23 Apr 2010

Research Meets Art and Life on the Streets: HBS Professor Amy Cuddy Participates in Princeton University Art Exhibit Opening on Homelessness and Poverty

Amy Cuddy

BOSTON, April 23 — Harvard Business School assistant professor Amy Cuddy will participate in a panel discussion at an art exhibit opening on homelessness and poverty at Princeton University on Tuesday, April 26.

The discussion is being held in conjunction with an exhibit of artwork by people sharing their personal experiences of poverty and homelessness and their reactions to how society sees them. Titled How You See Me, the exhibit will be in Princeton University's Bernstein Gallery in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs from April 10 to June 25.

According to research conducted by Professor Cuddy, Princeton University professor Susan Fiske, and Lawrence University professor Peter Glick, the stereotypes that poor and homeless people confront are among the most pernicious of any group in the United States.

"Stereotypes of homeless people lead to the most extreme kinds of prejudice-disgust, contempt, and even dehumanization-because these groups are viewed as responsible for their misfortune," says Cuddy.

The research reveals that people tend to stereotype groups along two main dimensions - warmth and competence. According to Cuddy, "Americans stereotype many groups as warm and incompetent or as competent and cold. Elderly people and people with disabilities, for example, are stereotyped as warm and incompetent and tend to evoke feelings like pity and compassion. Only economically disadvantaged groups-homeless people, welfare recipients, and poor people-consistently fall in the double-negative incompetent-cold category." This research was recently selected by the Harvard Business Review as a "Breakthrough Idea" of 2009.

The art exhibit was created by clients of HomeFront, an anti-poverty agency in Trenton, NJ, that provides services to help homeless and impoverished families break the cycle of poverty. These clients were participating in ArtSpace, an art therapy program that aims to "rebuild souls through creativity," according to its director, Ruthann Traylor.

Two years ago, Ms. Traylor began to discuss Cuddy and her colleagues' research with her ArtSpace clients. In response to these discussions, the clients created art describing their reactions to how others see them, how they feel about it, how they see themselves, and how they can change these perceptions. The works on exhibit reflect a mixture of pain, anger, guilt, resolve, and beauty.

For more information on the panel discussion or the art exhibit visit http://wws.princeton.edu/event_rep/HowYouSeeMe04_26

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.