Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Nicole M. Stephens

Nicole M. Stephens

Nicole Stephens studies how gender, social class, race, and ethnicity affect people's experiences and outcomes in settings such as education and the workplace. She also develops interventions with the underlying goal of creating more diverse and effective schools, workplaces, and communities.

Her research consists of three complementary streams of laboratory and field studies. In her first line of research, she uncovers how behavioral differences between working- and middle-class Americans reflect the independent-interdependent divide. Her second line examines how the emphasis on independent norms of U.S. institutions (e.g., the media, higher education, the workplace) can lead to a misunderstanding of others’ behavior, undermine underrepresented groups’ performance, and fuel inequality. In her third line of research, she draws on this theory to design and test experimental interventions that bridge cultural divides and reduce inequality. Her work demonstrates that these interventions can dramatically improve the performance of underrepresented groups in U.S. institutions by creating organizational cultures that recognize their perspectives and values.

Primary Interests:

  • Applied Social Psychology
  • Culture and Ethnicity
  • Gender Psychology
  • Self and Identity

Research Group or Laboratory:

Journal Articles:

  • Apfelbaum, E. P., Stephens, N. M., & Reagans, R. (2016). Beyond one-size-fits-all: Tailoring diversity approaches to the representation of social groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111(4), 547-566.
  • Bencharit, L. Z., Ho, Y. W., Fung, H., Yeung, D., Stephens, N., Romero-Canyas, R., & Tsai, J. L. (2018). Should job applicants be excited or calm? The role of culture and ideal affect in employment settings. Emotion.
  • Dittmann, A. G., & Stephens, N. M. (2017). Interventions aimed at closing the social class achievement gap in education: changing individuals, structures, and construals. Current Opinion in Psychology, 18, 111-116.
  • Jury, M., Smeding, A., Stephens, N. M., Nelson, J., Aelenei, C., & Darnon, C. (2017). The experience of Low-SES students in higher education: Psychological barriers to success and interventions to reduce social class inequality. Journal of Social Issues, 73(1), 16-34.
  • Markus, H. R., & Stephens, N. M. (2017). Editorial overview: Inequality and social class: The psychological and behavioral consequences of inequality and social class: A theoretical integration. Current Opinion in Psychology, 18, iv-xii.
  • Savani, K., Stephens, N. M., & Markus, H. R. (2017). Choice as an engine of analytic thought. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 146(9), 1234-1246.
  • Stephens, N. M., Brannon, T. N., Markus, H. R., & Nelson, J. E. (2015). Feeling at home in college: Fortifying school-relevant selves to reduce social class disparities in higher education. Social Issues and Policy Review, 9, 1-24.
  • Stephens, N. M., Cameron, J., & Townsend, S. S. M. (2014). Lower social class does not (always) mean greater interdependence: Women in poverty have fewer social resources than working-class women. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45, 1060-1072.
  • Stephens, N. M., Fryberg, S. A., Markus, H. R., & Hamedani, M. G. (2013). Who explains Hurricane Katrina and the Chilean earthquake as an act of God? The experience of extreme hardship predicts religious meaning-making. Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology, 44, 607-619.
  • Stephens, N. M., Hamedani, M. G., & Destin, M. (2014). Closing the social-class achievement gap: A difference-education intervention improves first-generation college students’ academic performance and all students’ college transition. Psychological Science, 25, 943-953.
  • Stephens, N. M., Hamedani, M. G., & Townsend, S. S. M. (2018). Difference matters: Teaching students a contextual theory of difference can help them succeed. Perspectives on Psychological Science.
  • Stephens, N. M., Markus, H. M., & Phillips, L. T. (2014). Social class culture cycles: How three gateway contexts shape selves and fuel inequality. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 16.1-16.24.
  • Stephens, N. M., Markus, H. R., & Fryberg, S. A. (2012). Social class disparities in health and education: Reducing inequality by applying a Sociocultural Self Model of behavior. Psychological Review, 119, 723-744.
  • Stephens, N. M., & Townsend, S. S. M. (2015). The norms that drive behavior: Implications for Cultural Mismatch Theory. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology (commentary), 46, 1304-1306.
  • Stephens, N. M., & Townsend, S. S. M. (2013). Rank is not enough: Why we need a sociocultural perspective to understand social class. Psychological Inquiry, 24, 126-130.
  • Stephens, N. M., Townsend, S. S. M., & Dittmann, A. G. (2018). Social class disparities in higher education and in the workplace: The role of cultural mismatch. Current Directions in Psychological Science.
  • Stephens, N. M., Townsend, S. S. M., Hamedani, M. G., Destin, M., & Manzo, V. (2015). A difference-education intervention equips first-generation students to thrive in the face of stressful college situations. Psychological Science, 26, 1556-1566.
  • Townsend, S. S. M., Stephens, N. M., Smallets, S., & Hamedani, M. G. (2018). Empowerment through difference: A scalable difference-education intervention closes the social class achievement gap. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Other Publications:

  • Stephens, N. M., Dittmann, A. G., & Townsend, S. S. M. (2017). Social class and models of competence: How gateway institutions disadvantage working-class Americans and how to intervene. In C. Dweck, A. Elliot, & D. Yeager (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (2nd Edition): Theory and application. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  • Stephens, N. M., & Townsend, S. S. M. (2015). How can financial incentives improve the success of disadvantaged college students? Insights from the social sciences. In B. Castleman, S. Schwartz, & S. Baum (Eds.), Decision making for student success: Behavioral insights to improve college access and persistence. New York, NY: Routledge.

Courses Taught:

  • Negotiations
  • The Individual and the Organization

Nicole M. Stephens
Kellogg School of Management
Northwestern University, Global Hub, 5317
2211 Campus Drive
Evanston, Illinois 60208
United States

  • Phone: (847) 467-5993

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