Dr. Neuberg - Research Interests

What characteristics and behaviors do we most value in others, why, and how do we treat those who don’t possess or exhibit them?

The standard social science approach presumes that human social preferences are culturally determined, essentially arbitrary, and thus highly variable across social contexts. While not denying a critical role for sociocultural processes, I suggest that human social preferences are significantly (but imperfectly) constrained by our evolved nature as ultrasocial animals. In light of the extensiveness of human social interdependence and group investment, I believe that people value individuals and groups seen as facilitating effective ingroup functioning and stigmatize those seen as threatening it. Based on a consideration of group processes and structures fundamental to group success, we have derived preliminary taxonomies of (1) specific social threats to which people are generally attuned, and (2) the specific functional emotional and behavioral responses these threats elicit.

Emerging from this “sociofunctional” approach has been a set of supportive studies, including a line of research focusing on stereotypes and prejudices. This research highlights a problematic assumption characterizing nearly all theorizing and the huge bulk of empirical investigation of prejudice—that prejudice can be viewed as an attitude, as a relatively straightforward negative (or positive) evaluation of a group and its members.  Instead, our research demonstrates that different groups elicit qualitatively different prejudices (plural)—that some groups elicit profiles of specific emotions characterized primarily by anger, others by disgust, others by fear, etc.—and that these different prejudices emerge from functionally relevant profiles of threats (e.g., to resources, health, values, physical safety, etc.).  Moreover, these distinct prejudices predict distinct discriminatory inclinations.  To view prejudice as a simple attitude, then, fails to appreciate the significant nuance with which people actually view other groups, as well as the functional foundations of prejudices.  These mistakes likely have meaningful implications how to successfully intervene to reduce inappropriate prejudices. 

 

Relevant papers: 

Pirlott, A. G., & Neuberg, S. L. (2014). Sexual Prejudice: Avoiding unwanted sexual interest? Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5, 92-101.

Neuberg, S .L., & Sng, O. (2013). A life history of social perception: Stereotyping at the intersections of age, sex, and ecology (and race). Social Cognition, 31, 696-711.

Kenrick, A. C., Shapiro, J. R., & Neuberg, S. L. (2013).  Do parental bonds break anti-fat stereotyping? Parental work-ethic ideology and disease concerns predict bias against heavy-weight children.  Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 723-731. 

Neel, R., Neufeld, S.L., & Neuberg, S.L. (2013). Would an obese person whistle Vivaldi? Targets of prejudice self-present to minimize the appearance of specific threats. Psychological Science, 24, 678-687.

Schaller, M., & Neuberg, S. L. (2012).  Danger, disease, and the nature of prejudice(s).  Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 1-55.

Neuberg, S. L., Kenrick, D. T., & Schaller, M. (2011).  Human threat management systems:  Self-protection and disease avoidance. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 35, 1042-1051.

Neuberg, S. L., Kenrick, D. T., & Schaller, M. (2010).  Evolutionary social psychology.  In S. T. Fiske, D. Gilbert, and G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (pp. 761-796).  New York:  John Wiley & Sons.

Neuberg, S. L., & Cottrell, C. A. (2008). Managing the threats and opportunities afforded by human sociality. Group Dynamics, 21, 63-72.

Schaller, M., & Neuberg, S. L. (2008). Intergroup prejudices and intergroup conflicts. To appear in C. Crawford and D. L. Krebs (Eds.), Foundations of evolutionary psychology: Ideas, applications, and applications (pp. 401-413). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Cottrell, C. A., Neuberg, S. L., & Li, N. P. (2007). What do people desire in others? A sociofunctional perspective on the importance of different valued characteristics. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 208-231.

Neuberg. S. L., & Cottrell, C. A. (2006). Evolutionary bases of prejudices. In M. Schaller, J. A. Simpson, & D. T. Kenrick (eds.), Evolution and social psychology (pp. 163-187). New York: Psychology Press. 

Kurzban, R. O., & Neuberg, S. L. (2005). Managing ingroup and outgroup relations. In D. Buss (Ed.), Handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 653-675). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Cottrell, C. A., & Neuberg, S. L. (2005). Different Emotional Reactions to Different Groups: A Sociofunctional Threat-Based Approach to ‘Prejudice.’ Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 88, 770-789.

