 (4): 467-484


    We hypothesized that threats to people's social (i.e., group) identity can trigger deviant attitudes and behaviors. A correlational study and five experiments showed that experiencing or recalling situations associated with the devaluation of a social identity caused participants to endorse or engage in deviant actions, including stealing, cheating, and lying. The effect was driven by the tendency to construe social identity threats not as isolated incidents but as symbolic of the continuing devaluation and disrespectful treatment of one's group. Supplementing sociological approaches to deviance and delinquency, the results suggest the relevance and utility of a social-psychological account.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0146167215569493

    View details for Web of Science ID 000351303000001

    View details for PubMedID 25713172

  • Going along versus getting it right: The role of self-integrity in political conformity JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Binning, K. R., Brick, C., Cohen, G. L., Sherman, D. K. 2015; 56: 73-88
  • Adolescents Misperceive and Are Influenced by High-Status Peers' Health Risk, Deviant, and Adaptive Behavior DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY Helms, S. W., Choukas-Bradley, S., Widman, L., Giletta, M., Cohen, G. L., Prinstein, M. J. 2014; 50 (12): 2697-2714


    Most peer influence research examines socialization between adolescents and their best friends. Yet, adolescents also are influenced by popular peers, perhaps due to misperceptions of social norms. This research examined the extent to which out-group and in-group adolescents misperceive the frequencies of peers' deviant, health risk, and adaptive behaviors in different reputation-based peer crowds (Study 1) and the prospective associations between perceptions of high-status peers' and adolescents' own substance use over 2.5 years (Study 2). Study 1 examined 235 adolescents' reported deviant (vandalism, theft), health risk (substance use, sexual risk), and adaptive (exercise, studying) behavior, and their perceptions of jocks', populars', burnouts', and brains' engagement in the same behaviors. Peer nominations identified adolescents in each peer crowd. Jocks and populars were rated as higher status than brains and burnouts. Results indicated that peer crowd stereotypes are caricatures. Misperceptions of high-status crowds were dramatic, but for many behaviors, no differences between populars'/jocks' and others' actual reported behaviors were revealed. Study 2 assessed 166 adolescents' substance use and their perceptions of popular peers' (i.e., peers high in peer perceived popularity) substance use. Parallel process latent growth analyses revealed that higher perceptions of popular peers' substance use in Grade 9 (intercept) significantly predicted steeper increases in adolescents' own substance use from Grade 9 to 11 (slope). Results from both studies, utilizing different methods, offer evidence to suggest that adolescents misperceive high-status peers' risk behaviors, and these misperceptions may predict adolescents' own risk behavior engagement.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/a0038178

    View details for Web of Science ID 000345741400012

    View details for PubMedID 25365121

  • Stereotypes as Stumbling-Blocks: How Coping With Stereotype Threat Affects Life Outcomes for People With Physical Disabilities PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN Silverman, A. M., Cohen, G. L. 2014; 40 (10): 1330-1340


    Stereotype threat, the concern about being judged in light of negative stereotypes, causes underperformance in evaluative situations. However, less is known about how coping with stereotypes can aggravate underperformance over time. We propose a model in which ongoing stereotype threat experiences threaten a person's sense of self-integrity, which in turn prompts defensive avoidance of stereotype-relevant situations, impeding growth, achievement, and well-being. We test this model in an important but understudied population: the physically disabled. In Study 1, blind adults reporting higher levels of stereotype threat reported lower self-integrity and well-being and were more likely to be unemployed and to report avoiding stereotype-threatening situations. In Study 2's field experiment, blind students in a compensatory skill-training program made more progress if they had completed a values-affirmation, an exercise that bolsters self-integrity. The findings suggest that stereotype threat poses a chronic threat to self-integrity and undermines life outcomes for people with disabilities.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0146167214542800

    View details for Web of Science ID 000343035500008

  • Stereotypes as stumbling-blocks: how coping with stereotype threat affects life outcomes for people with physical disabilities. Personality & social psychology bulletin Silverman, A. M., Cohen, G. L. 2014; 40 (10): 1330-40


    Stereotype threat, the concern about being judged in light of negative stereotypes, causes underperformance in evaluative situations. However, less is known about how coping with stereotypes can aggravate underperformance over time. We propose a model in which ongoing stereotype threat experiences threaten a person's sense of self-integrity, which in turn prompts defensive avoidance of stereotype-relevant situations, impeding growth, achievement, and well-being. We test this model in an important but understudied population: the physically disabled. In Study 1, blind adults reporting higher levels of stereotype threat reported lower self-integrity and well-being and were more likely to be unemployed and to report avoiding stereotype-threatening situations. In Study 2's field experiment, blind students in a compensatory skill-training program made more progress if they had completed a values-affirmation, an exercise that bolsters self-integrity. The findings suggest that stereotype threat poses a chronic threat to self-integrity and undermines life outcomes for people with disabilities.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0146167214542800

    View details for PubMedID 25015337

  • Experimentally Measured Susceptibility to Peer Influence and Adolescent Sexual Behavior Trajectories: A Preliminary Study DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY Choukas-Bradley, S., Giletta, M., Widman, L., Cohen, G. L., Prinstein, M. J. 2014; 50 (9): 2221-2227


