Social Psych Research

- From Left to Right: Alex McDiarmid, Zach Mensch, Alexa Tullett, Callie Gibson, Brett Grant.
- Missing: Cassie Whitt

“I can negate everything of that part of me that lives on vague nostalgias, except this desire for unity, this longing to solve, this need for clarity and cohesion.” – Albert Camus, from The Myth of Sisyphus
In this sentence, Camus captures both my motivation to do scientific research, and the psychological questions that interest me – I am a psychologist who is driven to make sense of how people make sense of the world. This general fascination has manifested itself in two main lines of research, one focusing on the belief systems that people use to organize the world, and the other focusing on how people come to understand the feelings and thoughts of others. At times, these interests have led me to use well-established self-report measures of people’s conscious thoughts or feelings, and at other times it has led me to turn to neural or psychophysiological measures that can tap into people’s rapid, and largely uncontrollable reactions. Similarly, there have been instances when questions have called for a focus on the power of the situation, and other instances when they’ve called for a focus on the things that make people unique.

Research Interests
One of my main lines of research explores the circumstances and individual characteristics that foster caring and compassion for other people. People often show a remarkable ability to "feel for" the pain of others, a capacity that seems to depend on the emotional dispositions and states of the empathizer. In other words, there may be affective profiles that facilitate empathy for suffering. I have begun to explore these questions using EEG measures of frontal cortical asymmetry as well as EMG measures of facial muscle movements.

In my other main area of research, I have explored the belief systems that help people to make sense of the world. At an abstract level, this domain of inquiry touches on the reasons why people believe, whether it is in religion, science, justice, or any number of other frameworks for understanding themselves and their environment. At a more concrete level, it raises questions about how people’s beliefs influence their interactions with the world by shaping their expectations, interpretations, and behaviors. Thus far, I have explored these issues by examining the neuroaffective consequences of priming or violating belief systems, and by observing the ways in which people protect their belief systems.

Quick Info

How to contact

Tel: 205.349.0607
Where to Find

The University of Alabama
410 Gordon Palmer
Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
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