Selected Publications

We discuss the cultural power of changes in nation-level residential mobility. Using a theoretically-informed analysis of mobility trends across the developed world, we argue that a shift from a culture full of people moving their residence to a culture full of people staying in place is associated with decreases, among its residents, in individualism, happiness, trust, optimism, and endorsement of the notion that hard work leads to success. We use the United States as a case study: while the U.S. has historically been a highly-residentially-mobile nation, yearly moves in the U.S. are halved from rates in the 1970s and quartered from rates in the late 19th century. In the past four decades, the proportion of Americans who are stuck in neighborhoods they no longer wish to live in is up nearly 50%. We discuss how high rates of mobility may have originally shaped American culture, and how recent declines in residential mobility may relate to current feelings of cultural stagnation. Finally, we speculate on future trends in American mobility and the consequences of a society where citizens increasingly find themselves stuck in place.
American Psychologist, 2021

How have attempts at political persuasion changed over time? Using nine corpora dating back through 1789, containing over 7 million words of speech (1,666 documents in total), covering three different countries, plus the entire Google nGram corpus, we find that language relating to togetherness permanently crowded out language relating to duties and obligations in the persuasive speeches of politicians during the early 20th Century. This shift is temporally predicted by a rise in Western nationalism and the mass movement of people from more rural to more urban areas, and is unexplained by changes in language, private political speech, or nonmoral persuasion. We theorize that the emergence of the modern state in the 1920s had psychopolitical consequences for the ways that people understood and communicated their relationships with their government, which was then reflected in the levers of persuasion chosen by political elites.
PSPB, 2020

Indirect measures of attitudes or stereotypes, such as the Implicit Association Test (IAT), assess associations that are relatively automatic, unintentional, or uncontrollable. A primary argument for the IAT’s use is that it can predict relevant outcomes beyond parallel direct measures, such as self-report (a claim referred to as demonstrating incremental predictive validity). Prior work on this issue relied primarily on least squares linear regression analyses, which are unable to correct for measurement (un)reliability and may then seriously inflate false positive rates in claims of incremental predictive validity. Properly accounting for the impact of measurement reliability requires using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). In a pre-registered analysis, we investigated 10 IATs and 250 outcomes variables ( N > 14,000), and found that 69.6% of outcomes were reliably correlated with the IAT. Among outcomes that were associated with both the IAT and self-report, the IAT showed incremental predictive validity in 58.6% of cases using least squares linear regression analysis and 59.2% of cases when using SEM, with the two analytic approaches reaching the same conclusion 91.4% of the time. Though the two analysis strategies largely converged, discrepancies were large enough to suggest a non trivial percentage of conclusions drawn from least squares linear regression will be erroneous. As only SEM properly accounts for measurement reliability, it should be adopted in future analyses. To facilitate that goal, we provide tools for researchers to complete SEM analyses on tests concerning the incremental predictive validity of the IAT.
JESP, 2019

Firearms are one of the central flashpoints in American life, and yet the motivations underlying their ownership have been generally understudied by psychologists. In this paper, I review work from across the social sciences to model the psychological utility that people get from gun ownership. I propose the Coping Model of Protective Gun Ownership, arguing that those who own their weapon for protection are using their gun symbolically as an aid to manage psychological threats - to their safety, control, and sense of belongingness - that come from their belief that the world is a dangerous place and that society will not keep them safe. I discuss the ramifications of this coping strategy and present a research agenda for exploring this framework.
Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2019

Which is more enjoyable: trying to think enjoyable thoughts or doing everyday solitary activities? Wilson et al (2014) found that American participants much preferred solitary everyday activities, such as reading or watching TV, to thinking for pleasure. To see whether this preference generalized outside of the United States, we replicated the study with 2,557 participants from 12 sites in 11 countries. The results were consistent in every country: Participants randomly assigned to do something reported significantly greater enjoyment than did participants randomly assigned to think for pleasure. Although we found systematic differences by country in how much participants enjoyed thinking for pleasure, these differences were fully accounted for by country-level variation in 5 individual differences, 4 of which were positively correlated with thinking for pleasure (need for cognition, openness to experience, meditation experience, and initial positive affect) and 1 of which was negatively correlated (reported phone usage).
JPSP, 2018

Recent Publications

More Publications

. A trade-off model of intentional thinking for pleasure. Emotion, 2021.


. The cultural dynamics of declining residential mobility. American Psychologist, 2021.


. Well-being in the time of COVID-19: Metaphors matter. IJP, 2021.


. Perceived economic risk (vs. health risk) motivates individual efforts to fight COVID‐19: a multilevel analysis in 24 countries. Scientific Reports, 2021.

. What makes thinking for pleasure pleasurable?. Emotion, 2020.

Preprint Dataset

. Many Labs 5: Testing pre-data collection peer review as an intervention to increase replicability. AMPPS, 2020.

Preprint Dataset

. Many Labs 5: Registered Replication Report of Vohs & Schooler (2008), Study 1. AMPPS, 2020.


. Happiness, meaning, and psychological richness. Affective Science, 2020.



'A True Friend with Six Hearts' - Using Firearms to Cope with Psychological Threat
Feb 29, 2020 11:00 AM
Guns as a Coping Mechanism
Feb 9, 2019 9:30 AM
Higher Population Density and Lower Meaning in Life
May 27, 2018 10:30 AM


Here are my conference posters, in case you’d like to take a look: