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Catherine Thomas

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Graduate Student Research Funding | 2018 - 2019 Academic Year

"Personal Initiative” versus “Interpersonal Initiative:” Testing the Psychological, Social, and Economic Effects of Two Models of Women’s Agency in Niger

Behavioral insights are increasingly applied to development programs in Africa and are often built upon Western motivations and mental models. Thomas finds that understandings of economic success among Nigerien female participants in the national Adaptive Safety Net Program differ radically from Western assumptions, notably based in interpersonal efficacy rather than personal initiative. In a lab-in-the field experiment, Thomas compares two intervention approaches to enhancing women’s economic engagement: “personal initiative,” grounded in an independent selfconstrual (Campos et al. 2017) and “interpersonal initiative,” grounded in an interdependent self-construal (Markus & Conner, 2013). She assesses impacts on women’s economic, psychological, and social outcomes.

Catherine Thomas, Department of Psychology

Catherine Thomas

Catherine Thomas is a PhD student in Social Psychology. Prior to Stanford, she received her BA in Anthropology (with Distinction, cum laude) from Yale University and an MSc in Global Mental Health from the University of London. Her research focuses on designing aid in the U.S. and in low-income countries to be both effective and ethical by leveraging insights from social and cultural psychology. In particular, she assesses the consequences of aid narratives and psychological interventions on recipients' psychological wellbeing (dignity, empowerment, social status) and economic behavior.

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