The Department of Psychology is proud to sponsor an annual Summer Diversity Conference that brings together outstanding speakers addressing topics that represent the intersection of diversity, psychology, and social sciences more broadly. This year's conference will include a keynote presentation entitled “It’s All Identity Politics: How Social Identities Have Polarized the American Electorate” by Dr. Lilliana H. Mason, from University of Maryland. Other invited speakers include Jasmine Abrams, Ph.D. (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Anu Asnaani, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania), as well as two UMD graduate students Sara Barth and Dustin Chin.
Autism spectrum disorder can negatively impact cognitive, social, and emotional development and affect formation of close, personal relationships. One reason for this is that children with autism spectrum disorder have significant difficulties engaging in and maintaining social interactions. While it is clear that atypical social interaction plays an important role in autism, we still do not understand the neuroscientific bases for these difficulties. Previous theories implicate atypical processing in social-motivational and social-cognitive brain networks; however, these theories have only been tested in neuroimaging contexts divorced from social interaction.
The undergraduate student body in the U.S. continues to grow increasingly diverse. In 2013, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported that 56% of undergraduate students in the U.S. were White, 16.5% Hispanic, 14.3% Black, 5.7% Asian. Between 1990 to 2013, Black student enrollment more than doubled and Hispanic student undergraduate enrollment increased by roughly 400%. These encouraging statistics are on par with the enrollment trends in the undergraduate psychology major at the University of Maryland, which very closely matches the national trend.
Chronic drug use impairs brain function leading to persistent deficits in impulse control and decision-making. Although much is known about structural and chemical changes that occur after long term drug abuse, it is still unclear how brain signals necessary for adaptive decision-making are affected. To address this issue, Dr. Roesch has spent his career recording neural activity from single brain cells as rats perform a variety of decision-making tasks with the overarching goal to elucidate how the brain controls behavior in both healthy animals and in animal models of disease. Ultimately, the goal is to rescue disrupted signals and restore behavior to normal levels.
Humans are unique among all species in their ability to develop and enforce social norms, but there is wide variation in the strength of these norms across human groups. Tight cultures are more restrictive and have strong punishments for norm violations while loose cultures have weaker social norms and a higher tolerance for deviant behavior. With over $8 million in funding from NSF, the Department of Defense, and a prize from the Humboldt Foundation, Dr. Michele Gelfand has been using field, laboratory, computational, and neuroscientific methods to understand the evolution of such differences their consequences for nations, states, organizations, teams, and individuals.
Among humans and many non-human species, individuals have a fundamental need to initiate, develop, and sustain close relationships. For example, early in development, when parents rear their young, multiple relationships characterize this period, including relationships between parents as well as between parents and their young. As children develop, family relationships continue to hold some importance to the child, but so do relationships that develop outside of the family (e.g., mate selection in animal species, romantic and work relationships in humans).
Concealable stigmas are personal characteristics that are socially devalued but often not readily apparent to others, such as mental illness, transgender identity, sexually transmitted infections, and the experience of intimate partner violence. People with stigmatized attributes face prejudice and discrimination, which, in turn, has been linked with reduced social, emotional, and physical well-being. To avoid such negative experiences, people with concealable stigmas often have the option of hiding their stigmatized status. The Social Identity Lab, directed by Dr.
Relationship security refers to beliefs that relationship partners care for one's welfare, have positive regard for the self, and are committed to maintaining the relationship. These beliefs are important because they have a strong impact on satisfaction with relationships, relationship persistence, and personal well-being. Hence, it is important to understand how these beliefs are formed. Research in the Interpersonal Relationships Lab, directed by Dr. Edward Lemay, suggests that these beliefs are a result of motivated cognition. Motivated cognition, or "wishful thinking," is the tendency to see the world in ways that are consistent with one's desires.
Fifteen to 20% of young children can be classified as behaviorally inhibited (BI) during infancy, meaning that they consistently respond to unfamiliar situations, objects, and people with negative emotion and withdrawal. Roughly half of infants classified as BI remain so throughout childhood. Prospective studies demonstrate that stable BI across infancy and early childhood is associated with the development of later anxiety, particularly social anxiety disorder—suggesting a need for early intervention.