Social Psychology Network

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Michael J. Bernstein

Michael J. Bernstein

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The world can be a chaotic, ambiguous, and uncertain place, and traversing such a difficult landscape would be daunting without guides. Individuals gain such guidance and insight into how to treat others and how they themselves expect to be treated from the groups to which they belong. Belonging is one of our most basic human needs. Groups serve a vital role in helping us navigate our social worlds, and we have a pervasive tendency to see our ingroups in a laudable and positive light.

My research, broadly defined, is twofold. First, I am concerned with the antecedents and consequences of group level categorization. How do people choose to categorize others as ingroup or outgroup targets? Once we categorize an individual as such, what cognitive and behavioral changes are likely to occur? Much of my current research is focused on the cross race effect (CRE) and the ingroup overexclusion effect (IOE). As a social cognitive researcher, I am primarily concerned with how others are stored in memory and how the environment can affect the encoding and retrieval of social information.

In a second domain, I am interested in how people respond when the groups to which they belong exclude them or reject them. Much of my research is now focusing on showing the various responses to social inclusion and exclusion. Social rejection occurs to everyone; though rejection today is less likely to result in death, social exclusion is a signal to an evolutionary danger of being alone. Research has shown rather convincingly that many responses to social rejection appear maladaptive, yet from an evolutionary standpoint, it seems unlikely that such maladaptive behaviors would continually be selected generation after generation unless they exist as part of a "trade off" of sorts. As such, we believe the responses to social exclusion are in and of themselves adaptive or by-products of adaptive responses. Thus, maladaptive responses to social rejection may represent a shifting of resources to other domains where they would be more valuable.

If you are interested in contacting me, you should feel free to do so. I am happy to answer questions from other professors, graduate students, or even undergraduates who want to discuss research or applications to graduate school in general. I am also always open to new collaborations, so if you are a researcher looking to talk about starting a new line of research, please feel free to contact me. I live at my computer and routinely tell my students that if I go more than 24 hours without answering an email, something has gone terribly wrong. Feel free to drop me a line.

Primary Interests:

  • Attitudes and Beliefs
  • Emotion, Mood, Affect
  • Helping, Prosocial Behavior
  • Intergroup Relations
  • Interpersonal Processes
  • Person Perception
  • Persuasion, Social Influence
  • Prejudice and Stereotyping
  • Social Cognition

Research Group or Laboratory:

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Journal Articles:

  • Bernstein, M. J. & Benfield, J. A. (2013). Past perspectives are related to present relationships: Past-positive and negative time perspectives differentially predict rejection sensitivity. The Psychological Record.
  • Bernstein, M. J., & Claypool, H. M. (2012). Not all social exclusions are created equal: Emotional distress following social exclusion is moderated by exclusion paradigm. Social Influence, 7, 113-130.
  • Bernstein, M. J., & Claypool, H. M. (2012). Social exclusion and pain sensitivity: Why exclusion sometimes hurts and sometimes numbs. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 185-196.
  • Bernstein, M. J., Claypool, H. M., Young, S. G., Tuscherer, T., Sacco, D. F., & Brown, C. M. (2013). Never let them see you cry: Self-presentation as a moderator of the relationship between exclusion and self-esteem. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
  • Bernstein, M. J., Sacco, D. F., Young, S. G., Hugenberg, K., & Cook, E. (2010). Being ‘in’ with the in crowd: The effects of social exclusion and inclusion are enhanced by the perceived essentialism of ingroups and outgroups. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 999-1009.
  • Bernstein, M. J., Young, S. G., Brown, C. M., Sacco, D. F., & Claypool, H. M. (2010). A preference for genuine smiles following social exclusion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 196-199.
  • Bernstein, M. J., Young, S. G., Brown, C. M., Sacco, D. F., & Claypool, H. M. (2008). Adaptive responses to social exclusion: Social rejection improves detection of real and fake smiles. Psychological Science, 19, 981-983.
  • Bernstein, M. J., Young, S. G., & Claypool, H. M. (2010). Obama’s win is a gain for Blacks? Changes in implicit prejudice following the 2008 election. Social Psychology, 41, 147-151.
  • Bernstein, M. J., Young, S. G., & Hugenberg, K. (2007). The cross-category effect: Mere social categorization is sufficient to elicit an own-group bias in face recognition. Psychological Science, 18, 706-712.
  • Brown, C. M., Young, S. G., Sacco, D. F., Bernstein, M. J., & Claypool, H. M. (2009). Social inclusion facilitates interests in mating. Evolutionary Psychology, 7, 11-27.
  • Sacco, D. F., & Bernstein, M. J. (2010). A video introduction to psychology: Using technology to facilitate interest and participation in psychology research. Journal of Teaching Psychology, 37, 28-31.
  • Sacco, D. F., Brown, C. M., Young, S. G., Bernstein, M. J., & Hugenberg, K. J. (2011). Social Inclusion Facilitates Risky Mating Behavior in Men. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 985-998.
  • Shriver, E., Young, S. G., Hugenberg, K., Bernstein, M. J., & Lanter, J. (2008). Class, race, and the face: Social context modulates the cross-race effect in face recognition. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 260-274.
  • Young, S. G., Bernstein, M. J., & Claypool, H. M. (2009). Rejected by the nation: The electoral defeat of candidates included in the self is experienced as personal rejection. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 9, 315-326.
  • Young S. G., Bernstein, M. J., & Hugenberg, K. (2010). When do own-group biases in face recognition occur? Encoding versus recognition. Social Cognition, 28, 140-150.
  • Young, S. G., Hugenberg, K., Bernstein, M. J., & Sacco, D. F. (2009). Intergroup salience decreases recognition for same-race faces. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 1123-1126.
  • Zell, E. & Bernstein, M. J. (2013). You may think you're right... Young adults are more liberal than they realize. Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Courses Taught:

  • Interpersonal and Intergroup Relations
  • Ostracism -- Social Death
  • Psychological Methods
  • Psychological Statistics
  • Social Cognition
  • Social Psychology
  • Stigma

Michael J. Bernstein
Department of Psychological and Social Sciences
Pennsylvania State University Abington
1600 Woodland Avenue, 236J Woodland Building
Abington, Pennsylvania 19001
United States

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