Prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination often show different psychological patterns depending on which social group they are targeting. My research focuses on these differences, highlighting cases where addressing underexamined target groups reveals novel insights about bias that would otherwise have escaped notice.

My recent work has focused on two specific kinds of stigmatized groups that pervade our social environment yet receive relatively little mainstream attention—intermediate social groups and people with concealable stigmatized identities.

Intermediate Social Groups

One of my major lines of research examines bias surrounding "intermediate" groups that are perceived to fall between more commonly recognized advantaged and disadvantaged groups, such as biracial and bisexual people.

Much intergroup research is built on groups that represent "endpoints" of a dimension of social identity, such as White, Black, heterosexual, and gay/lesbian people. Social groups who fall between these more readily recognized advantaged and disadvantaged groups (e.g., biracial people, bisexual people) have received less attention. My work demonstrates that considering intermediate groups yields results that could not have been predicted based on more traditionally studied groups alone. Specifically, intermediate groups are often perceived as less "real" than endpoint groups, and this realness helps to clarify cases where intermediate groups are evaluated negatively.

Concealable Stigmatized Identities

In work that sometimes overlaps with intermediate groups, I also examine perceptions of people with concealable stigmatized identities. These groups are sometimes overlooked because their members are not immediately identifiable. My research on bisexuality, an intermediate social identity that is almost always concealable, falls into this category. I also have a project focusing on predictors of implicit and explicit attitudes toward gay/lesbian people among medical students at the beginning and end of their training. Some of my other research pertains to attitudes toward transsexual people and people with stigmatized physical and mental health conditions like HIV and depression.


Several aspects of my research have applications in areas such as law, public health, and education. For example, I have an ongoing investigation of the expressive effects of law on attitudes toward social groups. Under some conditions, legal protection of a marginalized group may mitigate negative social attitudes toward that group. I have studied health consequences of stigma in the context of HIV and injection drug use. Finally, my research on racial and sexual orientation bias in the domain of medical training facilitates an understanding of both health disparities resulting from biased medical care and what works (and doesn't work) in anti-bias education.

Selected Publications

For a more complete list, see this recent version of my curriculum vitae [pdf].

Burke, S. E., & LaFrance, M. (in press). Perceptions of instability and choice across sexual orientation groups. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations.

Burke, S. E., & LaFrance, M. (2016). Lay conceptions of sexual minority groups. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45(3), 635-650.

Burke, S. E., & LaFrance, M. (2016). Stereotypes of bisexual people: What do bisexual people themselves think? Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 3(2), 247-254.

Burke, S. E., Dovidio, J. F., Przedworski, J. M., Hardeman, R. R., Perry, S. P., Phelan, S. M., Nelson, D. B., Burgess, D. J., Yeazel, M. W., & van Ryn, M. (2015). Do contact and empathy mitigate bias against gay and lesbian people among heterosexual first-year medical students? A report from the Medical Student CHANGE Study. Academic Medicine, 90(5), 645-651.

Burke, S. E., Calabrese, S. K., Dovidio, J. F., Levina, O. S., Uusküla, A., Niccolai, L. M., Abel-Ollo, K., & Heimer, R. (2015). A tale of two cities: Stigma and health outcomes among people with HIV who inject drugs in St. Petersburg, Russia and Kohtla-Järve, Estonia. Social Science & Medicine, 130, 154-161.

Burke, S. E., Wang, K., & Dovidio, J. F. (2014). Witnessing disclosure of depression: Gender and attachment avoidance moderate interpersonal evaluations. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 33(6), 536-559.