Schaller, M., Faulkner, J., Park, J. H., Neuberg, S. L., & Kenrick, D. T. (2004). Impressions of danger influence impressions of people: An evolutionary perspective on individual and collective cognition. Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology, 2, 231-247. 

Neuberg, S. L., & Cottrell, C. A. (2002). Intergroup emotions: A biocultural approach. In D. M. Mackie & E. R. Smith (Eds.), From prejudice to intergroup emotions: Differentiated reactions to social groups (pp. 265-283). New York: Psychology Press.

Neuberg, S. L., Smith, D. M., & Asher, T. (2000). Why people stigmatize: Toward a biocultural framework. In T. F. Heatherton, R. E. Kleck, M. R. Hebl, & J. G. Hull (Eds.), The social psychology of stigma (pp. 31-61). New York: Guilford.

 

How do fundamental social goals influence how we perceive, attend to, and interpret the actions of those around us?

Walking across crowding shopping malls, college campuses, airports, and conferences, we encounter complex arrays of individuals who vary in their race, gender, attractiveness, clothing style, and demeanor. Who do we attend to, think about, and later remember? And how are the answers to this question linked to our goals at the moment?  Douglas Kenrick, Mark Schaller, and I, along with our students, have developed a conceptual framework that articulates the role that evolutionarily fundamental social goals—self-protection, disease-avoidance, social affiliation, status-seeking, mate-seeking, mate-retention, child-rearing—play in governing cognitive processes ranging from visual attention and encoding to memory and economic decision making. 

Relevant papers:

White, A. E., Li, Y. J., Griskevicius, V., Neuberg, S. L., Kenrick, D. T. (2013).  Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket: Life History Strategies, Bet-Hedging, and Diversification.  Psychological Science, 24, 715-722.

Neuberg, S. L., Becker, D. V., & Kenrick, D. T. (2013).  Evolutionary social cognition. In D. Carlston (Ed.), Oxford handbook of social cognition (pp. 656-675). Oxford University Press.

Kenrick, D. T., Neuberg, S. L., & White, A. E. (2013).  Relationships from an evolutionary life history perspectiveIn J. A. Simpson & L. Campbell (Eds.), Oxford handbook of close relationships (pp. 13-38). New York: Oxford University Press.

White, A. E., Kenrick, D. T., Li, Y. J., Mortensen, C. R., Neuberg, S. L., & Cohen, A. B. (2012).  When nasty breeds nice:  Threats of violence amplify agreeableness at national, individual, and situational levels.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103, 622-634.

Li, Y. J., Kenrick, D. T., Griskevicius, V., & Neuberg, S. L. (2012).  Economic decision biases and fundamental motivations:  How mating and self-protection alter loss aversion.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 550-561.

Kenrick, D. T., Li, Y. J., White, A. E., & Neuberg, S. L. (2012).  Economic subselves:  Fundamental motives and deep rationality.  In J. Forgas, K. Fiedler, & C. Sedikides (eds.), Social thinking and interpersonal behavior:  The 14th Sydney Symposium of Social Psychology (pp. 23-43).  New York:  Psychology Press.

Neuberg, S. L., Kenrick, D. T., & Schaller, M. (2011).  Human threat management systems:  Self-protection and disease avoidance.  Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 35, 1042-1051.

Anderson, U.S., Perea, E. F., Becker, D. V., Ackerman, J. M., Shapiro, J. R., Neuberg, S. L., & Kenrick, D. T. (2010).  I only have eyes for you: Ovulation redirects attention (but not memory) to attractive men.  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 804-808.

Schaller, M., Neuberg, S. L., Griskevicius, V., & Kenrick, D. T. (2010).  Pyramid power. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5, 335-337.

Kenrick, D. T., Griskevicius, V., Neuberg, S. L., & Schaller, M. (2010).  Renovating the pyramid of needs: Contemporary extensions built upon ancient foundations. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5, 291-314. 

Becker, D.V., Anderson, U.S., Neuberg, S.L., Maner, J.K., Shapiro, J.R., Ackerman, J.M., Schaller, M., & Kenrick, D.T. (2010).  More memory bang for the attentional buck: Self-protection goals enhance encoding efficiency for potentially threatening males. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1, 182-189.

