Psychology Publications: 2015

Faculty in the Department of Psychology shared thoughts about their recent work.

Emanuele Castano

Emanuele Castano, Professor of Psychology, recently published On Social Death: Ostracism and the Accessibility of Death Thoughts (Death Studies, 2015). From Castano, on the article:

“I have been exploring the role that social inclusion plays in quelling existential anxiety for many years (possible links to several articles and chapters). I typically show that when primed with death individuals identify more strongly with groups they belong to, such as American, or Psychologists. Research in psychology also shows that when people are excluded from social groups, namely ostracized, they tend to act aggressively. In this article I put the two lines of research together: I made people feel ostracized (yes, horrible!) and showed that this enhances the salience of death thoughts. In other words, the experience of being ostracized enhances existential anxiety, which in turn may be responsible for increased aggression.”

Castano was also recently invited to speak at Stanford University’s School of Medicine about his recently celebrated article, co-authored with David Kidd, 2014 Psychology alumnus and current postdoctoral fellow (“Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind,“ Science Magazine, 2013). Watch the lecture below.

Choose a publication below to learn more.


Bio | Castano received his PhD from the Université Catholique de Louvain. His work revolves around three main areas, Collective Identity, Intergroup Relations and Morality; Social Identity, Ideology, and the Human Condition; and Empathy and Theory of Mind. He has authored more than 50 publications, mostly scientific articles in highly regarded journals, and consulted with international organizations, governments and other institutions. His recent work on the effects of literary fiction on Theory of Mind was published in Science and received media coverage worldwide. Currently, Castano serves as co-chair of the Psychology department, representing the Cognitive, Social, and Developmental area.


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Sociology Publications: 2015

Faculty in the Department of Sociology shared thoughts about their recent work.

Carlos Forment

Carlos Forment, Associate Professor of Sociology, recently published “Ordinary Ethics and the Emergence of Plebeian Democracy across the Global South: Buenos Aires’ La Salada Market” (Current Anthropology, 2015). He remarked about this new work:

“While working on this essay on South America’s largest informal market, after publishing recently a second essay on worker-occupied factories, and preparing myself to study urban scavengers in Buenos Aires, it dawned on me that these and the other cases-chapters of my next book are emblematic of a novel and heterodox form of democratic life that is emerging across the global south and which I now call plebeian citizenship.”

Other publications include Shifting Frontiers of Citizenship: The Latin American Experience (Brill, 2012) and Democracy in Latin America, 1760-1900: Volume 1, Civic Selfhood and Public Life in Mexico and Peru (University of Chicago Press, 2003).

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Bio | Forment received his PhD from Harvard University. His research interests include governmentalized populations and plebeian citizenship across the global South; neoliberalism and public life today; civil society across the post-colonial world; citizenship: ancient, modern and contemporary; and, nationhood and selfhood in 19th-century Latin America. Currently Forment serves as Director of the Janey Program in Latin American Studies.


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Bill Hirst Presents Inaugural Lecture as Newly Appointed Malcolm B. Smith Professor

Bill Hirst, recently appointed Malcolm B. Smith Professor of Psychology, delivered the NSSR general seminar in November 2015 on his research on collective memory. Hirst is a prominent scholar of memory, and in recent years, his research has focused on how people remember public events, how social interactions shape these memories, and how communities come to share memories. Hirst has been at the forefront of the effort to find a place for psychology in discussions of collective memory, and to underscore the relationship between memory and the ways in which societies address past grievances and actions.

Earlier this year, Hirst received an honorary doctorate from the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium, for his contribution as one of the world leaders in the field of collective memory and social remembering, and for being the first cognitive psychologist to study the social aspects of memory.

Listen to Hirst’s general seminar lecture below.

Bio | Hirst received his PhD from Cornell University. Hirst has published over 140 scholarly articles and edited four books and four special journal issues. Between 2010 and 2014 alone, he was author or co-author on 46 articles; this included articles in Psychological Science, the most influential journal in psychology, The Journal of Trauma and Stress, Social Cognition, and the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. He recently published A Ten-Year Follow-Up of a Study of Memory for the Attack of September 11, 2001: Flashbulb Memories and Memories for Flashbulb Events” (Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2015) andSocial Identity and Socially Shared Retrieval-Induced Forgetting: The Effects of Group Membership” (Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2015). Additionally, his work on memory of 9/11 was featured in Time Magazine.

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Deva Woodly: The resonance of public discourse in social movements

We sat down earlier this year with Deva Woodly, Assistant Professor in Politics, to learn about her research comparing the living wage and marriage equality movements. According to Woodly, the political discourses “shared through social networks online, or spoken in the meeting houses of civic and social movement organizations … provide an empirical record of what members of the polity acknowledge as politically valuable as well as clues to the logics that people commonly use to associate their beliefs and values with the problems that they recognize in the world as they find it.”

Woodly recently published The Politics of Common Sense: How Social Movements Use Public Discourse to Change Politics and Win (Oxford Press, 2015).

The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.


NSSR: What is your research about, and what are you finding?

DW: My research is about how ordinary people impact politics. I’m particularly interested in the way that people are able to articulate and implement solutions to their concerns from within or outside of the political process.

My first book, The Politics of Common Sense, is a comparison of two social movements – the living wage movement and the marriage equality movement – with a focus on their activities and progress — between 1994 and 2004. I look at the ways that we can evaluate the success of those two movements, and I’m particularly concerned with the ways that communication—the communication of movements, and the communication from the people involved—influences the acceptance of political movements, and the ability for these movements to be enduring and effective over time.

The living wage movement gets a lot of policy ordinances passed with pressure and skilled organizing, but – in contrast to the marriage equality movement – it does not focus very much energy on changing the general political discourse around wages, employment, and politics. Instead, it is focused on discrete policy fights.

My research reveals that this focus ends up yielding wins that are less durable and less effective than those that are enacted after periods of widespread public debate. I argue that it matters how movements communicate to the general public, and whether they are able to persuade the public of the importance of their issue – and not just how they put immediate pressure on decision-makers – if they want to succeed over the long term.

First, policy wins can be ephemeral if public attention was never engaged in the issue, or, if it quickly shifts from the issue. We see this with the living wage. Many of the ordinances that were hard fought and decisively won in that period also went on to be unenforced because there was no sustained public attention to incentivize local governments to create well-functioning enforcement apparatuses.

And second, with consistent and resonant framing of movement issues, activists can change the way people think about their issue. This does not necessarily mean that activists can make everyone agree with them – we see no evidence that this is the case. Certainly, the marriage movement has, until very recently, been in an opinion environment in which the majority disagrees (a large plurality still does, by the way). However, by using consistently resonant discourse, activists can influence whether people think their issue is political, whether they think it’s important for the country, and they can change what people generally think is at stake in their decision about the issue.

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