Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Steven Spencer

Steven Spencer

  • SPN Mentor

I am interested in research concerning the self, covering areas such as self-esteem and its implications, the importance of implicit self-esteem, and the self-concept as it varies across cultures. I also conduct research on stereotyping and prejudice, including stereotype threat, a phenomenon that causes negatively stereotyped groups to underperform in stereotype-heavy situations (on standardized tests such as the SAT, for example) because of the extra pressure to avoid confirming the negative stereotype to be true. When placed in a stereotype-reduced environment (such as instructions on a math test saying that it does not show gender differences), the differences in performance are alleviated, with the stereotyped group even outperfoming the non-stereotyped group; this is known as the latent ability effect.

I have also done work on stereotype activation (when the stereotype first enters consciousness) and application (when the stereotype is applied to someone). Both stereotype activation and application depend on the goals a person holds in a situation: comprehension goals (the need to understand events and form coherent impressions), self-enhancement goals (the need to affirm self-worth), or motivation to avoid prejudice (this may prevent application, but not necessarily activation). Both the goals and what is able to satisfy them vary by situation. In some cases, people may be more likely to stereotype if it will help them reach their goal (if their goal is self-enhancement so that they may feel better about themselves, they may apply a stereotype to someone with whom they do not socially identify), or less likely (if their goal is self-enhancement but remaining egalitarian is important to them). People may activate stereotypes but not apply them if their goal discourages application (Kunda & Spencer, 2003).

I also study societal norms (the perception of how or what other people in society think about something) and their impacts in areas such as social identity, prejudice and discrimination, and women's self-perception.

Primary Interests:

  • Gender Psychology
  • Intergroup Relations
  • Motivation, Goal Setting
  • Prejudice and Stereotyping
  • Self and Identity
  • Social Cognition

Research Group or Laboratory:

Note from the Network: The holder of this profile has certified having all necessary rights, licenses, and authorization to post the files listed below. Visitors are welcome to copy or use any files for noncommercial or journalistic purposes provided they credit the profile holder and cite this page as the source.

Image Gallery


Journal Articles:

  • Davies, P. G., Spencer, S. J., & Steele, C. M. (2005). Clearing the air: Identity safety moderates the effects of stereotype threat on women’s leadership aspirations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 276-287.
  • Hoshino-Browne, E., Zanna, A. S., Spencer, S. J., Zanna, M. P., Kitayama, S., & Lackenbauer, S. (2005). On the cultural guises of cognitive dissonance: The case of easterners and westerners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 294-310.
  • Jordan, C. H., Spencer, S. J., & Zanna, M. P. (2005). Types of high self-esteem and prejudice: How implicit self-esteem relates to ethnic discrimination among high explicit self-esteem individuals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 693-702.
  • Jordan, C., Spencer, S. J., & Zanna, M. P., Hoshino-Browne, E., & Correll, J. (2003). Implicit self-esteem, explicit self-esteem and defensiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 969-978.
  • Kunda, Z., & Spencer, S. J. (2003). When do stereotypes come to mind and when do they color judgment? A goal-based theory of stereotype activation and application. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 522-544.
  • Lau, G. P., Kay, A. C., & Spencer, S. J. (2008). Loving those who justify inequality: The effects of system threat on attraction to women who embody benevolent sexist ideals. Psychological Science, 19, 20-21.
  • Logel, C. E. R., Iserman, E. C., Spencer, S. J., Davies, P. G., & Quinn, D. M. (2009). The perils of avoiding negative thoughts: Thought suppression as a mediator of stereotype threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 299-312.
  • Logel, C. E. R., Walton, G. M., Spencer, S. J., von Hippel, W., Bell, A., & Iserman, E. (2009). Interacting with Sexist Men Triggers Social Identity Threat Among Female Engineers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 1089-1103.
  • Spencer, S. J., Zanna, M. P., & Fong, G. (2005). Establishing a causal chain: Why experiments are often more effective than mediational analyses in examining psychological processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 845-851.
  • Stinson, D. A., Logel, C., Zanna, M. P., Holmes, J. G., Cameron, J. J., Wood, J. V., & Spencer, S. J. (2008). The cost of lower self-esteem: Testing a self- and social-bonds model of health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 412-428.
  • Strahan, E. J., Lafrance, A., Wilson, A. E., Ethier, N., Spencer, S. J., & Zanna, M. P. (2008). Victoria's dirty secret: How sociocultural norms influence adolescent girls and women. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 288-301.
  • Walton, G. M., & Spencer, S. J. (2009). Latent Ability: Grades and Test Scores Systematically Underestimate the Intellectual Ability of Negatively Stereotyped Students. Psychological Science, 20, 1132-1139.
  • Walton, G. M., & Spencer, S. J. (2009). Latent ability: Grades and test scores systematically underestimate the intellectual ability of negatively stereotyped students.

Steven Spencer
Department of Psychology
University of Waterloo
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1

  • Phone: (519) 888-4567, x3046
  • Fax: (519) 746-8631

Send a message to Steven Spencer

Note: You will be emailed a copy of your message.

Psychology Headlines

From Around the World

News Feed (35,797 subscribers)