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ISS grants jump-start new social science research

By: Susan Kelley,  Cornell Chronicle
Wed, 01/10/2018

Are supporters of President Donald Trump increasing in prejudice? What’s the best way to end violence in Liberia during elections? Is Colombia ready for a sustainable boom in cocoa production?

These are a few of the questions Cornell social science faculty are answering, thanks to small grants from the Institute for the Social Sciences.

“We emphasize support for cutting-edge, basic, applied and computational social science where small amounts of funding can make a significant difference in leveraging future funding,” said Daniel T. Lichter, the ISS’s Robert S. Harrison Director and professor of policy analysis and management and of sociology. “For fall 2017, we were especially interested in supporting research on solving 21st-century problems, such as measures to mitigate rising social and economic inequalities.”

Melissa Ferguson, professor of psychology, is looking at whether Trump voters have been increasing in their prejudice over time. She’ll examine how the electorate is changing and what it means for intergroup behavior and prejudice, using methods and theory from psychology, political science and sociology, including network analyses and big data.

In the Department of Government, Assistant Professor Sabrina Karim will evaluate a pilot program she conducted in 2017 in Liberia. Its goal was to diminish violence during elections there, by changing the perceptions and behavior of youth party members and the police – key players in election violence. Karim facilitated and evaluated community dialogues and mentorship meetings between the two groups. With the grant funding, she’ll evaluate which methods worked best.

Eleonora Patacchini, professor of economics, and doctoral candidate Jorgen Harris are estimating just how much “information bubbles” maintain a person’s stereotypes. They’ll test the hypothesis that stereotypes persist because people associate mostly with like-minded individuals. The pair will track the degree to which judges hear cases argued by female lawyers and lawyers from less-prestigious law schools – exposure to outsiders that judges don’t control – and see if that affects who judges hire afterward.

Bias is also the focus of a project of assistant professors of psychology Khena Swallow and Amy Krosch and doctoral candidate Bohan Li. They’re conducting a study to see whether participants’ racial attitudes shift after they’ve memorized images of scenes, items and places while they were looking at a second stream of unrelated stimuli. Other studies have shown this method boosts participants’ memories of the images and increases how much they like them.

Miguel I. Gómez, associate professor of applied economics and management, is researching whether Colombia is ready for a sustainable cocoa boom. As the world’s appetite for chocolate grows, and Colombia’s long civil war plays out, higher cocoa production could catalyze economic activity in rural areas. But it could also cause undesirable environmental and social impacts. Gómez is creating a database of information on small-scale cocoa producers in three strategic regions to deepen understanding of these issues.

In the Department of Policy Analysis and Management, professor Sharon Sassler and assistant professor Laura Tach continue to explore how housing and labor market conditions influence the progression of romantic relationships.

Other grant projects include:

  • “Ottoman-Ethiopian Relations and the Geopolitics of Colonialism in East Africa,” Mostafa Minawi, assistant professor of history;
  • “The Effects of Employee Ownership on Executive Compensation,” assistant professors Michael T. PazChristopher Boone and Sean Rogersat the School of Hotel Administration;
  • “Articulating South Asian Feminist Visions for Technology,” Phoebe Sengers, associate professor of information science and of science and technology studies; Nicola Dell, assistant professor of information science; and doctoral candidate Palashi Vaghela;
  • “Reasoning and Trust,” Jed Stiglitz, associate professor of law;
  • “Embodying Social Inequality During a Time of War: A Bioarchaeological Study of Childhood Health in the Late Prehispanic Andes,” Matthew Velasco, assistant professor of anthropology; and
  • “Restoring Credit: How People Understand and Interact with Credit Scoring Systems,” Malte Ziewitz, assistant professor of science and technology studies, and doctoral candidate Ranjit Singh.

The ISS is also supporting two conferences on the Ithaca campus. “Thinking Big,” a conference/workshop on macrodevelopment policy, will bring together academics and policymakers June 24-26. The event will be led by Kaushik Basu, the C. Marks Professor of International Studies and Professor of Economics, and Julieta Caunedo, assistant professor of economics.

“Kings and Dictators” will explore Asia’s new authoritarians and the legacy of monarchy April 13-14. The conference is organized by Magnus Fiskesjö, associate professor of anthropology, and Kaja McGowan, associate professor of history.

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.