Dr. Zoe Liberman, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at UCSB, is catching attention for her research on social categorization — the grouping of people by characteristics such as gender, race and nationality.
She recently earned an Early CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, positioning her to dive into how children form stereotypes.
“I congratulate Zoe on this recognition, which reflects the tremendous potential of her innovative research on the origins of human social behavior,” Pierre Wiltzius, dean of mathematical, life and physical sciences at UC Santa Barbara, said in a news release. “Her work illuminates how we form relationships from the very early stages of cognitive development, and I look forward to her continued success.”
She looks at how grouping forms in infancy and how positive interactions with unfamiliar groups can garner acceptance.
Her research hypothesizes whether raising children among diversity helps decrease stereotypes.
“The idea is that potentially growing up in a neighborhood or network that has people from different kinds of groups might make you more open to thinking that these categories aren’t as meaningful,” Dr. Liberman said.
She will work with infants, children and their parents to learn more about the issue.
“One question that I’m very interested in and that I think this research is starting to answer is about how, if there are individual differences such that children who are exposed to more diversity are less likely to form group biases, could we figure out ways to give kids these kinds of experiences, and would that have long lasting effects on the development of bias?” she said.
Dr. Liberman was awarded a Rising Star by the Association for Psychological Science in 2017, just one year after joining UCSB’s faculty.
— Annelise Hanshaw