Kenrick, D. T., Neuberg, S. L., Griskevicius, V., Becker, D. V., & Schaller, M. (2010).  Goal-driven cognition and functional behavior:  The fundamental motives framework.  Current Directions in Psychological Science ,19, 63-67.

Mortensen, C. R., Becker, D. V., Ackerman, J. M., Neuberg, S. L. & Kenrick, D. T. (2010). Infection breeds reticence: The effects of disease salience on self-perceptions of personality and behavioral avoidance tendencies. Psychological Science, 21, 440-447.

Neuberg, S. L., Kenrick, D. T., & Schaller, M. (2010).  Evolutionary social psychology.  In S. T. Fiske, D. Gilbert, and G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (pp. 761-796).  New York:  John Wiley & Sons.

Shapiro, J. R., Ackerman, J. M., Neuberg, S. L., Maner, J. K., Becker, D. V., & Kenrick, D. T. (2009).  Following in the wake of anger: When not discriminating is discriminating.  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1356-1367. 

Kenrick, D. T., Griskevicius, V., Sundie, J. M., Li, N. P., Li, Y. J., & Neuberg, S. L. (2009).  Deep rationality:  The evolutionary economics of decision making.  Social Cognition, 27, 764-785.

Ackerman, J. M, Becker, D. V., Mortensen, C. R., Sasaki, T., Neuberg, S. L, & Kenrick, D. T. (2009). A pox on the mind: Disjunction of attention and memory in processing physical disfigurement. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 478-485.

Duncan, L. A., Park, J. H., Faulkner, J., Schaller, M., Neuberg, S. L., & Kenrick, D. T. (2007). Adaptive allocation of attention: Effects of sex and sociosexuality on visual attention to attractive opposite-sex faces. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 359-364.

Becker, D. V., Kenrick, D. T., Neuberg, S. L., Blackwell. K. C., & Smith, D. M. (2007). The confounded nature of angry men and happy women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 179-190.

Kenrick, D. T., Delton, A. W., Robertson, T., Becker, D. V. & Neuberg, S. L. (in press). How the mind warps: Processing disjunctions may elucidate ultimate functions. In J. P. Forgas, W. von Hippel, & M. Haselton (Eds.). The evolution of the social mind: Evolution and social cognition. New York: Psychology Press. 

Ackerman, J. M., Shapiro, J. R., Neuberg, S. L., Kenrick, D. T., Schaller, M., Becker, D. V., Griskevicius, V., & Maner, J. K. (2006). They all look the same to me (unless they're angry): From out-group homogeneity to out-group heterogeneity. Psychological Science, 17, 836-840.

Maner, J. K., Kenrick, D. T., Neuberg, S. L., Becker, D. V., Butner, J., & Schaller, M. (2005). Functional projection: How fundamental social motives can bias interpersonal perception. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 88, 63-78.

Neuberg, S. L., Kenrick, D. T., Maner, J. K., & Schaller, M. (2004). From evolved motives to everyday mentation: Evolution, goals, and cognition. In J. Forgas & K. Williams (Eds.), Social motivation: Conscious and unconscious processes (pp. 133-152). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Schaller, M., Faulkner, J., Park, J. H., Neuberg, S. L., & Kenrick, D. T. (2004). Impressions of danger influence impressions of people: An evolutionary perspective on individual and collective cognition. Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology, 2, 231-247.

Maner, J. K., Kenrick, D. T., Becker, D. V., Delton, A. W., Hofer, B., Wilbur, C., & Neuberg, S. L. (2003). Sexually selective cognition: Beauty captures the mind of the beholder. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 85, 1107-1120.

 

Does religion influence intergroup conflict?  The Global Group Relations Project

Whether it be Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East, starvation in the Sudan, or political cartoons in European newspapers, one need only turn to the evening news to surmise that religion may play a significant role in the creation and maintenance of intergroup conflict.  Perhaps as a result, scholarly work on religion and conflict has received renewed attention in recent years, leading to a series of vigorous debates:  Does religion merely serve as a mask for pragmatic intergroup conflict over power and resources?  Does religion create incompatible values that directly lead to such clashes?  Is the role of religion in conflict largely organizational, facilitating the mobilization of human and financial resources in the service of existing conflicts?  Etc.

