Cornell University

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Psychology of Stratification: How Social Position Influences Meaning Making, Motivation, & Behavior

Thursday, May 17, 2018 at 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room

BCTR Talks at Twelve

People, across backgrounds, aspire to attain high levels of education and to live healthy lives. Examinations of population-level data reveal, however, that those who are situated in lower positions in the social hierarchy (e.g., low-income and racial-ethnic minority people) are less likely to attain those aspirations than their higher-status counterparts. Why are the gaps between aspiration and attainment larger for some groups than for others? In this talk Lewis will present studies from a program of research examining how the interplay between people’s social contexts and identities influence the gaps between aspirations and attainment of educational and health goals. Specifically, he will discuss how social stratification shapes the meaning people make of their experiences, and the downstream consequences of those meaning-making processes for motivation and behavior. He will end by discussing the implications of this research for interventions to reduce aspiration-attainment gaps, and social disparities more broadly.

Neil A. Lewis, Jr. is an assistant professor of communication and social behavior at Cornell University with graduate field appointments in communication and psychology. He is also a faculty affiliate of the Cornell Center for the Study of Inequality and Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, and a fellow of the Dornsife Center for the Mind and Society at the University of Southern California. Prior to his current position, Neil was the interim director of the Preparation Initiative Program in the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, and was a fellow at the International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course. Neil is a first-generation college graduate; he earned his B.A. in economics and psychology at Cornell University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in social psychology at the University of Michigan.
Neil’s research focuses on how the interplay between social identity and social contexts shape motivation and goal-pursuit processes. He uses this framework to understand social disparities, particularly disparities in education and health outcomes. His research has been published in journals such as the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, Psychological Inquiry, Contemporary Educational Psychology, and Social Issues and Policy Review, and has been featured in outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Forbes Magazine, and Business Insider.

Lunch will be served. Metered parking is available in the Botanic Gardens lot across the road from Beebe Hall. No registration or RSVP required except for groups of 5 or more. We ask that larger groups email Lori Biechele at letting us know of your plans to attend so that we can order enough lunch.

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College of Human Ecology, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research




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Contact Name

Lori Biechele

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Neil A. Lewis, Jr.

Speaker Affiliation

Communication and Social Behavior, Cornell University

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Registration Status

No registration or RSVP required

Open To

Free and open to all

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