James Wages, Ph.D.

Psychological Scientist


Research in Social Cognition Laboratory

Welcome to the Research in Social Cognition (RISC) Laboratory! As the director of the RISC Lab, I guide research investigations on a variety of basic and applied topics in social cognition, intergroup processes, and decision-making. The RISC Lab uses scientific methods common in social psychology, such as behavioral and survey experiments with various populations. We also employ non-experimental methods, including meta-analysis, archival methods, big data analysis, quantitative text analysis, historical analysis, web scraping, and secondary data analysis. Some of the recent research questions explored in the lab include:
  • What factors, such as warmth and competence, influence how people perceive and evaluate risk-taking? 
  • What theories do everyday people use to understand risk-taking and do these ideas influence their own willingness to take risks? 
  • Are social biases, such as those based on age, gender, and ethnicity, evident in the behavior of contestants on popular reality television competition shows, such as The Circle and Big Brother?
  • Do Black medical students at historically Black colleges and universities feel more belonging and confidence about their career goals than Black medical students at predominantly white institutions? 
  • Does priming foreignness, compared to Americanness, influence anti-Asian and anti-Hispanic attitudes? Does political orientation matter in foreignness priming?
There are several ways students can join the RISC Lab, including enrolling in the lab course I instruct called Research Methods Laboratory (RML) for course credit, conducting an honors research thesis or an independent research project under my supervision, or volunteering as a research assistant. If interesting in joining the RISC Lab to become more familiar with the research process in social psychology or to prepare for graduate school, I warmly welcome you to reach out to me to discuss available opportunities. 

Lab Members

Graduate Student
My name is Elena Lainez, and I am a graduate student in Mental Health Counseling at the University of Central Arkansas. I am from Honduras and my dream was to come to college in the United States, an opportunity I am so grateful I had! After graduating, I would like to provide counseling to adults, especially to the Hispanic population. I am interested in several types of therapy, including dialectical behavior therapy and solution-focused. I also love playing the piano, baking, reading, and playing video games!

Honors Student
My name is Skylar Brooks, and I am a sophomore! I am a psychology major with a sociology minor. My hometown is Bella Vista, Arkansas, and my research interests include discrimination, stereotyping, and ethnic/racial inequality. My tentative career goals are to go to graduate school and hopefully get a Ph.D. Fun facts about me are that I taught myself how to play the guitar, I’ve broken both my ankles and dislocated my elbow, I am adopted and was born in China, and I have two cats named Mojito and Zoey!

Research Assistant
My name is Stephanie Benitez and my hometown is Van Buren, Arkansas. I am a recent graduate from the University of Central Arkansas. I received my bachelor’s degree in psychology and minored in addiction studies. I hope to eventually get my Ph.D. in counseling psychology and work as a mental health counselor. I primarily want to work with Spanish speaking clients as it is a population within Arkansas that goes underserved due to limited bilingual professionals. In my free time I like to read, spend time with loved ones, and I’ve taken a recent interest in learning how to dance salsa and bachata.

Former Lab Members

  • Maddie Tichenor, research assistant, Fall 2022
  • Madison Yarbrough, RML student, Fall 2021
  • Niyah Lane, RML student, Fall 2021
Former RISC Lab members Madison Yarbrough (left) and Niyah Lane (right) presenting a research poster at the annual meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association (SWPA) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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