Toni Schmader


Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Just not that interested? : drivers of the gender gap in systemizing and empathizing interest (2023)

Gender gaps systemizing and empathizing interest are often cited to explain broader patterns of gender segregation. The present work examines situational affordances as a key mechanism for sustaining gender gaps in interest. Drawing on theories of psychological essentialism, I test how primarily biological (vs. sociocultural) explanations for gender differences in interest inform situational affordances in measurement (Chapter 2) and the workplace (Chapter 3) in ways that perpetuate the interest gap and contribute to gender segregation. In Chapter 2 (Studies 1-3), I examine popular self-report measures of systemizing (SQ) and empathizing (EQ) that are often assumed to reflect biological differences. Study 1 (N = 624) first estimated gender differences on the EQ and SQ in large representative samples. Both lay coders (Study 2, N = 199) and psychology journal reviewers (Study 3, N = 116) rated SQ and EQ item activities as being more learned (vs. innate) and believed men are given more systemizing, and women given more empathizing (Study 3 only), affordances. Items showing the largest gender differences in Study 1 were those rated as having the most gendered affordances (more than gendered genetic advantages). In Chapter 3 (Studies 4-6), I test how people’s explanations for gender gaps in interest drive situational affordances in the workplace. In Study 4 (N = 285), professionals of all genders who endorsed a primarily biological (vs. social) explanation for gender differences in interest were more likely to provide women with empathizing, and men with systemizing, affordances. I replicated Study 4’s results experimentally with men in Study 5 (N = 379). In Study 6 (N = 300), women who received gendered (vs. counter-gendered) situational affordances based on the selections of participants in Study 4 shifted their interests toward empathizing and chose more empathizing work assignments. In contrast, women who received counter-gendered (vs. gendered) situational affordances shifted their interests toward systemizing and chose empathizing and systemizing work assignments equally. Together, this body of work highlights situational affordances, driven by essentialist explanations for the interest gap, as a key contributor to gender gaps in interest and occupational pursuits.

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Examining barriers to men's communal orientation (2020)

Despite western societies’ considerable progress towards gender equality on many fronts, men and women remain divided on the extent to which they adopt care-oriented values and roles. Men tend to embrace basic communal values and traits (i.e., a focus on care and connection with others; Bakan, 1966) to a lesser extent than women do (e.g., Donnelly & Twenge, 2017; Falk & Hermle, 2018). At a more concrete level, men are also underrepresented in communal careers in healthcare, early education, and in domestic roles (HEED; Croft, Schmader, & Block, 2015). In the three empirical chapters of my dissertation, I examine some of the processes that constrain men’s internalization of communal values, and, in turn, how men’s relatively lower communal values have downstream consequences for their engagement with communal careers. Chapter 2 focuses on the role of automatic communal=female stereotypes in curtailing men’s personal identification with communal values. The findings I present suggest that gender differences in identification with communal values are especially large among those who hold such stereotypes, and that retraining men to associate communion with males as a group also increases their personal identification with communal values. Chapter 3, in turn, focuses on understanding gender differences in communion from a developmental perspective. Results from a study of 411 children suggest that, by age six, boys see themselves as less communal than do girls, a difference in fundamental values that also predicts how children envision their future prioritization of career- over family-roles. Given such early gender differences in communal values, Chapter 4 focuses on understanding how relatively low communal values, in conjunction with more external norms, might deter men from taking on communal careers. Findings suggest that communal values and the overrepresentation of women in HEED both play important roles in deterring men from HEED careers.

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Interpersonal triggers and cultural moderators of social identity threat (2016)

