What we study

In the face of similar organizational demands, why do some people flounder while others thrive?

How can schools and organizations promote achievement among diverse students and employees?

In the CDP lab, we address these and related questions by examining cultural matches and mismatches—i.e., when people's beliefs are consistent with, or inconsistent with, the prevailing beliefs of organizations and institutions.  

We use multiple methodologies, including laboratory-based experiments, internet-based surveys, field studies, and content analysis of cultural products. Our lab adopts a model of stress in which we differentiate "good stress" and "bad stress" using a combination of self-reported cognitions and emotions, overt behavior, and cardiovascular and hormonal reactivity. 

We examine the negative consequences of cultural mismatches and develop interventions aimed at fostering cultural matches and their more positive outcomes. Below is an example of some our recent research.

Cultural Mismatches

We examine the consequences of when people’s values do not match those supported by the context. 

​We explore social class cultural mismatches. For example, we examine when middle-class people are denied the ability to express their preferences or are judged based on their group membership; or when working-class people are expected to pave their own paths more than cultivating relationships. 

We also investigate mismatches between people's ideological belief in meritocracy and their experiences in intergroup settings (i.e., being treated unfairly or not based on their merit).

The result of these mismatches is lower self-esteem, more maladaptive coping responses, and under performance.


We work to develop interventions that might help reduce the negative consequences associated with cultural mismatches.

One way we seek to do this is by providing people with information suggesting that their context is actually more of a match than they may have thought. For example, we show students from working-class backgrounds a letter from their university that portrays the school as being more interdependent.

Another way we attempt to reduce the negative outcomes of mismatches is through education. Specifically, we tell people about how other individuals, with backgrounds similar to their own, have been successful in the mismatched context.

Both of these strategies are currently showing promising results.

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