    A performance-based measure of peer influence susceptibility was examined as a moderator of the longitudinal association between peer norms and trajectories of adolescents' number of sexual intercourse partners. Seventy-one 9th grade adolescents (52% female) participated in an experimental "chat room" paradigm involving "e-confederates" who endorsed sexual risk behaviors. Changes in participants' responses to risk scenarios before versus during the "chat room" were used as a performance-based measure of peer influence susceptibility. Participants reported their perceptions of popular peers' number of sexual intercourse partners at baseline and self-reported their number of sexual intercourse partners at baseline and 6, 12, and 18 months later. Susceptibility was examined as a moderator of the longitudinal association between perceptions of popular peers' number of sexual intercourse partners and trajectories of adolescents' own numbers of partners. High perceptions of the number of popular peers' sexual intercourse partners combined with high peer influence susceptibility predicted steeper longitudinal trajectories of adolescents' number of partners. Results provide novel preliminary evidence regarding the importance of peer influence susceptibility in adolescents' development of sexual behaviors.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/a0037300

    View details for Web of Science ID 000341290800006

    View details for PubMedID 24999763

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4184799

  • An Experimental Examination of Peers' Influence on Adolescent Girls' Intent to Engage in Maladaptive Weight-Related Behaviors INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF EATING DISORDERS Rancourt, D., Choukas-Bradley, S., Cohen, G. L., Prinstein, M. J. 2014; 47 (5): 437-447


    Social psychological theories provide bases for understanding how social comparison processes may impact peer influence. This study examined two peer characteristics that may impact peer influence on adolescent girls' weight-related behavior intentions: body size and popularity.A school-based sample of 66 9th grade girls (12-15 years old) completed an experimental paradigm in which they believed they were interacting with other students (i.e., "e-confederates"). The body size and popularity of the e-confederates were experimentally manipulated. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the three experimental conditions in which they were exposed to identical maladaptive weight-related behavior norms communicated by ostensible female peers who were either: (1) Thin and Popular; (2) Thin and Average Popularity; or (3) Heavy and Average Popularity. Participants' intent to engage in weight-related behaviors was measured pre-experiment and during public and private segments of the experiment.A significant effect of condition on public conformity was observed. Participants exposed to peers' maladaptive weight-related behavior norms in the Heavy and Average condition reported significantly less intent to engage in weight-related behaviors than participants in either of the thin-peer conditions (F(2) = 3.93, p = .025). Peer influence on private acceptance of weight-related behavior intentions was similar across conditions (F(2) = .47, p = .63).Body size comparison may be the most salient component of peer influence processes on weight-related behaviors. Peer influence on weight-related behavior intention also appears to impact private beliefs. Considering peer norms in preventive interventions combined with dissonance-based approaches may be useful.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/eat.22258

    View details for Web of Science ID 000337700300001

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4624103

  • Breaking the Cycle of Mistrust: Wise Interventions to Provide Critical Feedback Across the Racial Divide JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY-GENERAL Yeager, D. S., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Brzustoski, P., Master, A., Hessert, W. T., Williams, M. E., Cohen, G. L. 2014; 143 (2): 804-824


    Three double-blind randomized field experiments examined the effects of a strategy to restore trust on minority adolescents' responses to critical feedback. In Studies 1 and 2, 7th-grade students received critical feedback from their teacher that, in the treatment condition, was designed to assuage mistrust by emphasizing the teacher's high standards and belief that the student was capable of meeting those standards--a strategy known as wise feedback. Wise feedback increased students' likelihood of submitting a revision of an essay (Study 1) and improved the quality of their final drafts (Study 2). Effects were generally stronger among African American students than among White students, and particularly strong among African Americans who felt more mistrusting of school. Indeed, among this latter group of students, the 2-year decline in trust evident in the control condition was, in the wise feedback condition, halted. Study 3, undertaken in a low-income public high school, used attributional retraining to teach students to attribute critical feedback in school to their teachers' high standards and belief in their potential. It raised African Americans' grades, reducing the achievement gap. Discussion centers on the roles of trust and recursive social processes in adolescent development.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/a0033906

    View details for Web of Science ID 000349768000028

    View details for PubMedID 23937186

  • The relationship between grit and resident well-being. American journal of surgery Salles, A., Cohen, G. L., Mueller, C. M. 2014; 207 (2): 251-254


    The well-being of residents in general surgery is an important factor in their success within training programs. Consequently, it is important to identify individuals at risk for burnout and low levels of well-being as early as possible. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that resident well-being may be related to grit, a psychological factor defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals.One hundred forty-one residents across 9 surgical specialties at 1 academic medical center were surveyed; the response rate was 84%. Perseverance was measured using the Short Grit Scale. Resident well-being was measured with (1) burnout using the Maslach Burnout Inventory and (2) psychological well-being using the Dupuy Psychological General Well-Being Scale.Grit was predictive of later psychological well-being both as measured by the Maslach Burnout Inventory (B = -.20, P = .05) and as measured by the Psychological General Well-Being Scale (B = .27, P < .01).Measuring grit may identify those who are at greatest risk for poor psychological well-being in the future. These residents may benefit from counseling to provide support and improve coping skills.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2013.09.006

