Inside the Psychologist's Studio with Jennifer Richeson
it is common to have an interviewee for this series who has a long list of accolades, an international leader in their field of study and a veritable mountain of articles that define and shape an important area of psychology that has real-world implications. While Jennifer Richardson has all the common features of an interviewee, she also has some especially rare features that are noteworthy, maybe the most obvious is nary a gray hair in sight. While many of the luminaries who have been interviewed have all had their full careers to reflect on, Jennifer is clearly still on the upward trajectory of her career – dare I label her mid-career. Additionally, while most interviewees are safely and soundly in their terminal institution will they were see out the rest of their career Jennifer is less than one month away from a major transition, where she will leave her long-standing home at Northwestern University for a major transition where she will be going to Yale So not only do we have her during a career point where there is more in front of her than behind her, we also have her here today at a pivotal moment in her career as she transitions to her new home. Jennifer Richeson is a social psychologist who studies stereotyping, bias discrimination, intergroup relations and political psychology, to name just a few She’s the recipient of an APA early career award, a Guggenheim Fellow, MacArthur Award – also known as the Genius Award – and just a few months ago was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences So I think we have to start at the very beginning which apparently was only about two decades ago So tell us about your early life and and what set the stage for this academic career Yeah, you know, thanks for that incredible introduction. So you know it’s funny I think of myself as Jen, black girl from Baltimore that I’ve always been. I’m from Baltimore and looking back obviously that time in my life really shaped who I am today. But I think for reasons that are not that uncommon, especially for racial minorities in the United States. For instance I grew up in a neighborhood that was economically working-class and relatively, predominantly white, but there was some racial diversity – my family and a couple others and then I started school at a private school that was predominately, almost exclusively, white except for my family and a couple of others, and then I moved to middle school, Baltimore City Public Schools – proud product of the Baltimore City Public Schools by the way — and that interestingly was predominantly black But you know, you start to notice that the more advanced tracks – there was tracking then – were more mixed, in some maybe predominately white, and I was attracted to those classes. And then I went to a high school that was also predominantly black and all female and sort of different identities came to the fore. I’ve learned a lot about being sort of a female leader there because there are no boys to sort of take over everything. And that was great, but I’m in a school that’s probably 90 percent black and my classes were probably 50 percent black. So you start to see the same patterns that are evident today – maybe even moreso and I think that just stuck with me all the way through. Then I went to Brown and all of a sudden I’m in this sea of not only white but really rich, and I’m like, ‘Well, you guys , you know, fly to New York and have Saabs.’ I mean it was just stunning, really stunning to me. So I think just navigating – having to navigate these different contexts certainly made me wonder, ‘Well, who am I today? How am I going to think of myself?’ And those questions, luckily it turns out,
social psychology cares, although I didn’t know that until much later So your father was in business and your mom was a school principal and here you have this great auspicious beginning Did they want you to be a lawyer or an MD? Were they happy with this, you know, unusual or at least not as mainstream academic scholar? They’re happy now. It turned out, you know, they didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing either, though. So we were all together and i’m sure they would have been perfectly happy for me to go into medical school, become a doctor or lawyer or something reputable that’s likely to make some money. And then I did this totally other thing which they think is interesting but they’re still not clear why I don’t come home in the summers. They’re still not sure why didn’t graduate, why I didn’t get a job They’re still not quite sure what I do, but apparently they do think I do it well now, which is good, and they think it’s kind of cool now But yeah, I’m sure, you know, that there are solid careers, you know, evident and being a professor is this elusive thing. I mean it was for me too We all we went to college and there are these people standing up teaching you stuff and until maybe my third year it never occurred to me that I could be one of those people. So I think it is an odd thing to do and doesn’t automatically come to everyone You and I have a couple of shared identities, but I have