"Belief systems have never surrendered easily to empirical study or quantification. Indeed, they have often served as primary exhibits for the doctrine that what is important to study cannot be measured and that what can be measured is not important to study."
You've stumbled across my little slice of the internet. I'm a doctoral candidate (and for AY22-23 visiting lecturer) in Political Science studying American politics, political behavior, and political psychology.
Research interests focus on questions of individual- and group-level opinion formation and change, identity, partisanship, and prejudice. Dissertation evaluates the causes and consequences of alienation in America.
I'm a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota--Twin Cities in the department of Political Science. I'm affiliated with the university's Center for the Study of Political Psychology, an interdisciplinary research group that includes the departments of Psychology, Political Science, and the School of Journalism & Mass Communication. I also completed the department's PhD concentration in Power, Equity, and Diversity.
I received a master's in Political Science at the University of Rhode Island, and, prior to that, a bachelor's at Ithaca College (double-major in Writing and Politics). Between Ithaca and graduate school I spent time as a journalist and freelance writer.
My academic interests generally revolve around the question "Why do we believe what we believe, and why do we (not) change those beliefs?"
Political attitudes are a difficult matter to study, with many indications that homo politicus functions as an irrational, ad hoc being, individually or in groups, motivated by emotion, tribalism, and bias. Few people believe their own political views to be incoherent, yet many political scientists contend that most are. So my interest in political beliefs is rooted in the need to explain my own viewpoints, the views of people I disagree with, and those who might believe in the patently false but nonetheless can't be dissuaded.
For AY 2022-23 I'm a visiting instructor at St. Olaf College in Northfield. CV available on request.
My dissertation is an investigation into alienation in America, hewing along similar lines to Durkheim and a research tradition that has waxed and waned over time (for mostly intuitive reasons). Understood as an individual’s chronic estrangement from the polity, I argue that alienation is the product of a set of myriad circumstances that include the loss of strong social ties at the individual level and failed representation by the state. Fundamental psychological motivations -- like the need to belong, for self-esteem, and the need to make sense of the world -- spur myriad compensatory strategies to alleviate this discomfort.
In my research alienation is associated with detachment from national identity and the reinforcement of smaller, "tribal" ties of racial/ethnic, religious, or political affiliation. This increased groupiness spurs greater engagement on behalf of the group, up to and including non-normative or "anti-system" behavior like membership in exclusionary organizations or acts of political violence. But contextual and individual factors mediate the effects of alienation, and I find that some of the most highly alienated in the US today are also some of our strongest partisans, normatively engaged voting, volunteering, and voicing their opinions.