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. 
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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.

The association between subjective and objective socioeconomic standing and subjective well-being: A meta-analytic review

Drawing on theories of relative deprivation and social comparison, the current meta-analysis tested the hypothesis that SWB is more strongly related to assessments of one’s own SES compared to others, or subjective SES, than to absolute metrics of educational attainment and annual income, or objective SES. We synthesized the subjective SES-SWB associations and the objective SES-SWB associations from 336 independent samples across 259 studies, totaling 3,249,838 participants. The estimated subjective SES-SWB association (r = .22) was significantly larger than the objective SES-SWB association (r = .17). After accounting for the correlation between objective SES and subjective SES, the estimated subjective SES-SWB association (r = .21) was almost twice as large as the objective SES-SWB association (r = .11). Moderator tests suggested that the SES-SWB relation is in part dependent on social comparison processes. Within the subjective SES assessments, SWB was more strongly linked to the MacArthur subjective social status scale than to the perceived SES category measure. The objective SES-SWB association increased with lower countries’ wealth and stronger collectivism, while the subjective SES-SWB association increased with higher countries’ wealth but did not vary with collectivism. Implications for how SES impacts SWB via the process of social comparison is discussed.

Social class predicts preference for competent politicians
Perceptions of interpersonal competence are an important predictor of success in the political domain. However, we argue—and provide evidence for—the proposition that competence is valued differently by voters across the social class spectrum. In two experiments (N1 = 441; N2 = 500), we show that higher social class individuals expressed a greater likelihood than their lower-class counterparts of voting for a candidate described as competent and were more likely to prefer such a candidate to one described as warm. In a third study, we analyze exit poll results of presidential primary elections to show that candidates perceived as competent performed better than those perceived as warm among relatively higher-class populations of voters whereas the opposite was true among relatively lower-class populations. We conclude that competence, in the political domain, is distinctively appealing to higher-class individuals and discuss implications for psychological theory as well as the political system in general.