Unfortunately, these debates have largely occurred in the absence of comprehensive, theory-focused, quantifiable data. The thick descriptions generated by well-done case studies are extremely useful for generating theory, but limited in their ability to test it comprehensively.  Quantitatively focused studies have been severely hampered by existing data sets that have employed simple (and often only extreme) indicators of conflict and measures of religion that fail to address its complexity.

Supported by a recent grant from the NSF’s Human and Social Dynamics competition, I am leading a multidisciplinary team of ASU researchers to gather and analyze deep, data-based knowledge about approximately 150 factors (including a large number designed to characterize the many features of religion), hypothesized to affect whether (and how) religion influences conflict processes.  Such data are critical for analyzing conflict situations, for being able to anticipate the emergence of conflict situations, and for creating policies to defuse potential conflicts or better manage existing conflicts. 

By design, the approach of our Global Group Relations Project has been multidisciplinary in its theory, empirical in its methods, and broad in its geographical scope.  Our theoretical approach integrates disciplines and levels of analysis, connecting ideas and findings ranging from the political and institutional to the individual and psychological. (Team members represent the disciplines of social psychology, political science, sociology, anthropology, religious studies, communication, mathematics, and quantitative psychology).  By beginning with a solid, theory- and data-based understanding of conflict processes, gleaned from over fifty years of social and behavioral science research, and then “injecting” into this model a consideration of how theory-derived features of religion may facilitate or inhibit these conflict mechanisms, we have aimed to create a more comprehensive, textured, and secure conceptualization of religion-conflict relationships.

Our innovative expert-informant methodological approach has adapted validated procedures from political science and psychological research.  This method leverages the expertise of an international network of social scientists that possesses, collectively, great knowledge about ninety-seven locales around the world.  These expert informants provided, via Internet survey,  information on a wide range of theoretically central social, political, religious, and psychological variables about two groups within each locale (ethnic-ethnic, religion-religion, state-state, state-ethnic minority, state-religious minority, or secular-religious).  This multi-site methodology provides variability in the conceptual constructs of interest, thereby facilitating the identification of conflict-relevant “universals” (if they exist) and making possible foundational inferences about religion-conflict processes—inferences that are already extend beyond those that have been generated by existing data sets and even by the most valuable studies employing case-study methods. 

 

Relevant papers:

Neuberg, S. L., Warner, C. M., Mistler, S. A., Berlin, A., Hill, E. D., Filip-Crawford, G., Milsap, R. E., Thomas, G., Winkelman, M., Broome, B. J., Taylor, T. J., & Schober, J. (2014).  Religion and intergroup conflict: Findings from the Global Group Relations Project. Psychological Science, 25, 198-206.

 

From stereotype threat to stereotype threats

When negative stereotypes about one's group are salient—for example, when one bubbles in one's gender or race prior to taking a standardized academic exam, when one is the only member of one's group in a stereotype-relevant situation, when one sees another group member acting stereotypically, etc.—one may become concerned by the possibility of confirming the negative stereotype. This "stereotype threat" can sometimes impair performance in the stereotyped domain, as when women or ethnic minorities underperform relative to their potential on academic tests.

A review of existing literature reveals that the term "stereotype threat" often means quite different things to different researchers, and has been employed to describe and explain processes and phenomena that appear to be fundamentally distinct. Jenessa Shapiro and I have recently begun to explore a model of stereotype threat that complements existing models. Our Multi-Threat Framework posits six qualitatively distinct stereotype threats--to one's self-concept, group-concept, own personal reputation in the eyes of outgroup individuals, ingroup reputation in the eyes of outgroup individuals, own personal reputation in the eyes of ingroup individuals, and/or ingroup reputation in the eyes of ingroup individuals. We propose that these six threats constitute the core of the broader stereotype threat construct and provide the foundation for understanding additional, as of yet uncharacterized, stereotype threats. The proposed threats likely (1) have different eliciting conditions, (2) differentially peril those with different stigmatizing characteristics, (3) are mediated by somewhat different mechanisms, (4) are moderated by different person and situation factors, (5) are coped with and compensated for in different ways, and (6) require different interventions to overcome.

Relevant papers:

Shapiro, J. R., & Neuberg, S. L. (2007). From stereotype threat to stereotype threats: Implications of a Multi-Threat Framework for causes, moderators, mediators, consequences, and interventions. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11, 107-130.

