Sarah Elizabeth Gaither

Sarah Elizabeth Gaither

Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Tufts University 2014

  • M.S., Tufts University 2009

  • B.A., University of California at Berkeley 2007


Humans are fundamentally social beings, and their interactions represent a core aspect of human nature. My research focuses on how individuals’ social identities and experiences across the lifespan motivate their social perceptions and behaviors particularly in diverse settings.

More specifically I am interested in three main questions:
1) how intergroup contact shapes interracial interaction outcomes for both racial majority and racial minority individuals
2) how having multiple racial or social identities more broadly affects various types of behavior including complex thinking, social behavior, and identity malleability
3) what contexts in particular may influence how people perceive or socially categorize each other across group boundaries

Therefore, the overall goal of my research program is to investigate the attitudinal and behavioral effects stemming from exposure to racial and gender diversity as a means to pinpoint pathways that one can utilize to foster more positive group relations for both adult and child populations. By exploring the developmental origins of social identity and intergroup perceptions we can pinpoint some of the antecedents that predict adult behavior in diverse settings.


biracial and social identities, interracial interactions, racial categorizations, social development

Gaither, Sarah E., et al. “Essentialist thinking predicts decrements in children's memory for racially ambiguous faces.Developmental Psychology, vol. 50, no. 2, Feb. 2014, pp. 482–88. Epmc, doi:10.1037/a0033493. Full Text

Gaither, S. E., et al. “Perceiving a presidency in black (and white): Four years later.” Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, vol. 14, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 7–21. Scopus, doi:10.1111/asap.12018. Full Text

Gaither, S. E., et al. “When the half affects the whole: Priming identity for biracial individuals in social interactions.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 49, no. 3, May 2013, pp. 368–71. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.12.012. Full Text

Gaither, S. E., and S. R. Sommers. “Living with an other-race roommate shapes Whites' behavior in subsequent diverse settings.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 49, no. 2, Mar. 2013, pp. 272–76. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.10.020. Full Text

Gaither, S. E., and S. R. Sommers. “Honk if you like minorities: Vuvuzela attitudes predict outgroup liking.” International Review for the Sociology of Sport, vol. 48, no. 1, Feb. 2013, pp. 54–65. Scopus, doi:10.1177/1012690211429219. Full Text

Gaither, Sarah E., et al. “Biracial and monoracial infant own-race face perception: an eye tracking study.Developmental Science, vol. 15, no. 6, Nov. 2012, pp. 775–82. Epmc, doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2012.01170.x. Full Text

Schultz, Jennifer R., et al. “Reframing anxiety to encourage interracial interactions.Translational Issues in Psychological Science, vol. 1, no. 4, American Psychological Association (APA), pp. 392–400. Crossref, doi:10.1037/tps0000048. Full Text


Fellowships, Supported Research, & Other Grants

Big Data and Social Interactions awarded by Intellectual Community Planning Grant, Duke Interdisciplinary Studies (2019)

Writing and ReseArch Productive (WRAP) Group for Black Faculty awarded by Office of Faculty Advancement (2019)

Social identity and mental health: Minimizing barriers to positive well-being in college settings awarded by Charles Lafitte Foundation Program in Psychological Research at Duke University (2019)

Social, Cognitive, and Behavioral Responses to Identity Threat awarded by Charles Lafitte Foundation Program in Psychological Research at Duke University (2018)