Aarti Iyer

This is a photo of Aarti Iyer.University of Queensland, Australia


What does your research focus on?

In one line of research, I investigate people’s emotional responses to inequality and injustice, and the ways in which these emotions predict distinct political attitudes and behaviors. I also study institutional efforts to address inequality (e.g. affirmative action), focusing on beneficiaries’ and non-beneficiaries’ emotional and political responses to these programs. In a third line of work, I examine the ways in which identity change processes shape people’s experiences of life transitions.

What drew you to this line of research? Why is it exciting to you?

I am fascinated by people who take the time and trouble to participate in social justice efforts, and this interest has driven my research on emotion and politics. I first got involved in the work on identity change processes because it was the focus of a post-doctoral position that I really wanted. I find this research exciting because it can help us understand how people navigate important life transitions, whether these are positive (e.g., starting university) or negative (e.g., suffering a debilitating injury or illness).

Who were/are your mentors or psychological influences?

My most influential mentors have been Colin Wayne Leach (my primary PhD advisor) and Jolanda Jetten (my post-doctoral advisor). Both of them are brilliant and put a lot of care into their collaborations with junior scholars. Over the years, I have found their insights on the strategic aspects of career development especially valuable. They have a keen awareness of the norms and expectations within the discipline, and make an effort to let their junior collaborators know about opportunities that will help build their CVs.

To what do you attribute your success in the science?

Three things come to mind. First, I like to explore (relevant) literatures outside psychology, which broadens the scope of inspiration for my next idea or insight. Second, conversations with students and colleagues improve the quality of my work and keep me excited about the research process. Third, I make an effort to keep learning new research and statistics skills, which allows me to address different types of research questions.

What’s your future research agenda?

My collaborators and I are starting to investigate beneficiaries’ responses to affirmative action. These programs are supposed to help particular groups, but they can elicit various negative responses. For example, beneficiaries may feel stigmatised by the existence of these programs, or they may feel insulted by the implication that they need this help. We plan to examine the factors that predict different beneficiary responses to affirmative action, and the broader implications of these responses for organizational attitudes and behaviors.

Any advice for even younger psychological scientists? What would you tell someone just now entering graduate school or getting their PhD?

(1) Read broadly about your research topic, including relevant literatures outside psychology. This is hard work, but it will engage your interest and (hopefully) give you new insights. (2) Don’t spend all your time reading and running studies — it’s important to prioritize writing. I strongly recommend Paul Silvia’s wonderful book, How to Write a Lot (published by the American Psychological Association). It has made me a much more productive and efficient writer. (3) Find mentors who can help you with different aspects of your professional development — you don’t have to get everything from one person, and multiple perspectives can be helpful.

What publication are you most proud of or feel has been most important to your career?

This is a hard one, as each publication has been important for different reasons. But I’m most proud of the paper that emerged from my first independent collaboration (i.e., that didn’t involve any of my formal mentors). This is the one that made me feel like a “true” academic!

Iyer, A., Schmader, T., & Lickel, B. (2007). Why individuals protest the perceived transgressions of their country: The role of anger, shame, and guilt. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 572-587.

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