A Contextual Approach to the Social Psychological Study of Stigma

Friday, October 11, 2019 - 11:35am

Talk Abstract: “Stigma has been conceptualized as a multi-level construct, ranging from intrapersonal processes (e.g., internalized stigma) and interpersonal interactions (e.g., discrimination) to structural factors (e.g., laws, institutional practices, cultural norms). However, social psychological research on stigma has focused almost exclusively on intra- and inter-personal stigma processes, despite repeated calls by psychologists to pay greater attention to structural and contextual factors that influence stigma processes. My research program has begun to address this gap by introducing a novel structural/contextual approach to the social psychological study of stigma. We have done so through documenting how structural forms of stigma—which I define as “societal-level conditions, cultural norms, and institutional policies and practices that constrain the opportunities, resources, and wellbeing of the stigmatized”—affect stigmatized populations. In this talk, I will review observational, quasi-experimental, and laboratory studies from our research group that 1) document the psychological consequences of structural stigma for members of stigmatized groups, and 2) identify biopsychosocial mechanisms linking structural stigma to adverse mental health outcomes. I discuss this work within the context of the emerging field of contextual social psychology, which seeks to place psychological processes within their broader socio-structural contexts.”