Dr. John Tawa (Principal Investigator)
I study processes that both hinder and improve race relations, and I am particularly interested in relations between minority groups (e.g., relations between Blacks and Asians). For example, some of my research supports the idea that perceived competition for resources (e.g., educational, economic) creates greater distance between Blacks and Asians relative to both their distances towards the White majority group. However, my research also suggests that educational approaches that encourage critical thinking about concepts such as race can increase people's comfort level interacting across racial groups. While the content of my research focuses on intergroup relations, methodologically I am particularly interested in directly assessing people's "real time" behavior, in lieu of a primary reliance on self-reported behavior. I find that virtual technology is a particularly powerful medium for assessing intergroup behavior. For example, in the study described above, I had participants create self-resembling avatars and interact in social events in the virtual world Second Life. When I introduced a resource competition task in the social event, Black and Asian participants were found to increase their collective physical distance towards each other.