Founded in 2007, the PCI Lab is based in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Scholars affiliated with the lab study the intersection of identity and politics, with a focus on how social categories (e.g., gender, sexual identity, national identity) influence both individual subjectivity and relative power and privilege among groups. We take an interdisciplinary approach that is problem-centered, rather than discipline-centered, but nonetheless draws heavily from the perspectives of critical social psychology and cultural psychology. Theories and methods from across the social sciences are used to examine socially relevant research questions. Research projects associated with the lab are theoretically grounded, seek to empower the voices of research participants through an emphasis on qualitative methods, and possess implications for concrete social action and/or public policy.

What's in a Name?



Every human being is positioned in relation to power and resources in society. Researchers in the lab recognize and highlight the way in which individuals are located in the larger social and political matrix, studying the social and psychological experience of inequality and subordination.

San Francisco


Every human being participates in the social world they inhabit through performing roles, identities, and rituals. Researchers in the lab recognize and highlight the way in which persons and settings are mutually constituted in this process. We use methods that highlight humans as active agents in the reproduction of or resistance to a status quo.



Every human being inhabits a variety of social categories and constructs a life story that provides a sense of meaning and coherence in the social world. Researchers in the lab recognize and highlight this process of identity-making by studying how individuals navigate the compulsory nature of various categories (e.g., gender, nationality) as they write their own personal narratives.

Our Philosophy

“Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.” (Kurt Lewin, 1946)

Following the inspiration of early social psychologists of social justice, members of the PCI team take a public science approach and seek to produce transformative knowledge that can serve the interest of social justice.

Public Science

We seek to communicate the findings of our research to as broad an audience as possible, giving back to the groups and communities we study, as well as to society at large. We actively resist communicating only within small, academic communities who share our paradigm or perspective.

Transformative Knowledge

We see ourselves as producers of knowledge that might contribute to social change, especially for groups historically marginalized or oppressed in societies. We aim to use our skills to work for social justice and equality for all members of society.

Social Justice

We view social justice as a state of equal participation and distribution of resources (including access to institutions) among groups in a society. With its focus on power and identity, our research seeks to make the ideal of social justice a reality.