Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Nyla Branscombe

Nyla Branscombe

My research has been focused on two broad topics within social psychology: Intergroup relations and attributional judgment processes. In the intergroup research, I have been especially interested in questions suggested by social identity theory (Tajfel, 1978; Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Specifically, do threats to self-esteem encourage defense-based outgroup derogation, and what other functions might outgroup derogation also serve (see Branscombe, Ellemers, Spears, & Doosje, 1999, for a summary)? We have found that threats to the value of an identity do lead to heightened outgroup derogation (Branscombe & Wann, 1994) or derogation of ingroup members who reflect badly on that identity (Branscombe, Wann, Noel, & Coleman, 1993; Wann & Branscombe, 1995), and that both of these effects are most strongly displayed by those who are highly identified with the particular social group that is threatened.

Not all threats to a social identity and subsequent outgroup derogation serve such intrapsychic purposes as managing self-esteem, however. Sometimes outgroup derogation occurs primarily as a means of incurring acceptance within the ingroup. Such outgroup derogation, as a tactic of ingratiation directed at powerful ingroup members, is especially likely when the individual is insecure about his or her position or acceptance within the ingroup (Noel, Wann, & Branscombe, 1995). We are continuing to investigate intergroup judgment and intergroup emotions as a function of the nature of the ingroup membership: Whether the perceiver is a member of a privileged or disadvantaged social group (Branscombe, 1998; Branscombe, Schmitt, & Harvey, 1999; Kobrynowicz & Branscombe, 1997; Postmes, Branscombe, Spears, & Young, 1999; Powell, Branscombe, & Schmitt, in press), and how the group's history is framed (Branscombe, 2004; Doosje, Branscombe, Spears, & Manstead, 1998; Wohl & Branscombe, in press).

My second line of research has been aimed at understanding the mental processes underlying two types of social judgments: attributions and imagining counterfactual alternatives to reality. We have addressed the question of when attributions and counterfactual thinking will or will not be related (Branscombe, N'gbala, Kobrynowicz, & Wann, 1997; Burris & Branscombe, 1993; Nario & Branscombe, 1995; N'gbala & Branscombe, 1995). The features of an event that are typically targeted for counterfactual mutation are those that merely brought the event protaganist into contact with the cause of the event, while those that are perceived as most causal or blameworthy of an outcome tend to be those that are sufficient to bring about the outcome itself. This discrepancy between what is mutated and what is deemed causal of an outcome is due to the two types of processes involving different mental comparisons and answering different questions for the perceiver. When perceivers are presented with counterfactual alternatives that imply a particular factor played a causal role in bringing about the outcome, blame assignment can be affected (Branscombe, Owen, Garstka, & Coleman, 1996; Nario-Redmond & Branscombe, 1996).

Primary Interests:

  • Aggression, Conflict, Peace
  • Culture and Ethnicity
  • Emotion, Mood, Affect
  • Gender Psychology
  • Group Processes
  • Intergroup Relations
  • Political Psychology
  • Prejudice and Stereotyping
  • Self and Identity


Journal Articles:

  • Branscombe, N. R. (1998). Thinking about one's gender group's privileges or disadvantages: Consequences for well-being in women and men. British Journal of Social Psychology, 37, 167-184.
  • Branscombe, N. R., Schmitt, M. T., & Harvey, R. D. (1999). Perceiving pervasive discrimination among African-Americans: Implications for group identification and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 135-149.
  • Branscombe, N. R., Schmitt, M. T., & Schiffhauer, K. (2007). Racial attitudes in response to thoughts of White privilege. European Journal of Social Psychology, 37, 203-215.
  • Guimond, S., Branscombe, N. R., Brunot, S., Buunk, B. P., Chatard, A., Désert, M., Garcia, D. M., Haque, S., Martinot, D., & Yzerbyt, V. (2007). Culture, gender, and the self: Variations and impact of social comparison processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 1118-1134.
  • Noel, J. G., Wann, D. L., & Branscombe, N. R. (1995). Peripheral ingroup membership status and public negativity toward outgroups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 127-137.
  • Postmes, T., & Branscombe, N. R. (2002). Influence of long-term racial environmental composition on subjective well-being in African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 735-751.
  • Powell, A. A., Branscombe, N. R., & Schmitt, M. T. (2005). Inequality as ingroup privilege or outgroup disadvantage: The impact of group focus on collective guilt and interracial attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 508-521.
  • Wohl, M. J. A., & Branscombe, N. R. (2008) Remembering historical victimization: Collective guilt for current ingroup transgressions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 988-1006.

Other Publications:

  • Branscombe, N. R., & Miron, A. M. (2004). Interpreting the ingroup’s negative actions toward another group: Emotional reactions to appraised harm. In L. Z. Tiedens & C. W. Leach (Eds.), The social life of emotions (pp. 314-335). New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Miron, A.M., & Branscombe, N.R. (2008). Social categorization, standards of justice, and collective guilt. In A. Nadler, T.E. Malloy, & J.D. Fisher (Eds.), The social psychology of intergroup reconciliation (pp. 77-96). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Schmitt, M. T., Miller, D. A., Branscombe, N. R., & Brehm, J. W. (2008). The difficulty of making reparations affects the intensity of collective guilt. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 11, 267-279.

Courses Taught:

Nyla Branscombe
Department of Psychology
University of Kansas
1415 Jayhawk Boulevard
Lawrence, Kansas 66045
United States

  • Phone: (785) 864-9832
  • Fax: (785) 864-5696

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