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Sylvia Perry

Associate Professor of Psychology

PhD, Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2010

Psychologist Sylvia Perry’s research is situated at the intersection of social, developmental, and health psychology. She investigates how racial bias awareness develops and the implications of bias awareness for prejudice reduction, intergroup contact, and health disparities. Specifically, her work answers questions such as (1) To what extent do norms around admitting and discussing racism contribute to anti-racism? (2) How does White parental racial socialization shape the development of their children’s attitudes and behaviors toward Black individuals? and (3) How do educational environments shape medical trainees’ perceptions of stigmatized individuals? Perry is the principal investigator of the Social Cognition and Intergroup Processes (SCIP) Lab.

In 2022–23, Perry was on leave at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University, where she was the SAGE Sara Miller McCune Fellow. She is a Research Affiliate at CASBS, co-directing the Summer Institute on Diversity. Perry has received funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Her research has been published in Psychological Science, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Social Science and Medicine, and Nature Reviews Psychology.

Additionally, Perry has earned several awards for her teaching and research, including the best paper by the Association for Medical Education in Europe and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s SAGE Young Scholar Award. Many national media outlets, including The Washington Post and NPR, have reported on her findings. Perry has appointments on the editorial boards for Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and Social Psychological and Personality Science, and she is an associate editor for Psychological Science. She is a reviewer for the National Science Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation. Perry is an elected fellow of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology and the Association for Psychological Science.

Current Research

Bias Awareness. To assess the differences in individuals’ awareness and concern about displaying prejudice and the social consequences of this awareness, Perry and her colleagues in the Social Cognition and Intergroup Processes (SCIP) Lab developed a measure of bias awareness. Currently, she and the SCIP Lab are studying how bias awareness forms and how this awareness affects intergroup attitudes and behavior.

Parents, Children, and Discussions About Race. Perry examines parents’ awareness of racial bias and how they talk about race with their children. She finds that White parents who are more aware of their biases are more likely to use color-conscious language that acknowledges racism and racial bias. Perry’s research also suggests that White parents can socialize their children to recognize race and racism. Additionally, the research can inform the development of schools’ curricula and provide parents with tools to facilitate these discussions.

Bias in Medicine. Medical bias can influence health inequity in several ways. For instance, if someone with a marginalized identity visits a doctor and feels uncomfortable, they might not return for further care. Perry investigates how bias affects doctors, medical students, and patients. Currently, in the SCIP Lab, she and her colleagues are working with a team of researchers on an NIH-funded grant to study the individual differences and environmental factors that impact medical students’ sense of academic fit and well-being.

Selected Publications

A. Skinner-Dorkenoo, M. George, J. Wages, S. Sánchez, and S. Perry. 2023. A systemic approach to the psychology of racial bias within individuals and societyNature Reviews Psychology2(7): 392-406.

L. Wilton, J. Sullivan, A. Albuja, and S. Perry. Forthcoming. Understanding the challenges and opportunities of talking to children about race and racism. Social Issues and Policy Review.

Tiako, M., J. Wages, and S. Perry. 2023. Black medical students’ sense of belonging, residency self-efficacy, and residency goal stability at historically Black vs predominantly White medical schools: A prospective study. Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Wu, D., S. Sánchez, and S. Perry. 2022. “Will talking about race make my child racist?” Dispelling myths to encourage honest White U.S. parent-child conversations about race and racism. Current Opinion in Psychology 47(101420).

Abaied, J., S. Perry, A. Cheaito, and V. Ramirez. 2022. Racial socialization messages in White parents’ discussions of current events involving racism. Journal of Research on Adolescence 32(3): 863–82.

Perry, S., A. Skinner-Dorkenoo, J. Abaied, and S. Waters. 2022. Applying the evidence we have: Support for having race conversations in White U.S. Families. Perspectives on Psychological Science 17(3): 895–900.

Wages, J., S. Perry, A. Skinner-Dorkenoo, and G. Bodenhausen. 2022. Reckless gambles and responsible ventures: racialized prototypes of risk-taking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 122(2): 202–21.

Perry, S., J. Wages, A. Skinner-Dorkenoo, S. Burke, R. Hardeman, and S. Phelan. 2021. Testing a self-affirmation intervention for improving the psychosocial health of Black and White medical students in the United States. Journal of Social Issues 1–32.

Abaied, J., and S. Perry. 2021. Socialization of racial ideology by White parents. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 27(3): 431–40.

Skinner, A., A. Osnaya, B. Patel, and S. Perry. 2020. Mimicking others' nonverbal signals is associated with increased attitude contagion. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, Special Issue on Nonconscious Mimicry 44:117–31.

Skinner, A., and S. Perry. 2020. Are attitudes contagious? Exposure to biased nonverbal signals can create novel social attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 46(4): 514–24.

Onyeador, I., N. Wittlin, S. Burke, J. Dovidio, S. Perry, R. Hardeman, L. Dyrbye, J. Herrin, S. Phelan, and M. van Ryn. 2020. The value of interracial contact for reducing anti-Black bias among Non-Black physicians: A CHANGE study report. Psychological Science 31(1): 18-30.

Skinner, A., S. Perry, and S. Gaither. 2020. Not quite monoracial: Biracial stereotypes explored. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 46(3): 377–92.

Perry, S., A. Skinner, and J. Abaied. 2019. Bias awareness predicts color conscious racial socialization methods among White parents. Journal of Social Issues 75:1035–56.