I am a social psychologist with experience leading centers and teams within higher ed. I study and put into practice strategies to help people live, work, and thrive in today’s increasingly diverse and divided world. My expertise is in harnessing the power of culture to support organizational and societal change and disrupting cultural defaults that lead to bias and inequality. My research has been published in peer-reviewed journals, covered by national media outlets, and supported by leading foundations.

As Executive Director and Senior Research Scientist at Stanford SPARQ, I oversee the center’s team and projects. I partner with practitioners in criminal justice, education, economic mobility, education, health, media, and technology to leverage behavioral science insights to drive change. I prioritize an approach to research that is grounded in society’s most pressing problems and centers the perspectives of practitioners working to lead change on the ground. I create opportunities for researchers and practitioners to learn from one another in mutually beneficial partnerships. I also regularly speak and advise on how social science research on race, culture, and inequality can drive strategies for change.

Before Stanford SPARQ, I was Associate Director of Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) and Stanford's Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE). I am a Stanford Ph.D. alum in Social Psychology.

Academic Appointments

Administrative Appointments

  • Executive Director & Senior Research Scientist, Stanford SPARQ (2022 - Present)
  • Managing Director & Senior Research Scientist, Stanford SPARQ (2018 - 2022)
  • Senior Research Scientist, Stanford SPARQ (2016 - 2018)
  • Associate Director, Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity (CCSRE) (2012 - 2016)
  • Associate Director, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) (2011 - 2012)

Research Interests

  • Diversity and Identity
  • Higher Education
  • Leadership and Organization
  • Poverty and Inequality
  • Psychology
  • Race and Ethnicity

All Publications

  • "When the Cruiser Lights Come On": Using the Science of Bias & Culture to Combat Racial Disparities in Policing DAEDALUS Hetey, R. C., Hamedani, M. G., Markus, H., Eberhardt, J. L. 2024; 153 (1): 123-150
  • The benefits of difference-education interventions in lower-resourced institutions. Journal of experimental psychology. General Stephens, N. M., Townsend, S. S., Carey, R. M., Hamedani, M. G., Brannon, T. N., Murphy, M. C. 2023


    Difference-education is an intervention that addresses psychological barriers that can undermine the academic performance of first-generation college students (i.e., those who have parents without 4-year degrees). Difference-education interventions improve first-generation students' performance by empowering them to navigate higher education environments more effectively. They also improve students' comfort with social group difference. However, these benefits have only been documented in higher-resourced institutions. The present research asks two questions about whether these benefits also extend to lower-resourced institutions-that is, schools with fewer resources to invest in students than the universities where prior difference-education interventions were delivered. First, is difference-education effective in improving first-generation students' academic performance in lower-resourced institutions, and does it do so by increasing empowerment? Second, does difference-education improve comfort with social group difference in lower-resourced institutions, and is it unique in its ability to do so? With students from four lower-resourced institutions, we examined these questions by comparing the results of a difference-education intervention to a control condition and social-belonging intervention. We found that while some benefits of difference-education interventions extend to lower-resourced institutions, others do not. First, like prior interventions, difference-education improves first-generation students' academic performance and comfort with social group difference. Unlike prior interventions, these effects did not persist beyond the first term and students' academic performance benefits were not explained by empowerment. We also found partial evidence that the benefits for comfort with social group difference were unique compared to a social-belonging intervention. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

    View details for DOI 10.1037/xge0001499

    View details for PubMedID 38032615

  • We built this culture (so we can change it): Seven principles for intentional culture change. The American psychologist Hamedani, M. G., Markus, H. R., Hetey, R. C., Eberhardt, J. L. 2023


