Modern Research in Psychology of Diversity

Instructor: Daniel Murdock

Daniel has taught Public Health at the graduate level and has a Ph.D. in Behavioral Sciences & Health Education.

In this lesson, we'll explore key topics in modern psychological studies of diversity. Specifically, we'll examine recent research on weightism, ageism, multiculturalism, and color-blindness.

Studying the Psychology of Diversity

What proportion of the U.S. population has a disability? Do you have to guess? If so, what information would you use to make that guess?

Psychological researchers have found that we often make mistakes in our thinking about other people and our social world. For example, people tend to underestimate the number of individuals with disabilities in the population, in part because people with disabilities are underrepresented in the media.

The field of research that examines issues like these is known as the psychology of diversity. The psychology of diversity examines how we interact with the diverse social environments in which we live. It considers how these environments impact the way we think, feel, and act and, in turn, how we shape our social environments.

Psychological studies of diversity seek to examine many different dimensions of diversity, including those associated with historical disadvantage, such as gender and race, as well as organizational affiliations and political ideologies. Another important goal of these studies is to identify and call attention to the occurrence of social injustice.

Traditionally, this field of research has focused on topics such as racism, sexism, social categorization, and stereotypes. However, the focus of modern research in the psychology of diversity has expanded to include many other topics as well. Let's examine a few important topics in modern research in the psychology of diversity.

Weightism

Visible aspects of diversity, like gender and race, have been some of the most-researched aspects of diversity. Body shape and size are other visible aspects of diversity, but, historically, weight has been one of the least-researched dimensions of diversity in psychological studies. However, research on weightism, or weight-based discrimination, has increased dramatically over the past several years.

Weightism is an important issue in the psychological study of diversity for a number of reasons. First, our body shape and size inform our self-image and our self-esteem. Second, there is widespread prejudice and discrimination against people based on their body weight. And, unlike most other forms of discrimination, there are no laws protecting people from weight discrimination. Last but not least, being overweight or obese is often associated with lower social status and less social opportunity.

Ageism

Age diversity is another topic that has historically received little research attention, but recently that has started to change. As baby boomers head into retirement, the senior citizen population will increase dramatically in the U.S. over the next several years. This has caught the attention of researchers and has spurred increased interest in studying ageism, or prejudice or discrimination on the basis of a person's age.

An important theory that has come out of this recent research is the inter-generational model of ageism, which argues that ageism results from ambivalence and conflict between different generations. This framework identifies three distinct social phenomena that can contribute to ageism:

  • Conflict between different generations about how to control and allocate economic resources
  • Increased social ambivalence regarding inter-generational relations
  • Changing social attitudes that increase negative beliefs and stereotypes about the elderly

Multiculturalism & Color-Blindness

In recent years, multiculturalism and color-blindness are two important concepts that have become a major part of our public discourse around diversity. Multiculturalism is the view that social and cultural differences should be celebrated and that the culture and contributions of minority groups deserve special recognition from the community as a whole. Color-blindness is the view that in an ideal society, people should be treated strictly as individuals without regard to racial and ethnic classifications.

In psychology, color-blindness refers to an ideology that de-emphasizes race and ethnicity to consider people strictly as individuals.
A color vision test

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