Motivated Reasoning and the Self

How does our self-concept, and particularly our desire to maintain a positive self-image affect the way we process information about the world. How can we overcome the biases that lead us to see the world the way we would like it to be? My research explores how self-affirmation exercises that help put particular threats to the self-concept in a broader perspective can help people overcome their biases.

Stereotype Threat

My research in this area has been focused on motivation, and specifically how the threat of being seen stereotypically can lead people to both be motivated to disprove the stereotype, but also to try to avoid confirming the stereotype, and the tension between these motivations. This was the subject of my 2008 PhD dissertation.


In this research I explore how the belief that traits, such as intelligence, are either fixed or malleable affects how people respond to negative feedback. I find that when people see intelligence as fixed, for instance, they become much more defensive toward negative feedback, whereas when they see intelligence as malleable they focus their efforts on improvement instead.