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Brenda Major


Brenda Major is an experimental social psychologist whose research focuses on social stigma, the psychological justification of inequality, including gender inequality, and the psychological antecedents and consequences of perceived discrimination and unfair treatment. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the American Philosophical Foundation, among others. Major is Past President of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology and of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and is the author of approximately 150 articles and book chapters and an edited book. Current research projects examine the impact of organizational diversity initiatives on minorities’ and majorities’ perceptions of fairness and acceptance within organizations, and the impact of perceived ethnic, gender, and weight-based discrimination on physiological stress responses, health behaviors, and interpersonal relationships.

Grants, Awards and Distinctions:

National Science Foundation. 2011-2015. Collaborative research: Diversity structures create illusions of fairness. Co-P.I. $269,267.

National Institutes of Health. 2013-2016. Psychological, physiological, and behavioral effects of weight stigma. P.I. $1,893,033.

National Institute of Health. 2014-2016. Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research for Graduate Research Assistants. PI. $86,000.

UCSB Academic Senate Faculty Research Grant. 2016-2017. Risk and Resilience: Trust, Perceived Discrimination and Thriving Amoung Latino Youth. $13,500

University of California Health Psychology Consortium Seed Grant. 2017-2018. Risk and Resilience amping First Year Latino/a Students: The Role of Sleep and Perceived Discrimination. $10,000.

Russell-Sage Foundation. 2019. Examining Health Costs of Upward Mobility amoung Latino/a American Young Adults. PI $149,825

UCSB Academic Senate Grant, Testing interventions to alleviate weight stigma effects. $5,200.

UCSB College of Letters and Science, Office of the Executive Dean.  Proposal for Conference on Current Directions in the Science of Human Resilience. $2,500.

