I am a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology at the School of Education, University of Bristol. I conduct social psychological research that examines prejudice development and reduction across the lifespan.

My research bridges social and developmental psychology, and is applicable to educational settings. I take a multi-method approach to address my research questions, administering behavioural, eye-tracking, reaction-time, and questionnaire measures to adult and child participants. By using an interdisciplinary multi-method approach, I hope to advance our theoretical understanding of when prejudice develops, how these beliefs influence intergroup behaviour, and what we can do to improve intergroup relations.

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Amanda Williams, PhD

[EMAIL] [Curriculum vitae]

Amanda Williams is a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology at the School of Education, University of Bristol. She received her B.A. in Psychology/Sociology from the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Canada), Ed.M. in Educational Studies from Western University (London, Canada), her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from York University (Toronto, Canada). Amanda has held positions as a postdoctoral researcher in the Interpersonal and Social Perception Lab at the University of Hawaii (Honolulu, United States) and Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Sheffield Hallam University (Sheffield, United Kingdom).

As an avid people-watcher, Amanda is fascinated by how people from diverse backgrounds interact with each other. Her research interests center on how automatic associations (implicit attitudes) influence the perceptions of, and subtle behaviour (e.g., visual attention, nonverbal behaviours) toward, diverse others and the strategies that people use to navigate diversity. To gain a better understanding of how these biases emerge across the lifespan, her research incorporates aspects of both Social and Developmental Psychology.

In her spare time, Amanda enjoys experiencing new tastes, sights, and sounds with her family.

  • My programme of research examines the mechanisms underlying prejudice development and reduction, with the goal of improving intergroup relations across the lifespan. In doing so I focus on two aspects: (i) the development of implicit prejudice and (ii) diversity as a mechanism for prejudice reduction.
  • I. Development of Implicit Prejudice

    To examine the developmental trajectory of prejudice, experimental studies are conducted with diverse children completing child-friendly implicit measures. Results demonstrate that category salience impacts the magnitude of children's bias; when asked to categorize faces by race, 5- to 12-year-olds demonstrate implicit attitudes favoring White relative to Black people. However, when race is not salient (either by emphasizing a different dimension such as emotion or using priming measures that do not require target categorization), children demonstrate decreased pro-White vs Black implicit bias. These findings counter the assumption that implicit biases emerge early and remain stable across development, and instead suggest that children's implicit racial attitudes are malleable and can be altered by contextual cues. I argue that it is feasible that interventions targeting different attitudinal components may be more effective at reducing prejudice at different points across childhood.

    Current & Future Projects: Examining the psychometric properties of child-friendly implicit measures; Interaction of social and cognitive factors on prejudice development; Implicit social cognition predicting children's nonverbal behavior during intergroup interactions

  • II. Diversity & Prejudice Reduction

    In this line of research I investigate the impact of racial diversity on intergroup relations. In two complementary strands I examine (i) whether exposure to population diversity can improve intergroup relations and the mechanisms through which this might occur and (ii) the strategies individuals can use to successfully navigate diversity in applied settings.

    Population Diversity. In a series of quasi-experimental studies, the race-related beliefs and behaviour of individuals living in homogeneous White vs super-diverse settings are compared. In superdiverse settings, individuals identifying as the racial majority (e.g., White) make up less than 50% of the population (i.e., Hawai‘i; Toronto). Results indicate that the broader sociocultural context can influence individuals’ racial cognitions: children demonstrate less implicit racial bias; less essentialist beliefs about race which corresponds to reduced stereotyping; and adults experience less discrimination. These observed differences could be related to the social norms that operate in these contexts. In superdiverse settings White and Aisan adults are less likely to consider talking about race to be an act of prejudice, and in turn are less likely to endorse colorblind norms, and are more likley to use race when it is funcational and task-relevant. However, in experimental paradigms that set a norm that talking about race is prejudiced, participants tend to avoid talking about race and are more likely to endorse colorblind norms. The results from this work highlight how contextual racial diversity is related to social norms surrounding race and, thus, subsequently shapes race-related behaviour.

    Diversity Ideologies. I also examine the strategies people use to navigate diversity in homogeneous White contexts. In this research, classroom interventions (i.e., storybooks, teaching materials) that adopt a multicultural ideology where racial/ethnic differences are acknowledged and celebrated have been successful in improving students' intergroup relations. This work has conftibuted to the interdisciplinary Shared Space Project, which applies research related to contact theory and diversity ideologies to primary and secondary teaching practice. This project has informed recommendations by the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education and governmental strategies (i.e., Integrated Communities Strategy Green paper) regarding the role of education in promoting community relations.

    This line of research highlights the power of diversity for improving intergroup relations. However, simply bringing diverse people together does not guarantee meaningful intergroup contact. Instead, there is a need to move beyond colorblindness and encourage social norms that acknowledge and celebrate difference.

    Current & Future Projects: Examining the impact of friendship and neighbourhood diversity on youth mental health and academic achievement; Maintance of diverse friendships across childhood

Potential Student Supervision

Dr. Williams will be accepting undergraduate and postgraduate dissertation students, PhD students, and research assistants for next academic year. If you are interested in research collaborations, please email Dr. Williams (a.williams@bristol.ac.uk)

  • Office
  • Helen Wodenhouse Building, 3.09b
  • Mailing Address
  • Amanda Williams
    University of Bristol, School of Education
    Helen Wodenhouse Building
    35 Berkeley Square
    Bristol, BS8 1JA
  • Phone
  • +44 (0)117 331 4497
  • Email
  • a.williams@bristol.ac.uk

At the recent BPS Developmental and Social section conference in Manchester, I had many conversations with other early career researchers about how much we enjoyed attending the conference. Time and again, my colleagues noted that one of the main draws of attending the annual social section conferences - in addition to the outstanding research - is the supportive environment which offers us a chance to connect with peers and share our experiences. After hearing these themes emerge over and over, Dr Claire Campbell (University of Ulster) and I decided to set up an online community where early career researchers can access support and build resilience that will contribute to our continuing success in academia.

We encourage you to register for our forum (see link below) and post the experiences, challenges, and successes that you have faced when transitioning from being a PhD student to members of the academic community. Our goal is to create a safe space where we can support one another. In particular, we wish to encourage women and individuals from other minority groups to use this online community. An additional aim of this forum is to use your experiences as a foundation for creating professional development events that are tailored to meet the needs of early career women in social psychology.

Please help us in creating a vibrant online space by posting on our forum - either by generating original comments or responding to posts. If you would like to remain anonymous, just use an idiosyncratic user name when creating your account.

Claire and I look forward to seeing you online.

  • Early Career Support Forum