Undergraduate Research Labs

I study the causes and consequences of social injustice, gender myths, and effective teaching. My theoretical approach involves a blend of cognitive complexity, social identity, and social power. My research has shown that those with more complex cognitive representations engage in less intergroup bias, that those with a feminist identity or racial identity engage in less bias, and that these social identities relate to higher levels of cognitive complexity. Other social researchers have shown that those with high social power are less cognitively complex, and engage in more intergroup bias. In combination these results suggest that being raised with social power (e.g., dominant ethnic, gender, or economic group) makes one less cognitively complex, which in turn makes one less aware of social injustice and more likely to blame victims and lash out at low power groups. Inducing cognitive complexity helps to reduce intergroup biases and social injustice.

 

Current projects include:

  • the role of feminist identity and cognitive complexity on the acceptance of myths regarding victims of sexual assault
  • manipulating cognitive complexity to reduce intergroup biases
  • gender differences in cognitive complexity (women are more complex)
  • political ideology and cognitive complexity
  • how prejudice and discrimination are presented in textbooks
  • how gender dysphoria is presented in textbooks
  • the role of cognitive complexity and collective esteem in depression

Future projects:

  • outgroup hatred versus ingroup preference in explaining intergroup biases
  • feminist pedagogy

Qualifications for working with Dr. Foels include:

  • psychology major
  • GPA of 3.3 or greater
  • strong library skills
  • commitment to 9 hours a week of research activities