 

Selected papers related to other research interests
 

Interracial Psychology: 

Shapiro, J. R., Mistler, S. A., & Neuberg, S. L. (2010).  Threatened selves and differential prejudice expression by White and Black perceivers.  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 469-473.

Shapiro, J. R., & Neuberg, S. L.  (2008). When do the stigmatized stigmatize? The ironic effects of being accountable to (perceived) majority group prejudice-expression norms.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 877-898.

Prosocial Behavior:

Maner, J. K., Luce, C. L., Neuberg, S. L., Cialdini, R. B., Brown, S., Sagarin, B. J., & Rice, W. R. (2002). The effects of perspective taking on motivations for helping: Still no evidence for altruism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1601-1610.

Neuberg, S. L., Cialdini, R. B., Brown, S. L., Luce, C., Sagarin, B. J., & Lewis, B. P. (1997). Does empathy lead to anything more than superficial helping? Comment on Batson et al. (1997). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 510-516.

Cialdini, R. B., Brown, S. L., Lewis, B. P., Luce, C., & Neuberg, S. L. (1997). Reinterpreting the empathy-altruism relationship: When one into one equals oneness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 481-494.

Romantic Relationships:

Morse, K. A., & Neuberg, S. L. (2004). How do holidays influence relationship processes and outcomes? Examining the instigating and catalytic effects of Valentine's Day. Personal Relationships, 11, 509-527.

Stigma by Association:

Neuberg, S. L., Smith, D., Hoffman, J. C., & Russell, F. J. (1994). When we observe stigmatized and 'normal' individuals interacting: Stigma by association. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 196-209.

Motivation and Impression Formation:

Judice, T. N., & Neuberg, S. L. (1998). When interviewers desire to confirm negative expectations: Self-fulfilling prophecies and inflated applicant self-perceptions. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 20, 175-190. 

Smith, D. M., Neuberg, S. L., Judice, T. N., & Biesanz, J. C. (1997). Target complicity in the confirmation and disconfirmation of erroneous perceiver expectations: Immediate and longer term implications. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 974-991.

Neuberg, S. L., West, S. G., Judice, T. N., & Thompson, M. M. (1997). On dimensionality, discriminant validity, and the role of psychometric analyses in personality theory and measurement: Reply to Kruglanski et al.’s (1997) Defense of the Need for Closure Scale. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 1017-1029.

Neuberg, S. L., Judice, T. N., & West, S. G. (1997). What the Need for Closure Scale measures and what it does not: Toward differentiating among related epistemic motives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1396-1412. 

Neuberg, S. L. (1996). Social motives and expectancy-tinged social interactions. In R. M. Sorrentino & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of motivation and cognition: The interpersonal context (Vol. 3, pp. 225-261). New York: The Guilford Press.

Neuberg, S. L. (1994). Expectancy-confirmation processes in stereotype-tinged social encounters: The moderating role of social goals. In M. P. Zanna & J. M. Olson (Eds.), The psychology of prejudice: The Ontario Symposium (Vol. 7, pp. 103-130). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Neuberg, S. L., & Newsom, J. T. (1993). Personal Need for Structure: Individual differences in the desire for simple structure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 113-131.

Neuberg, S. L., Judice, T. N., Virdin, L. M., & Carrillo, M. A. (1993). Perceiver self-presentational goals as moderators of expectancy influences: Ingratiation and the disconfirmation of negative expectancies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 409-420.

Fiske, S. T., & Neuberg, S. L. (1990). A continuum of impression formation, from category-based to individuating processes: Influences of information and motivation on attention and interpretation. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 23, pp. 1-74). New York: Academic Press.

Neuberg, S.L. (1989). The goal of forming accurate impressions during social interactions: Attenuating the impact of negative expectancies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 374-386.

Neuberg, S.L., & Fiske, S.T. (1987). Motivational influences on impression formation: Outcome dependency, accuracy-driven attention, and individuating processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 431-444. [reprinted in M. A. Hogg (2002), Sage benchmarks in psychology: Social psychology. London: Sage.]

Fiske, S.T., Neuberg, S.L., Beattie, A.E., & Milberg, S.J. (1987). Category-based and attribute-based reactions to others: Some informational conditions of stereotyping and individuating processes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 23, 399-427.

 

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