Workshop Series: Robert Livingston
The current line of research sought to understand the dynamics of minority upward mobility in predominantly White organizations. When individuals from traditionally low-status groups (e.g., ethnic minorities) occupy high-status roles or exhibit high-status behaviors, this tends to increase social tension and discomfort because established or expected social arrangements have been subverted. Because dominant groups control resources, their preferences and mindset often determine reward and opportunity for minorities. Using various methodologies, I provide evidence that "disarming mechanisms"- traits, attitudes or behaviors that signal warmth, humility, or deference-can lead to greater power and success among low-status individuals because they appear less adversarial and threatening to dominant groups. Data from several experiments, using targets as diverse as Fortune 500 CEOs, US Presidents, and NFL Football players, converge in demonstrating that disarming mechanisms benefit Black males but not White males. Conversely, Black males suffer backlash for behaviors that ordinarily increase perceived competence and leadership attainment among White males (e.g., confidence, agency, dominance). Implications for structural inequality and the unique challenges facing minority leaders and overachievers are discussed.
Dr. Robert W. Livingston is an assistant professor of Management and Organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He received his BA from Tulane University, MA from UCLA, and PhD in Social Psychology from The Ohio State University under the guidance of Marilynn Brewer. Livingston's research examines the topic of diversity in leadership, as well as the broader cognitive and structural processes underlying discrimination and social inequality.
His research has been published in the top journals of social psychology including: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Psychological Science, and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. His work has also appeared in prominent media outlets including: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Newsweek, Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Financial Times, ABC News, Associated Press, Yahoo, and MSNBC. He recently published an award-winning book on social cognition, social identity and intergroup relations.
He has taught several courses on Leadership, Negotiation, and Diversity to undergraduate students, MBA students, PhD students, and Corporate Executives. He has received awards for outstanding research and teaching, including a dissertation award from Division 9 of the American Psychological Association, and the Cole, Sullivan, Slichter Exceptional Professor Award from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the member of numerous professional organizations, including SESP, APS, SPSP, and the Academy of Management. He also serves on the editorial boards of the journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology and Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.