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Sylvia Perry

Associate Professor of Psychology

PhD, Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2010

Psychologist Sylvia Perry studies how bias awareness manifests and its implications for reducing prejudice, intergroup contact, and health disparities. She investigates how individual differences interact with situational factors to affect intergroup contexts, educational and healthcare settings, and an individual’s sense of belonging and psychological wellbeing. Individual differences include how people respond to stressful intergroup situations—such as interracial interactions between White doctors and minority patients—and how people cope with environmental stressors—such as identity and stereotype threat minorities experience in academic and healthcare settings. Perry is the principal investigator at the Social Cognition and Intergroup Processes (SCIP) Lab.

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 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Additionally, Perry has earned several awards for her teaching and research, including an award for the best paper by the Association for Medical Education in Europe. 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, Psychological Science, and Social Psychological and Personality Science. She is an incoming associate editor for Psychological Science. She is a reviewer for the National Science Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation. Perry is an elected fellow to the Society for Experimental Social Psychology and the Association for Psychological Science and earned the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s SAGE Young Scholar Award.

Current Research

Bias Awareness. To assess the differences in how individuals’ awareness and concern of 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 a person with a marginalized identity visits a doctor and feels uncomfortable, they might not go back 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 difference and environmental factors that impact medical students’ sense of academic fit and wellbeing.

Selected Publications

Perry, S., A. Skinner-Dorkenoo, J. Abaied, and S. Waters. Forthcoming. Applying the evidence we have: Support for having race conversations in White U.S. Families. Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Wages, J., S. Perry, A. Skinner-Dorkenoo, and G. Bodenhausen. Forthcoming. Reckless gambles and responsible ventures: racialized prototypes of risk-taking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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.