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Department of Sociology

Faculty and Staff Directory

Laura Aufderheide Brashears

Title: Instructor of Sociology & Graduate Faculty
Department: Sociology
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-3123
Resources: Curriculum Vitae [pdf]

Laura Brashears


Laura Aufderheide Brashears earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Arizona (2008). She is an Instructor of Sociology and member of the graduate faculty at the University of South Carolina, having previously served as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Cornell University. Her areas of expertise are social psychology, the sociology of education, race and ethnicity, and social networks. A committed teacher-scholar, she enjoys bringing her research expertise into the classroom to create an enriching experience for her students. She has chaired numerous honors theses and has served as co-chair and member on multiple master’s and Ph.D. committees.



Substantive research interests: Social Psychology, Sociology of Education, Race and Ethnicity, Social Networks, Sociology of Mental Health

Department cluster: Social Psychology; Identities, Inequality, and Institutions

Research overview: My work connects general theory in Social Psychology with research in the Sociology of Education and Race and Ethnicity (namely, Mexican American and White high school student identities), as well as Social Networks, to understand how individuals develop their identities and ideas, as well as how this process is impacted by context. My work falls into two broad streams, the first of which focuses on student and ethno/racial identities and personal outcomes such as academic achievement, and the second of which considers the role of networks and network structure in identity enactment and group experiences.

Current projects:  My research questions cluster in the following three areas.

1) The role of relative identity prominence (importance) in Mexican American and White students’ lives: How does the relative prominence of various identities (student, ethno/racial, and combined ethno/racial-student) influence academic and socio-emotional outcomes? What is the relationship between relative prominence of ethno/racial identities and affect for in-group and out-group members?

2) The effects of social network encoding on our experiences within groups: How do humans encode social network information into memory, and how does this shape our interpretation of social situations? Are people more or less prone to leave social groups if the conditions do not match our expectations of social situations?

3)  Identity revelation & enactment, network ties, and mental health outcomes: How, when, and why are college student veterans more or less likely to utilize important resources on campus? To what extent are such choices contingent upon identity prominence, salience (enactment), and regard of both the veteran and student identities, and to what extent are such choices contingent upon network connections? What do youth of various ethno/racial identities choose to portray about themselves online? How does that portrayal reflect the “real” self, and does more consonance between the portrayal and the “real” lead to better mental health outcomes?



SOCY101H: Honors Introduction to Sociology

SOCY357: Sociology of Education

SOCY460: Sociology of Mental Health

SOCY525: Selves & Social Transaction (an upper-level Self & Identity course)

SOCY557: Sociology of Education and Inequality


Selected Publications

Brashears, Laura Aufderheide. 2021. “Student, Mexican American Student, or White Student? The Relative Influence of Identity Prominence on Academic Outcomes and Self-Feelings.” Accepted for presentation at the Fourth Biennial Conference on Identity Theory and Research, October, 2021.

Brashears, Laura Aufderheide, Craig M. Rawlings, and Matthew E. Brashears. (In preparation for submission.) “Tension, Constraint, and Action: How Affect Control Shapes Interpersonal Relations.”

Brashears, Matthew E., Laura Aufderheide Brashears, and Nicolas L. Harder. 2020. “Where you are, what you want, and what you can do: The role of master statuses, personality traits, and social cognition in shaping ego network size, structure, and composition.” Network Science 8:356-80.

Brashears, Matthew E. and Laura Aufderheide Brashears. 2020. “Compression Heuristics, Social Networks, and the Evolution of Human Intelligence.” Frontiers in Cognitive Psychology.

Brashears, Matthew E. and Laura Aufderheide Brashears. 2016. “The Enemy of my Friend is Easy to Remember: Balance as a Compression Heuristic.” pgs. 1-31 in Advances in Group Processes, Shane Thye & Edward Lawler (eds.), Bingley, UK: Emerald Insight.

Brashears, Matthew E. and Laura Aufderheide Brashears. 2015. “Do contemporary people have fewer close friends than they used to?” in Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Robert Scott and Stephen Kosslyn, eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.