Social identity threat has most often been examined as impairing academic achievement among female and minority students. But for those who successfully advance into graduate school and professional settings, social identity threat might continue to be triggered by ambiguously negative interactions with others. My goal was to investigate the experience of social identity threat among samples of professionals in the workplace and students training in STEM programs with the aim of identifying triggers of threat, contextual and interpersonal buffers against threat, and cognitive consequences. To do this I conducted a series of studies in which I explored two research questions: 1) What are the antecedents and consequences of social identity threat in STEM workplace conversations? 2) Do gender inclusive policies and/or a higher representation of women in a workplace reduce the experience of social identity threat in workplace conversations? I used a series of daily diary studies and an experiment to answer these questions. To test whether interpersonal experiences in STEM workplaces and graduate programs are a source of social identity threat for women, participants reported their interactions with colleagues using daily dairies over the course of two weeks. Across three samples, results of multilevel modeling revealed that: 1) women (but not men) reported greater daily experiences of social identity threat on days when their conversations with men (but not women) cued a lack of acceptance, and 2) these daily fluctuations of social identity threat predicted feelings of mental burnout, consistent with a capacity deficit model of social identity threat. The two workplace samples, along with an experiment with undergraduate engineers, were used to examine whether gender inclusive workplace policies and practice and/or a higher representation of women in a workplace relate to improved cross-sex interactions and reduced social identity threat for women in STEM settings. Results revealed that female engineers’ daily actual and anticipated experience of social identity threat was lower in companies perceived to have more gender inclusive policies, as mediated by more positive conversations with male colleagues. The implications for reducing social identity threat in naturalistic settings are discussed.

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Men's Roles and Women's Goals: Causes, Consequences, and Complementarity (2016)

This dissertation explores the possibility that persistent gender inequality in the domestic sphere, wherein women do disproportionately more childcare and housework than men, might explain some of the variance in women’s adherence to traditional gender roles. I present three separate papers addressing the broad research topic of gender role complementarity (i.e., how rigid masculinity stereotypes governing men’s behavior impact women’s possible selves). First, I summarize a study of how the self-views of over 320 children are predicted by the beliefs and behaviors of their parents. The most relevant finding to this dissertation is that grade-school-aged girls with traditionally career-focused fathers reported female-stereotypic career aspirations, but girls whose fathers helped out more with domestic tasks nominated more gender-neutral career aspirations. Second, a set of four experiments tested a complementarity hypothesis, whereby women’s expectations about men’s willingness to adopt caregiving roles in their future families might contribute to whether women can imagine themselves as breadwinners and enable them to pursue their career ambitions. Results showed that women who were primed with counter-stereotypical male exemplars or information that men are increasingly assuming caregiving roles (as opposed to being more career-focused) were more likely to envision themselves as the primary economic provider of their future family. Furthermore, this gender role complementarity was particularly strong among women with more ambitious career goals. These patterns suggest that women's stereotypes about men's roles in the future could constrain the decisions they are making in the present. Finally, in the last set of studies, I find evidence that women are less attracted to agentic, career-oriented potential romantic partners than more communal, family-oriented or balanced potential partners, as predicted by their desire to become a breadwinner. Taken together, these studies highlight broader considerations for gender equality, beyond focusing on the workplace in isolation. Future directions for research on the perceptions and implications of gender role change are also discussed.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Finding your place at school : momentary fit, state authenticity and academic experiences (2023)

Individuals have the tendency to approach or avoid a given situation, yet this choice may be implicitly influenced by one’s experience of fit to the environment. As proposed by the State Authenticity as Fit to Environment (SAFE) model, individuals tend to gravitate towards situations where they experience self-concept fit, goal fit, and/or social fit, composing a gestalt sense of state authenticity. With two experience sampling studies, this work aims to validate this key assertion of the SAFE model and examine its implications in academic settings. Study 1 validated that when people experienced self-concept fit, goal fit, and social fit in a given situation, they felt authentic to themselves. Notably, each type of fit was cued by distinctive contextual features, and uniquely predicted the gestalt sense of state authenticity. All three types of fit positively predicted individuals’ willingness to return to the current situation and state attachment to university. Self-concept fit and low social fit specifically predicted individual’s working memory capacity. In a conceptual replication of Study 1, Study 2 additionally demonstrated that in classes where students felt three types of fit, they reported higher class/self overlap and state attachment to their major. Study 2 also showed cumulative effects of fit and state authenticity on longer-term academic outcomes, such as major/university commitment and course grades. Furthermore, Study 2 yielded preliminary evidence indicating that experiences of marginalization had a dampening effect on individuals' overall sense of fit and authenticity. This work establishes a foundation for understanding students’ academic outcomes through the lens of the SAFE model, paving the way for examining the detrimental impacts of marginalization on self-segregation.