    View details for PubMedID 24238604

  • The psychology of change: self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual review of psychology Cohen, G. L., Sherman, D. K. 2014; 65: 333-371


    People have a basic need to maintain the integrity of the self, a global sense of personal adequacy. Events that threaten self-integrity arouse stress and self-protective defenses that can hamper performance and growth. However, an intervention known as self-affirmation can curb these negative outcomes. Self-affirmation interventions typically have people write about core personal values. The interventions bring about a more expansive view of the self and its resources, weakening the implications of a threat for personal integrity. Timely affirmations have been shown to improve education, health, and relationship outcomes, with benefits that sometimes persist for months and years. Like other interventions and experiences, self-affirmations can have lasting benefits when they touch off a cycle of adaptive potential, a positive feedback loop between the self-system and the social system that propagates adaptive outcomes over time. The present review highlights both connections with other disciplines and lessons for a social psychological understanding of intervention and change.

    View details for DOI 10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115137

    View details for PubMedID 24405362

  • Educational theory, practice, and policy and the wisdom of social psychology Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J. 2014; 1 (1): 13-20
  • Academic Tenacity: Mindsets and Skills that Promote Long-Term Learning. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Dweck, C. S., Walton, G. M., Cohen, G. L. 2014
  • An experimental study on the effects of peer drinking norms on adolescents' drinker prototypes ADDICTIVE BEHAVIORS Teunissen, H. A., Spijkerman, R., Cohen, G. L., Prinstein, M. J., Engels, R. C., Scholte, R. H. 2014; 39 (1): 85-93


    Adolescents form impressions about the type of peers who drink (i.e., drinker prototypes). The evaluation of, and perceived similarity to these prototypes are related to adolescents' drinking. Peer drinking norms play an important role in the formation of prototypes. We experimentally examined whether manipulation of peer norms changed the evaluation of and perceived similarity to drinker prototypes and whether these changes were moderated by peers' popularity.In a pre-test, we assessed heavy drinker, moderate drinker and abstainer prototypes, drinking behaviors and peer-perceived popularity among 599 adolescents. Additionally, 88 boys from this sample participated in a simulated chat room, in which they interacted with peers from school. These peers were in fact pre-programmed e-confederates, who were either popular or unpopular and who communicated either pro-alcohol or anti-alcohol norms. After the chat room interaction we assessed participants' drinker prototypes.Participants exposed to anti-alcohol norms were more negative about, and perceived themselves as less similar to heavy drinker prototypes, than participants exposed to pro-alcohol norms. We found no effects of peer norms on moderate drinker and abstainer prototypes. Effects were not moderated by peers' popularity. We did find a main effect of popularity on perceived similarity to all prototypes. This indicated that participants rated themselves as more similar to heavy and moderate drinker prototypes and less similar to abstainer prototypes when they interacted with unpopular peers than with popular peers.Exposure to anti-alcohol norms of peers leads adolescents to form more negative prototypes of the heavy drinker. This could be an important finding for prevention and intervention programs aimed to reduce alcohol consumption among adolescents.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.addbeh.2013.08.034

    View details for Web of Science ID 000329560300011

    View details for PubMedID 24104050

  • Demystifying Values-Affirmation Interventions: Writing About Social Belonging Is a Key to Buffering Against Identity Threat PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN Shnabel, N., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Cook, J. E., Garcia, J., Cohen, G. L. 2013; 39 (5): 663–76


    Two experiments examined for the first time whether the specific content of participant-generated affirmation essays-in particular, writing about social belonging-facilitated an affirmation intervention's ability to reduce identity threat among negatively stereotyped students. Study 1, a field experiment, revealed that seventh graders assigned to a values-affirmation condition wrote about social belonging more than those assigned to a control condition. Writing about belonging, in turn, improved the grade point average (GPA) of Black, but not White students. In Study 2, using a modified "belonging-affirmation" intervention, we directly manipulated writing about social belonging before a math test described as diagnostic of math ability. The more female participants wrote about belonging, the better they performed, while there was no effect of writing about belonging for males. Writing about social belonging improved performance only for members of negatively stereotyped groups. Implications for self-affirmation theory and practice are discussed.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0146167213480816

    View details for Web of Science ID 000319222100008

    View details for PubMedID 23478675

  • Deflecting the Trajectory and Changing the Narrative: How Self-Affirmation Affects Academic Performance and Motivation Under Identity Threat JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Sherman, D. K., Hartson, K. A., Binning, K. R., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Taborsky-Barba, S., Tomassetti, S., Nussbaum, A. D., Cohen, G. L. 2013; 104 (4): 591-618


    To the extent that stereotype and identity threat undermine academic performance, social psychological interventions that lessen threat could buffer threatened students and improve performance. Two studies, each featuring a longitudinal field experiment in a mixed-ethnicity middle school, examined whether a values affirmation writing exercise could attenuate the achievement gap between Latino American and European American students. In Study 1, students completed multiple self-affirmation (or control) activities as part of their regular class assignments. Latino American students, the identity threatened group, earned higher grades in the affirmation than control condition, whereas White students were unaffected. The effects persisted 3 years and, for many students, continued into high school by lifting their performance trajectory. Study 2 featured daily diaries to examine how the affirmation affected psychology under identity threat, with the expectation that it would shape students' narratives of their ongoing academic experience. By conferring a big-picture focus, affirmation was expected to broaden construals, prevent daily adversity from being experienced as identity threat, and insulate academic motivation from identity threat. Indeed, affirmed Latino American students not only earned higher grades than nonaffirmed Latino American students but also construed events at a more abstract than concrete level and were less likely to have their daily feelings of academic fit and motivation undermined by identity threat. Discussion centers on how social-psychological processes propagate themselves over time and how timely interventions targeting these processes can promote well-being and achievement.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/a0031495

