Graduate Student, A.B.D., UCLA
UCLA, Political Science, M.A., 2000
UC Davis, Law, Other, 1995
Claremont McKenna College, Politics, Philosophy, Economics, B.A., 1992
Statement of Interests:
“Thinking About Politics: Three fMRI Experiments Studying Sophistication, Ideology, and Race.” Political scientists frequently make inferences about how survey respondents and voters are thinking about political issues based on their behavior. In this dissertation, I use functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to study political cognition and affect during three experiments. The subject population consists of undergraduate political sophisticates and novices. In the first experiment, I show subjects the faces of white and black, famous and not famous, political and nonpolitical persons. In the second study, subjects view images of whites and blacks who are either “value violators” or “value exemplars.” The third study asks subjects to answer a series of questions that are either political or nonpolitical, and threatening, non-threatening, or racial. This experimental design enables me to test many theories simultaneously. For instance, behavioral differences in political novices and sophisticates are expected to have neural correlates, “racial politics” may be more about race than politics, emotions are suspected to influence sophisticates more than novices, etc.
“Housing Segregation: A Five Factor Model.” Thomas Schelling's famous model of housing segregation started with a few coins on an eight by eight grid and some very simple assumptions about individual preferences. Using the SWARM programming environment, we have extended Schelling's concept to examine the contemporary debate about the nature and causes of housing segregation. We begin with basic preferences functions derived from empirical data on neighborhood racial composition and add a variety of putative factors in housing decisions. The result is a sophisticated model of racial housing segregation that provides insight into empirical patterns of segregation and desegregation in the twentieth century.
“The Emergence of Parties: An Agent-Based Model.” In much of the party literature, the electorate is a mere landscape traversed by political elites. However, this paper presents a model where elites and parties are emergent consequences of the behavior and preferences of voters. Implementing a few simple rules, this agent-based computer model demonstrates a framework that unifies results from Downs, Duverger, Riker, and Sundquist while challenging their views of voters. I also present results from simulated competitions where actors have diverse agendas (e.g. office seeking, ideology).
I am currently developing a theory of political cognition using brain-imaging techniques from cognitive neuroscience. Ultimately, I will follow the lead of computational neuroscience and operationalize that theory in a computer model. Formal models in political science assume elites respond to voter preferences and empirical models show voters as following elite opinion. My long-range goal is to extend my agent-based framework so that decision making reflects the model of political cognition developed in my brain imaging studies and my framework demonstrates that ideology is an emergent result of mass/elite interaction.
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