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Gayle Bessenoff


Associate Professor

Ph.D., Northwestern University , Evanston , IL

Click here to email Professor Bessenoff

Phone: (203) 392-5561

Teaching Interests:

Experimental Research Methods, Social Psychology, Stigma, Self, Psychology of Women, Social Psychology of Women's Bodies

Research Interests:

Internalization of social norms, body image, self-concept, social stigma

Current/Recent Research Projects:

My research interests embrace the rich interplay between individual cognition and societal beliefs. This line of research integrates work from different areas: cognitive psychology, clinical psychology, and sociology.

My primary research program investigates the mechanisms responsible for the discrepancy in effects from injunctive social norms, namely why some individuals may be affected to the point of harming themselves (e.g., self-handicapping, overworking oneself, dysfunctional eating and exercising behaviors), while others remain relatively unaffected. Much of my current research focuses on the negative effects of the Western cultural norm of weight and appearance, or that of the thin-ideal. This research centers on social comparison processes, to determine when we compare ourselves to normative standards, who is more likely to compare, and when this comparison can lead to negative effects. I am also expanding this research to examine other injunctive norms, such as egalitarian standards and the Protestant Work Ethic.

Recent Publications:

Bessenoff, G. R., & Del Priore, R. E. (2007) Women, weight and age: Social comparison to magazine images across the lifespan. Sex Roles, 56, 215-222.

Bessenoff, G. R., & Snow, D. (2006) Absorbing society's influence: Body image self-discrepancy and internalized shame. Sex Roles, 54, 727-731.

Bessenoff, G. R. (2006) Can the media affect us? Social comparison, self-discrepancy, and the thin ideal. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 239-251.

Bessenoff, G. R., & Sherman, J. W.  (2000). Automatic and controlled components of  prejudice toward fat people: Evaluation versus stereotype activation. Social Cognition, 18, 329-353.