From Triple Quandary to Talent Quest: The Past, Present, and Future of A. Wade Boykin’s Contributions to Psychology

C. Malik Boykin, Sean T. Coleman, Eric A. Hurley, Gabrielle N. Tanksley, Kenneth M. Tyler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A. Wade Boykin’s scholarship has provided key insights into the psychological realities of racially minoritized people and catalyzed revolutionary changes in psychology and education. Combining insights from personal and research experiences, Boykin authored the foundational triple quandary (TQ), a framework describing how Black Americans must navigate the often conflicting values and priorities of dominant mainstream society, the heritage culture of Black communities, and dynamics associated with being racially minoritized. TQ describes the unique developmental challenges faced by Black children, for whom misalignment between home cultural socialization and U.S. schooling often leads to pathologizing mischaracterizations of their attitudes and behaviors, resulting in chronic academic opportunity gaps. Boykin used his training as an experimental psychologist to empirically test the validity and explanatory utility of the TQ framework and to determine whether Black cultural values could be leveraged to improve student learning. Focusing on cultural values such as expressive movement, verve, and communalism, studies with his collaborators consistently supported Boykin’s framework and predictions for improving Black student achievementrelated outcomes. Beginning in the early 2000s, Boykin and his colleagues began to scale the lessons of decades of empirical work into the talent quest model for school reform. The TQ and talent quest continue to evolve in their application, as scholars and practitioners have found them relevant to a diverse range of minoritized populations in American society and beyond. Boykin’s work continues to bear on the scholarship, career outcomes, and day-to-day lives of many scholars, administrators, practitioners and students across disciplines and institutions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-440
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Psychological Association


  • African American
  • culture
  • minority populations
  • schooling
  • socialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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