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Faculty Spotlight

Professor of Psychology and University Distinguished Professor 
Research Areas: Intergroup relations; Social identity and psychological well-being; Coping with discrimination; Collective guilt; Perceptions of victims; Inequality and social change
Recent Publication: Haslam, C., Steffens, N.K., Branscombe, N.R., Haslam, S.A., Cruwys, T., Lam, B.C.P., Pachana, N.A., & Yang, J. (in press). The importance of social groups for retirement adjustment: Evidence, application, and policy implications of the Social Identity Model of Identity Change. Social Issues and Policy Review.  
Dr. Branscombe grew up in Canada in a large family, with six older siblings with whom she remains close. She completed her undergraduate degree at York University (1980), her Masters at University of Western Ontario (1982), and her PhD at Purdue University in Social Psychology (1986). Dr. Branscombe then spent a year on a post-doctoral fellowship at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since then she says, "My career has been a long and happy one at KU."

"Students at KU are enthusiastic and eager to learn.

Very interested in developing research projects to

find the answers to their questions

about the social world and their place in it."

What do you teach?
Psychology 818:  Experimental Research Methods, Psychology 361: Honors Social Psychology, Psychology 993:  Social Psychology of Gender, Psychology 993:  Intergroup Relations, Psychology 993:  Intergroup Emotions, and Psychology 465: Stereotyping & Prejudice Across Cultures
What do you enjoy most about working with students at KU?
Students at KU are enthusiastic and eager to learn. Very interested in developing research projects to find the answers to their questions about the social world and their place in it. In my experience, they are devoted to finding ways to make the world a better place. KU students are smart, motivated, and they work very hard; who could ask for more!
What are some of the things that excite you about the Psychology Department at KU?
I have always felt a great deal of freedom working at KU—to investigate what I want and to select the most suitable method to address the research question. It is an incredibly supportive research environment—encouraging growth and change as the years roll by. I feel I am part of a strong, vibrant department and, in the social psychology graduate program in particular, we are all part of a cohesive family. In the 30 years I have been at KU, I have benefited from the many resources and opportunities provided as part of KU’s psychology department. The graduate students at KU are phenomenal, and collaborating with them on research is the most exciting part of my academic life.

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Dr. Nyla Branscombe and Dr. Yan Bing Zhang at KU's 2018 Hooding Ceremony

What is the current focus in your research?
My research focuses on the role that group memberships—and their associated social identities—play in shaping people’s emotions, thoughts, and behavior. Not only are social identities important for defining who people think they are and how they ought to act, they are powerful determinants of the treatment received from others. Much of my research has addressed the nature of the social identity threats people encounter and must cope with, depending on their social group’s status and history. Research addressing the psychological dilemmas posed by social identity threat has developed in three research trajectories: 1) threats experienced primarily by historically disadvantaged group members, 2) those faced predominantly by historically advantaged group members, and 3) those experienced by third-party observers.
How did you become interested in Social Psychology (or Psychology in general)?
From the very beginning, with the first social psychology course I took as an undergraduate, I knew this discipline was for me. I realized you can study our world, find out how things work, and be paid for doing so! That was very eye opening—the idea that I could investigate issues that have shaped my own life. The second advanced social psychology course I took introduced me to the concept of ‘feminism’ and feminist research that uncovers how the social structure operates to maintain gender inequality and pathways to change.
Outside of teaching and research, what are your passions and interests?
I like gardening, cooking and trying new cuisines, politics, listening to blues & jazz music, travelling, doing puzzles and playing games with friends, and all things related to cats.