to tell you my favorite shared identity that we have is that we were both pretty serious ballet dancers growing up – such an odd beginning I know for some people in psychology and academia, but i wonder if there are clues in ballet — the resilience, the early rejection — that you get used to I’m convinced it helps you as an academic because it gives you this perseverance, this ability to get back up after getting pushed down. Do you see that as relevant in your life today and was it an important part of your early days It was definitely a huge part of my life until college. In fact, I sort of had that turning-point moment. Do I go try to become a professional dancer? Do I go to college? And this is the pragmatic, the family saying, ‘I think you’re going to college. That whole dancing thing is cute and that was, you know, to make sure you walked well, but we’re done with this.” So there’s all that you mentioned plus the discipline that comes from studying anything quite seriously, but certainly ballet is about discipline and calm and poise and presence. And all of those skills are certainly transferable to what we do now. In addition I happen to have had the benefit of so many incredible mentors and this started early. My long-term ballet teacher took in students you know who had some talent, obviously, but also who would not necessarily become professional ballet dancers for whatever reason – not the right body type or just didn’t want to – and she unlike many ballet schools didn’t turn you away and say, ‘Well, you’re not worth my time.’ She said, ‘No we’re going to turn you into the best dancer you can be and help you use this space to become the best person you can be. She encouraged us academically. She encouraged us to explore all kinds of different types of dance. And she encouraged us to become really great dancers and then go to college It was remarkable So you chose to go to college and went to Brown. Were there early theories or professors that you were especially drawn to that brought you into the fold of social psychology So full confession. I went to Brown because my brother went to Brown and I didn’t know anything about Brown I mean, I’d heard of some Ivy League schools but Brown wasn’t one of the ones I’d heard of But he went there and he said, ‘You know, Jen” – he was two years older, and when I was thinking of getting ready — I mean I knew I would go to college. That was required. But he said, ‘You should apply early someplace – early action – so then you’re in and you can decide where to go later. You can find other schools but you’re in at least one place And I said, ‘Okay, well, I don’t know what that is.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, you should apply to Harvard, Yale, or Brown. They’re the only ones that have early action at the time.’ And so I said, ‘Okay, I’ll apply to one of those.” And it turns out that I had a ballet show the weekend it was due I didn’t have a lot of time to write out the applications, and the Brown one you had to write it out by hand, you couldn’t type it, it turns out. I didn’t have a typewriter or computer or early word
processor or whatever they had back then, so I thought, ‘This is perfect.’ So I wrote out my essays. I put them in the mail and literally on the way to my show I dropped the mail at the post office in downtown Baltimore, went to my show and I forgot about it. Then, however, many months or weeks later – it was like mid-December – I found out that I got in and I was a like, ‘Great, check, I’m into college And I went. It made no sense I have very little in common with my brother. At the time I’m not quite sure we got along. We get along great now. But still, it made no sense for me to go to Brown. But I did and I’m so glad that i did. I really found these topics that I care so much about at Brown and largely through my extracurriculars. My curriculars were trying to find my way. I thought I was going to be pre-med because I was good at science and I might as well stay in the science classes. It turns out I don’t like sick people or blood or anything really. So I was like, ‘Okay, that’s a lot, what else could I do now.’ I was taking all these credits Well I found the program in neuroscience which wasn’t in the department then but a great programs. I took all of those courses but I had to find a major. It turns out all of those classes and all of my science classes counted for psychology. Done. So then I took some psychology classes – not social, by the way, that wasn’t offered until it was too late. So I took the ones that I needed to get a degree in psychology. And I worked in an animal learning lab and it didn’t occur to me until very late I took a class in the ed school, actually, not in the psychology department, called the psychology of race, class, and gender, taught by a black female, my first black professor and certainly my first black female professor. And that’s when all the little pieces came together and I just said, ‘How is it that I become you.’ And she said, ‘Well, you go to grad school. You can go into counseling. That sounded like sick people. You can go into personality or you can go into social. And I was like, ‘Oh, let me see what this social psychology thing is about.’ And I applied to a bunch of schools and I got into one that just turned out to be Harvard, and I went. I tell you I’m like – Seinfeld’s still a thing for you guys. right? I am the Kramer of academics. I just sort of have fallen into good fortune I’m certainly grateful And not just good fortune. I mean, you had these advisors at Harvard: Herb Kelman, a very special brilliant scholar, but most notably the brilliant and late Nalini Ambady, who will be remembered for so many of her contributions not just to the field of psychology, but really she’s also known for her incredible mentoring. So what was she like as an advisor? Yeah, Nalini was just the best. I mean she really is. I know many of you have mentors who you think are the best, but no, she really was the best one She is one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. She was just stunningly brilliant and she was so used to being underestimated and so she had a bit of a healthy edge because of that And you know there’s just such a lesson in that You’re constantly trying to navigate your way through this field and people don’t take you seriously, but especially if you come in a sort of female package or minority package or short or young or any number of things, and she just not only handled it so well. She would mentor us on that. So my cohort were some of her first students and we all had a little tiny office together. We loved being on top of each other and every now and then she’d come in and we’d be like, ‘Oh no, Nalini’s here. Sit up straight, look like you doing some work,’ and then she’d close the door like we need to have a conversation and she’d talk about this happened, this happened, this happened These are some dynamics you need to think about and be aware of as a woman scientist. She just was very straightforward about it and you learn from that, okay, you’re going to face some hard times but you know that you’re equipped with the skills to manage it and I think that’s the kind of amazing mentorship and all the other great stuff she did. So I started grad school about a month after ‘The Bell Curve’ was published and of course Dick Herrnstein, one of the authors, was on the faculty at Harvard and like I told you I applied to one school, I don’t really know what I was doing. I did not handwrite that one but I’m sort of like, ‘I don’t know if I belong here Oh and by the way this guy who’s on the faculty also does not think you belong here.’ And I was ready to just say, ‘Well, it was a good run. Good for me I can always go to law school.’ But I sort of stuck it out with a tough first year and then Nalini came in my second year and she was the one who said, ‘No, no, no, you have a place in this field
I think you have great ideas. Come develop them in my lab. So she really reached out to me and in a way that was super proactive and incredibly encouraging and it was that way all the way through, all the way to the end And those ideas really set the bedrock for your intergroup work along with your colleagues and Nicole Shelton and I remember when you started research in this area, it was really dominated by the social cognitive approach where participants were asked to imagine what would it be like to interact with somebody different, read a vignette and then complete a paper- pencil task and I think of you as really a game changer. You came in and and you had people sitting across from each other, real interactions, measuring behavior and then much more complicated studies. So why did you come in and really I think put intergroup research on its head and discover things that heretofore were not discovered and then was it worth all that extra time? So the second answer is yes So the second answer is yes, it turned out. The first answer is because I didn’t know what I was doing. I mean there is something about the naivete of, you know, dancing into a field and trying to find your way but being guided by genuine interest and being willing to put in the work and you’re young enough that you’ve got lots .. you know, I could stay up late then, I could really spend lots of time reading and I just found it all so fascinating and I just kind of had a hunch. I think it’s also about following your hunch. What I was reading about just didn’t seem quite right for the types of interracial interracial interactions that I had and I had a lot of them, whereas a lot of the people who were writing and doing the work didn’t have a lot of them. So I just wanted to try to understand how it all works. Some of it’s serendipity and a lot of it’s naivete. I mean I do think there’s something to be said about trying to do something ambitious when you’re young but maybe a little bit more informed than I was. But luckily nobody was doing much work in the area. Paul Rozin always says this. He says, ‘Pick an area where there’s so little activity it doesn’t even register because you have no competition And so it turned out Nicole Shelton, who’s my great collaborator but I didn’t even know at the time she was stuck going down this road as well. And Jackie Vorauer So it was coming. It was