The scientific analysis of social problems and solutions should begin with an analysis
of the fundamental dimensions of social thinking. This foundational premise of the
The Social Perception and Attitudes (SPA) lab supports our efforts to examine extremely
fast, unintentional, and at times pre-attentional responses to others' faces, bodies,
and movements. Put differently, the SPA lab focuses on immediate perceptual, affective,
and cognitive responses to others' nonverbal behavior, race, and gender.
We also take an ecological approach to social thought. We assume that people respond
to the self-relevant meaning conveyed by combinations of social cues. For example,
we have demonstrated that perceivers' responses to subliminal emotion expressions
depend on the (social) identity of the emoter. Outgroup fear seems evoke positive
affect but ingroup fear evokes negative affect (Weisbuch & Ambady, 2008).
The SPA lab emphasizes the early stages of social thought but we do so with an eye
towards identifying and solving social problems. For that reason, we examine whether
and how the "basic" phenomena uncovered in the lab might be applied to problems in
the "real world." For example, people seem to exhibit negative nonverbal behavior
toward certain social groups, such as heavy women and people of other races. We demonstrated
that this phenomenon is depicted on mainstream television, on over 30 television
shows (Weisbuch & Ambady, 2009; Weisbuch, Pauker, & Ambady, 2009). Exposure to this
nonverbal bias negatively influences the attitudes of viewers toward heavy women
and people of other races-- even though viewers cannot identify the nonverbal pattern.
In general, we are interested in characterizing the extremely early stages of social
thinking and examining how they contribute to social problems and solutions. Please
see the other pages of our web site to learn more!
Welcome to DU’s Social Perception and Attitudes Lab!