    View details for Web of Science ID 000316620300001

    View details for PubMedID 23397969

  • Self-affirmation as a deliberate coping strategy: The moderating role of choice JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Silverman, A., Logel, C., Cohen, G. L. 2013; 49 (1): 93-98
  • A social-psychological approach to educational intervention Behavioral foundations of policy Garcia, J., Cohen, G. L. edited by Shafir, E. 2013
  • The Effect of Values Affirmation on Race-Discordant Patient-Provider Communication ARCHIVES OF INTERNAL MEDICINE Havranek, E. P., Hanratty, R., Tate, C., Dickinson, L. M., Steiner, J. F., Cohen, G., Blair, I. A. 2012; 172 (21): 1662-1667


    Communication between African American patients and white health care providers has been shown to be of poorer quality when compared with race-concordant patient-provider communication. Fear on the part of patients that providers stereotype them negatively might be one cause of this poorer communication. This stereotype threat may be lessened by a values-affirmation intervention.In a blinded experiment, we randomized 99 African American patients with hypertension to perform a values-affirmation exercise or a control exercise before a visit with their primary care provider. We compared patient-provider communication for the 2 groups using audio recordings of the visit analyzed with the Roter Interaction Analysis System. We also evaluated visit satisfaction, trust, stress, and mood after the visit by means of a questionnaire.Patients in the intervention group requested and provided more information about their medical condition (mean [SE] number of utterances, 66.3 [6.8] in the values-affirmation group vs 48.1 [5.9] in the control group [P = .03]). Patient-provider communication in the intervention group was characterized as being more interested, friendly, responsive, interactive, and respectful (P = .02) and less depressed and distressed (P = .03). Patient questionnaires did not detect differences in visit satisfaction, trust, stress, or mood. Mean visit duration did not differ significantly between the groups (19.2 minutes in the control group vs 20.5 minutes in the intervention group [P = .29]).A values-affirmation exercise improves aspects of patient-provider communication in race-discordant primary care visits. The clinical impact of the intervention must be defined before widespread implementation can be recommended.

    View details for DOI 10.1001/2013.jamainternmed.258

    View details for Web of Science ID 000311513000012

    View details for PubMedID 23128568

  • Adolescents' Conformity to Their Peers' Pro-Alcohol and Anti-Alcohol Norms: The Power of Popularity ALCOHOLISM-CLINICAL AND EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH Teunissen, H. A., Spijkerman, R., Prinstein, M. J., Cohen, G. L., Engels, R. C., Scholte, R. H. 2012; 36 (7): 1257-1267


    Research on adolescent development suggests that peer influence may play a key role in explaining adolescents' willingness to drink, an important predictor of drinking initiation. However, experiments that thoroughly examine these peer influence effects are scarce. This study experimentally examined whether adolescents adapted their willingness to drink when confronted with the pro-alcohol and anti-alcohol norms of peers in a chat room session and whether these effects were moderated by the social status of peers.We collected survey data on drinking behavior, social status, and willingness to drink among five hundred thirty-two 14- to 15-year-olds. Of this sample, 74 boys participated in a simulated Internet chat room session in which participants were confronted with preprogrammed pro-alcohol or anti-alcohol norms of "grade-mates" which were in fact preprogrammed e-confederates. Accordingly, we tested whether participants adapted their willingness to drink to the norms of these grade-mates. To test whether adaptations in participants' willingness to drink would depend on grade-mates' social status, we manipulated their level of popularity.The results indicated that adolescents adapted their willingness to drink substantially to the pro-alcohol (i.e., more willing to drink) as well as anti-alcohol (i.e., less willing to drink) norms of these peers. Adolescents were more influenced by high-status than low-status peers. Interestingly, the anti-alcohol norms of the popular peers seemed most influential in that adolescents were less willing to drink when they were confronted with the anti-alcohol norms of popular peers. Additionally, the adolescents internalized these anti-alcohol norms.This study gives more insight into peer influence processes that encourage or discourage alcohol use. These results could be fundamental for the development of prevention and intervention programs to reduce alcohol use among the adolescents.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01728.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000306219400020

    View details for PubMedID 22509937

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3666104

  • Mere Belonging: The Power of Social Connections JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Walton, G. M., Cohen, G. L., Cwir, D., Spencer, S. J. 2012; 102 (3): 513-532


    Four experiments examined the effect on achievement motivation of mere belonging, a minimal social connection to another person or group in a performance domain. Mere belonging was expected to increase motivation by creating socially shared goals around a performance task. Participants were led to believe that an endeavor provided opportunities for positive social interactions (Experiment 1), that they shared a birthday with a student majoring in an academic field (Experiment 2), that they belonged to a minimal group arbitrarily identified with a performance domain (Experiment 3), or that they had task-irrelevant preferences similar to a peer who pursued a series of goals (Experiment 4). Relative to control conditions that held constant other sources of motivation, each social-link manipulation raised motivation, including persistence on domain-relevant tasks (Experiments 1-3) and the accessibility of relevant goals (Experiment 4). The results suggest that even minimal cues of social connectedness affect important aspects of self.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/a0025731

