My research broadly focuses on the stress and coping process of stigma. It centers around several main questions:
1. How does one interpret and react to reminders of their stigma?
I examine stress appraisals among stigmatized and non-stigmatized individuals to stimuli relevant to a particular devalued group (weight, race, etc.). By taking advantage of multiple methodologies, I can examine not only whether something is interpreted as a stressor, but, if so, temporally track the appraisal process, borrowing heavily from stage theories of appraisal (e.g. Lazarus, 1991; Scherer, 2001)
2. What does one do to cope with experiences or anticipation of stigma?
Drawing again upon stage theories of appraisal (Lazarus, 1991), as well as clinical models of coping responses, I measure not only the type of coping that one engages in, but how these coping choices may be indicative of the larger impacts of social stigma.
3.What are the health consequences of these stress appraisals and coping techniques?
Finally, I look to the long-term effects of living with a socially stigmatized identity: specifically the psychological and physical health consequences. I examine this both cross-sectionally and longitudinally, comparing the stress appraisals and coping techniques found in the lab with future well-being.
I began investigating appraisals of stigma in my examinations of police brutality as a stressor for Black and African American individuals. In short, I was curious if White and Black participants would have different reactions to images of police violence against Black or White targets, and whether images of Black protest (such as the Black Lives Matter movement) may mitigate any of these effects. Over the course of six studies, two published papers (Reinka & Leach, 2017; Reinka & Leach, 2018), and another in preparation, we found that Black participants were more emotionally and physiologically reactive to such images, but Whites paid more cognitive attention. White participants were less familiar with cases of controversial police violence against Black Americans, and therefore the images were more surprising, and thus captured more immediate attention. However, that attention was not sustained to the point of action-orientation or emotion.
More recently, I investigate similar mechanisms in a different socially stigmatized group: those with overweight and obesity. For this project (preregisteration here), I am examining palatable food cues as a potential stigma-related stressor for those to who are concerned about their weight. Over the course of two in-lab studies and a six-month follow up, I expect that those who are more weight-concerned will be more attentive to these food images, but will also experience more arousal and have more cognitive disruption as a result. Those who are especially cued into such imagery will likely show greater weight gain over time.
Finally, I have examined coping responses and health outcomes among individuals with concealable stigmatized identities, including discussions of the disclosure process (Camacho, Reinka, & Quinn, 2019) and from an intersectional framework (Reinka, Pan-Weisz, Lawner, & Quinn, 2019).