Qu Wins Fourth Early Career Award

Qu Wins Fourth Early Career Award

Headshot of Yang QuYang Qu, assistant professor of human development and social policy, has won four early career awards.

Northwestern University professor Yang Qu, a development psychologist who looks at how teenagers’ brains can be shaped by parenting, stereotypes, and cultural experiences, won the 2023 Early Career Award from the Society for the Study of Human Development

It’s the fourth time in the last three years that Qu has been nationally recognized as a rising scholar. In 2021, he received the Early Career Award from the Society for Research in Child Development Asian Caucus. The previous year, he was awarded both the Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation, and the Rising Star Award from the Association for Psychological Science.

Qu was nominated by SESP faculty members Emma Adam, the Edwina S. Tarry Professor of Human Development and Social Policy; and Claudia Haase, associate professor of human development and social policy.

“I’m deeply grateful for their support,” he said. “It’s a great example of how our SESP senior colleagues champion junior faculty.”

Qu, assistant professor of human development and social policy and director of the Culture, Brain, and Human Development lab, is one of the pioneering researchers in an emerging interdisciplinary field that combines developmental psychology, cultural psychology, and neuroscience.

Using a wide variety of research methods, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the small changes in blood flow that occur with brain activity, Qu examines the mechanisms underlying the influence of sociocultural contexts on adolescents’ development. His research helps explain how culture can influence teenagers’ brains and their beliefs, and what this means for learning and well-being.

One of his latest studies looks at the effect of teen stereotypes. In a new article published in the journal Child Development Perspectives, he suggests that the way people navigate their teen years is partly influenced by cultural and individual beliefs of this period.

“Behavior is driven in part by societal norms, beliefs and expectations,” Qu said “Stereotypes can also influence how we perceive and interact with teenagers. These widely held, oversimplified beliefs about teenagers ––such as the Western idea that teenagers are rebellious and irresponsible––are shaped by cultural context.”

The way media portray adolescents also plays a role, Qu said. “When society and media begin to view teens more positively, there will be more hopeful messages about them that may further promote youth’s flourishing.”

In a 2020 study of more than 400 Chinese adolescents, Qu showed that messages challenging negative stereotypes helped study participants see teens in a better light. In self reports, “children in the counter-stereotyping intervention showed increased school engagement and decreased risky behavior, compared to those in the control condition who listed typical attributes of teens,” Qu wrote.

Qu, who spent his own teenage years in Beijing, China, studied psychology at Fudan and New York University. He earned a master’s in statistics and his doctorate in psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Qu came to SESP in 2018 after a postdoc in psychology at Stanford.

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By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 11/17/23