emergent and it was time and I was at the right place at the right time So I want to stay on this idea of intergroup relations and race relations. We’re in 2016 right now, at the end of a two-term President Obama, but that’s contrasted with recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and in your hometown of Baltimore. We have had the gamut, from headlines saying racism is over to a very different kind of reality. So I guess I’m wondering what’s your perception of where we are today in understanding race relations and what kind of progress needs to occur for it to be different Great question. I think the reality is closer to the reality and not to President Obama. I mean, obviously that’s just an incredible sort of national marker, a high-water mark. But i think that we have this sense that progress on any social justice dimension necessarily moves forward in this sort of upward linear way and that’s just not true In the end actual actual history not our mythology of it demonstrates that. There’s always been progress and then retrenchment, and progress and retrenchment, and I think when you think about it that way which is sort of reality then you have to take seriously that we’re in a retrenchment mode and that is also coupled with all the evidence that actually a lot has not changed for the vast majority of black Americans in 50, 60 years. Wealth inequality, it’s just looks like the 50s Homeownership rates look like the 50s. Infant mortality. Every single disease I mean, racial disparities are shocking and depressing and just because we’re not focusing on them doesn’t mean that they’re not there and also it suggests that we, meaning the community of social psychologists who care about inequality and racial justice, are not focused on the right things I had a real crisis of confidence in the field, actually, after the Trayvon Martin murder and the acquittal of George
Zimmerman not because it happened It interestingly has triggered this fascinating sort of movement, Black Lives Matter movement now, but because the conversation about what was happening was so incredibly racially illiterate and dense in the media that I like I’m somebody allegedly who is helping to shape how we think about race how we think about racism and there’s no evidence that we’ve penetrated this conversation at all and if anything there’s been push-back So what are we doing right? What are we doing here? I didn’t get into the field to write journal articles. I got into this because of what was happening on the ground in the world to make people’s lives better so I really had to grapple with what am I doing and how do I want how do I need to shift my work to be more in alignment with what I say I care about and what questions really inform me Well your work doesn’t just deal with contemporary subjects. I would say in an interesting way your work has predicted the future So in 2011 if you don’t know this work and Jennifer and her student Maureen Craig started a series of studies where they would prime participants with the US census data so basically in the next 20 or so years there’s going to be a shift from the majority to being the minority and and what would happen is participants would shift their political ideology and that work now five years old at this time in many ways predicted the rise of presidential candidate Donald Trump I saw no money from that Yes, and you saw no money from that. Amazing! What is that current state of the work and I do have to know how do you even come to those kinds of questions yeah and what’s the future look like after this? Tell us who will win? That I don’t know but yeah you know it’s dark inside here Wendy You know I came to that question because I do live in the world and you hear and see media reports. I mean, just on the web or on the news or even on NPR about the impending majority-minority shift and I’m sitting here like okay sometimes it’s said in this “isn’t-this-gonna-be-cool” kind of way and sometimes it’s said, depending on the outlet, like “White people, have more babies! We’re in trouble!” But either way I’m thinking like this can’t be good. We do know (so I’m out of my crisis of confidence) and back to social psychology of intergroup relations and sort of social identity is incredibly old and robust and replicable and so we know that these types of messages that play into ‘us versus them’ and certainly with a nod to status and power. These cues to that effect are going to be I thought would be heard as threatening and so, you know, hunches are good but you gotta collect the data and so we just went to see how are whites responding to this and we found the low-hanging fruit: expressions of greater racial bias after these messages and then actually somewhat serendipitously found this sort of conservative shift where they would also endorse more conservative policy positions. In turns out actually racial minorities. except for Latinos largely show the same effect. So you know we started this — it was a real pragmatic applied question and I think it’s it has contributed to basic understandings about how non existential threats might also work somewhere else similarly in terms of activating threat and then leading to political conservatism but I think it also has something to say to folks like the Census Bureau and you know I’ve actually talked to the guy – he’s a black guy — who’s head of the division that puts out these reports and I’m like, ‘Maybe you want to frame it a little differently because look what’s happening and He’s like, ‘hmmmm.’ Well it brings up this dilemma about disseminating our findings in terms of mainstream and and trying to understand the mind, unbiased as we as we try to be, but yet our work could be used for ill or maybe even evil So does that change anything about how you try to communicate your findings? You know you can’t anticipate all the ways. So my initial work on how interracial
