In general, our research lab is interested in the psychology of intergroup relations, social justice, meaning making, benefit finding, and stereotyping and prejudice. Below are descriptions of selected current research projects.


Research suggests that gender binarism, belief in traditional gender roles (e.g., Goodnight, Cook, Parrott, & Peterson, 2013, and threats to intergroup distinctiveness (e.g., Jetten, Spears, & Manstead, 1996; Jetten, Spears, & Postmes, 2004; Spears, Doosje, & Ellemers, 1997; Van Knippenberg & Ellemers, 1990) may influence negative attitudes toward transgender individuals. We have found that distinctiveness threat increases when presented with a vignette of a trans woman or gender-nonconforming cis woman, and that distinctiveness threat predicts increased social distance from transgender individuals.

Recently, there has been a push more modifying gender categories on demographic questionnaires to include more options for sexual orientation and gender identity. We are interested in how transgender individuals and cisgender individuals react to different versions of gender question formats. We have found that forcing non-cisgender individuals to select a non-binary gender category leads to a disidentification with their prefered gender. Additionally, we have found that, among cisgender persons, those high in gender binarism are more likely to prefer the traditional binary gender question format.


Generally, people are more likely to see an ingroup member favorably and will give more assistance to an ingroup member than an outgroup member (Doviodio, 1984; Platow, et al., 1999; Levine, Posser, Evans, & Reicher, 2005), especially if the perceiver strongly identifies with their ingroup (Simon, Sturmer, & Steffens, 2000). Despite this, there are other factors that influence the decision to help an ingroup or an outgroup. We seek to understand the factors that affect one’s likelihood of helping different groups. For example, we have found that people are more willing to help an outgroup charity with value-oriented goals and more likely to help an ingroup charity with power-oriented goals (Lorenz, Warner, & VanDeursen, 2015). Additionally, we are currently studying how willing individuals are to donate to a nonprofit organization, helping either an ingroup or outgroup, when the nonprofit is helping one versus multiple people. Other areas of interest related to intergroup helping include the interaction between group status (ingroup vs. outgroup) and the type of helping (e.g., donation of money, time, physical labor vs. advocacy, etc.), how different types of groups may impact the motivations and likelihood of helping ingroup versus outgroup members (e.g. groups who vary by SES and/or race), and how personal and group cost interact in decisions to help ingroup versus outgroup members.


Different possible meanings can be derived from a given group or personal victimization event—specifically, either the rights or the obligations of victims can be seen as the primary lesson. We explore the possibility that thinking about the harm victims experienced in the past at the hand of another results in such victims being seen as obligated to be subsequently more moral toward others (Warner & Branscombe, 2012). Our research examines the meaning that non-Jewish Americans derive from the Holocaust for Jews today. One lesson that might be taken from such an event is that the victimized group must never be like the perpetrator and instead are morally obligated to help other victims. We have found that when non-Jewish participants think about the lesson of the Holocaust for Jews versus Germans, they view Israelis as more obligated to not do harm and to help others (Branscombe, Warner, Klar, & Fernandez, 2015). Under certain conditions, victimized group members themselves may feel as though their group has obligations to help and not do harm (Warner, Wohl, & Branscombe, 2014).


Benefit finding, the belief that victims can discover something good in their negative experience is one way that people can make meaning of victimization. Sayings such as Nietzsche’s “what does not kill us, makes us stronger” and “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade” capture the idea that victims should use their tragic experiences to grow and improve. In our research, we look at the what the consequences are for evaluations of victims if they do not manage to find benefits (Warner & Branscombe, 2011). We have found that people will evaluate victims of interpersonal violence more harshly if they do harm to the extent that they believe the victim should have found benefits (Warner, Branscombe, Solomon, & Garczynski, 2011).


Just world theory suggests that people have a need to believe that the world is fair (Lerner, 1980). Seeing an innocent person victimized threatens the image of a just world and motivates people to restore justice through a variety of strategies, including victim blaming, victim derogation, and reinterpreting the outcome of victimization so that it was positive. We are interested in what contextual and personality variables affect the choice of strategy, including construal level and religiosity (VanDeursen, Pope, & Warner, 2012). We have found that more abstract strategies (e.g. benefit finding and character blaming) are more likely for temporally distant events while more concrete strategies (e.g. victim blaming) are more likely for temporally near events (Warner, VanDeursen, & Pope, 2012).