    Calls for culture change abound. Headlines regularly feature calls to change the "broken" or "toxic" cultures of institutions and organizations, and people debate which norms and practices across society are now defunct. As people blame current societal problems on culture, the proposed fix is "culture change." But what is culture change? How does it work? Can it be effective? This article presents a novel social psychological framework for intentional culture change-actively and deliberately modifying the mutually reinforcing features of a culture. Synthesizing insights from research and application, it proposes an integrated, evidence-based perspective centered around seven core principles for intentional culture change: Principle 1: People are culturally shaped shapers, so they can be culture changers; Principle 2: Identifying, mapping, and evaluating the key levels of culture helps locate where to target change; Principle 3: Culture change happens in both top-down and bottom-up ways and is more effective when the levels are in alignment; Principle 4: Culture change can be easier when it leverages existing core values and harder when it challenges deep-seated defaults and biases; Principle 5: Culture change typically involves power struggles and identity threats; Principle 6: Cultures interact with one another and change can cause backlash, resistance, and clashes; and Principle 7: Timing and readiness matter. While these principles may be broadly used, here they are applied to the issue of social inequality in the United States. Even though culture change feels particularly daunting in this problem area, it can also be empowering-especially when people leverage evidence-based insights and tools to reimagine and rebuild their cultures. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

    View details for DOI 10.1037/amp0001209

    View details for PubMedID 37971839

  • Is Diversity Enough? Cross-Race and Cross-Class Interactions in College Occur Less Often Than Expected, but Benefit Members of Lower Status Groups When They Occur JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY Carey, R. M., Stephens, N. M., Townsend, S. M., Hamedani, M. G. 2022


    More than ever before, institutions of higher education are seeking to increase the racial and social class diversity of their student bodies. Given these efforts, the present research asks two broad questions. First, how frequently do intergroup interactions occur across the lines of race and social class, and to what extent do these interactions reflect the diversity of a setting? Second, when cross-race and cross-class interactions occur, how do individuals experience them and what consequences do they have for their outcomes in these settings? Leveraging a longitudinal design and daily diary methods, we conducted the first large study (Ninteractions = 11,460) which tracks the frequency, experience, and consequences of meaningful cross-race and cross-class interactions. We found that students reported far fewer cross-race and cross-class interactions than would occur at chance given the racial and social class diversity of their student bodies. Furthermore, students experienced less satisfaction and perspective-taking in cross-race and cross-class interactions compared to same-race and same-class interactions, respectively. Nevertheless, these cross-group interactions predicted better academic performance for underrepresented racial minority students and students from working and lower class backgrounds. They did so, in part, by increasing students' feelings of inclusion (i.e., increased belonging and reduced social identity threat). Together, these findings suggest that the mere presence of diversity is not enough to foster meaningful intergroup interactions. Furthermore, fostering intergroup interactions may be one important pathway toward reducing racial and social class disparities. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

    View details for DOI 10.1037/pspa0000302

    View details for Web of Science ID 000764277300001

    View details for PubMedID 35254855

  • Difference-Education Improves First-Generation Students' Grades Throughout College and Increases Comfort With Social Group Difference PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN Townsend, S. M., Stephens, N. M., Hamedani, M. G. 2021; 47 (10): 1510-1519


    Difference-education interventions teach people a contextual theory of difference: that social group difference comes from participating in and adapting to diverse sociocultural contexts. At two universities, we delivered difference-education interventions during the college transition and examined long-term academic and intergroup outcomes. Nearly 4 years later, first-generation students who received a difference-education intervention earned higher grades and were more likely to attain honors standing than those in the control condition. Based on an end-of-college survey with students at one of the two universities, both first-generation and continuing-generation students showed greater comfort with social group difference compared with students in the control condition. Our results demonstrate for the first time that teaching first-generation students a contextual theory of difference can lead to long-term academic benefits that persist until graduation. This work also provides new evidence that difference-education can improve comfort with social group difference.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0146167220982909

    View details for Web of Science ID 000636025200001

    View details for PubMedID 33559529

  • Difference-Education Improving Disadvantaged Students' Academic Outcomes by Changing Their Theory of Difference HANDBOOK OF WISE INTERVENTIONS Stephens, N. M., Hamedani, M. G., Townsend, S. M., Walton, G. M., Crum, A. J. 2021: 126-147
  • A Diversity Ideology Intervention: Multiculturalism Reduces the Racial Achievement Gap SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PERSONALITY SCIENCE Birnbaum, H. J., Stephens, N. M., Townsend, S. M., Hamedani, M. G. 2021; 12 (5): 751-759
  • Empowerment Through Difference: An Online Difference-Education Intervention Closes the Social Class Achievement Gap PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN Townsend, S. M., Stephens, N. M., Smallets, S., Hamedani, M. G. 2019; 45 (7): 1068-1083


