Wendy Quinton, Professor of Psychology
Wendy Quinton, clinical assistant professor of Psychology, specializes in the study of prejudice and stigma. Her research interests are focused on theoretically driven investigations of social issues which are at the interface of a number of core psychological topics, including the psychology of the self, prejudice and discrimination, social identity and social groups, stress and coping, and personal and social predictors of mental and physical health.
Quinton has made it clear that American Indian nicknames and mascots are not neutral symbols and that their continued use by schools, professional sports teams and other organizations has negative consequences for everyone, not just Native Americans. “Studies show that regardless of their intention, these mascots do not honor American Indians, but instead bring to mind negative thoughts associated with them as a group of people,” says Quinton. “Furthermore, other studies with mostly white samples have found that people exposed to American Indian mascots are more likely to negatively stereotype other ethnic groups as well.” Positive representations of American Indians in popular culture are scarce, says Quinton. And these mascots are among the most common depictions. In 2005, the American Psychological Association recommended that schools and other organizations stop using American Indian imagery of all kinds. Consciousness-raising efforts across the country, meantime, have prompted schools and organizations to reconsider their allegiance to these mascots — efforts that Quinton says increase empathy and sensitivity. And though many schools have been identified with these images for decades, Quinton says that tradition shouldn’t license their continued use. “We now know better,” she says. “The research documenting their negative effects is clear.”
Quinton’s research with colleague Mark Seery, associate professor of Psychology, found that identifying discrimination is a necessary first step toward confronting and ultimately eliminating the stain of prejudice, yet victims may be unlikely to recognize some types of discrimination unless they have higher self-esteem. Their study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, concluded that the power of targets of prejudice uniting to confront discriminatory treatment can be viewed through historical movements, such as the American Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, action on behalf of legalizing same-sex marriage and, most recently, the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. “The perpetrator is very unlikely to admit to discriminating against someone,” says Quinton. “It’s unfortunate, but if targets don’t call attention to discrimination it’s unlikely that anyone else will.”
Although overt racism is still present in society, a more subtle discrimination exists as well. “We found that self-esteem is a personal resource for recognizing this kind of ambiguous prejudice,” says Quinton. “When prejudice is obvious, people are likely to make an attribution regardless of their level of self-esteem. When it’s less clear, those with higher self- esteem are more likely to make an attribution than those with lower self-esteem.” Quinton contends that if you don’t call attention to discrimination it is never going to be addressed. “Attributions must come first,” she says.
Quinton says the basic idea that if you don’t call attention to discrimination it is never going to be addressed is something that remains valid and works for all groups. “Attributions must come first,” she says.