Professor Williams will supervise one- and two-semester research projects in social psychology. One-semester projects will involve conducting a literature review and writing a research proposal. Two-semester projects will involve conducting an experimental study and writing an empirical paper. Projects will relate to the topics described below.
Evolution and Human Behavior
Humans have faced recurrent adaptive challenges throughout our evolutionary history. How might this influence our psychology today? How do fundamental goals pursued by all human beings (e.g., avoiding disease, finding mates, maintaining friendships, caring for kin) shape behaviors ranging from electing leaders to purchasing consumer products? My research draws upon evolutionary theory to help understand behavior in areas as diverse as cooperation, social influence, prejudice, and dehumanization. I am open to working with students seeking to apply an evolutionary lens to a variety of social phenomena.
Person Perception (Ecology Stereotypes)
The way we perceive, categorize, and feel towards others affects our judgments and behavior. Why and how are social perceivers influenced by particular characteristics of targets? Which cues do we use to categorize others, and how might these categories interact to shape our impressions of individuals and groups? My current research primarily explores “ecology stereotypes” – beliefs about how people from different environments are likely to think and behave – and their implications for understanding race stereotypes in America.
Psychology and Law
A growing body of literature applies social psychological principles to a legal context. I am open to exploring a variety of topics within this area, including: jury decision-making; expert testimony; criminal responsibility; risk assessment; and the influence of extralegal variables on sentencing. For example, my research has examined how the availability of resources in the environment influences people’s punishment preferences: Perceived scarcity leads to greater endorsement of the death penalty.