I study inequality—how it influences behavior, shapes perceptions of people and society, and if/when it can be changed.

Psychologist Michael W. Kraus explores the emotional and hierarchical dynamics of human social interactions. His current research explores the behaviors and emotional states that maintain and perpetuate economic and social inequality in society. He also studies the emotional processes that allow individuals and teams to work together more effectively. Learn more »


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Latest Preprints from PsyArxiv

Dog Whistle Mascots: Native American Mascots as Normative Expressions of Prejudice

In this research we examine how normative expressions of explicit prejudice shape university communities. Across five studies, we examine the prevalence of a former university mascot depicting harmful stereotypes about Native Americans and how exposure to that mascot influences people’s attitudes and behaviors. In Studies 1 and 2, images of the mascot persist on more than 10% of university apparel worn by students, in 50% of campus spaces, and in more than 14% of images searched online. Surveying students, we find that those low in explicit prejudice felt lower belonging at the university relative to their high prejudice counterparts (Study 3). In two final experimental studies (N = 683) when compared to stereotype free university advertisements exposure to the stereotypic mascot reduced donations to the university by 5.5%, and in particular, among people low versus high in explicit prejudice (Studies 4 and 5). Overall, these findings suggest that institutions play an important role in shaping the intergroup attitudes of their membership.

Partner Commitment in Close Relationships Mitigates Social Class Differences In Subjective Well-Being

Close relationships can be a source of positive subjective well-being for lower-class individuals, but stresses of lower-class environments tend to negatively impact those relationships. The present research demonstrates that a partner’s commitment in close relationships buffers against the negative impact of lower-class environments on relationships, mitigating social class differences in subjective well-being. In two samples of close relationship dyads, we found that when partners reported low commitment to the relationship, relatively lower-class individuals experienced poorer well-being than their upper-class counterparts, assessed as life satisfaction among romantic couples (Study 1) and negative affect linked to depression among ethnically diverse close friendships (Study 2). Conversely, when partners reported high commitment to the relationship, deficits in the well-being of lower-class relative to upper-class individuals were attenuated. Implications of these findings for upending the class divide in subjective well-being are discussed.

Microaggressions as Part of the Historical Context of Stigma and Prejudice
In this comment we articulate one central failing in Lilienfeld’s (2017) perspective on microaggression research in psychological science: Namely, that any analysis of modern forms of expressed prejudice, be they subtle or overt, that does not acknowledge the historical context in which these forms of prejudice are expressed is likely to be fraught with challenges and potential for misunderstanding.