Nilanjana Dasgupta's research focuses on prejudice, stereotyping, and the self-concept, with special emphasis on the ways in which societal expectations unconsciously or implicitly influence people's attitudes and behavior toward others and, in the case of disadvantaged groups, influence their self-concept and life decisions. She has examined these issues in relation to race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age and nationality.
She is particularly interested in identifying how implicit bias might be reduced by changing the structure of local environments and, in contrast, how such bias might get magnified by specific negative emotions. Recently, one strand of her research has begun to identify what factors help members of disadvantaged groups become resilient to negative stereotypes and successful despite those stereotypes versus what other factors make them vulnerable to negative stereotypes.
In her second year as a Family Research Scholar, Dr. Dasgupta developed a grant proposal for the project entitled, "The impact of same-sex peers on adolescent girls' interest in science and math." This grant proposal built on her prior work where she argued that although individuals' choice to pursue one academic or professional path over another may feel like a free choice, it is often constrained by subtle cues in achievement environments that signal who naturally belong there and who do not. Dr. Dasgupta used her theoretical model, the Stereotype Inoculation Model, to test whether contact with same-sex peers in science and math classrooms function as "social vaccines" who inoculate girls' academic self-concept against stereotype threat and increase their confidence and interest in science, technology, engineering and math (or STEM). This project particularly focused on adolescent girls in middle school and tested whether attending a single-sex school versus a co-ed school had different effects on adolescent girls' interest in STEM, their identification with it, self-efficacy, performance and career aspirations. She also compared whether girls of color versus White girls responded similarly or differently to same-sex learning environments in STEM.