Social Psychology Network

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Gayle R. Bessenoff

Gayle R. Bessenoff

My primary area of interest has been investigating the ways in which society can get inside the mind to affect individual behavior. Specifically, I have tried to examine how societal beliefs and fundamental cognitive processes interact to underlie our thoughts, evaluations, and behavior targeted toward both the self and others. This research encompasses the broad area of the internalization and influence of social norms, including stereotyping and prejudice, the self-concept, and body image.

My primary research program investigates the mechanisms responsible for the discrepancy in effects from injunctive social norms, namely why some individuals may be affected to the point of harming themselves (e.g., self-handicapping, overworking oneself, dysfunctional eating and exercising behaviors), while others remain relatively unaffected. Much of my current research focuses on the negative effects of the Western cultural norm of weight and appearance, or that of the thin-ideal. This research centers on social comparison processes, to determine when we compare ourselves to normative standards, who is more likely to compare, and when this comparison can lead to negative effects. I am also expanding this research to examine other injunctive norms, such as egalitarian standards and the Protestant Work Ethic.

Primary Interests:

  • Gender Psychology
  • Person Perception
  • Prejudice and Stereotyping
  • Self and Identity
  • Social Cognition

Journal Articles:

  • Bessenoff, G. R. (2006). Can the media affect us? Social comparison, self-discrepancy and the thin ideal. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 239-251.
  • Bessenoff, G. R., & Del Priore, R. E. (2007) Women, weight and age: Social comparison to magazine images across the lifespan. Sex Roles, 56, 215-222.
  • Bessenoff, G. R., & Sherman, J. W. (2000). Automatic and controlled components of prejudice toward fat people: Evaluation versus stereotype activation. Social Cognition, 18, 329-353.
  • Bessenoff, G. R., & Snow, D. (2006) Absorbing society's influence: Body image self-discrepancy and internalized shame. Sex Roles, 54.

Courses Taught:

  • Psychology of Overconsumption
  • Psychology of Women
  • Research Methods in Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Psychology of Women's Bodies

Gayle R. Bessenoff
Department of Psychology
Southern Connecticut State University
501 Crescent Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06515
United States

  • Phone: (203) 392-5561

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