“Given what psychology deals with, we must ask ourselves whether, with the tools at our disposal today, we can say, or more important, do something that will make a significant contribution to solving the crucial problems of our communities. In our case more than anyone else’s, the principle holds that the concern of the social scientist should not be so much to explain the world as to transform it.” ~ Ignacio Martín-Baró, Writings for a Liberation Psychology ~
Stigma is a social phenomenon that pervades time, social context, and culture. Social psychologists and other behavioral scientists have advanced knowledge about how and why stigma can pose deleterious risks for its targets. Yet, the vast majority of this knowledge has focused on stigmas that are visible such as race and gender. My portfolio of research is designed to directly address this important theoretical and empirical gap and to advance the study of concealable stigmatized identities (e.g., mental illness, HIV/AIDS, chronic illness).
In my first line of research, I examine when and why disclosure of concealable stigmatized identities can be beneficial. Specifically, my work in this area examines the role of goals—representing activation of approach or avoidance motivational systems—in affecting the ways in which people communicate with others about concealable stigmas. This work has examined how goals affect communication strategies that people use in their disclosures, such as the amount of information they provide about their identities and whether they choose face-to-face modalities to communicate this sensitive information. Further, this work also examines how goals and their concomitant communication strategies affect the likelihood that disclosure will yield beneficial outcomes for the discloser.
My second line of research investigates the extent to which concealable stigmatized identities pose a unique risk to psychological and physical health. This work focuses on identifying factors related to both the stigmatized person—their expectations and experiences of stigmatization—and their environment—the degree of cultural stigma associated with a given attribute—that impact well-being. Further, this work considers how this constellation of factors contributes to psychological and physical health disparities via pathways such as stress, health behaviors, and physiological changes. In essence, this work asks the questions—How does stigma “get under the skin” to affect health disparities? And, how might these pathways differ if one’s stigmatized attribute is visible vs. concealable?
As a social-health psychologist, I adopt a multidisciplinary approach to studying these issues. I utilize both lab- and field-based studies to investigate these questions among college, clinical, and community samples. Psychology students play a key role in the success of this research. Students contribute to the full range of research activities—from initial hypothesis formation and study design to data analysis, writing, and dissemination of research findings at regional and national conferences—as assistant and lead researchers in CSI Lab.
Chaudoir, S. R., & Quinn, D. M. (2016). Evidence that anticipated stigma predicts poorer depressive symptom trajectories among emerging adults living with concealable stigmatized identities. Self and Identity, 15, 139-151. doi: 10.1080/15298868.2015.1091378
Chaudoir, S. R., Earnshaw, V. A., & Andel, S. (2013). “Discredited” vs. “discreditable”: Understanding how shared and unique stigma mechanisms affect psychological and physical health disparities. Basic and Applied Social Psychology: Special Issue: Fifty Years of Stigma Research—Lessons learned and lingering issues, 35, 75-87. doi: 10.1080/01973533.2012.746612
Chaudoir, S. R., Fisher, J. D., & Simoni, J. (2011). Understanding HIV disclosure: A review and application of the Disclosure Processes Model.Social Science & Medicine, 72, 1618-1629. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.03.028
Chaudoir, S. R., & Fisher, J. D. (2010). The disclosure processes model: Understanding disclosure decision-making and post-disclosure outcomes among people living with a concealable stigmatized identity. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 236-256. doi: 10.1037/a0018193
Earnshaw, V. A., & Chaudoir, S. R. (2009). From conceptualizing to measuring HIV stigma: A review of HIV stigma mechanisms measures. AIDS and Behavior, 13, 1160-1177. doi: 10.1007/s10461-009-9593-3
Quinn, D. M., & Chaudoir, S. R. (2009). Living with a concealable stigmatized identity: The impact of anticipated stigma, centrality, salience, and cultural stigma on psychological distress and health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 634-651. doi: 10.1037/a0015815