Social Perception, Bias, and Identity
Graduate student James Wages broadly studies the ways in which social characteristics influence what we think and feel about people. As such, his research questions tend to focus on how beliefs about race and gender impact the way we interpret ambiguous and uncertain social situations.
In his core program of research, James is working with his advisors, Drs. Sylvia Perry and Galen Bodenhausen, on a series of projects to unravel the social perception of risk-takers. He questions whether perceivers confuse "at-risk" targets with being "risk-taking." As such, James investigates how perceptions of "risk-taking" differ by race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status (from both target and perceiver perspectives) and the mechanisms responsible for these perceptions (e.g., associations of masculinity; warmth and competence traits). Further, he is interested in downstream consequences of risk-taking stereotypes in real world domains, such as social disparities in healthcare, criminal justice, and economics.
In other lines of research, James also critically examines the social contexts in which women and men differ in their propensity to take risks. Specifically, he is interested in interrogating the claim that women and men fundamental differ in the degree to which they are willing to engage in risk-taking across domains.
Finally, he is interested in the role of experienced stigma and identity in predicting intragroup prejudice among stigmatized groups: What makes disadvantaged groups stand in solidarity versus derogate one another? This is particularly interesting in the context of interracial dating among gay men (and beyond), which the normative emergence of anti-fat, anti-femme, and pro-White biases has manifested as mating "preferences" (i.e., "no fats, no femmes, no Asians").