Feature

It's not a response that researchers want to hear after they submit a manuscript, but sometimes the best answer is a simple “no,” says Michael Zarate, PhD, new editor of the journal Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.

In a move to strengthen quality, reduce the time reviewers spend on papers that ultimately won't be published and speed up the review process, Zarate tells journal reviewers to reject manuscripts before going through the full review process, if warranted.

“If you're relatively confident you won't be accepting it, let's just save everybody time, both the reviewers and the authors,” says Zarate, a social psychology professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, who started his five-year term as editor last January.

But for manuscripts that clear the initial hurdle, the journal's associate editors will have more time to deliver the constructive criticism they're known for—a practice that Zarate says will lead to stronger articles that move the research forward.

“Our reviewers try to identify the positives, in addition to the negatives, and they give a list of citations an author might find helpful,” he says.

The mission of Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology is to promote the development of knowledge and understanding, application of psychological principles, and scholarly analysis of the social-political forces that affect racial and ethnic minorities. As editor, Zarate will ensure the journal reflects the gamut of ethnic-minority experiences by encouraging submissions in a wide range of areas including industrial/organizational psychology and education.

He also wants authors to stick closely to the data when writing conclusions, and collect data with scientifically sound methodology. “Sometimes people have an agenda but they're not supported by their data,” he says.

In his own social psychology research, Zarate studies the cognitive resources necessary to recognize faces, and the link between perceptual processes and prejudice. His work delves into the way the brain's left hemisphere—because of different visual perception processes — perceives a person as a member of a group and applies a stereotype, whereas the right hemisphere perceives an individual and is less likely to apply a stereotype.

Zarate's research finds that there are social and individual difference factors influencing the probability of a person's left or right hemisphere prevailing in the brain's perception mechanisms.

“So there are these multiple processes going on simultaneously, and which one wins that race determines whether one applies the stereotypes or not,” he says.