Associate Chair of Research and Graduate Studies
Director, Social Program
Ph.D., 1989, University of Michigan
Research Areas: Social Psychology
I study stereotyping and prejudice, and more specifically, I focus on how stereotypes affect judgments of and behavior displayed toward individual members of stereotyped groups (including the self). My research on the "shifting standards model" suggests that by virtue of holding a stereotype, we use category-specific standards against which we judge members of stereotyped groups. The result is that, for example, an individual woman might be judged as more aggressive than a comparable man-a contrast effect-because she is judged relative to a lower (female) standard. My research has also suggested that perceivers set lower minimum standards but higher confirmatory standards (e.g., stringent evidentiary criteria to document ability in a domain) for members of devalued groups (women, Blacks), and that zero-sum behaviors(distribution of valued resources) tend to favor the positively stereotyped, whereas nonzero-sum behaviors favor the negatively stereotyped (e.g., the "terrific" female softball player may receive more pats on the back than a comparable male player, but nonetheless still find herself benched more often than the male). The overall theme of this research is that stereotypes guide judgments of others in subtle, complex, and sometimes contradictory ways.
Selected Recent Publications
Biernat, M. (2012). Stereotypes and shifting standards: Forming, communicating and translating person impressions. In P. G. Devine & E. A. Plant (Eds.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 45 (pp. 1-59). New York: Elsevier.
Biernat, M., & Danaher, K. (2012). Interpreting and reacting to feedback in stereotype-relevant performance domains. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 271-276.
Biernat, M., & Danaher, K. (2012). Prejudice. In H. A. Tennen and J. M. Suls (Eds.), Handbook of Psychology, Volume 5: Personality and Social Psychology (pp. 340-367). New York: Wiley.
Biernat, M., & Deaux, K. (2012). A history of gender in social psychology. In A. Kruglanski and W. Stroebe (Eds.), Handbook of the History of Social Psychology. Psychology Press.
Biernat, M., & Sesko, A. (2013). Communicating about others: Motivations and consequences of race-based impressions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 138-143.
Biernat, M., & Sesko, A. K. (2013). Evaluating the contributions of members of mixed-sex work teams: Race and gender matter. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 471-476.
Fuegen, K., & Biernat, M. (2013). Gender-based standards of competence in parenting and work roles. In M. K. Ryan & N. R. Branscombe (Eds.), Handbook of gender and psychology (pp. 131-147). New York: Sage.
Biernat, M., Tocci, M.J., & Williams, J. C. (2012). The language of performance evaluations: Gender-based shifts in content and consistency of judgment. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 186-192.