About Our Research

CDIRL is based at Berkeley Law. The overarching goal of our research is to understand psychological processes related to diversity and inclusion in order to address the challenges of working, living, and learning in diverse environments. Our work is therefore relevant to legal, organizational, and educational settings. Our research questions fall into two general, overlapping categories: diversity and culture.

The primary focus of our lab is on people’s beliefs about and reactions to diversity. One major line of research contrasts two popular models of diversity: multiculturalism (acknowledge group differences) and colorblindness (ignore group differences). We have found that, paradoxically, colorblindness is associated with more negative intergroup attitudes. Moreover, which model of diversity dominant group members embrace has real consequences for their minority coworkers.

Another major line of research investigates the power of organizations’ diversity climate (or that of a learning environment) to affect feelings of inclusion. Models of diversity, diversity resistance, stereotypes about groups, and even stereotypes about the organization can affect a diversity climate. We have found that certain diversity climates can lead some people to feel unwelcome even in the absence of overt discrimination. These feelings of exclusion in turn predict reduced participation, engagement, and support for diversity.

Our lab also studies the way people's beliefs about their racial identity affect their attitudes toward diversity. For example, past research has been unable to reconcile how a strong White racial identity can sometimes predict negative outcomes and other times positive outcomes. Our studies suggest that to best predict intergroup attitudes with White racial identity, researchers should take both identity strength and identity form into account.

Representative publications

Plaut, V. C., Garnett, F. G., Buffardi, L., & Sanchez-Burks, J. (2011) “What about me?” Perceptions of exclusion and Whites’ reactions to multiculturalism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 337-353.

Plaut, V. C. (2010). Diversity science: Why and how difference makes a difference (Target Article). Psychological Inquiry, 21, 77-99.

Plaut, V. C., Thomas, K. M., & Goren, M. J. (2009). Is multiculturalism or colorblindness better for minorities? Psychological Science, 20, 444-446.

Cheryan, S., Plaut, V. C., Davies, P. G., & Steele, C. M. (2009). Ambient belonging: How stereotypical cues impact gender participation in computer science. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 1045-1060.

Stevens, F. G., Plaut, V. C., & Sanchez-Burks, J. (2008). Unlocking the benefits of diversity: All-inclusive multiculturalism and positive organizational change. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 44, 116-133.

Thomas, K., & Plaut, V. (2008). The many faces of diversity resistance in the workplace. In K. Thomas (Ed.), Diversity resistance in organizations: Manifestations and solutions (pp. 1-22). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Plaut, V. C. (2002). Cultural models of diversity: The psychology of difference and inclusion. In R. Shweder, M. Minow, & H. R. Markus (Eds.), Engaging cultural differences: The multicultural challenge in liberal democracies (pp. 365-395). New York: Russell Sage Foundation Press.

Recently, we have also started to investigate the relationship between psychology and law in two major areas: diversity and property.

Plaut, V.C., Tecle, A., & Feddersen, M. (in press). A sociocultural analysis of U.S. immigration law and psychology. To appear in Tartakovsky, E. (Ed.), Immigration: Policies, Challenges and Impact. Nova Science Publishers.

Anderson, M. W. & Plaut, V. C. (2012). Property law: Implicit bias and the resilience of spatial colorlines. In J. Levinson & R. Smith (Eds.), Implicit racial bias across the law (pp. 25-44). Cambridge University Press.

Another focus of our research is on cultural variation in intrapersonal and interpersonal processes related to well-being, success, self, and relationship. People's psychological processes and behavior are shaped by (and give shape to) their cultural contexts. Our research finds not only that our national culture shapes our psychology, but that our regional and local cultures do, too. For example, whereas the Mountain West emphasizes a frontier mentality and control-focused well-being, the collectivistic South emphasizes other-focused well-being. Additionally, urban areas foster models of relationship based on choice, whereas rural areas foster models of relationship that offer less choice—with different implications for relationship and well-being. Our studies in this area have examined regional, urban-rural, and national variation in attractiveness and relationship, well-being, values, sexism, and models of success.

Representative publications

Plaut, V. C., Markus, H. R., Treadway, J. R., & Fu, A. S. (in press). The cultural construction of self and well-being: A tale of two cities. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Plaut, V. C., Adams, G., & Anderson, S. (2009). Does attractiveness buy happiness? “It depends on where you’re from.” Personal Relationships, 16, 619-630.

Anderson, S., Adams, G., & Plaut, V.C. (2008). The cultural grounding of personal relationship: The importance of attractiveness in everyday life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 352-368.

Plaut, V. C., & Markus, H. R. (2005). The “inside” story: A cultural-historical analysis of how to be smart and motivated, American style. In C. Dweck & A. Elliott, Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 457-488). New York: Guilford.

Adams, G., & Plaut, V. C. (2003). The cultural grounding of relationship: Friendship in North American and West African worlds. Personal Relationships, 10, 335-349.

Plaut, V. C., Markus, H. R., & Lachman, M.E. (2002). Place matters: Consensual features and regional variation in American well-being and self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 160-184.