Brenda Major

Brenda Major

Brenda Major is an experimental social psychologist whose research focuses on social stigma, the psychological justification of inequality, including gender inequality, and the psychological antecedents and consequences of perceived discrimination and unfair treatment. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the American Philosophical Foundation, among others. Major is Past President of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology and of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and is the author of approximately 150 articles and book chapters and an edited book. Current research projects examine the impact of organizational diversity initiatives on minorities’ and majorities’ perceptions of fairness and acceptance within organizations, and the impact of perceived ethnic, gender, and weight-based discrimination on physiological stress responses, health behaviors, and interpersonal relationships.

Grants, Awards and Distinctions:

Russell-Sage Foundation. 2018-2019. Examining Health Costs of Upward Mobility among Latino/a American Young Adults. $149,825.

National Science Foundation. 2011-2015. Collaborative research: Diversity structures create illusions of fairness. Co-P.I. $269,267.

National Institutes of Health. 2013-2016. Psychological, physiological, and behavioral effects of weight stigma. P.I. $1,893,033.

National Institute of Health. 2014-2016. Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research for Graduate Research Assistants. PI. $86,000.

UCSB Academic Senate Faculty Research Grant. 2016-2017. Risk and Resilience: Trust, Perceived Discrimination and Thriving Amoung Latino Youth. $13,500

University of California Health Psychology Consortium Seed Grant. 2017-2018. Risk and Resilience amping First Year Latino/a Students: The Role of Sleep and Perceived Discrimination. $10,000.

Russell-Sage Foundation. 2019. Examining Health Costs of Upward Mobility amoung Latino/a American Young Adults. PI $149,825

UCSB Academic Senate Grant, Testing interventions to alleviate weight stigma effects. $5,200.

UCSB College of Letters and Science, Office of the Executive Dean.  Proposal for Conference on Current Directions in the Science of Human Resilience. $2,500.


