General Scheme:


My research program comprises multiple, changing, only-partly-overlapping areas.  I have addressed such topics as why a baseball season is ten times as long as a football season, how people choose which box of Cheerios to take from the supermarket shelf, whether babies resemble their parents, and dogs their masters, if story spoilers actually spoil stories, which gender is funnier, when during the month one is likely to die, and whether visiting New York City would make that outcome more likely, who says “um,” whether music does soothe the savage breast, why it might be hard to tickle oneself, if men are more prone jealousy, why ephemeral social media posts are so lasting, how to see another’s perspective, when cyber peeping is bad, and why one’s heart would be grateful if one made more friends.  

Some Current Topics of Investigation:




Infinite Potential:  Encouraging people to believe in their own effectivly unlimited capacities -- you can accomplsih anything you set your mind to -- often seems an effective way of encouraging optimism, peristance, and achievement.  However, such lessons also carry a potenital downside by shifting blame for failure to the failer.  This could make people more judgmental about others’ shortcomings, and potentially even more dispirited by their own imperfections.  A more nuanced view, with the capacity for improvement not entirely under ones personal control but dependent also on structural factors, may temper that judgmental harshness.


Moral Psychology:  Many moral dimemmas are framed as binary choices between sets of certain outcomes.  However, actual ethical decisions are generally made with considerable uncertaintly about the effects of different actions, or inaction.  Furthermore, when people evaluate vignettes, they inject their own uncertainty even about events that are stipulated as certain.  Those people on the tracks of the runaway trolley, after all, have some chance of getting out of its way on their own.  People appear to balance competing principles, and to be sensitive to subtle changes in the probability of outcomes.

Forgiveness: Although people report frequently forgiving, and, perhaps less frequently, being forgiven, it is not quite clear exactly what that means.  Is forgiveness just a function of the natural diminution, with time, of anger, or is there some more conceptual change that occurs in how people think about the offense, its antecedents, or its consequences?  Manipulations that alter how people view offenses, or how they view determinism more generally, can explore the foundations of forgiveness.  Examination of the stress consequences of forgiveness can add to our knowledge of the much-vaunted health consequences of forgiveness.