Valerie Jones Taylor

Assistant Professor of Psychology and Africana Studies
Chandler Ullmann Hall 113
Ph.D., Stanford University

Broadly, my research centers on exploring two sides of an issue that educators and policy makers have struggled to untangle—why and when “diversity” (and with it, greater intergroup and interracial contact) might hurt or help individuals and institutions. Much research has shown the benefits of diversity across domains, in schools, workplaces, and even neighborhoods. However, with increasing diversity and greater contact among individuals with different social identities comes the possibility that people might experience social identity threat—the concern or worry that one may be treated or judged negatively based on one’s social group membership. Thus, as diversity and intergroup contact increases, pressing identity-related questions soon arise.

Addressing this issue, across several lines of research, I seek to answer various identity-related questions, particularly when negative group stereotypes are salient. For example, why are high potential women’s and minorities’ performance undermined in academic and workplace contexts where they are underrepresented and negatively stereotyped? Why do coworkers of different racial backgrounds sometimes have difficult interactions, which can derail their ability to perform well and work effectively together? As our nation continues to diversify, why do negative stereotypes about the spaces occupied by racial group members continue to disadvantage minority neighborhoods and bias policy? And, most importantly, what strategies can be leveraged to reduce the opportunity gap, improve intergroup relations, and promote more equitable policy-making at both the individual and institutional level? In my work, I draw on theories such as social identity threat, and apply frameworks such as models of stress and coping and social cognitive intergroup processes, to answer such questions that loom large for those working to implement successful diversity strategies to reduce inequities and promote positive social change. I also use virtual reality methodology to improve interracial encounters in academic and social contexts.

I am an experimental social psychologist, and I hold a joint appointment in the Africana Studies Program at Lehigh University. For more information, please see my lab page: and also feel free to email me at