We often study politics and morality in the confines of psychological laboratories or with surveys. Although these methods have given researchers actionable insights into our moral and political lives, they cannot capture how we experience morally and politically relevant events as we experience them. My research aims to understand the dynamics of politics and morality – how they change and how they can stay the same – and one way I do this is with experience sampling.

Politics and Morality in Everyday Life

One strategy I have used to understand the dynamics of politics and morality is to examine how people experience them in their normal, everyday lives. In two different projects, me and my collaborators used experience sampling methods to ask people about their moral and immoral experiences (Hofmann et al., 2014; in press) or their political experiences (Brandt et al., in press) as they went about their days. We were then able to see how often people have these experiences and how these experiences are related to well-being. For example, experiencing moral events is related to more psychological well-being than experiencing immoral events. And experiencing political disagreement is associated with more anger and less positive views of humanity.

Belief System Networks

Over the next several years, with the help of funding from the European Research Council, we will be leveraging new advances in estimating psychological networks to estimate the networks of attitudes that make up political belief systems. We hope to use these networks as “maps” of the dynamics of belief systems. With this information, we can understand how belief systems will change over time, how different types of interventions and persuasive appeals can influence the system, and what types of systems are resistant to change.

Written by: Mark Brandt

More about Mark’s work? Visit the website of Tilburg Belief Systems Lab.


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