Culture, Diversity, and Psychophysiology Lab

What We Study

In the CDP lab, we address these and related questions by examining cultural divides—i.e., when people's cultural norms are inconsistent with the prevailing norms 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 divides and develop interventions aimed at bridging these divides and reducing opportunity gaps. Check out "Publications" to learn more about our recent work and "Contact Us" for an application to join the lab.

Who We Are

Principal Investigator


Sarah Townsend is an Associate Professor of Management and Organization. Her research focuses on how socially and culturally constructed beliefs shape (1) how people from different groups interact with each other and thrive (or flounder) within various organizational settings, and (2) how we can intervene to increase all people’s ability to succeed. Using a multi-method approach to examine stress and performance, she measures people's cardiovascular and hormonal responses along with their self-reported thoughts and emotions and their overt behavior. 

Lab Manager


Veronica Perry received her B.A. in Communication from CSU, Sacramento in 2016. She received her master's in Communication Management at USC Annenberg in 2020. She is interested in understanding how stress affects employee well-being and productivity. More specifically, she is interested in how organizations can facilitate cultures and environments where employees are able to develop resilience and recover quicker from adversity. She is also interested in how Social Learning Theory can be applied in organizations to increase an employee’s ability to bounce back from hardship, improve their mental health and fortify their well-being. 

Graduate Students


Mindy Truong received her B.S. in Psychology at the University of California, San Diego in 2014. She’s currently a second-year Ph.D. student in the Management and Organization department at the USC Marshall School of Business where she previously worked as the research coordinator/lab manager for two years. She’s interested in how people's backgrounds affect the way they think, feel, and behave. More specifically, she is interested in how people's social class backgrounds and ideological beliefs influence their organizational outcomes.


Andrea Villafuerte is a Ph.D. student in the Management and Organization department at the USC Marshall School of Business. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Before joining USC, she worked as a research coordinator at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. She is interested in understanding how our own identities, as well as our hierarchy and diversity beliefs, shape our understanding of inequality and intergroup relations.

Research Assistants


Mythili Iyer is freshman at USC double majoring in Cognitive Science and Health and Human Sciences and minoring in Gender and Social Justice. She is interested in learning about the link between culture and mental health and the impact of sex differences on cognition. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading, and watching movies. After graduation, she hopes to attend graduate school to study Clinical Psychology. 


Athena Boyle is a sophomore majoring in Psychology. She is passionate about prison reform and is interested in how therapy and other forms of reform can help the aid cognitive development of youth in prisons. After graduation, she plans on studying Clinical Psychology in graduate school.


Jamie Lin is a junior at USC majoring in Psychology with a minor in Marketing. Coming from Taiwan with an international background, she is interested in the power language has over interactions across groups. She loves music and movies, and hopes to conduct consumer research in the future.

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Ian Sotomayer is double majoring in Psychology and Philosophy and is minoring in Religion. He will be graduating with the class of 2021, and is currently a senior. He has taken Dr. Sarah Townsend as a mentor for USC's Psychology Department's Honors Program, and also works as an intern at a mental health residential home. Ian enjoys hiking, exploring, drinking coffee, and having talks about anything ranging from human behavior to emotions to debates about morality.


Lucy Sun is a senior at USC majoring in History. She's interested in how people's beliefs and backgrounds affect their decisions and behavior both within a historical context and in the present day. After graduation, she hopes to attend law school. In her free time, she enjoys exploring Los Angeles, being outdoors, and learning new languages.


Michayla Baigel is a senior at USC majoring in cognitive science and minoring in linguistics. She is interested in studying the abnormal brain, and helping to identify processes that lead to improved daily functioning and quality of life. She plans on going to graduate school to study clinical psychology. In her free time she enjoys puzzles and staying active.


Gia Ariola is a curious Business Administration major with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship and a minor in Computer Security. She is interested in the link between data and the human experience and is hoping to use her analytical skills to assist in solving social problems and lead strategic projects for local governments. She is excited to work with the Lab to better understand public diplomacy in the US today.


Michelle Sung is a sophomore studying Psychology at USC. She is primarily interested in how inequality plays a role in educational settings, as well as the way culture affects how we perceive mental illness. In her free time, she enjoys being involved in advocacy around campus and writing about social issues. In the future, she hopes to conduct research of her own and pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology. 


Raigan Priest is currently a second year master's student at the USC Marshall school of Business. She received a B.S. in psychology from Florida State University in 2016.  Before attending USC, she worked on creating structure and strategic plans for large or growing organizations. Raigan is interested in judgement, decision making and influence. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in organizational behavior after completing her MBA. In her spare time, Raigan is involved with a variety of female empowerment organizations. 


Grace Schwartz is a junior at USC majoring in Psychology and pursuing a Progressive Master’s Degree in Computer Science. She is interested in the intersection of race and class in the context of agency in psychiatric care, and she’s a firm believer in the need for psychiatric care reform. In her free time, she volunteers with the Prison Education Project and her local Humane Society. After graduation, Grace plans to earn a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

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Fall 2019

Lab Alumni

Liz Quinn, former lab manager, PhD social psychology student at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Nickolas Wrobleski, former research assistant, masters student at the Harvard Divinity School

Hridee Patel, former research assistant, tech consultant at Ernst & Young

Amanda Katz, former research assistant, medical scribe at Exer More Than Urgent Care

Hannah Greenberg, former research assistant, equity research analyst at Barclays

Yuefan Sun, former research assistant, PhD student at Harvard

Stephanie Smallets, former PhD student, specialist at McKinsey & Company

Brittany Torrez, former lab manager, PhD student at Yale School of Management