Contributor to Broom Center Theme(s): 
Contributor to Broom Center Theme(s): 
Broom Center Publications
Dover, T., Major, B. & Kaiser, C. R. (in press). 
"Diversity Structures, Status, and System-Justifying Beliefs: When Diversity Initiatives Backfire. "
Group Processes and Intergroup Relations.
Major, B., Kunstman, J., Sawyer, P., Townsend, S. & Mendes, W. B. 2016. 
"Suspicion of motives predicts minorities’ responses to positive feedback in interracial interactions. "
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,62, 75-88. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2015.10.007.
Dover, T., Major, B., & Kaiser, C.R. 2016. 
"Members of high-status groups are threatened by pro-diversity organizational messages. "
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 62,58-67. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2015.10.006.
Dover, T., Kaiser, C.R. & Major, B. 2016.  
"Diversity policies don’t make organizations fairer and they threaten white men. "
 Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from
Blodorn, A., Major, B., Hunger, J.M. & Miller, C.T. 2016. 
"Unpacking the psychological weight of weight stigma: A rejection-expectation pathway."
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 63,69-76. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2015.12.003.
Spencer-Rodgers, J., Major, B. Forster, D. , & Peng, K. 2016. 
"The Power of Affirming Group Values: Group Affirmation Buffers the Self-Esteem of Women Exposed to Blatant Sexism. "
Self and Identity. DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2016.1145593.
Richman, L., Blodorn, A. & Major, B. In press. 
"An identity-based model of discrimination and health behaviors: Implications for Health Disparities. "
Group Processes and Intergroup Relations.
Ryan, W., Hunger, J. & Major, B. In press. 
"Understanding LGB Mental and Physical Health Disparities Through the Lens of Stigma and Social Identity Threat."
Journal of Social Issues.
Blodorn, A., Major, B. & Kaiser, C. In press. 
"Perceived discrimination and poor health: Accounting for self-blame complicates a well-established relationship. "
Social Science and Medicine. 
Hoyt, C.H, Burnette, J.L, Auster-Gussman, L., Blodorn, A, & Major, B. In press. 
"The obesity stigma asymmetry model: The indirect and divergent effects of blame and changeability beliefs on anti-fat prejudice. "
Stigma and Health.
Hunger, J.M., Major, B., Blodorn, A. & Miller, C. (2015) 
"Weighed down by stigma: How weight-based social identity threat contributes to weight gain and health. "
 Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 9, 255-268. doi: 10.1111/spc3.12172
Kirby, T., Kaiser, C. & Major, B. (2015)
"Insidious procedures: Diversity awards legitimize unfair organizational procedures. "
Social Justice Research, 28, 169-186. doi: 10.1007/s11211-015-0240-z
Brady, L.M., Kaiser, C., Major, B. & Kirby, T. (2015)
"It's fair for us: Diversity structures cause women to legitimize discrimination. "
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.57, 100-110.
Dover, T. L., Major, B., Kunstman, J. W., & Sawyer, P. J. (2015) 
"Does unfairness feel different if it can be linked to group membership? Cognitive, affective, behavioral and physiological implications of discrimination and unfairness. "
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 56, 96-103.
LaCosse, J., Tuscherer, T., Kunstman, J., Plant, A., Trawalter, S. & Major, B. 2015. 
"Suspicion of White people's motives relates to relative accuracy in detecting external motivation to respond without prejudice. "
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Hunger, J.M. & Major, B. 2015. 
"Weight Stigma Mediates the Association between BMI and Psychological and Physical Health. "
Health Psychology. 
  Major, B, & Dover, T. 2015. 
"Attributions to discrimination: Antecedents and Consequences. "
In T.D. Nelson (Ed.). Handbook of Prejudice, Stereotyping and Discrimination, 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Psychology Press. 
Major, B., Hunger, J., Bunyan, D & Miller, C.T. 2014.
"The ironic effects of weight stigma. "
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 51, 74-80.
Dover, T., Major, B. & Kaiser, C. R. 2014. 
"Diversity initiatives, status, and system-justifying beliefs: When and how diversity efforts de-legitimize discrimination claims. "
Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 17(4), 485-493. 
Eliezer, D. & Major, B.
"It’s not your fault: The social costs of claiming discrimination on behalf of someone else"
Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. Vol 15, no 4. 487-502. 2013.
Major, B., Eliezer, D. & Rieck, H.
"The psychological weight of weight stigma"
Social Psychological and Personality Science. 2013.
Major, B., Mendes, W.B. & Dovidio, J. (2013).
"Intergroup relations and health disparities: A social psychological perspective. "
Health Psychology, 32, 514–524.
Major, B., Sawyer, P.J. & Kunstman, J.W. (2013).
"Minority perceptions of Whites’ motives for responding without prejudice: The perceived internal and external motivation to avoid prejudice scales. "
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 39(3), 401-414.
Kaiser, C. R., Major, B., Jurcevic, I., Dover, T., Brady, L. M., & Shapiro, J. R. (2013).
"Presumed fair: Ironic effects of organizational diversity structures. "
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 104 (3) 504-519.
Major, B. & Kunstsman, J. W. (2013). 
"Suspicion in Interracial Interactions: Using Measures of Cardiovascular Reactivity to Index Threat."
In B. Derks, D. Scheepers & N. Ellemers (Eds.) The Neuroscience of Prejudice and Intergroup Relations. New York, NY: Psychology Press. 
Townsend, S.S.M., Eliezer, D., Major, B., Mendes, W.B. (2013). 
"Influencing the world versus adjusting to constraints: Social class moderates responses to discrimination. "
Social Psychological and Personality Science.5(2), 226-234.
Simon, S., Kinias, Z., O’Brien, L.T., Major, B., Bivolaru, E. (2013). 
"Prototypes of discrimination: How status asymmetry and stereotype asymmetry affect judgments of racial discrimination. "
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 35(6), 525-533.
Proulx, T. & Major, B. (2013). 
"A Raw Deal: Heightened Liberalism Following Exposure to Anomalous Playing Cards. "
Journal of Social Issues,69(3) 455—472. 
Major, B., S.S.M. Townsend, P.J. Sawyer & W.B. Mendes
"From “in the air” to “under the skin”: Cortisol responses to social identity threat"
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2012
Sawyer, P.J., Major, B., Casad, B., Townsend, SSM, & Mendes, WB.
"Discrimination and the stress response: Psychological and physiological consequences of anticipating prejudice in interracial interactions"
American Journal of Public Health.102.5, 1020-1026. 2012.
O'Brien, L. T., Major, B. N., & Gilbert, P. N.
"Gender differences in entitlement: The role of system-justifying beliefs"
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 34(2), 136-145. 2012.
Eliezer, D., Townsend, S. S. M., Sawyer, P. J., Major, B. & Mendes, W. B.
"System justifying beliefs moderate the relationship between perceived discrimination and resting blood pressure"
Social Cognition.29, 303-321.
Blodorn, A. & Major, B. (in press) Stigma.  In H. Miller (Ed.), 
"Encyclopedia of Theory in Psychology"