    View details for Web of Science ID 000300744000005

    View details for PubMedID 22023711

  • Chronic Threat and Contingent Belonging: Protective Benefits of Values Affirmation on Identity Development JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Cook, J. E., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Cohen, G. L. 2012; 102 (3): 479-496


    Two longitudinal field experiments in a middle school examined how a brief "values affirmation" affects students' psychological experience and the relationship between psychological experience and environmental threat over 2 years. Together these studies suggest that values affirmations insulate individuals' sense of belonging from environmental threat during a key developmental transition. Study 1 provided an analysis of new data from a previously reported study. African American students in the control condition felt a decreasing sense of belonging during middle school, with low-performing students dropping more in 7th grade and high-performing students dropping more in 8th grade. The affirmation reduced this decline for both groups. Consistent with the notion that affirmation insulates belonging from environmental threat, affirmed African American students' sense of belonging in Study 1 fluctuated less over 2 years and became less contingent on academic performance. Based on the idea that developmentally sensitive interventions can have long-lasting benefits, Study 2 showed that the affirmation intervention was more effective if delivered before any drop in performance and subsequent psychological toll could unfold. The role of identity threat and affirmation in affecting the encoding of social experience, and the corresponding importance of timing treatments to developmentally sensitive periods, are explored.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/a0026312

    View details for Web of Science ID 000300744000003

    View details for PubMedID 22082058

  • The Role of the Self in Physical Health: Testing the Effect of a Values-Affirmation Intervention on Weight Loss PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE Logel, C., Cohen, G. L. 2012; 23 (1): 53-55

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0956797611421936

    View details for Web of Science ID 000300955100010

    View details for PubMedID 22157517

  • An identity threat perspective on intervention Stereotype threat: Theory, Process, and Application Cohen, G. L., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J. edited by Inzlicht, M., Schmader, T. New York: Oxford University Press. 2012
  • Identity, belief, and bias Ideology, psychology, and law Cohen, G. L. 2012: 385-403
  • A social psychological approach to educational intervention Behavioral foundations of public policy Garcia, J., Cohen, G. 2012: 329-347
  • Replicating a Self-Affirmation Intervention to Address Gender Differences: Successes and Challenges Kost-Smith, L. E., Pollock, S. J., Finkelstein, N. D., Cohen, G. L., Ito, T. A., Miyake, A., Rebello, N. S., Engelhardt, P. V., Singh, C. AMER INST PHYSICS. 2012: 231–34

    View details for DOI 10.1063/1.3680037

    View details for Web of Science ID 000301281300056

  • Susceptibility to Peer Influence: Using a Performance-Based Measure to Identify Adolescent Males at Heightened Risk for Deviant Peer Socialization DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY Prinstein, M. J., Brechwald, W. A., Cohen, G. L. 2011; 47 (4): 1167-1172


    A substantial amount of research has suggested that adolescents' attitudes and behaviors are influenced by peers; however, little is known regarding adolescents' individual variability, or susceptibility, to peer influence. In this study, a performance-based index from an experimental paradigm was used to directly measure adolescents' susceptibility to peers. A total of 36 adolescent boys participated in a "chat room" experiment in which they ostensibly were exposed to deviant or risky social norms communicated either by high-peer-status (i.e., popular, well-liked) or low-peer-status (i.e., unpopular, disliked) grade mates who actually were electronic confederates. Changes in adolescents' responses before and after exposure to peer norms were used as a measure of peer influence susceptibility. These same adolescents completed a questionnaire assessment at the study outset and again 18 months later to assess their actual engagement in deviant behavior and their perceptions of their best friend's engagement in deviant behavior. Only among adolescents with high levels of susceptibility to high-status peers was a significant longitudinal association revealed between their best friend's baseline deviant behavior and adolescents' own deviant behavior 18 months later. Findings support the predictive validity of a performance-based susceptibility measure and suggest that adolescents' peer influence susceptibility may generalize across peer contexts.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/a0023274

    View details for Web of Science ID 000292481800026

    View details for PubMedID 21463036

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3348704

  • A Brief Social-Belonging Intervention Improves Academic and Health Outcomes of Minority Students SCIENCE Walton, G. M., Cohen, G. L. 2011; 331 (6023): 1447-1451


    A brief intervention aimed at buttressing college freshmen's sense of social belonging in school was tested in a randomized controlled trial (N = 92), and its academic and health-related consequences over 3 years are reported. The intervention aimed to lessen psychological perceptions of threat on campus by framing social adversity as common and transient. It used subtle attitude-change strategies to lead participants to self-generate the intervention message. The intervention was expected to be particularly beneficial to African-American students (N = 49), a stereotyped and socially marginalized group in academics, and less so to European-American students (N = 43). Consistent with these expectations, over the 3-year observation period the intervention raised African Americans' grade-point average (GPA) relative to multiple control groups and halved the minority achievement gap. This performance boost was mediated by the effect of the intervention on subjective construal: It prevented students from seeing adversity on campus as an indictment of their belonging. Additionally, the intervention improved African Americans' self-reported health and well-being and reduced their reported number of doctor visits 3 years postintervention. Senior-year surveys indicated no awareness among participants of the intervention's impact. The results suggest that social belonging is a psychological lever where targeted intervention can have broad consequences that lessen inequalities in achievement and health.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1198364

