Past Events

The Center for Social and Political Behavior hosted the workshop "Field Experiments Across Behavioral Sciences"

Friday, April 15, 2016 from 9:45am
Meyer Building (Department of Psychology)
6 Washington Place, Room 551


The Center for Social and Political Behavior hosted a talk by Itiel Dror (University College, London) on “Bias in the Criminal Justice System: Psychological Contamination of Experts”

Friday, April 10, 2015 from 2:00-3:30 PM
Meyer Building (Department of Psychology)
6 Washington Place, Room 551

Psychological models of judgment and decision-making demarcate processes that contribute to error. Theories and evidence create the expectation that judgments include error. However, models have been developed mainly by studying laypeople, and as a result reference decision-making among laypeople. In contrast to the expectations for error inherent in layperson decision-making, the expectations for expert decision-makers, particularly of scientists, are that error is minimized and perhaps non-existent. In the criminal justice system experts are highly valued and regarded to provide impartial and objective evidence. In this talk, I will review real casework documenting psychological contaminations that affect experts in the criminal justice system, including fingerprinting and DNA forensic examiners. I will review theories and provide evidence articulating the psychological mechanisms by which forensic and other experts make biased and erroneous decisions. Research can help identify such weaknesses and provide practical ways to mitigate them.

Dr. Itiel Dror is a cognitive neuroscientist, having received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His work focuses on the cognitive architecture that underpins expertise. He researches expert performance in the real world, examining medical surgeons, military fighter pilots, frontline police, and forensic examiners. Dr. Dror's research provides insights into the inherent trade-offs of being an expert. He has published over 100 research articles, and has been extensively cited in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Report on Forensic Science and the United Kingdom Fingerprint Public Inquiry. He currently is the Chair of the Forensic Human Factor Group recently established by Department of Justice & the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and is on the AAAS Scientific Advisory Board on Forensic Science. Dr. Dror has been working with police forces and agencies in the United States (e.g., FBI, NYPD, LAPD, etc.) as well as in other countries (e.g., The Netherlands, Finland, United Kingdom, and Australia). He provides training in implementing cognitively-based best practices in police investigations and evaluating expert evidence

Following this presentation, Professors Eric Dickson (Department of Politics) and Jo Dixon (Department of Sociology) offered comments for discussion.

On October 24, 2014, the The Center for Social and Political Behavior hosted a talk by Christopher Parker, the Stuart A. Scheingold Professor of Social Justice and Political Science in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington, on "Change They Can't Believe: The Tea Party and Reactionary Conservatism in America."

Professor Parker spoke about his book (co-authored with Professor Matthew Barreto) entitled Change They Can't Believe: The Tea Party and Reactionary Conservatism in America.

Are Tea Party supporters merely a group of conservative citizens concerned about government spending? Or, are they racists who refuse to accept Barack Obama as their president because of his race? Change They Can’t Believe In offers an alternative argument—the Tea Party is driven by the reemergence of a reactionary movement in American politics that is fueled by a fear that America has changed for the worst. Providing a range of original evidence and rich portraits of party sympathizers as well as activists, Parker and Barreto show that what actually pushes Tea Party supporters is not simple ideology or racism, but fear that the country is being stolen from “real Americans”—a belief triggered by Barack Obama’s election. From civil liberties and policy issues, to participation in the political process, the perception that America is in danger directly informs how Tea Party supporters think and act. The authors argue that this isn’t the first time that a segment of American society has perceived the American way of life as under siege. In fact, movements of this kind often appear when individuals believe that American values are under threat by rapid social changes. Drawing connections between the Tea Party and right-wing reactionary movements of the past—including the Know Nothing Party, the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, and the John Birch Society—Parker and Barreto develop a framework that transcends the Tea Party to shed light on its current and future consequences. Linking past and present reactionary movements, Change They Can’t Believe In rigorously examines the motivations and political implications associated with today’s Tea Party.