    A growing body of work suggests that teaching college students a contextual understanding of difference-that students' different experiences in college are the result of participating in different contexts before college-can improve the academic performance of first-generation students (i.e., students whose parents do not have 4-year college degrees). However, only one empirical study, using an in-person panel format, has demonstrated the benefits of this intervention approach. In the present research, we conduct two studies to test the effectiveness of a new difference-education intervention administered online to individual students. In both studies, first-year students read senior students' and recent graduates' stories about how they adjusted to college. In the difference-education condition, stories conveyed a contextual understanding of difference. We found that the online intervention effectively taught students a contextual understanding of difference and closed the social class achievement gap by increasing first-generation students' psychological empowerment and, thereby, end-of-second-year grades.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0146167218804548

    View details for Web of Science ID 000470758200007

    View details for PubMedID 30404569

  • Understanding Culture Clashes and Catalyzing Change: A Culture Cycle Approach FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY Hamedani, M. G., Markus, H. 2019; 10
  • Difference Matters: Teaching Students a Contextual Theory of Difference Can Help Them Succeed PERSPECTIVES ON PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE Stephens, N. M., Hamedani, M. G., Townsend, S. M. 2019; 14 (2): 156-174


    Today's increasingly diverse and divided world requires the ability to understand and navigate across social-group differences. We propose that interventions that teach students about these differences can not only improve all students' intergroup skills but also help disadvantaged students succeed in school. Drawing on interdisciplinary research, this article theorizes that teaching students a contextual understanding of difference can accomplish both of these important goals. Understanding difference as contextual means recognizing that social-group differences come from participating in and adapting to diverse sociocultural contexts. This article begins by reviewing research that highlights two distinct understandings of social-group differences-as contextual or essential-and demonstrates their consequences for intergroup outcomes. We then review research on multicultural and social justice education that highlights the potential benefits of educating students about social-group differences. We propose that these educational approaches are associated with intergroup and academic benefits for one key reason: They teach students a contextual theory of difference. Finally, to illustrate and provide causal evidence for our theory of how a contextual understanding of difference affords these benefits, this article provides an overview of the first social psychological intervention to teach students a contextual understanding of difference: difference-education.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/1745691618797957

    View details for Web of Science ID 000460532100003

    View details for PubMedID 30566379

  • People Are Culturally Shaped Shapers The Psychological Science of Culture and Culture Change HANDBOOK OF CULTURAL PSYCHOLOGY, 2 EDITION Markus, H., Hamedani, M. G., Cohen, D., Kitayama, S. 2019: 11-52
  • A Difference-Education Intervention Equips First-Generation College Students to Thrive in the Face of Stressful College Situations PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE Stephens, N. M., Townsend, S. S., Hamedani, M. G., Destin, M., Manzo, V. 2015; 26 (10): 1556-1566


    A growing social psychological literature reveals that brief interventions can benefit disadvantaged students. We tested a key component of the theoretical assumption that interventions exert long-term effects because they initiate recursive processes. Focusing on how interventions alter students' responses to specific situations over time, we conducted a follow-up lab study with students who had participated in a difference-education intervention 2 years earlier. In the intervention, students learned how their social-class backgrounds mattered in college. The follow-up study assessed participants' behavioral and hormonal responses to stressful college situations. We found that difference-education participants discussed their backgrounds in a speech more frequently than control participants did, an indication that they retained the understanding of how their backgrounds mattered. Moreover, among first-generation students (i.e., students whose parents did not have 4-year degrees), those in the difference-education condition showed greater physiological thriving (i.e., anabolic-balance reactivity) than those in the control condition, which suggests that they experienced their working-class backgrounds as a strength.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0956797615593501

    View details for Web of Science ID 000362995700003

    View details for PubMedID 26290523

  • Closing the Social-Class Achievement Gap A Difference-Education Intervention Improves First-Generation Students' Academic Performance and All Students' College Transition PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE Stephens, N. M., Hamedani, M. G., Destin, M. 2014; 25 (4): 943-953


    College students who do not have parents with 4-year degrees (first-generation students) earn lower grades and encounter more obstacles to success than do students who have at least one parent with a 4-year degree (continuing-generation students). In the study reported here, we tested a novel intervention designed to reduce this social-class achievement gap with a randomized controlled trial (N = 168). Using senior college students' real-life stories, we conducted a difference-education intervention with incoming students 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).