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What’s the harm? : perceptions and experiences of implicit and intentional bias (2023)

What does it feel like to be on the receiving end of a person’s implicit or intentional bias? There is an ongoing debate in academic and non-academic circles about the harm bias does. One view is that because implicit bias is perceived as less blameworthy (Daumeyer et al., 2019), it might also be experienced as less harmful. However, another view is that because impact is more critical than intention (Williams, 2020), implicit bias that has the same impact might hurt the same as (or even more than) intentional bias. Setting aside the question of whether implicit behavior is less wrong, I ask what is the experience of psychological harm of those with marginalized identities targeted by such behaviors? In a programmatic series of experiments, I ask whether implicit bias and intentional bias are experienced as similarly or differentially harmful. I use a theoretically derived approach to develop tightly controlled vignettes that manipulate two types of unbiased, two types of implicitly biased, and two types of intentionally biased behavior. I validate these scenarios for testing perceptions of stereotyping across five different social identity groups (Study 1, N = 205). I then ask whether vignettes of implicit and intentional gender bias are perceived as differentially harmful by women (Study 2, N = 302). Finally, I sought to replicate my findings by having people recall their experience of harm from lived experiences of implicit and intentional bias (Study 3, N = 138). Across these studies, both implicit and intentional bias (with equal impact) were more harmful than unbiased behavior (Study 2 - 3). When hypothetical instances of bias were intentional (vs. implicit), women anticipated more pain but similar levels of exclusion (Study 2). When recalling instances (controlling for impact), intentional bias was again experienced as more painful but similarly exclusionary as implicit bias (Study 3). Together, this research reveals that both forms of bias are perceived and experienced as harmful, but implicit bias was experienced as somewhat less painful than intentional bias. By understanding the consequences for the way bias unfolds, we may better mitigate the psychological harm from instances of bias.

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What inhibits male allyship? examining the influence of (mis)perceptions of other men's beliefs (2019)

Allyship is acting to support a marginalized individual or group. Although it is impactful, allyship is often avoided. Considering what inhibits male allyship towards women in male- dominated fields, I argue that pluralistic ignorance (Prentice & Miller, 1993; Miller & McFarland, 1991; Prentice, 2007) is a key factor. In this paper, I test hypotheses derived from the following model: men rarely enact allyship in male-dominated fields (e.g., STEM), leading to a general underestimation of men’s beliefs that sexism is problematic. I theorize that these misperceptions predict men’s own inaction, even if men do privately perceive gender bias as a problem. This inaction perpetuates a social norm that men do not enact allyship and the misperception that men are unconcerned about bias. Additionally, I suggest that sensitivity to other men’s judgements moderates the relationship between perceptions of other men’s beliefs and allyship intentions. In Study 1, I test if pluralistic ignorance occurs among men (and women) in STEM, examining relationships between beliefs about sexism and anticipated allyship behavior. In Study 2, I manipulate men’s perceptions of other men’s beliefs to assess if changing these perceptions causally influences men’s willingness to enact allyship behaviors. In Study 3, I test if men are less likely to enacting public reactive allyship among other men (compared to other women) and examine if backlash concerns mediate the relationship between perceptions of other men’s beliefs and allyship. In Study 4, I take this paradigm to an in-person context and observe if manipulating perceptions of other men’s beliefs about gender bias and social norms to confront sexism influences men’s (and women’s) actual likelihood of confronting sexist comments in real-time. My findings suggest that (mis)perceptions of men’s average beliefs inhibit individuals’ allyship intentions and behaviors, demonstrating the impact of pluralistic ignorance on addressing sexism.