Gordon, A. M., Prather, A. A., Dover, T., Espino-Perez, K., Small, P., & Major, B. 2020.
"Anticipated and experienced ethnic/racial discrimination and sleep: A longitudinal study. "
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1-12. doi: 10.1177/014616722C928859. 
Dover, T. L., Kaiser, C. R., & Major, B. 2020. 
"Mixed signals: The unintended effects of diversity initiatives. "
Social Issues and Policy Review, 14. (1), 152-181. doi: 10.1111/sipr.12059. 
Dover, T. L., Major, B., & Kaiser, C. R. 2020. 
"Cardiovascular, behavioral and psychological responses to organizational prodiversity messages among racial/ethnic minorities. "
Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 1-21. doi: 10.1177/1368430220944222.  
Major, B., Rathbone, J. A., Blodorn, A., & Hunger, J. M. 2020. 
"The countervailing effects of weight stigma on weight-loss motivation and perceived capacity for weight control. "
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1-13. doi: 10.1177/0146167220903184. 
Research Themes:
McCleary-Gaddy, A. T., Miller, C. T., Grover, K. W., Hodge, J. J., & Major, B. 2019. 
"Weight stigma and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis reactivity in individuals who are overweight. "
Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 53. (4), 392-398. doi: 10.1093/abm/kay042. 
Research Themes:
Dover, T. L., Major, B., & Glace, A. M. 2019. 
"Discrimination, health, and the costs and benefits of believing in system fairness. "
Health Psychology, Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/hea0000841. 
Research Themes:
Small, P. A. & Major, B. 2019. 
"Crossing the racial line: The fluidity vs. fixedness of racial identity. "
Self and Identity, 1-26. doi: 10.1080/15298868.2019.1662839. 
Dover, T. L., Hunger, J. M. & Major, B. 2019.
"Health consequences of prejudice and discrimination. "
In K. Sweeny & M. Robins (Eds.), The Wiley Encyclopedia of Health Psychology. 
Dover, T., Major, B., & Kaiser, C.R. 2016. 
"Members of high-status groups are threatened by pro-diversity organizational messages."
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 62,58-67. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2015.10.006.
Spencer-Rodgers, J., Major, B. Forster, D. , & Peng, K. 2016. 
"The Power of Affirming Group Values: Group Affirmation Buffers the Self-Esteem of Women Exposed to Blatant Sexism."
Self and Identity. DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2016.1145593.
Research Themes:
Richman, L., Blodorn, A. & Major, B. In press. 
"An identity-based model of discrimination and health behaviors: Implications for Health Disparities."
Group Processes and Intergroup Relations.
Research Themes:
Dover, T., Major, B. & Kaiser, C. R. (in press). 
"Diversity Structures, Status, and System-Justifying Beliefs: When Diversity Initiatives Backfire."
Group Processes and Intergroup Relations.
Dover, T., Kaiser, C.R. & Major, B. 2016.  
"Diversity policies don't make organizations fairer and they threaten white men."
 Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from
Blodorn, A., Major, B. & Kaiser, C. In press. 
"Perceived discrimination and poor health: Accounting for self-blame complicates a well-established relationship."
Social Science and Medicine. 
Research Themes:
Hoyt, C.H, Burnette, J.L, Auster-Gussman, L., Blodorn, A, & Major, B. In press. 
"The obesity stigma asymmetry model: The indirect and divergent effects of blame and changeability beliefs on anti-fat prejudice."
Stigma and Health.
Research Themes:
Major, B., Kunstman, J., Sawyer, P., Townsend, S. & Mendes, W. B. 2016. 
"Suspicion of motives predicts minorities' responses to positive feedback in interracial interactions."
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,62, 75-88. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2015.10.007.
Blodorn, A., Major, B., Hunger, J.M. & Miller, C.T. 2016. 
"Unpacking the psychological weight of weight stigma: A rejection-expectation pathway."
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 63,69-76. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2015.12.003.
Research Themes:
Ryan, W., Hunger, J. & Major, B. In press. 
"Understanding LGB Mental and Physical Health Disparities Through the Lens of Stigma and Social Identity Threat."
Journal of Social Issues.
Research Themes:
Blodorn, A. & Major, B. (in press) Stigma.  In H. Miller (Ed.), 
"Encyclopedia of Theory in Psychology"
Research Themes:
Brady, L.M., Kaiser, C., Major, B. & Kirby, T. (2015)
"It's fair for us: Diversity structures cause women to legitimize discrimination."
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.57, 100-110.
LaCosse, J., Tuscherer, T., Kunstman, J., Plant, A., Trawalter, S. & Major, B. 2015. 
"Suspicion of White people's motives relates to relative accuracy in detecting external motivation to respond without prejudice."
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Research Themes:
Major, B, & Dover, T. 2015.
"Attributions to discrimination: Antecedents and Consequences."
In T.D. Nelson (Ed.). Handbook of Prejudice, Stereotyping and Discrimination, 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Psychology Press. 
Hunger, J.M., Major, B., Blodorn, A. & Miller, C. (2015) 
"Weighed down by stigma: How weight-based social identity threat contributes to weight gain and health."
 Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 9, 255-268. doi: 10.1111/spc3.12172
Research Themes:
Dover, T. L., Major, B., Kunstman, J. W., & Sawyer, P. J. (2015) 
"Does unfairness feel different if it can be linked to group membership? Cognitive, affective, behavioral and physiological implications of discrimination and unfairness."
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 56, 96-103.
Research Themes:
Kirby, T., Kaiser, C. & Major, B. (2015)
"Insidious procedures: Diversity awards legitimize unfair organizational procedures."
Social Justice Research, 28, 169-186. doi: 10.1007/s11211-015-0240-z
Research Themes:
Hunger, J.M. & Major, B. 2014.
"Weight Stigma Mediates the Association between BMI and Psychological and Physical Health."
Health Psychology. 
Research Themes:
Major, B., Hunger, J., Bunyan, D & Miller, C.T. 2014.
"The ironic effects of weight stigma."
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 51, 74-80.
Dover, T., Major, B. & Kaiser, C. R. 2014. 
"Diversity initiatives, status, and system-justifying beliefs: When and how diversity efforts de-legitimize discrimination claims."
Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 17(4), 485-493. 
Major, B., Sawyer, P.J. & Kunstman, J.W. (2013).
"Minority perceptions of Whites' motives for responding without prejudice: The perceived internal and external motivation to avoid prejudice scales."
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 39(3), 401-414.
Major, B. & Kunstsman, J. W. (2013). 
"Suspicion in Interracial Interactions: Using Measures of Cardiovascular Reactivity to Index Threat."
In B. Derks, D. Scheepers & N. Ellemers (Eds.) The Neuroscience of Prejudice and Intergroup Relations. New York, NY: Psychology Press. 
Research Themes:
Proulx, T. & Major, B. (2013). 
"A Raw Deal: Heightened Liberalism Following Exposure to Anomalous Playing Cards."
Journal of Social Issues,69(3) 455-472. 
Eliezer, D. & Major, B.
"It's not your fault: The social costs of claiming discrimination on behalf of someone else"
Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. Vol 15, no 4. 487-502. 2013.
Research Themes:
Kaiser, C. R., Major, B., Jurcevic, I., Dover, T., Brady, L. M., & Shapiro, J. R. (2013).
"Presumed fair: Ironic effects of organizational diversity structures."
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 104 (3) 504-519.
Townsend, S.S.M., Eliezer, D., Major, B., Mendes, W.B. (2013). 
"Influencing the world versus adjusting to constraints: Social class moderates responses to discrimination."
Social Psychological and Personality Science.5(2), 226-234.
Research Themes:
Major, B., Eliezer, D. & Rieck, H.
"The psychological weight of weight stigma"
Social Psychological and Personality Science. 2013.
Research Themes:
Major, B., Mendes, W.B. & Dovidio, J. (2013).
"Intergroup relations and health disparities: A social psychological perspective."
Health Psychology, 32, 514-524.
Research Themes:
Simon, S., Kinias, Z., O'Brien, L.T., Major, B., Bivolaru, E. (2013). 
"Prototypes of discrimination: How status asymmetry and stereotype asymmetry affect judgments of racial discrimination."
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 35(6), 525-533.
O'Brien, L. T., Major, B. N., & Gilbert, P. N.
"Gender differences in entitlement: The role of system-justifying beliefs"
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 34(2), 136-145. 2012.
Research Themes:
Sawyer, P.J., Major, B., Casad, B., Townsend, SSM, & Mendes, WB.
"Discrimination and the stress response: Psychological and physiological consequences of anticipating prejudice in interracial interactions"
American Journal of Public Health.102.5, 1020-1026. 2012.
Research Themes:
Major, B., S.S.M. Townsend, P.J. Sawyer & W.B. Mendes
"From "in the air" to "under the skin": Cortisol responses to social identity threat"
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2012
Research Themes:
Eliezer, D., Townsend, S. S. M., Sawyer, P. J., Major, B. & Mendes, W. B.
"System justifying beliefs moderate the relationship between perceived discrimination and resting blood pressure"
Social Cognition.29, 303-321.