William T. L. Cox

William Cox
PhD Expected May 2015
Department of Psychology
University of Wisconsin-Madison

SPSP 2015 Poster: Semi-Supervised Stereotyping: Untested Stereotypic Assumptions Reinforce Stereotypes As Much As Externally Confirmed Stereotypic Assumptions

posted Feb 22, 2015, 7:22 AM by William Cox

Check out my poster at SPSP this Saturday!  PDF copy attached.

Poster Session F - Stereotyping/Prejudice
Saturday, February 28, 2015
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

William Cox; Patricia Devine
People presume their untested stereotypic assumptions are correct, which reinforces their stereotypes in the absence of actual evidence. In our study, participants received No Feedback, Stereotype-Confirming Feedback, or Stereotype-Disconfirming Feedback on a series of stereotypic judgments. Untested assumptions reinforced stereotypes as much as stereotypic judgments that were actually confirmed.

My latest paper, "Toward a Comprehensive Understanding of Officers’ Shooting Decisions: No Simple Answers to This Complex Problem"

posted Jul 23, 2014, 9:34 AM by William Cox   [ updated Jul 23, 2014, 9:36 AM ]

Out today in Basic and Applied Social Psychology!

William T. L. Cox, Patricia G. Devine, E. Ashby Plant, & Lauri L. Schwartz (2014)

Experimental Materials and Data Files


Police officers make life-or-death shooting decisions in complex situations under extreme time pressure. If officers make a mistake, there are dire consequences—they could kill an innocent or be killed themselves. In contrast to prior work’s near-exclusive focus on suspect race, the present study examined features of methodology, officers, suspects, and neighborhoods that may affect officers’ shooting decisions. Empirical exploration of officers’ shooting decisions and mistakes is still in its infancy, and given the seriousness and importance of this phenomenon—and the potential for this research to inform policy decisions—additional research is needed.

SPSP 2014 Poster - Consequences of Stereotyping to Infer Group Membership: Stereotype Directionality, Evasion of Social Pressures, and Resistance to Stereotype Change.

posted Feb 21, 2014, 10:02 AM by William Cox   [ updated Feb 21, 2014, 10:05 AM ]

Here is my poster from SPSP 2014. It presents a large portion of my research. SPSP 2014 Poster.


Four studies explored stereotyping to infer group membership (e.g., inferring that a fashionable man is gay) and its consequences. Study 1 showed that people reliably and predominantly use stereotypic traits (e.g., fashion) to infer that men are gay, and cannot identify who is gay from the face (cf. Rule et al., 2008). Study 2 showed that these gay stereotypes (e.g., Fashionable-->Gay) have different associative architecture than racial stereotypes (e.g., Black-->Athletic) because they are activated in a different direction (i.e., Attribute-->Group vs. Group-->Attribute). In Study 3, private stereotypic inferences about group membership allowed prejudicial behavior (i.e., giving painful electric shocks) to evade social pressures that oppose prejudice by providing “plausible deniability” for the behavior. Study 4 showed that counterstereotypic exemplars (e.g., fashionable straight men) are often miscategorized and thus ironically reinforce stereotypes, rather than weakening them. This work has implications for the development, reinforcement, prevention, change, and regulation of stereotyping and prejudice, and also highlights some key measurement issues for stereotyping and prejudice research.

Data Blitz Talk at Sex Preconference SPSP 2014 - The Gaydar Myth

posted Feb 21, 2014, 9:59 AM by William Cox   [ updated Feb 21, 2014, 10:07 AM ]

I presented some of my recent work on The Gaydar Myth in a Data Blitz format.  Here is the transcript of that talk, if you are interested! The Gaydar Myth - Data Blitz

New Paper Accepted to Psychological Science!

posted Jul 21, 2013, 8:39 AM by William Cox

Stereotyping to Infer Group Membership Creates "Plausible Deniability" for Prejudice-Based Aggression

William T. L. Cox and Patricia G. Devine (In Press)

Psychological Science

This paper reports a study demonstrating that inferring group membership from a stereotype provides “plausible deniability” for prejudice-based aggression, allowing people to evade external condemnations against prejudice.

Experimental Materials and Data Files


Participants administered painful electric shocks to an unseen male opponent who was either explicitly labeled gay or stereotypically implied to be gay. Identifying the opponent with a gay-stereotypic attribute produced a situation in which the target’s group status was privately inferred but plausibly deniable to others. Testing the plausible deniability hypothesis, we examined aggression levels as a function of internal (personal) and external (social) motivation to respond without prejudice. Whether plausible deniability was present or absent, participants high in internal motivation aggressed little and participants low in both internal and external motivation aggressed at high levels. The behavior of low internal, high external motivation participants, however, depended upon experimental condition. They aggressed at low levels when others could plausibly attribute their behavior to prejudice and at high levels when the situation granted plausible deniability. We discuss both obstacles to and potential avenues for prejudice reduction efforts.

Check out my new article in Perspectives on Psychological Science

posted Apr 28, 2013, 6:34 AM by William Cox   [ updated Apr 28, 2013, 7:09 AM ]

William T. L. Cox, Lyn Y. Abramson, Patricia G. Devine, and Steven D. Hollon (2012)


Social psychologists fighting prejudice and clinical psychologists fighting depression have long been separated by the social– clinical divide, unaware that they were facing a common enemy. Stereotypes about others leading to prejudice (e.g., Devine, 1989) and schemas about the self leading to depression (e.g., A. T. Beck, 1967) are fundamentally the same type of cognitive structure. According to the integrated perspective on prejudice and depression, negative stereotypes (i.e., schemas) are activated in a Source, who expresses prejudice toward the Target, causing the Target to experience depression. This linking of prejudice and depression (i.e., “comorbid” prejudice and depression) can occur at the societal level (e.g., Nazis’ prejudice causing Jews’ depression), the interpersonal level (e.g., an abuser’s prejudice causing an abusee’s depression), and the intrapersonal level (e.g., a person’s self-prejudice causing his or her depression). The integrated perspective addresses several longstanding paradoxes, controversies, and questions; generates new areas of inquiry; and spotlights specific methods and findings that have direct cross-disciplinary applications in the battle against prejudice and depression. Ironically, some interventions developed by depression researchers may be especially useful against prejudice, and some interventions developed by prejudice researchers may be especially useful against depression.

Keywords: depression, prejudice, deprejudice, stereotyping, CBT

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