interactions can be cognitively costly for individuals I thought that this is what it is and we need to be thinking about what this might mean and the implications. That was picked up by folks on the right, like, “See, diversity is bad. I told you. We should stop trying.” And I’m thinking, ‘That’s not what I said.” But you know I think you cannot be too worried about it. I would often reply when those types of things got said about the work. “Well, no actually, it turns out exercise is really hard and tiring too, but we never say, ‘Oh don’t bother.’ It’s not that good for you.’ ” So you know I mean I think you do have a responsibility or I held a responsibility to weigh in you can’t get too worried about it because the state of affairs, especially in this line, this new line, the state of affairs is not neutral. It’s having an effect Now I was assuming that it was having an effect that was unintended by the folks at the Census Bureau so I’m like, ‘”Look, you might want to think about other ways to frame the same information.” White folks are still gonna be the most numerous group, will still have lots of high status stuff, more than any other group. It’s gonna be okay, right? And we know there’s no evidence from the long history of social psychology that all the so-called racial minorities are going to be all friendly with each other all of a sudden either So this whole idea that the minorities are all together and they’re more than 50 plus 1 and there’s us is just a fiction but it’s a fiction that’s incredibly damaging and it’s one, coupled with other things, that at least a portion of the political right is happy to capitalize upon for gain. But politics is a game for many people and they’re trying to win and they’re going to use whatever there is to try to win the game So I want to transition a bit We have several graduate students and early professors in the audience today and probably watching and there’s no question you’re a role model for women in science and in racial minorities Do you have any words of wisdom for people negotiating these waters that are not always as friendly as we would hope Get out now. No, don’t get out I’ll tell what my mentor told me when I was teetering on the edge of exit. She said, “No Jenn,” in her very Nalini-only way, “we need your voice in the field.” And that’s true. We need your voice and your unique perspective so don’t get out but you do have to really want it I imagine that’s true for lots of careers This is the only one I’ve ever been in and so I don’t know but this is one that you have to really want it You do get constant negative feedback There are so many temptations to go in directions that you may be kind of interested in or maybe you don’t know that you’re interested in it but everybody else is interested in that so maybe I should start something in that direction I think it’s easy to to get sidetracked especially when there are rewards, incentives for studying this kind of thing. That’s where the money is or a lot of that’s getting published and what am I doing? So I think you have to be clear about why you’re in the field or at least what you hope to accomplish It doesn’t have to be exactly one point but you know largely and you have to try your best to stay connected to that. Like I said, after the Trayvon Martin tragedy I really had to reassess what am I doing. What am I doing and what are we doing in the field? And I can’t do that much about what we’re doing in the field but I can do what I’m doing and that was a course correction for me. And I said, ‘You need to get back to basic principles: why are you in this and what are you doing? And I think that is even more true in grad school and early career because there are so many times where it is easier to just walk away and there are just crappy courses you’ve gotta take and you’re like, ‘What am I taking this and what does this have to do with saving any Black lives?” The disconnect is so was so vast, but I think trying to remember that that this is why I’m in this game That’s what motivates me to go to work Not the you know, moderated mediation. That does not inspire me to go to work But trying to understand the mechanisms that really help people get clear on racial disparities and accept them as reality, that motivates me to go to work. So I’m really trying to reconnect the sort of not-so-fun stuff to the what’s-the-goal here. What’s the purpose?