    View details for Web of Science ID 000288504000044

    View details for PubMedID 21415354

  • More Than Inspiration: Role Models Convey Multiple and Multifaceted Messages PSYCHOLOGICAL INQUIRY Manke, K. J., Cohen, G. L. 2011; 22 (4): 275-279
  • Social psychology and social change Science Cohen, G. L. 2011; 334: 178-179
  • Sharing Motivation SOCIAL MOTIVATION Walton, G. M., Cohen, G. L., Dunning, D. 2011: 79–101
  • Seeing the Other Side: Reducing Political Partisanship via Self-Affirmation in the 2008 Presidential Election ANALYSES OF SOCIAL ISSUES AND PUBLIC POLICY Binning, K. R., Sherman, D. K., Cohen, G. L., Heitland, K. 2010; 10 (1): 276-292
  • Who Fears the HPV Vaccine, Who Doesn't, and Why? An Experimental Study of the Mechanisms of Cultural Cognition LAW AND HUMAN BEHAVIOR Kahan, D. M., Braman, D., Cohen, G. L., Gastil, J., Slovic, P. 2010; 34 (6): 501-516


    The cultural cognition thesis holds that individuals form risk perceptions that reflect their commitments to contested views of the good society. We conducted a study that used the dispute over mandatory HPV vaccination to test the cultural cognition thesis. Although public health officials have recommended that all girls aged 11 or 12 be vaccinated for HPV-a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer-political controversy has blocked adoption of mandatory school-enrollment vaccination programs in all but one state. An experimental study of a large sample of American adults (N = 1,538) found that cultural cognition generates disagreement about the risks and benefits of the vaccine through two mechanisms: biased assimilation, and the credibility heuristic. We discuss theoretical and practical implications.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s10979-009-9201-0

    View details for Web of Science ID 000284781900006

    View details for PubMedID 20076997

  • Reducing the Gender Achievement Gap in College Science: A Classroom Study of Values Affirmation SCIENCE Miyake, A., Kost-Smith, L. E., Finkelstein, N. D., Pollock, S. J., Cohen, G. L., Ito, T. A. 2010; 330 (6008): 1234-1237


    In many science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines, women are outperformed by men in test scores, jeopardizing their success in science-oriented courses and careers. The current study tested the effectiveness of a psychological intervention, called values affirmation, in reducing the gender achievement gap in a college-level introductory physics class. In this randomized double-blind study, 399 students either wrote about their most important values or not, twice at the beginning of the 15-week course. Values affirmation reduced the male-female performance and learning difference substantially and elevated women's modal grades from the C to B range. Benefits were strongest for women who tended to endorse the stereotype that men do better than women in physics. A brief psychological intervention may be a promising way to address the gender gap in science performance and learning.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1195996

    View details for Web of Science ID 000284613700039

    View details for PubMedID 21109670

  • Gender Differences in Physics 1: The Impact of a Self-Affirmation Intervention Kost-Smith, L. E., Pollock, S. J., Finkelstein, N. D., Cohen, G. L., Ito, T. A., Miyake, A., Singh, C., Sabella, M., Rebello, S. AMER INST PHYSICS. 2010: 197-+

    View details for DOI 10.1063/1.3515197

    View details for Web of Science ID 000285800400050

  • Recursive Processes in Self-Affirmation: Intervening to Close the Minority Achievement Gap SCIENCE Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Apfel, N., Brzustoski, P. 2009; 324 (5925): 400–403


    A 2-year follow-up of a randomized field experiment previously reported in Science is presented. A subtle intervention to lessen minority students' psychological threat related to being negatively stereotyped in school was tested in an experiment conducted three times with three independent cohorts (N = 133, 149, and 134). The intervention, a series of brief but structured writing assignments focusing students on a self-affirming value, reduced the racial achievement gap. Over 2 years, the grade point average (GPA) of African Americans was, on average, raised by 0.24 grade points. Low-achieving African Americans were particularly benefited. Their GPA improved, on average, 0.41 points, and their rate of remediation or grade repetition was less (5% versus 18%). Additionally, treated students' self-perceptions showed long-term benefits. Findings suggest that because initial psychological states and performance determine later outcomes by providing a baseline and initial trajectory for a recursive process, apparently small but early alterations in trajectory can have long-term effects. Implications for psychological theory and educational practice are discussed.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1170769

    View details for Web of Science ID 000265221600046

    View details for PubMedID 19372432

  • Cultural cognition of the risks and benefits of nanotechnology NATURE NANOTECHNOLOGY Kahan, D. M., Braman, D., Slovic, P., Gastil, J., Cohen, G. 2009; 4 (2): 87–90


