Research in my lab broadly focuses on two clusters of topics under the dual umbrellas of social cognition and judgment and decision making. First, we study prejudice and inequality, with particular interest in contexts of poverty; sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence; and incarceration and disenfranchisement. Second, we study choice processes, exploring how context shapes the goals choosers adopt, the perceived meaning of choices, and other experiences before, during, and after decision making. You can read more about some of our ongoing research questions below.

Why do we neglect those already experiencing the greatest inequities and marginalization?

In our work on prejudice and inequality, we are particularly interested in understanding why we neglect those already encountering marginalization. That is, beyond antipathy toward outgroup members, why do individuals who are most in need so often encounter discounting, dismissal, and discrimination instead of receiving help, care, and resources? One line of work within this program examines how biased beliefs about the effects of poverty can drive interpersonal and institutional neglect—for instance, our work has shown that people erroneously believe that poverty “toughens” people, such that lower-income individuals are less harmed by negative events than higher-income individuals. Another line of work draws on prototype theories of person perception to explain why targets of sexual harassment who do not fit our cultural prototype of “women” are more likely to encounter disbelief and disdain than those who more closely resemble society’s “women” prototype. Going forward, a broad goal of our research in this area is to continue developing theories that both provide better understanding of the causes of inequalities and injustices and offer potential paths forward for addressing them from interpersonal and policy perspectives.

Examples of past projects:

How does context shape choice processes?

In our work on decision making, we investigate how context shapes decision making. “Context” can mean anything from the specific features of a choice set (e.g., how many options are offered?), to the social context of our choices (e.g., are we choosing alone or with others?), or even to broad macro-level contexts such as cultures (e.g., how are choices viewed in relation to personal preferences in a given cultural context?). One particular area of focus has been on developing new perspectives on choice experiences through the lens of self-expression—for example, why is choosing from a large number of options so overwhelming? Our work suggests it might be more than just information overload; larger choice sets may make choices feel like more of a reflection of the self, raising the perceived stakes of choice and increasing the stress and difficulty of decisions. Other lines of work zoom in on decision goals and strategies, such as maximizing, the pursuit of the very best option through extensive consideration of all possible alternatives. Our work asks, why do people maximize? When do people maximize? In fact, what is maximizing, anyway? Going forward, a broad goal of our research in this area is to develop integrative theories to explain findings like choice overload and behaviors like maximizing that fully engage with the fact that decision making is a social phenomenon in addition to a cognitive one.

Examples of past projects:

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