Susan Fiske is Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology & Public Affairs at Princeton University. As a social psychologist, her research investigates how social relationships influence prejudice and discrimination. Fiske’s research shows that people use each other’s relative status and cooperation/competition to assign stereotypes, feel prejudices, and enact discrimination.
Fiske has written more than 250 articles and edited books and journal special issues. Supported by a Guggenheim Award, her most recent book, Envy Up, Scorn Down: How Status Divides Us (Russell Sage Foundation 2011), explores why we compare ourselves to others and what happens when we do. She investigates these concepts by using standard psychological experiments, combined with new techniques in social neuroscience. Rooted in a progressive approach, Fiske also shows how social psychology applies to an increasingly multi-cultural world. One of her latest journal articles, “Us Versus Them: Social Identity Shapes Neural Responses to Intergroup Competition and Harm,” with Mina Cikara and Matthew M. Botvinick, Psychological Science, 2011, shows that when groups compete, aggressive behavior can occur if the in-group attaches positive value to the suffering of the out-group. To test a correlation between how individuals valued a competitive outcome and their willingness to harm individuals in the out-group, her lab team performed fMRI scans of avid Red Sox and Yankees fans while they viewed baseball plays in which their two teams succeeded or failed against the rival team or even a third party. Individuals who reported a greater willingness to harm a rival team’s fans displayed more pleasure-associated brain activity when they viewed the rival team’s failures. These findings suggest a neural link between pleasure from a rival’s misfortunes and endorsing harm.
In 2010, Fiske received the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award and in 2009, the American Psychological Society’s William James Fellow Award. She is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is a past president of both the Association for Psychological Science and the Foundation for the Advancement of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Fiske edits theAnnual Review of Psychology (with Daniel L. Schacter and Shelley Taylor) and the Handbook of Social Psychology (with Daniel T. Gilbert and Gardner Lindzey). Fiske has also used her expertise in testimony regarding discrimination cases: In 1989, her testimony before the Supreme Court influenced a landmark decision on gender bias.
Susan Fiske: “The Nature of Prejudice”