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Diana T. Sanchez

Diana T. Sanchez

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The social psychological study of stigma, self/identity, and social issues represent the overarching themes of my research. I have pursued these topics in two separate lines of research: (1) the racial and ethnic identity and categorization of atypical minorities such as those who are racially ambiguous, multiracial, or multicultural and (2) the stigmatizing nature of gender ideals with a special emphasis on the consequences of stigma for women’s health and close relationships.

(1) Categorization and Identification of Atypical Minorities

Multiracial people today are considered atypical minorities because they represent a smaller fraction of the ethnic minority population (Sanchez, Good, & Chavez, 2011); however, they may not be atypical in the near future. In the last half century, the growing diversity and racial integration in the U.S. has resulted in an increasing biracial (and multiracial) population. Estimates suggest that nearly 7 million people identified as multiracial in the U.S in 2000 (Jones & Symens-Smith, 2001). Based on census data, projections estimate that 1 in 5 Americans will identify as biracial by the year 2050 (Farley, 2001). Despite this growing population and prominent biracial figures such as President Obama, there has been relatively little empirical research on biracial populations in psychology (Shih & Sanchez, 2005; 2009) and even less on how biracial people are perceived, categorized, and treated (Sanchez & Bonam, 2009). This is surprising when considering the potentially transformative nature of studying biracial populations who, by virtue of belonging to two different racial groups, can reveal a more complex and deeper understanding of intergroup relations and social identity processes. For example, scant attention has been paid to the factors that predict which racial groups people are categorized into because such groups have been considered fixed, and assignment by self and others (e.g., based on prototypical features) has been assumed to be automatic. Yet, my NSF funded work on biracial and multicultural individuals suggests that they are less likely to be categorized into minority groups than prototypical group members, which has important consequences for how perceivers view them, including whether they consider them as appropriate recipients of minority resources (e.g., affirmative action) and of higher status (Sanchez & Bonam, 2009; Sanchez & Chavez, 2010).

(2) The Stigmatizing Nature of Gender Ideals

Gender roles guide and constrain men and women’s behavior across a wide range of settings, including their behavior in intimate relationships. On the one hand, conforming to gender norms helps men and women avoid the costs of being perceived as deviant. On the other hand, my research finds that investment in gender norms predicts lowered self-esteem, symptoms of disordered eating, and less satisfying sexual relationships (Sanchez & Crocker, 2005; Sanchez, Crocker, & Boike, 2005). Specifically, investment in gender norms predicts lower psychological well-being and less satisfying sexual experiences because gender norm adherence thwarts feelings of autonomy and promotes basing self-esteem on others’ approval (Sanchez et al., 2005). However, these effects are likely to be moderated by the motives underlying gender norm conformity. Specifically, men and women who adhere to gender norms in order to meet other’s expectations (controlled motivation) have worse psychological outcomes than people who choose to conform to gender norms (autonomy motivation) (Good & Sanchez, in press).Nonetheless, some gender norms and stereotypes can be costly for healthy, intimate relationships between men and women. For example, women’s conformity to the sexually passive stereotype covaries with greater symptoms of sexual dysfunction (lower sexual arousability and greater orgasm difficulty) and feelings of restricted freedom in sexual relationships (Kiefer & Sanchez, 2007). Moreover, some women have internalized this submissive role to the point where they show automatic links between sex and submission (Sanchez, Kiefer, & Ybarra, 2006; Kiefer, Sanchez, Kalinka & Ybarra, 2006). At the same time, men who invest in gender norms that dictate male dominance are more likely to show automatic links between sex and dominance and may have greater proclivities towards sexual coercion (Kiefer & Sanchez, 2007). Thus, gender stereotypes disservice men and women by harming close relationships. Recent findings with couples outline the dyadic costly effects of gender conformity for both sexual and relationship satisfaction (Sanchez, Phelan, Moss-Racusin, & Good, in press).

Primary Interests:

  • Close Relationships
  • Culture and Ethnicity
  • Gender Psychology
  • Intergroup Relations
  • Prejudice and Stereotyping
  • Self and Identity
  • Sexuality, Sexual Orientation

Research Group or Laboratory:

Journal Articles:

Courses Taught:

Diana T. Sanchez
Department of Psychology
Rutgers University
53 Avenue East, Tillett Hall
Piscataway, New Jersey 08854-8040
United States

  • Phone: (848) 445-2344
  • Fax: (732) 445-0036

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