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Science for Social Change

Insights from the OUE Research Team

In honor of Black History Month, we highlight the work of a researcher who focuses on the experience and agency of Black and African American students in US higher education. Dr. Tiffany Brannon, a psychological scientist and assistant professor at UCLA, examines how theory-based psychological research can be used to facilitate social change. Her research focuses on socio-cultural identities and the potential for these identities to serve as a psychological resource—one that can facilitate various individual and intergroup benefits and serve as powerful agents of social change.

In a recent article, Brannon and Lin (2021) examined lists of demands from Black students and their allies organizing against systemic racism in higher education institutions (including Duke). In analyzing these demands, the authors found that, perhaps not surprisingly, 87.2% of demands included calls to reduce prejudice and systemic discrimination, including things like improving policies and procedures for dealing with bias incidents, renaming buildings, and removing memorials to historical figures associated with oppression; and enhanced educational opportunities for members of the campus community related to anti-racism and anti-oppressive
practices.

At the same time, 89.7% of demands included calls to increase funding in support of departments, courses, groups, and spaces focused on celebrating and affirming the culture and strengths of African Americans and other marginalized groups. Drawing from their analysis of student demands and integrating disparate lines of research in social and developmental psychology, Brannon and Lin proposed the Pride and Prejudice model, which argues that effective diversity practices require institutions to both affirm and celebrate sources of pride and cultural strengths among marginalized populations and act to reduce prejudice, stigma, and other manifestations of systemic racism.

In support of their model, drawing from a sample of almost 2,000 African American and Latino/a/x undergraduate students at 27 US colleges and universities, Brannon and Lin (2021) found that students' reports of pride and prejudice experiences in college were linked to feelings of belonging, but through different pathways. Pride experiences, such as taking ethnic studies courses and engaging with identity and cultural centers, were associated with belonging by promoting feelings of closeness to members of the same racial/ethnic group.

On the other hand, (lack of) prejudice and discrimination experiences on campus were associated with feelings of belonging by promoting feelings of closeness with members of different racial/ethnic groups. Feelings of belonging, in turn, were associated with academic performance and students' physical and mental health. To learn more about Dr. Brannon's work, you can listen to this recent podcast discussing the pride and prejudice model and insights offered by mixed methods research or read some recent publications.