In addition to the work that you and your students do in your lab you’re also involved in a lot of interdisciplinary science – sort of team science approaches. But of course team science is challenging because when you have a team the data pretty clear that women on the team get less credit for their contribution that men on the team Why would one do team science? Is their benefit?And then how does one try to negotiate what can be seen as a tremendous amount of work but sometimes even subtractive to the perceived productivity? You know there are all these facets of our career and life that just stop there and this is one of them. That’s just how it is, at least for now So for me, again, if I am really compelled by this question then I move and make decisions that help me toward understanding of the problem. I just really want to know and that often requires a team. Again, I don’t even know that you have told you I don’t know moderated mediation and you can edit that out or not. I don’t. And I really don’t know how that’s from mediated moderation or modern whatever there’s like you know there’s a whole other one — I don’t know any of those things. So if that’s required I surely need a team and you can’t know everything You really can have only a limited expertise and actually really own that expertise and contribute that and that’s what I hope to bring to teams and also to use it as an opportunity to learn new things and learn new skills and to continue doing this I have to constantly be learning new things I’m just curious. And so I think yes it’s true that women get less credit and yes that’s unfortunate and you need to be mindful, young women, junior women, about which teams you’re a part of and which you choose But not so young women and not so young men, it’s our job to to correct for this bias and to promote the the young and not so young women on our teams and make clear where the credit belongs You know it’s not the burden of the sort of the more marginal to figure out navigate this crazy mess. It’s the job of those of us who are established to fix it or at least to make the corrections for what might be happening automatically so I think at this stage yeah I get to you know do it but I also can use an opportunity to promote junior scholars and to get them connected into these sort of teams and get the right credit So there have been very few academics and certainly even fewer social psychologist who at such a young age have received the accolades that you’ve received. I mentioned the MacArthur Genius Award, a Guggenheim Fellow, induction into the National Academy of Sciences Let me put it simply – you are a badass! Can you please tell us what the secret sauce is? You know I’m incredibly grateful for these things that have happened to me and except for the Guggenheim that I actually applied for, I didn’t apply for any of that stuff. I wasn’t seeking accolades. I was seeking to do work I care about and to do it the best that I know how. It’s not perfect But I think if that’s why you’re in the field sometimes awards and accolades will come, sometimes they won’t When they come early we also know that then they multiply because people are you know kind of lazy. They’re like, “Well, who won that other thing. Well let’s give them this, too.” That’s just how it works. I’ve been the beneficiary of all of that and I’m not saying I didn’t work hard but I’m no more deserving of those things these awards than any number of people and they just happened to have shown on me and so The secret sauce is humility? You really are a bad-ass. That’s clear I really think the secret sauce is doing the work and holding it to the highest standards and yourself to the highest standards that you can think of and sometimes that will translate into awards and sometimes it won’t. But it will always translate into impeccable work I’ve heard a little bit about your past work and your current work You’re making this transition to Yale What do the next five or ten years look like for you? Where’s the future work? Are you gonna predict the president in 2024? The entire shift of Wall Street?
Let’s look into your crystal ball and tell us what’s coming up So one of the the great things about moving to a new institution and this was certainly true when I moved to Northwestern from Dartmouth is you have the opportunity to be inspired and influenced in new ways and unknown ways That was certainly true moving from Dartmouth to Northwestern Actually one of the most exciting things about the move to Northwestern was I had no idea what I might be studying in five to ten years whereas if I stayed at Dartmouth I felt like I knew exactly what studies I be doing The next one and then the next one and kind of who I’d be in conversation with and there were some comfort in that but there’s also some, “Is this really it?” So moving to Northwestern I met all these great new colleagues. I was totally inspired by them. I moved in this new political direction in part because of you know the world is sort of in an interesting moment but also of the environment that is at Northwestern and this great policy institute and we’re social psychologists Social context matters If we believe nothing else we believe that to be true and so in some ways I don’t know what is ten years down the road at Yale because I don’t really know what’s at Yale or what will become