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Joshua Aronson

Associate Professor of Applied Psychology

Applied Psychology

(212) 998-5543

Most of my work seeks to understand and remediate gaps in learning, standardized test performance, and well being among culturally disadvantaged students. Often, the low performance of students of color and low socioeconomic status gets casually chalked up to genetic or cultural differences that supposedly block acquisition of skills or values necessary for academic success. In contrast, my students, colleagues, and I have uncovered some exciting and encouraging answers to these old questions by looking at the psychology of stigma - the way human beings respond to social threats and the fragility of human performance, motivation and curiosity. We have found that being targeted by well-known cultural stereotypes ("blacks are unintelligent", "girls can't do math", and so on) can be threatening, a predicament my mentor and I called "Stereotype Threat." Stereotype threat (AKA identity threat) engenders a number of interesting psychological and physiological responses, many of which interfere with intellectual performance and academic motivation. My lab has conducted numerous studies showing how stereotype threat depresses the standardized test performance of black, Latino, and female college students. These same studies showed how changing the testing situation (even subtly) to reduce stereotype threat, can improve standardized test scores. This work offers a more optimistic view of race and gender gaps than the older theories that focused on poverty, culture, or genetic factors. We have found that we can do a lot to boost both achievement and the enjoyment of school by understanding and attending to these psychological processes, thereby unseating the power of stereotypes and prejudice to foil the academic aspirations of the young people who are subjected to circumstances that compromise their growth.

A particular focus of my recent work is on creating scalable interventions that schools can use to improve the performance and learning of their students. These interventions include my work on growth mindsets, meditation, and mindfulness, but also broader interventions that change school culture and student character development with what I call "four-dimensional curriculum."

Selected Publications

  • Aronson, J. & Aronson, E. (2011). Readings About the Social Animal, 11th edition. New York, Worth/Freeman 
  • Aronson, J. (2002). Improving academic achievement: Impact of Psychological Factors on Education. San Diego: Academic Press. 
  • Aronson, J. & Steele, C.M. (2005). Stereotypes and the fragility of human competence, motivation, and self-concept. In C. Dweck & E. Elliot (Eds.), Handbook of Competence & Motivation. New York, Guilford.
  • Aronson, J. & Inzlicht, M. (2004). The ups and downs of attributional ambiguity: Stereotype vulnerability and the academic self-knowledge of African-American students. Psychological Science, 15, 12, 829-836.
  • Aronson, J., Lustina, M. J., Good, C., Keough, K., Steele, C. M., & Brown, J. (1999). When white men can't do math: Necessary and sufficient factors in stereotype threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 29-46.
  • Aronson, J. , Fried, C. & Good, C. (2002). Reducing the Effects of Stereotype Threat on African American College Students by shaping theories of intelligence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 38, 113-125.
  • Aronson, J., Steele, C. M., Salinas, M. F. Lustina, M. J. (1998). The effects of stereotype threat on the standardized test performance of college students. In E. Aronson, (Ed.), Readings About the Social Animal (8th edition). New York: Freeman.

Programs

Developmental Psychology

Prepare for a career as a professor, researcher, or human services professional, or a director or evaluator of mental health and health promotion programs.

Courses

Academic Achievement Gaps: Socio-Psychological Dynamics

Focuses on understanding the central issues leading to academic achievement gaps between different social groups in America. Topics include: biological, structural, cultural, & psychological factors in gaps between African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, & Caucasians in terms of test & school performance; gender differences in math & science achievement; & policy & educational interventions shown to reduce achievement gaps.
Course #
APSY-GE 2345
Units
3
Term
Fall
Faculty

Professors

Joshua Aronson ,
Department

Adolescent Development: Theory and Research

Examine theories & research on adolescent development with a particular focus on adolescents from diverse cultural backgrounds. Topics include: identity development; family & peer relationships; sexuality; risk-taking behavior; & the impact of family & peer relationships, schools, & neighborhoods on psycho-social adjustment. Different methodological approaches to the study of adolescent development will be examined. Implications for prevention & intervention programs for adolescent will also be discussed.
Course #
APSY-GE 2272
Units
3
Term
Fall, Spring, Summer
Faculty

Professors

Diane Hughes , Joshua Aronson ,
Department

Educational Psychology / Psychology & Education

Overview of major areas in psychology such as developmental, learning, social, personality, & measurement; the concepts & principles fundamental to the educative process & theirapplication to teaching.
Course #
APSY-UE 1014
Units
4
Term
Fall
Faculty

Professors

Joshua Aronson , Norissa Williams ,
Department