Research

Research Lab

I work collaboratively with a group of fantastic undergraduate research assistants as part of the Social Networks and Political Psychology Lab (SNaPP Lab).

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in how contentious interpersonal interactions about politics affect the way that individuals perceive conflict in their environment, evaluate other people, and engage within the political system. The two major projects of my research agenda are discussed below.

I have received funding from the NSF for a project titled “Understanding the Mechanisms for Disengagement from Contentious Political Interaction (NSF-1423788).” I am currently working on a series of experimental studies that identify the mechanisms driving social disengagement from politics, which people are most susceptible to social stress in the political sphere, and which situations generate the most pressure toward political disengagement. We are working to implement psychophysiological measurement techniques to better assess emotional reactions to contentious political experiences. In future work, we also hope to incorporate genetic and hormonal data collection into our work.

I am also working on a book project, titled “Newspaper to News Feed: How Social Media Has Changed the Way We Access News and Discuss Politics.” Engaging with political content on the Facebook News Feed incorporates novel behaviors at the intersection of political expression, political information seeking, and political discussion. My key argument is that the defining characteristics of engagement with this content are uniquely suited to foster and perpetuate affective polarization, defined as partisans’ increasingly negative feelings and negative trait attribution toward identifiers of the opposing party. In the first half of the book, I use original survey data to demonstrate that the kinds of users who generate political content on Facebook, and their reasons for doing so, create a communication ecosystem that disproportionately circulates polarizing information. People can and do make inferences about the political views of their social connections, based on both the political, and apolitical, content their Facebook friends post. In the second half of the book, I theorize how engagement with this content contributes to affective polarization, testing a series of hypotheses in experiments drawing on techniques from political communication and political psychology. I show that Facebook users judge other users with whom they disagree to be less politically knowledgeable and to use less reliable news sources, and they evaluate out-partisans as being ignorant and dogmatic. Paired with cognitive biases resulting from exposure to aggregated information about the number of users who endorse political content, people overestimate both the proportion of the population that shares their opinions and the differences between the political parties..

Publications

  1. “The Differential Effects of Stress on Voter Turnout” with Hans J. G. Hassell. Forthcoming at Political Psychology

  2. “Political Chameleons: An Exploration of Conformity in Political Discussions” with Taylor N. Carlson. Forthcoming at Political Behavior

  3. "Social Endorsement Cues and Political Participation in an Experiment Involving 61 Million Facebook Users,” with Robert Bond, Christopher J. Fariss, James H. Fowler, Jason J. Jones. Forthcoming at Political Communication

  4. “Genes, Anxiety, and Turnout: A Field Experiment,” with Christopher Dawes, Peter J. Loewen and Costas Panagopoulos. Forthcoming at Political Psychology

  5. “Day-to-Day Political Engagement Partially Mediates the Effect of Competition on Voting” with Robert Bond, Lorenzo Coviello, Christopher J. Fariss, James H. Fowler, Jason J. Jones. Political Science Research and Methods 4(2): 361-378 (May 2016)

  6. “Genes, Psychological Traits, and Civic Engagement” with Christopher Dawes, Peter Loewen, Matt McGue, and William G. Iacono. Philosophical Transactions B (December 2015)

  7. "A Natural Experiment in Proposal Power and Electoral Success" with Peter John Loewen, Royce Koop, Jaime Settle, and James H. Fowler, American Journal of Political Science 58(1): 189-196 (January 2014)

  8. "Yahtzee: An Anonymized Group Level Matching Procedure" with Jason Jones, Robert Bond, Christopher J. Fariss, Cameron Marlow, Adam Kramer, and James Fowler, PLoS ONE 8(2): e55760 (February 2013)

  9. "Inferring Tie Strength from Online Directed Behavior" with Jason Jones, Robert Bond, Christopher J. Fariss, Cameron Marlow, Adam Kramer, and James H. Fowler, PLoS ONE 8(1): e52168 (January 2013)

  10. "A 61-Million-Person Experiment in Social Influence and Political Mobilization" with Robert Bond, Christopher J. Fariss, James H. Fowler, Jason J. Jones, Adam D. I. Kramer, and Cameron Marlow, Nature 489: 295-298 (13 September 2012)

  11. "Integrating Social Science and Genetics: News from the Political Front" with Peter Hatemi, Christopher Dawes, Brad Verhulst, and Amanda Frost Keller, Biodemography, 57(1):67-87 (May 2011)

  12. "The Social Origins of Adult Political Behavior" with Robert Bond and Justin Levitt, American Politics Research, (March 2011)

  13. "Correlated Genotypes in Friendship Networks" with James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(5): 1993-1997 (1 February 2011)

  14. "Friendships Moderate an Association between a Dopamine Gene Variant and Political Ideology" (with James Fowler, Christopher Dawes, and Nicholas Christakis), Journal of Politics 72 (4): 1189–1198 (October 2010)

  15. "The Heritability of Partisan Attachment," with James H. Fowler and Christopher T. Dawes. Political Research Quarterly 62(3): 601-613 (September 2009)

Chapters

  1. “Moving Beyond Sentiment Analysis: Social Media and Emotions in Political Communication.” Eds. Brooke Foucault-Welles and Sandra Gonzalez Bailon. The Oxford Handbook of Networked Communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2017)

  2. Fowler, James H., Peter John Loewen, Christopher T. Dawes, and Jaime Settle. 2011. “Games, Genes, and Political Participation.” Eds. Rose McDermott and Pete Hatemi. Man is by Nature and Nurture a Political Animal. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Manuscripts and Working Papers

Book

  1. Newspaper to News Feed: How the Social Communication of Politics Affectively Polarizes the American Public (Manuscript in preperation for submission)

Collaborators

These are some of the people I’ve worked with in the past or am working with now.

  • Robert Bond, Assistant Professor, Communication Department, Ohio State University

  • Nicholas Christakis, Director of the Human Nature Lab, Yale University

  • Christopher Dawes, Assistant Professor of Politics, New York University

  • Christopher J. Fariss, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, Penn State University

  • Taylor Feenstra, William and Mary Graduate

  • James H. Fowler, Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science, The University of California, San Diego

  • Amanda Frost-Keller, Graduate Student in Political Science, University of Iowa

  • Hans J.G. Hassell, Assistant Professor of American Politics, Cornell College

  • Peter Hatemi, Associate Professor Political Science, Penn State University

  • Jason J. Jones, Assistant Professor, Sociology Department at SUNY Stony Brook

  • Royce Koop, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba

  • Adam Kramer, Facebook Data Scientist

  • Justin Levitt, Department of Political Science, University of California, San Diego

  • Peter John Loewen, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto-Mississauga

  • Costas Panagopoulos, Associate Professor of Political Science, Fordham University

  • Meg Schwenzfeier, William and Mary Graduate

  • Brad Verhulst, Researcher, Virginia Commonwealth University