    How is public opinion towards nanotechnology likely to evolve? The 'familiarity hypothesis' holds that support for nanotechnology will likely grow as awareness of it expands. The basis of this conjecture is opinion polling, which finds that few members of the public claim to know much about nanotechnology, but that those who say they do are substantially more likely to believe its benefits outweigh its risks. Some researchers, however, have avoided endorsing the familiarity hypothesis, stressing that cognitive heuristics and biases could create anxiety as the public learns more about this novel science. We conducted an experimental study aimed at determining how members of the public would react to balanced information about nanotechnology risks and benefits. Finding no support for the familiarity hypothesis, the study instead yielded strong evidence that public attitudes are likely to be shaped by psychological dynamics associated with cultural cognition.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/NNANO.2008.341

    View details for Web of Science ID 000263492500010

    View details for PubMedID 19197308

  • Reducing narcissistic aggression by buttressing self-esteem: An experimental field study Psychological Science Thomaes, S., Bushman, B. J., de Castro, B. O., Cohen, G. L., Denissen, J. J. 2009; 20 (12): 1536-1542
  • The defensive maintenance of egalitarian values: An idealistic fallacy Hahn, A., Cohen, G. PSYCHOLOGY PRESS. 2008: 786
  • Identity, belonging, and achievement: A model, interventions, implications Current directions in psychological science Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J. 2008; 17 (6): 365-369
  • Bridging the partisan divide: Self-affirmation reduces ideological closed-mindedness and inflexibility in negotiation JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Cohen, G. L., Bastardi, A., Sherman, D. K., Hsu, L., McGoey, M., Ross, L. 2007; 93 (3): 415-430


    Three studies link resistance to probative information and intransigence in negotiation to concerns of identity maintenance. Each shows that affirmations of personal integrity (vs. nonaffirmation or threat) can reduce resistance and intransigence but that this effect occurs only when individuals' partisan identity and/or identity-related convictions are made salient. Affirmation made participants' assessment of a report critical of U.S. foreign policy less dependent on their political views, but only when the identity relevance of the issue rather than the goal of rationality was salient (Study 1). Affirmation increased concession making in a negotiation over abortion policy, but again this effect was moderated by identity salience (Studies 2 and 3). Indeed, although affirmed negotiators proved relatively more open to compromise when either the salience of their true convictions or the importance of remaining faithful to those convictions was heightened, the reverse was true when the salient goal was compromise. The theoretical and applied significance of these findings are discussed.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/0022-3514.93.3.415

    View details for Web of Science ID 000248992100007

    View details for PubMedID 17723057

  • A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement Walton, G. M., Cohen, G. L. AMER PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOC/EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHING FOUNDATION. 2007: 82–96


    Stigmatization can give rise to belonging uncertainty. In this state, people are sensitive to information diagnostic of the quality of their social connections. Two experiments tested how belonging uncertainty undermines the motivation and achievement of people whose group is negatively characterized in academic settings. In Experiment 1, students were led to believe that they might have few friends in an intellectual domain. Whereas White students were unaffected, Black students (stigmatized in academics) displayed a drop in their sense of belonging and potential. In Experiment 2, an intervention that mitigated doubts about social belonging in college raised the academic achievement (e.g., college grades) of Black students but not of White students. Implications for theories of achievement motivation and intervention are discussed.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/0022-3514.92.1.82

    View details for Web of Science ID 000243249300007

    View details for PubMedID 17201544

  • Preparing School Leaders for a Changing World: Lessons from Exemplary Leadership Development Programs. School Leadership Study. Final Report. Stanford Educational Leadership Institute Darling-Hammond, L., LaPointe, M., Meyerson, D., Orr, M. T., Cohen, C. 2007
  • Bridging the partisan divide: Self-affirmation reduces ideological closed-mindedness and inflexibility in negotiation. Journal of personality and social psychology Cohen, G. L., Sherman, D. K., Bastardi, A., Hsu, L., McGoey, M., Ross, L. 2007; 93 (3): 415
  • Reducing the racial achievement gap: A social-psychological intervention SCIENCE Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., Master, A. 2006; 313 (5791): 1307–10


    Two randomized field experiments tested a social-psychological intervention designed to improve minority student performance and increase our understanding of how psychological threat mediates performance in chronically evaluative real-world environments. We expected that the risk of confirming a negative stereotype aimed at one's group could undermine academic performance in minority students by elevating their level of psychological threat. We tested whether such psychological threat could be lessened by having students reaffirm their sense of personal adequacy or "self-integrity." The intervention, a brief in-class writing assignment, significantly improved the grades of African American students and reduced the racial achievement gap by 40%. These results suggest that the racial achievement gap, a major social concern in the United States, could be ameliorated by the use of timely and targeted social-psychological interventions.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1128317

    View details for Web of Science ID 000240313500047

    View details for PubMedID 16946074

  • Peer contagion of aggression and health risk behavior among adolescent males: An experimental investigation of effects on public conduct and private attitudes Child development Cohen, G. L., Prinstein, M. J. 2006; 77 (4): 967-983
  • The psychology of self-defense: Self-affirmation theory Advances in Experimental Social Psychology Sherman, D. K., Cohen, G. L. edited by Zanna, M. P. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. 2006; 38: 183–242
  • "I am us": Negative stereotypes as collective threats JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J. 2005; 89 (4): 566–82


