Dr. Brenda Major is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and past Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. She is an international expert in the psychology of stigma and how people perceive and cope with stigma and discrimination. A core theme of her work is psychological resilience – how people maintain their sense of self-esteem, psychological well-being and physical health despite exposure to discrimination, negative life events, and adversity. She has authored more than 160 articles and book chapters, and edited two books: The Psychology of Legitimacy, and the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Stigma, Discrimination and Health. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the American Philosophical Foundation, and the Cattell Foundation.
Dr. Major is Past President of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology (SESP) and of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), the largest professional society of personality and social psychologists in the world. Awards she has received include: the 2015 Donald T. Campbell Award from SPSP, the 2014 Scientific Impact Prize from SESP, the 2012 Kurt Lewin Prize from the Society of Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) and a 2014 Heritage Award from the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology. She also received the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize from SPSSI in 2014, 1988, and 1986 for the best paper published on intergroup relations in those years, as well as the 1985 Distinguished Publication Award from the Association of Women in Psychology. Dr. Major was named a California Distinguished Wellness Lecturer in 1997 and chaired the American Psychological Association Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion from 2006-2008. She served 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 and the National Science Foundation. Her current research examines the impact of perceived ethnic, gender, and weight-based stigma and discrimination on psychological stress, health behaviors, and interpersonal relationships, and the impact of diversity policies and anti-bias norms on intergroup relations.
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.