My research examines the consequences of stereotyping and sexual objectification on motivation and behavior. Broadly, I study when and why stereotyping and objectification negatively influence the motivation and behavior of stigmatized individuals. One feature that differentiates my work from other research done in these areas is that I am particularly interested in how stigmatized individuals respond to the stereotypic and objectifying behaviors of other people. Because of this interpersonal focus, I often conduct high impact, interactive studies in which people actually (or ostensibly) interact with others who objectify or stereotype them. I then focus on the intrapersonal consequences (similar to most other research), but also the significant interpersonal outcomes of these interactions.
My focus on the “social” nature of stereotyping and objectification with this methodological perspective has yielded several important theoretical advances and empirical discoveries. For example, although experiencing objectifying behaviors (e.g., the objectifying gaze, appearance commentary) from other people decreases work performance, increases perceptions of sexual harassment, and contributes to disordered eating, it also increases people’s motivation to interact with the objectifying individual in the future. Likewise, despite the negative social perceptions associated with being sexualized by others, women sometimes strategically present themselves in sexualized ways due to the interpersonal benefits that self-sexualization confers. Thus, my work suggests that how and why stigmatized individuals respond to stereotyping and objectification is much more nuanced than previous research suggests.
Current research projects include:
- Gender, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity within Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) domains
- Addressing the underrepresentation of men in Healthcare, Elementary Education, and Domestic (HEED) domains
- Understanding and reducing the negative effects of sexual objectification on women and girls
How can you get involved?
In the SOAR lab, Drake students join Dr. Allen in this pursuit to carry out social psychological experiments. Our goal is to use this knowledge to create theoretically-informed interventions to reduce the negative consequences of stereotyping and sexual objectification. Students have opportunities to attend weekly lab meetings, discuss cutting-edge research articles, design and conduct experiments including IRB proposals, analyze and interpret data with SPSS, and present research findings (e.g., poster presentations and/or manuscripts) through independent study (PSY 190/191) or research seminars (PSY 198). Applications for research assistant positions are accepted on a rolling basis, and may be obtained by contacting Dr. Allen.