My primary research interest is in understanding people’s sense of obligation. What are the determinants and consequences of believing that we have obligations to help others, and what can this tell us about how helping might occur in the real world?
What are the factors that lead to people believing that they or others have obligations to help? Does it matter whether people know each other, are related to each other, or how costly or beneficial help would be? Do different moral values lead to different perceptions of obligations? Some of our research has already started addressing these questions, but we are currently collecting data to better understand the determinants of perceiving obligations.
Once obligations are perceived, what are the judgmental and behavioral consequences? Does violating an obligation lead to a judgment that the violator is bad? Does the context in which a particular obligation is violated or fulfilled change people’s judgments? How do perceptions of obligations relate to people’s actual helping behavior? Some of our research has already started addressing these questions, and we are planning future work to better understand the judgmental and behavioral consequences of perceiving obligations.
If some people do not believe that they (or others) have prosocial obligations, how can we encourage them to believe that they (or others) do? And if they can be persuaded, will this lead to updated judgments and behavior? Although we have not yet started conducting empirical work in this space, answering these questions is an ultimate goal of this line of research.
My secondary research interest lies at the crossroads of moral cognition and meta-science. Specifically, I am interested in how moral cognition researchers (and psychological scientists in general) design experiments and then use inferential statistics to make claims about psychology. My guiding research questions are:
1) To what extent is there a theory-method gap in moral cognition research (e.g., does our intended research question change once we have decided to employ a particular experimental design)?
2) To what extent do psychological claims that are made within the moral cognition literature track with the inferential procedures used to make those claims (i.e., are purported moral cognition claims actually supported given the methods used to make those claims)?
This research is ongoing, but I currently have a paper on these topics under review (as an invited revision) at Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science (see the most recent version here).