research - SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGY

 

 
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Partisanship and Political Conflict Intractability

My primary research program was motivated by my fascination with the growing political divide and partisan gridlock in American politics. I am particularly interested in the ways in which these conflicts are centered on intergroup differences in views of social relations among demographic groups in society (“mental models”).  In my work, I argue that understanding the historic levels of conflict intractability in American politics requires an understanding of 1) the ways in which policy differences between the political left and right are linked to beliefs about how specific demographic groups impact society (e.g. Muslims, Christians, Latinos, Whites, the working class), and 2) how the presence of intergroup political conflict can lead to the exaggeration of differences in their views of social relations, and how perceiving greater differences in mental models of society can disrupt the desire to cooperate with their political opposition. I theorized that while actual differences in liberals’ and conservatives’ mental models of society may explain their policy disagreements (e.g. immigration), perceptions of differences in mental models of society better explains why they fail to reach long-term resolution of conflict.

 

Unconscious prejudice and continued inequality

I am interested in investigating the ways in which social inequality is maintained in public policy through subtle yet powerful cognitive biases that favor historically dominant groups even in the absence of a conscious motivation to discriminate. More specifically, I am interested in determining whether public policies framed from the perspective of powerful groups are believed to address universal needs, while the policies that address the unique needs of low-status or minority groups are viewed as special interests. 

 
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Field Research - Occupy wall street

I conducted quantitative field surveys and qualitative interviews with Occupy Wall Street activists between 2011 and 2012 to understand what motivates people to participate in collective action (e.g. protest movements).