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Brenda Major, Ph.D.


Brenda Major, Ph.D.

Dr. Major is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at UC Santa Barbara. She earned her Ph.D. from Purdue Univeristy, and has been a member of SPSP since 1975. She studies how people perceive and cope with stigma, prejudice, discrimination and stressful life events. She has authored more than 150 articles and book chapters and one book, and chaired the APA Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion.


Why did you join SPSP? 

It is the largest and most active professional society in the world in social psychology -- my area of expertise.


What led you to choose a career in personality and social psychology?

Two courses that I took in graduate school at Miami University of Ohio.  I started graduate school there in Experimental Psychology.  My first year I was lucky enough to take a graduate course in social psychology from Richard Sherman and a course on the psychology of control from Art Miller.  Both fascinated me and I petitioned to change areas to become a social psychologist.


Briefly summarize your current research, and any future research interests you plan to pursue.

My research focuses on the psychology of stigma and marginalization, the antecedents and consequences of perceived discrimination and unfair treatment, and the ways in which  inequality, including gender inequality, is justified and maintained.  Current research projects are investigating the impact of organizational diversity initiatives on perceptions of fairness and acceptance within organizations, the impact of perceived ethnic, gender, and weight-based discrimination on psychological and physiological stress responses and health behaviors, and perceived authenticity in interracial interactions.


What is your most memorable SPSP Annual Convention experience?

The year I was President of SPSP. It was great to have an opportunity to plan the opening symposium on the “Red-Blue Divide.” 


How has being a member of SPSP helped to advance your career?

SPSP has been a major part of my professional life. I’ve served on the Executive Committee several times and on a number of SPSP standing and ad hoc committees.  I’ve met fabulous colleagues and made life-long friends through my service to the society. I even met my husband at a Division 8 (pre-SPSP) Executive Committee meeting!


Do you have any advice for individuals who wish to pursue a career in personality and social psychology?

Get involved.


Outside of psychology, how do you spend your free time?

I liking hiking and walking on the beach with my husband and my dog, as well as kayaking and sailing. I like fixing up houses and reading mystery novels. 


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