We study altruism, emotion, social class, and inequality.
Social Hierarchy, Social Class, and Economic Inequality
Hierarchy is central to social structure and social life. In a primary program of research, we study how social class (e.g., wealth) shapes fundamental interpersonal processes, including empathy/compassion, prosocial behavior, moral judgment, prejudice, and social preferences. We are also currently investigating the psychology of economic privilege and inequality, examining how people make sense of relative inequalities and its downstream consequences, and studying the social effects of social mobility—both real and perceived.
Research on emotion has emphasized the intrapersonal features and functions of emotion, addressing such questions as: What is the experience of emotion? How are emotions communicated? In our lab, we study how emotions influence social life, shaping interpersonal interactions, relationships, and collective action. Our work is guided by the notion that emotions provide important tools for people to navigate social dilemmas, such as who to trust and when, and help orient people away from self-interest towards the needs of those around them and their groups. Our current research focuses on the social consequences of awe, the social functions of emotions across cultures, and how connections with nature shape social life.
Altruism and Cooperation
Prosocial behavior—when people act in ways that benefit others—has many forms: altruism, cooperation, caregiving, mutual coordination, and the experience of moral emotions, such as compassion, elevation, and gratitude. In our lab, we examine what causes people to behave in ways potentially costly to the self, with a focus on the proximal forces that can drive human kindness, including empathy, status-seeking, self-construal, and social identity. We are currently launching several studies on ways to promote cooperation and understanding across ideological and social divides (e.g., political, racial, and class differences).