A morality scale moving between the words Bad, Unjust, Unworthy, and Wrong, and Good, Just, Worthy, and Right.

Moral Development

A major part of my research focuses on the origins, development, and outcomes of different moral views. Numerous studies show that we humans inescapably perceive and evaluate the world through moral categories, such as good/bad, worthy/unworthy, and just/unjust. Likewise, we constantly appeal to various morals—such as care, liberty, and loyalty—as we develop our identities and seek to explain our attitudes and actions. My various projects examine how our conceptions of morality develop, whether and how those views change over time as we navigate life, as well as socially significant outcomes of our moral views. My dissertation examines young Americans’ moral development over 10 years (from roughly middle school until their mid-20s), drawing on 4 waves of in-depth interviews, field notes, and nationally-representative survey data. I also have several ongoing projects that examine how morality influences political views, including one project focused on Christian nationalists and another focused on "Extremely Liberal" millennials.

Religious protesters hold signs that say Jesus doesn't build walls and Faith over fear.

Religion and Society

An interest in race and religion led me to sociology. My final two years of undergrad were almost exclusively dedicated to Sociology and Religious Studies courses. I then went to seminary where I focused on theology, philosophy, and ethics that critically engage culture and society. Religion continues to play a highly influential role in society, but studies of religion need innovation, which I seek to bring in my work. My paper, "Religion Imagined," examines the implicit conceptual structures beneath American adults' conscious religious understandings. My paper, "Moral Religiosities," identifies how different moral orientations support different forms of religiosity among young adults.

Computational chart showing principal factors for variation in image schemas of religion

Culture, Cognition, and Emotion

I also have a theoretical interest in culture, cognition, and emotion, which influences all of my studies. Since we frequently ask questions and make assumptions about humans’ motivations, it is crucial to advance our understandings of how human cognition works and how knowledge is acquired, organized, and used. My article, "Culture Beneath Discourse," theorizes various emergent levels of cultural knowledge and how they form more complex cultural understandings. My book, Religious Parenting, advances a “cultural models” approach for theorizing how culture works. My dissertation projects also highlight the various ways emotional development and perception influence ideological views.