Over the course of US history, there have been and continue to be vast inequalities in terms of race and social class. My research examines how features of our social and cultural context shape peoples’ attitudes and behavior in ways that work to reify existing inequalities and stagnate change.
Overall, my work aims to shed light on: 1) how we think about and behave towards diverse others within a complex society riddled with inequality; and 2) how we facilitate positive change. Towards these aims, my research draws broadly on developmental, social, and cultural psychology to examine three processes, which I describe in more detail below:
- “Birds of a Feather Flock Together”: Racial Segregation and Same-Race Preferences: One hallmark of U.S. society is the people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds who live within it. Nonetheless, these racial groups live, attend schools, and work in largely segregated locations. Consequently, they experience very little diversity and cross-group interaction in their everyday lives. Thus, I investigate how exposure to segregated spaces can shape people’s expectations about cross-race interactions and their willingness to engage across group lines.
- “What is left out is as important as what is there”: Bias towards Native Americans: Instead of investigating how our physical landscape shapes people’s perceptions of diverse others, in this line of work I focus on our representational landscape. That is, what are the available representations in our social world, such as those offered by the media, popular culture, school, and even scientific research. By focusing on the omission of representations of Native Americans, I argue, and demonstrate that people make meaning from the lack of representation, and that this constitutes a form of bias, which ultimately impacts intergroup relations.
- “Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and rich?”: Perceptions of Resource Possession and Allocations in Infancy: Given the ubiquity of cues to wealth and resource inequality and the evolutionary significance of resource control, in this line of work I explore the development of evaluations based on resource allocations. For example, I ask are infants sensitive to how resources are distributed/acquired; how do infants evaluate fair and unfair resource distributors; how do infants evaluate advantaged and disadvantaged resource recipients/group members? Furthermore, I investigate whether there are individual/cultural differences in these sensitivities and evaluations.
Eason, A.E., Kaiser, C.R., & Sommerville, J.A. (2018). Underrepresentation and the perception of others’ racial attitudes. Social Psychological and Personality Science. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550618788855
Fryberg, S.A., & Eason, A.E. (2017). Making the Invisible Visible: Acts of Commission and Omission. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 26(6), 554-559 https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721417720959.
Eason, A.E., Doctor, D., Chang, E., Kushnir, T., & Sommerville, J.A. (2018). The choice is yours: Infants' expectations about an agent’s future behavior based on taking and receiving actions. Developmental Psychology, 54(5), 829-841. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000482
DesChamps, T. D., Eason, A. E., & Sommerville, J. A. (2016). Infants Associate Praise and Admonishment with Fair and Unfair Individuals. Infancy, 21(4), 478-504. doi: 10.1111/infa.12117