emergent with the faculty who happen to be there So that’s kind of exciting and terrifying too but I know broadly it will be focused on helping to think carefully about the current issues of inequality broadly defined I do think social psychology – and this may be true in other fields. I have to talk to some folks in political science and sociology, but it doesn’t feel as true — but I think we are adrift in our consideration or lack of careful consideration of race and race and racism. We study intergroup broadly We study prejudice and stereotyping broadly. And sometimes we channel that through a racial story but we don’t regularly center race and racism and that actually turns out to have consequences. There’s some really great things about that. We can look at broad principles. We can see the commonalities. We are poised to understand some basic mechanisms of mind and brain that give rise to what we’re seeing but there are costs of that as well where we miss the boat on a Ferguson, on what does it mean that racial disparities in almost every domain are unchanged from 1950? What does that mean for the lived experiences of people and how do we understand that? And how can we as social psychologists contribute to the pressing issues of race and racism and I will put immigration into that mix because we have something to say and I think we have something smart to say but we need to center the issues more clearly so we can contribute. Otherwise we just cede ground to the economists So when we as social psychologists sort of turn our microscope to understanding discrimination and bias, it seems like you’re suggesting that we’re also missing some of the key pieces to our puzzle Where should a young scientist focus now? Do you think it’s just different geographically we’re not taking account where these race relations are occurring? Is it because of the shifting political landscape? Is there any sort of guidance there that you would give a young researcher? It’s hard for me to say. Obviously people should be motivated by whatever questions motivate them but i don’t think we should necessarily as a field and as a new person in the field feel constrained by the paradigms and models and theories that you discover when you enter the field. I think sometimes — especially with something like intergroup, which is old as Methuselah and profound and true and replicable. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t new important theories, principles, mechanisms that are missing from the story or that some stuff that we think we know just isn’t right in the context of sort of domestic US race relations, or we’re missing a piece of the puzzle. And I think looking for what’s there and
obviously we’ve got to get understanding of what is known or what we think we know but also looking for and reading for what seems not quite right and how could I test whether it’s not quite right Especially when – this was certainly true for me and I think it becomes true for lots of people, especially scientists from underrepresented backgrounds – the literature doesn’t feel, doesn’t seem right. You’re like, “I believe you because the data are the data but it doesn’t seem to reflect my experience.” And I think that’s an opportunity It feels like a slight when you’re in the field. My first time reading the classic Kleck studies of the scars Basically there’s studies of stigma where Bob Kleck put a kind of makeup on white people and some of them had a facial scarl and he showed everybody and then for somebody he took it off – just wiped away and they had them walk around the world as if they had this sort of facial scar. And then the people who didn’t have it were like, “Oh my god, I was treated terribly. I was discriminated against. It was horrible.” And it led to this belief that stigma is kind of in your head Actually people treat you just fine. Really, it’s in your head. And I’m like, “I don’t know about that. That really doesn’t seem quite right. Like, you know, my mom couldn’t try on clothes at the store when she was young So I think yes, that is true and there are lessons and important insights into when we feel marginal and we have no experience with it and we weren’t raised with any kind of socialization to be prepared to navigate a space where you may not be accepted, yeah that’s probably how you respond. But it turns out that’s actually not the lived experiences most racial minorities in the United States. Usually you come up in a family where it’s like, “Okay let me tell you something.” You know, you had your first encounter with the little girl across the street who called you a name and you’re like, “What does this mean, mommy?” It’s just not a great model of what it’s really like. And so being clear about that is hard, especially as a youngun, but it opens the door for doing some actual studies of interracial interactions and how they work with people who actually have been in their bodies the whole time And it reminds me of in the nineties when the shift in stereotyping and bias went toward reaction time tasks, implicit associates tasks, that shift didn’t necessarily happen with people studying the experience of discrimination bias. You still would ask people, “What’s your life like? What’s your experience of being discriminated like?” And there are also sanctions and people who are reluctant to feel like they can’t say “This