I study how irrational beliefs develop into extremism, as a process. During my undergraduate studies in molecular biology I became fascinated by the tenacity of individuals holding beliefs in pseudoscience. I found a whole universe of misinformation that was able to exclude itself from scientific scrutiny while calling itself science. As I gained experience in the field of research and through teaching high school, I continued to explore the ways in which individuals respond to information.
I also look at how information processing can transform an individual’s belief system, affecting the perception of their threat environment, rendering them capable of committing atrocities while holding themselves to be morally sound. It seems the beliefs we are capable of holding against intractable physical evidence have no bounds.
I’m interested in how misinformation and the beliefs based on it affect us as individuals and as a society. The questions these studies bring me to in our world of news bubbles and partisan silos are:
- How do you interact with someone who resists facts?
- How do we find cohesiveness amidst the division caused by disparate beliefs?
- How can the process of relying on misinformation be disrupted?
I’m an interdisciplinary thinker and I look at these problems through the lens of evolutionary biology, psychology, and developmental neuroscience. My questions are guided by an understanding of what drives human connection and the instinctual need to trust sources of information.
I built on this background by studying extremism and terrorism at John Jay College’s International Criminal Justice M.A program. My focus has been researching applications of where these belief systems interact and play out in atrocities world-wide, in scales both large and small.
My current research is on an intervention model I developed for vaccine resistance campaigns. Check out my blog for recent posts. Please reach out here or through LinkedIn if you’re interested in collaboration, conferences, or having me as a speaker.