Dr. Brenda Major is a social psychologist and Professor Above-Scale in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Prior to joining the UCSB faculty in 1995, she was a Professor in the Psychology Department at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 2010-2011 she was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Dr. Major received her M.A from Miami University and her Ph.D. from Purdue University.
Dr. Major is the author of approximately 150 articles in refereed journals and book chapters on justice, stigma, self-esteem, and intergroup relations. She also co-edited (with John Jost of New York University) the book, The Psychology of Legitimacy. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Association of Psychological Sciences, the Society of Personality and Social Psychology, and the Society of Experimental Social Psychology. Dr. Major was elected President of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the largest professional society of personality and social psychologists in the world, in 2006, and elected President of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology in 2011. She also served on the Executive Board of the International Society for the Study of Self and Identity. Her editorial duties have included serving as Associate Editor of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and the Journal of Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, on the editorial boards of numerous other professional journals, and on grant panels for the National Institutes of Health. Professor Major includes among her professional honors being awarded the 2013 Kurt Lewin Prize from the Society of Psychological Study of Social Issues, the 1988 Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize, the 1986 Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize, the 1985 Distinguished Publication Award from the Association of Women in Psychology, and named a California Distinguished Wellness Lecturer in 1997. She chaired the American Psychological Association Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion from 2006-2008. Her research has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the American Philosophical Foundation, and the Cattell Foundation.
Dr. Major's research addresses how people cope with prejudice, discrimination, devalued social identities, and stressful life events. She is particularly interested in psychological resilience -- the personality characteristics and cognitive, emotional, and behavioral strategies that enable people to maintain their sense of self-esteem, psychological well-being and physical health despite exposure to negative life events, social rejection, and adversity. Her current research addresses how cultural ideologies, such as the American Dream, shape people's likelihood of perceiving discrimination as well as their cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses to perceived discrimination against themselves or others. She also is examining the the stigma of obesity and its implications for psychological and physical health. Her work is funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
- Townsend, S.S.M., Major, B., Sawyer, P.J. & Mendes W.B. (in press). From “in the air” to “under the skin”: Cortisol responses to social identity threat. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
- Townsend, S.S.M., Major, B., Sawyer, P.J. & Mendes, W.B. (2010). Can the absence of prejudice be more threatening than its presence? It depends on one’s worldview. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
- Eliezer, D., Major, B. & Mendes, W.B. (2010). The costs of caring: Gender identification increases threat following exposure to sexism. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 159-165.
- Major, B. & Townsend, S. (2010). Coping with prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. In J.F. Dovido, M. Hewstone, P. Glick & V. M. Esses (Eds.) Handbook of Prejudice and Discrimination. (pp. 410-425).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Major, B., Appelbaum, M., Beckman, L., Dutton, M.A., Russo, N. F. & West, C. (2009). Abortion and mental health: Evaluating the evidence. American Psychologist, 64, 863-890.
- Major, B, & Sawyer, P. J. (2009). Attributions to discrimination: Antecedents and Consequences. In T.D. Nelson (Ed.). Handbook of Prejudice, Stereotyping and Discrimination. Erlbaum.
- O’Brien, L., Kinias, Z. & Major, B. (2008). How status and stereotypes impact attributions to discrimination: The stereotype-asymmetry hypothesis. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 44, 405-412.
- Mendes, W.B., Major, B., McCoy, S. & Blascovich, J. (2008). How attributional ambiguity shapes physiological and emotional responses to social rejection and acceptance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 94, 278-291.
- Inzlicht, M., Kaiser, C. & Major, B. (2008). The face of chauvinism: How prejudice scripts shape perceptions of facial affect. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 44, 758-766.
- McCoy, S. T. & Major, B. (2007). Priming meritocracy and the psychological justification of inequality. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 43, 341-351.