Graduate STEM Fellow Profile

Adam Johnson

Project Title: City as Lab
Thesis: N/A
College/University: City University of New York - Brooklyn College
Research Advisor: Curtis Hardin
Degree Sought: Ph.D., Psychology (Cognition, Brain and Behavior
Department: Psychology
Research Focus: Motivational determinants of political and ideological beliefs
Teaching Partner(s): Adam Schwartz, Susannah Ceraldi

Description of Research

Broadly, I am interested in studying the relational and epistemic motivations underlying social beliefs, especially political and ideological beliefs. More specifically, I am interested in explaining the functional value and nature of our flexible belief system (i.e. our ability to change beliefs and attitudes to meet situational and psychological needs). While much research has looked at the motivation to be closed-minded and to bolster one’s in-group worldview, especially in response to various threats, I hope to complement this research by understanding the variables that increase people’s motivation to be open-minded and curious about alternate worldviews, especially about alternate social and political belief systems. Further, I am researching factors that influence people’s openness to processing information and evidence that disconfirms existing beliefs.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience

Our project at the Academy of Urban Planning (AUP) in Brooklyn focuses on educating students about their role and the city’s role in sustaining various resource cycles. We focus on product and food cycles, from production to disposal, and our goal is to empower students to be Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling champions in their school and neighborhood. Since my research focuses on the motivational underpinnings of beliefs and attitudes, I try to bring this perspective into the classroom in three ways. First, my partner-teacher and I work to raise student awareness of how the decisions they make about consumption and waste feed into either environmentally detrimental or environmentally friendly cycles. Second, we study how attitudes about consumption and recycling develop, and how they can be effectively changed. Third, and most importantly, our students conduct experimental interventions in the school testing different methods for persuading their peers and teachers to be “greener.” Students brainstorm their intervention hypotheses, develop procedures for implementing the intervention and measuring its effect, analyze the data from the intervention, and make recommendations for how the school (and its community members) can make a greener AUP.