Jennifer LaCosse

Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology

Associations

Psychology

Pettengill Hall, Room 370

207-786-6307jlacosse@bates.edu

About

The world is rapidly becoming more racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse. This rapid increase in diversity necessitates increased institutional flexibility in health care, schools, workplaces, public policies, etc. to ensure equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. Increased diversity will also lead to more contact between people from many different backgrounds (i.e., intergroup contact). Importantly, although individuals from disadvantaged groups (e.g., racial minority, female, non-native English speaking individuals) will be less of a numeric minority as diversity increases, this does not guarantee that they will no longer be disadvantaged. Stereotypes and prejudice toward disadvantaged groups —which are interwoven in the very fabric of society—will not just disappear and existing power structures that favor advantaged groups (e.g., White, male, native English speaking individuals) will still be in place. Therefore, understanding the psychological processes behind (1) positive intergroup contact experiences, (2) institutional inequality, and (3) ways of reducing inequality may be key to ensuring that increased diversity makes society more productive and harmonious rather than dysfunctional and divided. My research meets this need by focusing on the roles of two building blocks of human behavior: motivation and perception in each of these three domains.

Central to my identity as a researcher is an acknowledgement that the psychological processes at play in each of these domains are actually a complicated set of interrelated processes that can differ significantly based on group membership. In both institutional and interpersonal contexts, the privilege bestowed upon individuals from advantaged groups (e.g., White, male, native English speaking individuals) often makes their psychological experiences in those contexts quite different from the experiences of individuals from disadvantaged groups (e.g., racial minority, female, non-native English speaking individuals)—who have to contend with the potential of being stereotyped or discriminated against. Therefore, my research assesses the psychological experiences of individuals from both groups to understand when the types of motivations and perceptions they have converge and when they diverge. I also examine how these motivations and perceptions influence other psychological experiences (e.g., concerns in interracial interactions, feelings of belonging, condemnation of police shootings), as well as the downstream behavioral consequences of them (e.g., showing respect, earning higher grades, volunteering).