    Collective threat is the fear that an in-group member's behavior might reinforce a negative stereotype of one's group. In a field study, self-reported collective threat was higher in stereotyped minorities than in Whites and was linked to lower self-esteem in both groups. In 3 experimental studies, a potentially poor performance by an in-group member on a stereotype-relevant task proved threatening, as evidenced by lower self-esteem among minority students in 2 experiments and women in a 3rd experiment. The latter study demonstrated the generality of collective threat. Collective threat also undermined academic performance and affected self-stereotyping, stereotype activation, and physical distancing from the in-group member. Results further suggest that group identification plays a role in whether people use an avoidance or challenge strategy in coping with collective threat. Implications for theories of social identity and stigmatization are discussed.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/0022-3514.89.4.566

    View details for Web of Science ID 000233251700008

    View details for PubMedID 16287419

  • Constructed criteria - Redefining merit to justify discrimination PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE Uhlmann, E. L., Cohen, G. L. 2005; 16 (6): 474–80


    This article presents an account of job discrimination according to which people redefine merit in a manner congenial to the idiosyncratic credentials of individual applicants from desired groups. In three studies, participants assigned male and female applicants to gender-stereotypical jobs. However, they did not view male and female applicants as having different strengths and weaknesses. Instead, they redefined the criteria for success at the job as requiring the specific credentials that a candidate of the desired gender happened to have. Commitment to hiring criteria prior to disclosure of the applicant's gender eliminated discrimination, suggesting that bias in the construction of hiring criteria plays a causal role in discrimination.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000229425100010

    View details for PubMedID 15943674

  • Stereotype threat and the social and scientific contexts of the race achievement gap AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST Cohen, G. L., Sherman, D. K. 2005; 60 (3): 270–71

    View details for DOI 10.1037/0003-066X.60.3.270

    View details for Web of Science ID 000228112300017

    View details for PubMedID 15796692

  • "I am us": negative stereotypes as collective threats. Journal of personality and social psychology Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J. 2005; 89 (4): 566-582
  • Constructed criteria: Redefining merit to justify discrimination Psychological Science Uhlmann, E. L., Cohen, G. L. 2005; 16 (6): 474-480
  • Teaching cooperative learning: The challenge for teacher education Cohen, E. G., Brody, C. M., Sapon-Shevin, M. Suny Press. 2004
  • Party over policy: The dominating impact of group influence on political beliefs JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Cohen, G. L. 2003; 85 (5): 808–22


    Four studies demonstrated both the power of group influence in persuasion and people's blindness to it. Even under conditions of effortful processing, attitudes toward a social policy depended almost exclusively upon the stated position of one's political party. This effect overwhelmed the impact of both the policy's objective content and participants' ideological beliefs (Studies 1-3), and it was driven by a shift in the assumed factual qualities of the policy and in its perceived moral connotations (Study 4). Nevertheless, participants denied having been influenced by their political group, although they believed that other individuals, especially their ideological adversaries, would be so influenced. The underappreciated role of social identity in persuasion is discussed.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/0022-3514.85.5.808

    View details for Web of Science ID 000186288900003

    View details for PubMedID 14599246

  • Adolescent oral sex, peer popularity, and perceptions of best friends' sexual behavior JOURNAL OF PEDIATRIC PSYCHOLOGY Prinstein, M. J., Meade, C. S., Cohen, G. L. 2003; 28 (4): 243–49


    To provided initial descriptive information regarding adolescents' engagement in oral sex and to investigate adolescents' perceptions of their best friends' sexual behavior and peer-reported popularity as two social mechanisms that may influence engagement in oral sex.A total of 212 tenth graders reported their engagement in oral sex and intercourse, number of sexual partners, and use of sexually transmitted infection (STI) protection, as well as perceptions of their best friends' sexual behaviors. Sociometric assessment yielded peer-reported measures of adolescents' preference- and reputation-based popularity.Adolescents were more likely to report engagement in oral sex than intercourse, report more oral sex partners than intercourse partners, and were unlikely to report use of STI protection during oral sex. Perceptions of best friends' behavior were significantly associated with adolescents' own oral sex behavior, but not intercourse. Adolescents who reported sexual activity had high levels of reputation-based popularity, but not likeability among peers; however, sex with more partners was associated with lower levels of popularity.Implications for prevention programs are discussed.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/jpepsy/jsg012

    View details for Web of Science ID 000182743700003

    View details for PubMedID 12730281

  • Stereotype lift Journal of Experimental Social Psychology Walton, G. M., Cohen, G. L. 2003; 39 (5): 456-467
  • Party over policy: The dominating impact of group influence on political beliefs Journal of personality and social psychology Cohen, G. L. 2003; 85 (5): 808-822
  • A barrier of mistrust: How negative stereotypes affect cross-race mentoring Improving academic achievement: Impact of psychological factors on education Cohen, G. L., Steele, C. M. edited by Aronson, J. San Diego: Academic Press. 2002: 303–328
  • When beliefs yield to evidence: Reducing biased evaluation by affirming the self PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN Cohen, G. L., Aronson, J., Steele, C. M. 2000; 26 (9): 1151-1164
  • The mentor’s dilemma: Providing critical feedback across the racial divide Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin Cohen, G. L., Steele, C. M., Ross, L. D. 1999; 25 (10): 1302-1318