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Example of deficit-focused communication of aid


Creating a short documentary film for the Sahel Adaptive Social Protection Program in partnership with the government of Niger, the World Bank, and documentary filmmaker Damel Dieng

Dignity as a foundation for socioeconomic inclusion

Dignity–the recognition of a person or a group’s worth and agency–is related to fundamental psychological needs. Yet systems of social inequality regularly deny dignity to people in poverty—through demeaning interpersonal interactions, deficit-focused communications, and stigmatizing societal narratives. What are the psychological and economic consequences of denials of dignity? And how might affirmations of dignity serve as a foundation for economic equity and social inclusion? 

Select Publications

  • Thomas, C.C.*, Otis, N.G.*, Abraham, J.R., Markus, H.R., & Walton, G.M. (2020). Towards a science of delivering dignity in aid: Experimental evidence and forecasts from Kenya. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(27), 15546-15553. 1917046117

  • Markus, H. *, Thomas, C. *, Schwalbe, M. *, Garcia, M., & Cohen, G. Inequality in coping and loss: Mostly surviving, some thriving in the COVID-19 crisis. In press, Stanford Pathways Magazine.

Ongoing research

Behavioral science in anti-poverty policy

A rapidly growing body of research suggests that economic development policies, such as unconditional cash transfers and business trainings, can be well-complemented by, and sometimes require, psychosocial programs to have durable and cost-effective impacts on poverty reduction. How might culturally tailored, social psychological interventions enhance the impacts of anti-poverty policies both on recipients' economic mobility as well as their mental health and agency?


Select Publications

Ongoing research

  • Thomas, C. C.,  Sambo, S. A., Bossuroy, T., Premand, P., Markus, H. R., & Walton, G. M. 'Culturally wise' psychological intervention promotes economic mobility in West Africa. In prep.

  • ‘Education as legacy’ intervention to advance girls’ education in Northern Nigeria, with Ayo Dada, Greg Walton, and Carol Dweck 

Narrative change and prejudice mitigation

Welfare recipients are one of the most negatively viewed social groups in American society, with negative stereotypes of laziness and irresponsibility being entrenched in the American psyche. In turn, these beliefs can undermine political will to address poverty and inequality. How might narratives communicated through
social policies reinforce, or alternatively interrupt, this cycle of prejudice and opposition to safety net policies?  

Select Publications

  • Thomas, C. C., Walton, G. M., Reinhart, E., Markus, H. R. Mitigating welfare-related prejudice and partisanship among U.S. conservatives with moral reframing of a universal basic income policy. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 105, 104424.

Ongoing research

  • Attitudes towards safety net policies in the U.S. across the COVID-19 pandemic, with Hazel Markus and Greg Walton

    • Thomas, C., Kalkstein, D., & Walton, G. (2020, June 17). How the Coronavirus Crisis Is Opening the Door to Universal Social Policies in the U.S. Time.​

  • Updating the American Dream, with Hazel Markus, Alia Crum, MarYam Hamedani, Jennifer Eberhardt

Secondary analysis of data from the American National Election Study (ANES) collected between 1964 and 2016 (N = 59,944): Feeling thermometer ratings towards select social groups in the US 

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