Cynthia Willis-Esqueda

Associate Professor Psychology

Lab site: Race and Ethnic Psychology Lab


Cynthia Esqueda received the PhD in Social Psychology from University of Kansas and has been a member of the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Ethnic Studies since 1991. She is a faculty member in both the Social Psychology and Psychology/Law Programs. Dr. Esqueda's research interests are focused on the motivations for and cognitive processes about "race" and ethnic bias, particularly against America's indigenous populations (Mexican Americans and American Indians). Dr. Esqueda and her students maintain an interest in the manifestations of bias at the individual (internalized stigma, self-conceptions, self-esteem), cultural (images, stereotypes, cultural traditions), and structural (law, education, political) levels. The research focuses on race and ethnic bias and the impact for legal process, legal outcomes, and health and well-being.


Dr. Willis Esqueda teaches a graduate professional seminar in Social Psychology that provides an overview of the theoretical foundations of social psychology, as well as current research issues in the field. Dr. Willis Esqueda teaches a graduate seminar in the Psychology of Race and Ethnicity and an undergraduate course in the Psychology of Racism. She teaches the Psychology of Immigration, as well.


Dr. Willis Esqueda serves on the Office of Minority Health's Region VII Health Disparities Committee. She also is a member of the Minority Affairs Committee for the American Psychology/Law Society. She is the chair of the Department's Sarata Diversity Enhancement Committee. This committee promotes diversity within the department in general, and within psychology as a discipline. The Department has a graduate minor in Diversity, and Dr. Willis Esqueda serves as the faculty advisor for this minor. The committee also provides an annual research award, the Levine Diversity Research Enhancement Award, to a graduate student and an undergraduate student who have made contributions to understanding diversity issues in psychology. She is the university representative to the Midwestern Psychological Association.

Dr. Willis Esqueda holds a joint appointment with the Institute for Ethnic Studies. She is an affiliated faculty member in Latino and Latin American Studies. She served as the Coordinator for Native American Studies from 1997 to 2005.

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Espinoza, R. K. E., & Willis Esqueda, C. (2015). The influence of a capital case defendant’s mitigating information, race and ses on death penalty decisions by European American and Hispanic venire persons. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 21, 288-299. On-line first, 2014.

Espinoza, R. K. E., Willis Esqueda, C., Toscano, S., & Coons, J. (2014). The impact of ethnicity, immigration status and ses on juror decision making. Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, on-line first

Freng, S., & Willis Esqueda, C. (2011). A question of honor: Chief Wahoo and American Indian stereotype activation among a university based sample. The Journal of Social Psychology, 151, 577–591.

Willis Esqueda, C., Hack, L., & Tehee, M. (2010). Perceptions of American Indian domestic violence with evidence of alcohol use: The role of anti-Indian bias. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 34, 61-76.

Espinoza, R. K. E., & Willis Esqueda, C. (2008). Defendant and defense attorney characteristics and their effects on juror decision making and prejudice against Mexican Americans. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 14, 364-371.

Willis Esqueda, C., Espinoza, R. K. E., & Culhane, S. (2008). Effects of race, ses of defendant, and ses of crime on culpability decision making: A cross-cultural examination of European American and Mexican American mock jurors. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 30, 181-199.

Books Or Chapters Published

Willis Esqueda, C. (2015). Race and its place in the United States legal system. In The Witness Stand and Lawrence S. Wrightsman, Jr. New York, Springer.

Willis Esqueda, C. (2009, in press). Cross-cultural perspectives on stigma. In R.L. Wiener, R. Schopp, & S. Wilborn (Eds.), Stigma and Discrimination Law. New York: Springer.

Willis Esqueda, C. (2007). Racial profiling as a minority issue. In R.L. Wiener, B.H. Bornstein, R. Schopp, & S. Wilborn (Eds.), Legal Decision Making in Everyday Life: Controversies in Social Consciousness (pp. 75-87). New York: Springer.

Willis Esqueda, C., & Tehee, M. (2006). Legal and psychological approaches to understanding domestic violence for American Indigenous women. In B. Brooks-Gordon & M. Freeman (eds.), Current Legal Problems: Law and Psychology (pp. 257-273). London, UK: Oxford University Press.

Edited Volumes

Willis Esqueda, & Bornstein, B. H. (2015). The Witness Stand and Lawrence S. Wrightsman, Jr. New York: Springer.

Willis Esqueda, C. (2007). The 53rd Nebraska Symposium on Motivation: Motivational Aspects of Prejudice and Racism. New York: Springer.

Wunder, J. & Willis Esqueda, C. (1997 - 2005). Native Americans: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. New York: Garland Press/Routledge Press. This was an on-going edited book series with Routledge Press.

Invited Presentations and Colloquia

Willis Esqueda, C. (2010, March). The missing pieces in racial bias research within the courtroom. Paper presented in B. Cutler (Chair), Social Psychological Research on Racial Bias in the Courtroom, at the annual meeting of the American Psychology - Law Society meeting. Vancouver, BC.

Willis Esqueda, C., & Tehee, M. (2005, August 5). American Indigenous perspectives on domestic violence: Issues for the 21st century. Paper presented at the International Conference for the Humanities. University of Cambridge. Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Willis Esqueda, C. (2005, July 11). Legal and psychological approaches to understanding domestic violence for American Indigenous women. Paper presented at the Law Psychology Conference, College of Law, University College, London.

Current Courses Taught at University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Foundational Graduate Seminar in Social Psychology

Graduate Seminar on Psychology of Race and Ethnicity

Psychology of Immigration

Psychology of Racism