ERC Starter Grant: Belief Systems Project

I’ve very happy and lucky to announce that I’ve been awarded an ERC Starter Grant to study belief systems as networks (relevant press releases here & here).

With this project, I’m trying to push (as in test and push conceptually) the idea that we can understand belief systems as systems. From this perspective, rather than modeling belief systems like latent variables, we should be modeling belief systems as networks of interconnected attitudes and values. This can help us understand the structure of belief systems, how they connect with personality, perceived threats, and prejudice, and connect work on belief systems with other types of dynamic systems.

This ERC grant will help me significantly advance this line of work by providing funding for new data, as well as funding to hire one post-doc (starting spring-to-mid 2018) and two PhD students. If you are interested in belief systems, networks, dynamic systems etc and interested in living in the Netherlands, get in touch!

News Update

A lot has been happening at the TBS Lab.

New people

Mehmet Tunc joined us to work on a PhD project related to emotions and political decision-making. His first study looked at regret and disappointment in the recent UK election. Rabia Kodapanakkal will join us in September to work on a PhD project looking at the moral psychology of big data.

New papers

Several new papers are published, including a paper on predicting ideological prejudice. The rest can be found on the publications page. Two papers deserve extra highlighting.

  1. The paper by Nina Spälti who looks at the memory based processes that underly support for the status quo. In this paper, she looked at the incumbency advantage (where politicians in office are more likely to win an election) and found that memory queries earlier in the sequence were more likely to be favor of the incumbent and helped account for the incumbency advantage.
  2. The paper by Fieke Wagemans who looks at how disgust sensitivity is related to moral judgments. She finds that disgust sensitivity is most strongly associated with harsh moral judgements in the purity domain than in any of the other moral domains (e.g., harm/care, fairness etc). This provides support for theories that argue for unique moral modules and is inconsistent with theories that suggest that all morality has a common ingredient. Look out for some cool follow-ups to this paper (e.g., if you’ll be at ESCON in August…)!


Cognitive Ability and Prejudice

Jarret Crawford and I recently had our paper “Answering Unresolved Questions about the Relationship between Cognitive Ability and Prejudice” accepted at Social Psychological and Personality Science. [Preprint & SOM]

AbstractPrevious research finds that lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice (Onraet et al., 2015). We test two unresolved questions about this association using a heterogeneous set of target groups and data from a representative sample of the United States (N=5914). First, we test “who are the targets of prejudice?” We replicate prior negative associations between cognitive ability and prejudice for groups who are perceived as liberal, unconventional, and having lower levels of choice over group membership. We find the opposite (i.e. positive associations), however, for groups perceived as conservative, conventional, and having higher levels of choice over group membership. Second, we test “who shows intergroup bias?” and find that people with both relatively higher and lower levels of cognitive ability show approximately equal levels of intergroup bias, but towards different sets of groups.

Continue reading “Cognitive Ability and Prejudice”

Belief Systems and Stereotype Content

A recent paper by Koch et al was recently published in JPSP. I think it has some nice implications for some of my work.

Belief systems are concerned with hierarchy and traditions, yet the dimensions of social cognition suggest people are primarily concerned about warmth and competence. A new paper resolves this puzzle with a data-drive approach identifying agency/status and conservative-progressive beliefs as primary dimensions of social cognition and warmth/communion as an emergent third.

Continue reading “Belief Systems and Stereotype Content”

Religious Fundamentalism and Value Conflict

Daryl van Tongeren and I recently published a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In this paper we find that people who are both high and low in religious fundamentalism are both prejudiced toward groups with dissimilar values. Our abstract…

Abstract: Research linking religion to prejudice suggests that highly religious individuals, and religious fundamentalists specifically, may be especially susceptible to expressing prejudice toward dissimilar others, whereas people who are less religious and fundamentalist do not show the same effect. The selective prejudice hypothesis predicts that this pattern of results occurs because the cognitive and motivational styles or particular values associated with fundamentalism exacerbate prejudice. In three studies, using four data sets (N = 5806), we test this selective prejudice hypothesis against the religious values conflict hypothesis, which predicts that both people with high and low levels of fundamentalism will be prejudiced toward those with dissimilar beliefs to protect the validity and vitality of people’s belief systems. Consistent with the religious values conflict hypothesis, we found that people both high and low in fundamentalism were prejudice toward dissimilar others (Study 1) and these differences were primarily due to differences in the content of religious belief rather than the style of belief (Study 2). In Study 3, we expanded these findings to additional measures of prejudice, found that multiple measures of threat were potential mediators, and explored the possibility of an integrative perspective. In total, these results suggest that people with both relatively high and low levels of fundamentalism are susceptible to prejudice and in some cases the size of this religious intergroup bias may be higher among people with high levels of fundamentalism. Continue reading “Religious Fundamentalism and Value Conflict”

Shifting Demographics and Ideological Prejudice

NPR published an article about the changing vote patterns for Asian Americans. In short, since the 80’s and early 90’s Asian Americans have been voting more and more in a Democratic direction. In 1992 about 55% of Asian Americans voted for the Republican candidate and in 2012 only about 26% voted for the Republican candidate.

In this post, I look at how this trend might be related to some of my own research. Continue reading “Shifting Demographics and Ideological Prejudice”