Jason Okonofua: When Bias and Threat Persistently Interact

Dr. Jason Okonofua (UC Berkeley)

Professor Jason Okonofua (UC Berkeley) will present his research concerning the interaction between racial stereotypes, expectations, and discipline in teacher-student relationships.

April 10, 2017
UC Irvine School of Law, Room Law 3750
4:30 p.m – 6:00 p.m.

Abstract: When Bias and Threat Persistently Interact: A Holistic Approach to Understand the Lingering Effects of Stereotypes

There are large race disparities in disciplinary action in the United States that can ultimately feed the “school-to-prison” pipeline, yet little experimental research has been conducted to investigate the psychological processes that contribute to those disparities. Some theories suggest that the disparities result from teachers’ bias. Other theories suggest the disparities result from racial differences in students’ attitudes and behavior. My research program contends that both parties in teacher-student relationships can contribute to discipline problems. By investigating how their perspectives interact over time, I aim to develop and test novel theory and scalable psychological interventions to mitigate discipline disparities.

I have explored these processes in three lines of research. In one line of research, I ask: Do the effects of stereotypic associations (e.g., Black students as troublemakers) escalate with repeated teacher-student interactions and ultimately contribute to disproportionate disciplinary action? In the second line of research, I ask: Do expectations or experiences of mistreatment cause students to view people in authority as less deserving of respect? In the third, I ask: Can discipline problems be mitigated with psychological interventions that target teachers’ mindsets about misbehavior and students’ perceptions of respect? I have uncovered promising answers to these questions with use of diverse methods, including field-experimentation.

Bio: Jason Okonofua

Dr. Jason Okonofua is a professor at University of California-Berkeley and a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University. Before assuming this position, he earned his doctorate at Stanford University with the guidance of Dr. Gregory Walton and Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt and currently works with them on a project that investigates psychological barriers to reintegration (return to home and school) for juvenile offenders.

Jason’s research program examines social-psychological processes that contribute to inequality. One context in which he has examined these processes is that of teacher-student relationships and race disparities in disciplinary action. His research emphasizes the on-going interplay between processes that originate among teachers (how stereotyping can influence discipline) and students (how apprehension to bias can incite misbehavior) to examine causes for disproportionate discipline according to race. The intersection of these processes, Jason hypothesizes, undermines teacher-student relationships over time, contributes to disproportionate discipline to racially stigmatized students, and ultimately feeds the “school-to-prison” pipeline. By investigating basic processes that contribute to misinterpreted and misguided disrespect among teachers and students, he aims to develop novel interventions that help racially stigmatized youth succeed in school and reduce their risk of discipline problems.

His research has been published in top journals, including Psychological Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; it has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Character Lab, Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education, Diversifying Academia Recruiting Excellence, Stanford University’s Graduate Research Opportunity and the Diversity Dissertation Research Opportunity; and it has been featured on a variety of popular media, including MSNBC, Reuters, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, Pacific Standard, Science Update, Education Week, and the Grio.

Find out more at: www.jokonofua.com