Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Michele Wittig

Michele Wittig

  • SPN Mentor

I joined the faculty in psychology at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) in 1970. During leaves from CSUN, I taught at the University of Cambridge and at San Jose State University and was a visiting professor in psychology and in management at Claremont Graduate University, a visiting scholar (at UCLA, Harvard University, Tel Aviv University, New York University, City University of New York Graduate Center and Boston University), and an honorary fellow at the University of London.

In recent years, my research has been carried out within the Social Psychology Action Research Collective (SPARC). In this context, my students, colleagues and I work primarily with teachers, high school students, and non-profit human rights and educational organizations. In addition to being funded by intramural grants, our research has been underwritten by the National Institutes of Health, the American Psychological Association, National Institutes of Mental Health, C.S. Mott Foundation, Anti-Defamation League, California Community Foundation, and the California State Legislature.

Beginning in 1997, we have used principles derived from social, cultural, and developmental psychology to develop and implement STOP (Students Take Out Prejudice), a school-based project that trains college students to conduct discussions in high school classrooms. This program is based on our Mutual Acculturation Model of intergroup relations among adolescents. These studies showed that our model accounts for one fourth to one third of the variance in intergroup attitudes among the youth in our program. This is much more than can be accounted for by a “colorblind” model that primarily emphasizes a common ingroup identity.

Results confirmed major aspects of our Mutual Acculturation Model. First, the value of establishing a classroom climate characterized by fairness, expectations for positive intergroup interactions, cooperative interdependence, and structured opportunities to get to know individuals of different ethnic groups. Second, that a strong ethnic identity is compatible with acceptance of ethnically-diverse others, as long as it is combined with engagement in mutually-respectful interactions with members of those outgroups. Third, the importance of adolescents' exploration of the cultural traditions, history and values associated with their ethnic group as a basis for establishing a secure attachment to their ethnic identity, which in turn, has positive implications for attitudes toward their own group and other ethnic groups.

Additional analyses of the STOP data show that immigrant and first generation American adolescents in the program typically experience a subsequent increase in the compatibility of their ethnic identity and their American identity, with no decrease in American identity.

Our results are consistent with the following recommendations for school-based interventions: (1) promote intergroup respect and friendship by structuring situations so that students of different groups get to know each other as individuals, (2) include assignments that require students of all groups to work interdependently and cooperatively to achieve common goals, and (3) engage students in exploring how the diverse heritages of cultural groups share common themes that unite them.

In our most recent work, we are developing a Student Cultural Inclusion Program (SCIP) that targets adolescents enrolled in mandatory intervention classes for high school students who perform below proficient in English language arts and/or math. This project trains college students to promote three cultural inclusion processes among the adolescents: resistance to stereotype threat, integrating academics into their sense of identity, and a greater appreciation of their cultural wealth and its relevance to their academic achievement. Preliminary results document the utility of these three constructs for promoting academic engagement, achievement motivation and school connectedness, each of which is predictive of academic achievement.

Since my graduate school days, I’ve been engaged in community organizing (e.g., Parents, Educators and Clergy for Homosexual Teachers’ Rights; Psychologists Against Apartheid; SHWASHLOCK--showers, washers and lockers for the homeless). I have served as President of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and of the Society for the Psychological Study of Women; been an expert witness on employment discrimination in Superior Court; am certified by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Dispute Resolution Program as a conflict mediator; and have been a consultant to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and to the British Red Cross.

Primary Interests:

  • Applied Social Psychology
  • Culture and Ethnicity
  • Gender Psychology
  • Intergroup Relations
  • Internet and Virtual Psychology
  • Prejudice and Stereotyping
  • Self and Identity
  • Sexuality, Sexual Orientation

Research Group or Laboratory:

Books:

  • Lowe, R. H., & Wittig, M. A. (Eds.). (1989). Approaching pay equity through comparable worth [whole issue]. Journal of Social Issues, 45(4).

Journal Articles:

Other Publications:

  • Wittig, M. A. (2008). A mutual acculturation model for understanding and undermining prejudice among adolescents. In S. R. Levy & Killen, M. (Eds.), Intergroup Attitudes and Relations in Childhood Through Adulthood (pp. 220-235). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
  • Wittig, M. A. (2000). Action research. In A. Kazdin (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Psychology (pp. 32-33). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Wittig, M. A., & Molina, L. (2000). Mediators and moderators of prejudice reduction in multicultural education. In S. Oskamp (Ed.), Reducing Prejudice and Discrimination (pp. 295-318). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Courses Taught:

  • Adolescents in the School Context
  • Applied Intergroup Relations and Conflict Mediation
  • Research Methods
  • Tutorial in Program Evaluation

Michele Wittig
Department of Psychology
California State University, Northridge
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, California 91330-8255
United States

  • Work: (818) 677-2827
  • Home: (310) 394-3331
  • Fax: (818) 677-2829

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