I am currently seeking postgraduate students to work in this area!
See my Research Students page for more details.
Attitude Change in a Social Context
The opinions of individuals are frequently driven by their internally held attitudes, a construct essential to the field of social psychology. Privately held attitudes play a critical role in people's personal choices about their health, education, social groups, and housing, as well as the importance they attribute to national issues such as the environment, immigration and state security. As a result, attitudes help to determine a wide variety of highly consequential outcomes at a social scale. However, people's attitudes are not static immutable objects, but change in response to persuasion, and attempts to maintain cognitive consistency. We often express different attitudes in accordance with the social context we find ourselves in, and it is frequently the case that an explicitly expressed attitude is quite different from an internally held one. This makes the problem of predicting the attitudes of a society of individuals seem intractable, and yet such predictions would greatly assist with the development of policy solutions acceptable to a population.
I am developing theoretical and computational models of attitude change, and of the manner in which the social context of an individual will affect their expressed attitudes and opinions to many key social concepts. The subsections below describe some of the current areas in which I am working here.
Models of Evolving Attitudes and Self-organising Ideologies
This is the more theoretical aspect of my research in this area. I am trying to model the manner in which the attitudes that form within a society can evolve and change during time. Frequently, we see many of the members in that society adopting extreme stances, or ideologies. Thus, a set of pro vs anti euthanasia opinions might emerge, or liberal and conservative voters, or a gun lobby that argues against a set of people who would like to see tighter gun control laws. Social psychology has learned much about such phenomena, but very few mathematical and computational models of this process of attitude change exist. Together with my collaborator Fabio Boschetti, I have been trying to develop such a model. Essentially we:
Of course we now need to scale up to more complex scenarios, with much higher dimensionality, and more complex structure...
More details can be found in these indicative papers. The first in particular gives many more details than the above brief description:
1. The Attitudes of Academics to Multi-disciplinary Research & Collaboration
I am currently running a project that is trying to understand how the underlying personalities of academics relate to their attitudes about research, collaboration, and environment. For example:
This project will provide me with a large data set which will hopefully help me to start answering questions like these. I am then hoping to start modelling the manner in which a set of academics adjust and evolve within their changing organisational context. At present I am constructing a survey instrument that will be used to gather an initial set of baseline data, not just about the above attitudes, but also about the underlying personalities of the academics who answer my survey. Thus, with a bit of luck I might be able to build a model of the way in which these attitudes change in time using the approach sketched out above.
Now I just have to get a bunch of academics to fill out my surveys :(
2. The Evolving Political Attitudes of the Australian Public
I am also working with Iain Walker & Fabio Boschetti to try and model the evolving political attitudes of the Australian public. We are especially interested in trying to model the attitudes of populations to political issues like climate change. More details soon.