Congratulations and best wishes to Jackson Harper, our erstwhile lab manager, who will be leaving us to study information and library science as a graduate student at Indiana University at Bloomington! We are very thankful for all that he has done for the lab.

Congratulations to Hyun Joon for successfully defending his comprehensive exam!

Congratulations to our graduating undergraduate research assistants: Wei Liu, Juliana Ruta, and Roxy Zhang! We wish you all the best of luck in your future careers!

Hyun Joon presented a poster on the effect of psychological interventions on Ph.D. students’ cortisol levels at #SPSP2020 in New Orleans, LA.

Jason presented a poster on the impact of affirmation interventions on undergraduate students’ daily stress at #SPSP2020 in New Orleans, LA.


Our research investigates how social situations and group memberships affect how people view themselves and their world. Much of our research examines the perspectives of people from groups that are negatively stereotyped or stigmatized in society due to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or chronic illness. Our research seeks to understand when and how social situations and group memberships can cause psychological threat and how this affects motivation, behavior, and basic biological processes.

An important component of our research is developing and testing psychological interventions to mitigate psychological threat. Our research supports the idea that psychological intervention approaches, particularly when well-timed (e.g., during important life transitions) and well-placed (e.g., in specific contexts that elicit threat), can lead to lasting individual improvements in performance and health. Our perspective is that over time, collective individual-level changes can create bottom-up change in larger social systems (e.g., increasing diversity) that helps to foster more equitable social environments.

Current projects examine identity concealment, focusing particularly on religion, chronic illness, and sexual orientation, and the longitudinal impact of values-affirmation interventions on academic experiences and outcomes. Ultimately, we aim to understand the basic processes and implications of psychological threat, how these can contribute to disparities between groups, and how to mitigate threat through psychological intervention.

Methodological Approach

Our research is situated at an emerging frontier in social psychology, in which psychological processes are seen to interact with other factors in a social system and unfold dynamically over time. Behavioral outcomes in this new paradigm are not limited to short-term effects, but to ongoing feedback cycles between individuals and their environment. For example, our research suggests the importance of intervention timing in protecting against self-reinforcing downward trajectories that often characterize psychological and behavioral outcomes in chronically threatening environments. To investigate these processes, our laboratory relies on advances in research methods and statistical analysis. The research we conduct is methodologically diverse and includes cognitive, physiological, and behavioral measures. We conduct longitudinal experiments in the laboratory and field and incorporate momentary assessment designs that capture people’s everyday experiences over time.

Sample Publications

Pasek, M. H., Cook, J. E., (2017). Religion from the target’s perspective: A portrait of religious threat and its consequences in the United States. Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Pasek, M. H., Filip-Crawford, G., & Cook, J. E. (2017). Identity concealment and social change: Balancing advocacy goals against individual needs. Journal of Social Issues, 73(2), 397-412.

Cook, J. E., Salter, A., & Stadler, G. (2017). Identity concealment and chronic illness: A strategic choice. Journal of Social Issues, 73(2), 359-378

Powers, J. T., Cook, J. E., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., & Cohen, G. L. (2016). Changing environments by changing individuals: The emergent effects of psychological intervention. Psychological Science, 27(2), 150-160.

Cook, J. E., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Meyer, I. H., & Busch, J. T. A. (2014). Intervening within and across levels: A multilevel approach to stigma and public health. Social Science & Medicine, 103, 101-109.

Shnabel, N., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Cook, J. E., Garcia, J., & Cohen, G. L. (2013). Demystifying values-affirmation interventions: Writing about social-belonging is a key to buffering against stereotype threat. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39(5), 663-676.

Cook, J. E., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Garcia, J., & Cohen, G. L. (2012). Chronic threat and contingent belonging: Protective benefits of values affirmation on identity development. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(3), 479-496.

Cook, J. E., Calcagno, J., Arrow, H., & Malle, B. F. (2012). Friendship trumps ethnicity (but not sexual orientation): Comfort and discomfort in intergroup interactions. British Journal of Social Psychology, 51(2), 273-289.

Cook, J. E., Arrow, H., & Malle, B. F. (2011). The effect of feeling stereotyped on social power and inhibition. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(2), 165-180.