Attitudes and Group Identity Lab (Ledgerwood)

How do we reach beyond our current experience? One of the most basic challenges that people face in everyday life is how to cross gaps—gaps that separate self from other, now from future, here from there, and us from them. Even the simplest activities, like having a conversation or planning what to do next week, would be impossible if it were not for the human capacity to get unstuck from current experience and relate to other people, future time points and distant contexts. The research in our lab centers around the social psychological tools that humans have developed to help them reach across these distances.

Social Influences

Social influence is one tool that people use to either immerse themselves in the current context or to transcend it. Our research suggests that individuals tune into others’ opinions in fundamentally different ways when relating to near versus distant objects and events.

Group Symbols

When individuals aggregate into groups, the challenge of bridging distances becomes even more central. Because they extend across time, space and disparate individuals, groups need ways to articulate and maintain a stable identity that can bridge across these gaps. We study group symbols, such as monuments, flags and logos, as tools that people use to communicate group identity to others and to maintain it across time.

Shared Beliefs

Another way that individuals can reach beyond their current experience is to adopt and defend widely-shared beliefs, such as those that bolster the apparent fairness of existing social hierarchies. We focus on when and why people are particularly likely to endorse these shared beliefs about social structure.

Framing Effects

When are people are more or less likely to get stuck in their current experience? One important factor seems to be how information in the current environment is framed. We know, intuitively, that there are different ways of thinking about things: The same glass can be seen as half full or half empty. Can people switch back and forth from one conceptualization to another, or do they get stuck in one way of thinking about it?

Methodological Interests

We pay particular attention to the appropriateness of various data analytic strategies and what can be gained (or lost) from choosing one alternative over another. Social psychologists often seek to shed light on the basic process underlying an effect by testing for mediation. A simple three-variable mediation model can be analyzed either with a typical regression approach, or with structural equation modeling (SEM) using latent variables. Which is the better option? This is a more complex and consequential question than researchers often realize.