Implications of research staff demographics for psychological science

Serena Does, Naomi Ellemers, John F. Dovidio, Jasmine B. Norman, Avital Mentovich, Romy van der Lee, Phillip Atiba Goff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long-standing research traditions in psychology have established the fundamental impact of social categories, such as race and gender, on people's perceptions of themselves and others, as well as on general human cognition and behavior. However, there is a general tendency to ignore research staff demographics (e.g., researchers' race and gender) in research development and research reports. Variation in research staff demographics can exert systematic and scientifically informative influences on results from psychological research. Consequently, research staff demographics need to be considered, studied, and/or reported, along with how these demographics were allowed to vary across participants or conditions (e.g., random assignment, matched with participant demographics, or included as a factor in the experimental design). In addition to providing an overview of multidisciplinary evidence of research staff demographics effects, it is discussed how research staff demographics might influence research findings through (a) ingroup versus outgroup effects, (b) stereotype and (implicit) bias effects, and (c) priming and social tuning effects. Finally, an overview of recommended considerations is included (see Appendix) to help illustrate how to systematically incorporate relevant research staff demographics in psychological science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-650
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The focus of the second lens is on those doing the research (i.e., researchers). From this perspective, research staff demographics are considered in terms of (addressing) the underrepresentation of women and racial– ethnic minorities, or the overrepresentation of men and Whites, in the scientific community (Moss-Racusin et al., 2014). In a related vein, a study on NIH research awards found that, after controlling for merit-based predictors such as educational background and publication records, Black applicants had lower award probability than did White applicants (Ginther et al., 2011). Similarly, an examination of the Dutch equivalent of the National Science Foundation showed that women had a lower probability of receiving research funding compared to men with equal ratings of application quality (Van der Lee & Ellemers, 2015). These studies add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that principal investigators’ race and gender influence their opportunities and outcomes in academia.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.


  • Demographics
  • Experimenter effects
  • Generalizability
  • Intergroup processes
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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