is my experience,” for whatever reason, maybe because they are unwilling to do it or maybe they’re unable and it’s taking longer I think for that shift methodologically to occur on to the target side, the racial minority side So where’s that paradigm shift for understanding discrimination bias? Behavior is great, but it’s really hard to code. How do we get traction on understanding this without relying on reports that can be modified for lots of reasons? I think there just has to be the will to do it. r And this is getting back to the effort It requires more effort to actually go out into the world and find people who are not majority group members and study them and test them and it’s hard. I mean my poor students Good Lord. God Bless You It’s hard and it takes a lot of time but if that’s what you care about you cannot rely solely on analogues that might possibly mirror it but really now we can run anybody. I do think there’s some truth to that This former student – we did a bunch of studies on perceived group victimhood and largely the samples were Jewish Americans and those who felt that Jewish Americans were a distinctly victimized group and they felt high in group victimization We also actually did the study with a group of really conservative students at Northwestern, some of whom felt really victimized by being conservative students at Northwestern and actually the patterns were quite similar which was fascinating in this one paradigm but we didn’t start there and we can assume it would be similar but we weren’t afraid to look for similarities And I think that’s just what we need – a little bit of balance and not solely going for what’s convenient but that requires lots of shifting. We are in a moment now where this kind of work is actually not only hard but it’s a little bit in jeopardy I think as a side effect of the concerns about replicability. I mean if you need large n studies exclusively
well again something’s gotta give and this might be the kind of research that actually has to give and I think that’s something that we should be mindful of So we’ve been very serious up to thisto this point but I feel like I’d be doing a disservice to everybody watching this if we didn’t try to get more breadth of what makes Jennifer Richeson tick. So I’m gonna do a speed round Here’s how the speed round works. I just need one word answers from you – one word as quickly as possible so you can’t think about it a lot I mean we’re just trying to get the comprehensive picture of you. Are you ready? to al Let’s go ahead and start. Favorite author Toni Morrison. Mac or PC. Mac! SAS or SPSS. SAS. The treadmill or elliptical Neither. Stepmill. Dog or cat. Dog Favorite food Chocolate Manolo Blahnik or Christian Louboutin Louboutin Good taste Favorite sports team Do I have one? Yeah I don’t JPSP or Psych Science Psych Science of course Beer or wine. Wine Jelly beans are gummy bears Jelly beans You’re routing for a sports team. Harvard or Yale? Well at Harvard I’ll root for Harvard, at Yale I will root for Yale Intergroup, you know! Ttrying to bring people together Favorite vacation destination Hawaii iPhone or Android — iphone Best restaurant in Chicago Well you want low brow, Harold”s Chicken Fantastic. A little bit higher I would say Publican, one of my favorites Lots of pork And you broke the rule of one word answers You’re done Advice, break some rules Jenn, were gonna be wrapping up soon. I’d love to end with a little bit about the future and it may be 10 years is either not enough or not enough time to think about the big picture since you have so much time in front of you Tell me a little bit about what you hope to do in the duration of your long career that’s in front of you what what would you like to see changed or modified or different. How would you like to impact psychology and the world in general? That’s huge I’d like to see many changes but let me just go back to what happened for me and not really to me. r I happened upon this course you know out of nowhere — psychology of race, class and gender and it changed my life. It changed who I am both the content and this sort of black woman standing for what’s possible for me That’s what I want to do for the rest of my career — stand for what’s possible as a black woman in psychology for the undergrads or grad students, symbolically but also to be a part of the diversification of our field in particular but science more broadly and the Academy for sure. I mean this is something that is far more important to me than my individual research questions — that to me if I use this opportunity to be at Yale to shift what I’m focused on that’s what I’m gonna be focused on How do we penetrate this wall that has left the Academy just so incredibly homogeneous and not particularly concerned about it right now? And not concerned meaning like the house is on fire and people are like “Oh well, you know these things are hard.” We’re in a period of time that we need to call to bear resources to make a change. I can’t talk about it anymore It’s got to be doing it Well it’s been a delight talking to you but I’d like to end with a question This is going to be on tape in perpetuity apparently so I’d like to have you promise now that we come back in 25 years and we look back on the full career and you have to say yes Sure, why not? Thank you for being here today Thanks for doing this