Following this presentation, Professors Eric Knowles (Department of Psychology) and Jeff Goodwin (Department of Sociology) offered comments for discussion.

Dr. Knowles is co-author of the article entitled “Race, Ideology, and the Tea Party: A Longitudinal Study.”

Dr. Goodwin is co-editor of "Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements, Rethinking Social Movements: Structure, Culture, and Emotion, and The Social Movements Reader: Cases and Concepts."

The NYU Center for Social and Political Behavior hosted a colloquium talk by Dr. Evan Heit (Program Officer, NSF) on the topic of "Polarization, Political Knowledge, and Political Categorization."

In this talk I gave an overview of three projects addressing political categorization and reasoning. The first project (Heit & Nicholson, 2010) examines the structure of contrasting categories, Democrat and Republican. Participants (US college students) rated the typicality of public figures in one category or the other. The relation between the two sets of ratings was negative, linear, and extremely strong, r = .9957, suggestive of extreme polarization. The second project uses international data sets to determine whether this extreme polarization appears in other countries, and more generally investigates representation of political categories in countries with multi-party systems. The third project uses a representative sample of US adults, who completed two political categorization tasks, identifying party membership of hypothetical candidates and deciding whether to vote for each person. Participants were successful in the identification task and likewise at voting in terms of their own party interests. Success at these two tasks was positively correlated with a measure of political knowledge. The pattern of responses was also influenced by the political party of the respondent: Feature weights depended on party membership. All of the results were discussed in terms of implications for political reasoning and conceptual representation.

Dr. Evan K. Heit Program Officer, Division of Research on Learning, National Science Foundation Professor, School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, University of California at Merced

The NYU Center for Social and Political Behavior hosted a colloquium talk by Professor David Redlawsk of Rutgers University on Friday, May 10, 2013.

David Redlawsk is Editor of "Feeling Politics: Emotion in Political Information Processing" and Co-author of "How Voters Decide: Information Processing in Election Campaigns". Professor Redlawsk's talk (with Doug Pierce) was entitled "Studying Information Processing with Dynamic Process Tracing: A First Look at Social Cues."

Understanding how voters form preferences for candidates requires knowledge of information search strategies, which may be conditioned on factors such as the competitiveness of the election, the complexity of the information environment, individual dispositional factors, and emotional responses to candidates and issues. Existing research along these lines tends to focus on the individual and fails to treat information search as at least in part a social activity. In this talk I will introduce an experimental tool called the Dynamic Process Tracing Environment (DPTE) which has been successfully used to observe information search processes in complex information environments. In particular I will focus on a new extension to DPTE which allows the researcher to create a "social" environment, where information may be tagged with social cues either in a controlled experimental environment or by subjects themselves, or some combination. New data on effects of social cues on information search in a campaign environment will be presented and discussed, as we begin our initial studies using social experiments in DPTE.

The Northeast Methodology (NEMP) Workshop on "Big Data: Text" was held on on Friday, May 3, 2013

Speakers included Nick Beauchamp (Columbia), Justin Grimmer (Stanford) and Burt Monroe (PSU).

The NYU Center for Social and Political Behavior has held its Inaugural Event on Friday, April 26, 2013.

Dr. Betsy Sinclair (University of Chicago), author of "The Social Citizen: Peer Networks and Political Behavior." Her talk was entitled "Voters Like You: Social Group Cues in Behavior and Opinion."

We find that social group membership, operationalized as a psychological affinity toward others who are "like you", causes individuals to mirror the political behaviors and choices of similar others. We conduct two experiments where we demonstrate the power of these impersonal social group influences through social group cues. In these experiments, providing the subjects with social group cues successfully alters both behavior and opinion. In the field experiment, we demonstrate voters change their behavior in accord with a message telling them about levels of turnout among similar others. In the survey experiment, we demonstrate respondents change their position on political issues based upon what they are told about the positions of similar others. We find no evidence that these effects are attributable to alternative mechanisms, such as need for information, confirming the effects are likely caused by the desire to adopt the appropriate political social norm.