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Fitting in and feeling real: state authenticity as fit between identity and environment (2018)

State authenticity (SA) is defined as “the sense or feeling that one is currently in alignment with one’s true or genuine self” (Sedikides et al., 2017). Recent models have conceptualized SA as distinct from trait authenticity and as a key predictor of situation selection with implications for how people self-sort by social identities (see Schmader & Sedikides, 2017). Critically, experiences of SA are predicted to arise from three distinct types of fit to the environment: self-concept, goal, and social fit. The present work aims to empirically test key assumptions of the SAFE (State Authenticity as Fit to the Environment) model and apply this model to academic (Chapter 2) and cultural (Chapter 3) contexts. In Chapter 2 (Studies 1-2), I review how identification with engineering versus psychology predicts greater approach intentions in the environment associated with engineering versus psychology, as fully mediated by SA. In Study 2, I review how SA can be understood as a mechanism of gendered occupational segregation. In Chapter 3 (Studies 3-4), I review how identification with mainstream culture predicts greater SA, as mediated by the three types of fit to the environment. In Study 4, I review how these outcomes also translate into student motivation on campus. Together, these findings add to current understandings of SA and highlight identification with one’s environment as a key antecedent to fit and authenticity.

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Men don't care for caring: Fundamental goals and men's interest in HEED roles (2015)

Whereas women are increasingly moving into the workforce in general, and formerly male-dominated careers in specific, men continue to be underrepresented in the fields of healthcare, early education and the domestic sphere (HEED; Croft, Schmader, & Block, 2015). The current work sought to understand why men continue to show little interest in HEED careers and don’t perceive them as broadly valuable to the same extent women do. Previous research suggested that men and women show differing interest in Science and Technology careers to the extent that women are more communally oriented than men (Diekman et al., 2011). In three studies, the current research tested the hypothesis that men see HEED careers as less interesting and valuable than do women to the extent that men hold less communal (vs. agentic and competitive) goals than women. Study 1 and 2 show that gender differences in interest in and value assigned to HEED roles were indeed mediated by men’s relatively lower communal goals. In addition, study 2 suggested that competitiveness may play a special role in explaining why men, more so than women, tend to expect a breadwinner rather than a primary caregiver role in their future. Study 3 provided first experimental evidence that activating men’s communal goals can increase their interest in HEED occupations.

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Stereotype threat impairs the feeling of learning (2012)

The present study examined stereotype threat impairments on stigmatized learners’ ability to develop conscious awareness of what they have learned, even when learning has taken place. To test this, participants completed a task where learning is initially implicit but the “feeling of learning” develops with greater experience. Participants were female undergraduates who completed an implicit category learning task under threat or control conditions. Across 192 trials, participants made a category choice, rated their confidence in the choice, and received feedback. Although participants in both conditions showed equivalent levels of implicit learning, those under threat were delayed in becoming confident that learning had taken place. This inaccurate awareness of learning had consequences for post-task perceptions of performance and judgments of ability on future tasks. Discussion centers on the role of stereotype threat in hindering awareness of one’s abilities and the impact that might have on decision-making and motivation. 

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The feedback withholding bias: How and when evaluators deny constructive criticism to minority students (2011)

How can we learn from our mistakes if we’re unaware they exist? Past research has proposed that teachers’ preconceptions guide interactions with their students. Consequently, we believe negative stereotypes might lead evaluators to provide biased feedback to stigmatized students, particularly when they are giving this feedback directly to the students. The present research sought to distinguish whether non-stigmatized evaluators over-represent positive feedback or under-represent negative feedback on minority writing. We also explored the role of prejudice and motivations to control it, and a desire to protect stigmatized students as possible predictors of these biases. Across two studies, participants highlighted instances of good/bad writing in essays purportedly written by a White or a minority student (Study 1: Aboriginal; Study 2: Black). Results showed that although participants provided equivalent gestalt evaluations and positive feedback to both authors, they provided less negative feedback overall to a minority student author (Study 2). Furthermore, this feedback withholding bias was strongest among evaluators who were externally but not internally motivated to control their biases (Studies 1 & 2). Participants with these motivations also provided inflated global appraisals of minority student writing in an effort to maintain consistency after withholding negative feedback. These findings suggest that stigmatized students might sometimes fail to receive the criticism necessary to identify areas needing improvement, particularly when evaluators are concerned about appearing prejudiced. Implications for minority student motivation, learning and performance will be discussed. Potential future directions are suggested for reducing the feedback withholding bias via practical interventions.

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