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0956797613518349

    View details for Web of Science ID 000334017600011

    View details for PubMedID 24553359

  • Who Explains Hurricane Katrina and the Chilean Earthquake as an Act of God? The Experience of Extreme Hardship Predicts Religious Meaning-Making JOURNAL OF CROSS-CULTURAL PSYCHOLOGY Stephens, N. M., Fryberg, S. A., Markus, H. R., Hamedani, M. G. 2013; 44 (4): 606-619
  • In the Land of the Free, Interdependent Action Undermines Motivation PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE Hamedani, M. G., Markus, H. R., Fu, A. S. 2013; 24 (2): 189-196


    Today's most pressing social challenges require people to recognize their shared fate and work together--to think and act interdependently. In the three studies reported here, we found that appeals for increased interdependence may undermine the very motivation they seek to inspire. We examined the hypothesis that invoking interdependent action undermines motivation for chronically independent European Americans but not for bicultural Asian Americans who are both chronically independent and chronically interdependent. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated that priming interdependent rather than independent action undermined European Americans' motivation to perform challenging mental and physical tasks. Study 3 showed that framing an appeal for environmental sustainability in terms of interdependent rather than independent action led to decreased motivation and resource allocation among European Americans. Motivation was not undermined for Asian Americans, which reveals how behavior is divergently shaped, in the land of the free, by foundational sociocultural schemas of independence and interdependence. This research has the novel implication that it may be necessary to invoke independent behaviors in order to successfully motivate interdependence.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0956797612452864

    View details for Web of Science ID 000316641400009

    View details for PubMedID 23302297

  • My Nation, My Self: Divergent Framings of America Influence American Selves PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN Hamedani, M. G., Markus, H. R., Fu, A. S. 2011; 37 (3): 350-364


    Current public discourse calls for America to act more interdependently in the world or act more like a conjoint agent. America and American selves, however, are typically associated acting independently or disjoint agency. Since nation is a significant sociocultural source of self, the authors examine what happens to American selves if America is instead associated with conjoint agency. Study 1 surveyed participants in America and nine nations (N=610) about America's role in the world and found that although people currently associate America with disjoint agency, they overwhelmingly prefer America to be a conjoint agent. Studies 2-4 demonstrated that framing America's role in the world with conjoint agency rather than disjoint agency led Americans to see themselves more positively (Studies 2 and 3) and be less individualistic in their self-descriptions and actions (Study 4). The results reveal how changes in the sociocultural context can catalyze a corresponding change in the selves that inhabit that context.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0146167211398139

    View details for Web of Science ID 000287126600004

    View details for PubMedID 21307177

  • Why Did They "Choose" to Stay? Perspectives of Hurricane Katrina Observers and Survivors PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE Stephens, N. M., Hamedani, M. G., Markus, H. R., Bergsieker, H. B., Eloul, L. 2009; 20 (7): 878-886


    Models of agency--powerful implicit assumptions about what constitutes normatively "good" action--shaped how observers and survivors made meaning after Hurricane Katrina. In Study 1, we analyzed how 461 observers perceived survivors who evacuated (leavers) or stayed (stayers) in New Orleans. Observers described leavers positively (as agentic, independent, and in control) and stayers negatively (as passive and lacking agency). Observers' perceptions reflected the disjoint model of agency, which is prevalent in middle-class White contexts and defines "good" actions as those that emanate from within the individual and proactively influence the environment. In Study 2, we examined interviews with 79 survivors and found that leavers and stayers relied on divergent models of agency. Leavers emphasized independence, choice, and control, whereas stayers emphasized interdependence, strength, and faith. Although both leavers and stayers exercised agency, observers failed to recognize stayers' agency and derogated them because observers assumed that being independent and in control was the only way to be agentic.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000267885400014

    View details for PubMedID 19538433

  • Does interdependence equal weakness in the land of the free? Markus, H. R., Hamedani, M. PSYCHOLOGY PRESS. 2008: 720–20