Conceptually, I’m interested in the use of language as a window to the mind. My specific research interests are in those higher-order cognitive processes one might identify as being uniquely human and how we come to understand each other as such (e.g., modeling of other minds, especially when fictional; moral evaluation of others’ hypothetical actions across time; the effect of neurostimulation on evaluation of everyday moral dilemmas; belief and disbelief in free will and its behavioral and cognitive effects). Thus, my interests span the cognitive and brain sciences. Research in my lab currently focuses on three areas of emphasis: (1) Situational Models in Fiction, (2) Everyday Moral Cognition, and (3) the Psychology of Free Will and Neuroethics.
How does reading about fictional characters affect the way in which we regard and empathize with real-life individuals, as well as afford them moral worth? How do people produce novel uses of ordinary words to create great poetry (and sometimes quite awful poetry)? How do people categorize a situation as morally worthy of some action or otherwise fail to act? What are the ethical implications of modern neuroscientific findings, and how does this research inform theories of cognition?
After graduating from The University of Georgia, I obtained my Ph.D. from Temple University’s program in Brain, Behavior, and Cognition. My research interests are in higher-order cognition and span the cognitive and brain sciences. Research in my lab focuses on investigating the relation between exposure to fiction and empathy, the psychology and neuroscience of moral cognition, the costs and benefits of believing in free will, creativity in poetic composition, language as a tool for ‘extended’ cognition, and the personal and societal implications of neuroscientific research.
I believe that a proper account of any psychological process—let alone topics like creativity and morality one often associates with what makes human beings unique in the animal kingdom—must embrace multiple behavioral methodologies, philosophical perspectives, and new neuroscience techniques.
A list of recent publications can be found here.
If you are interested in research opportunities as graduate student or undergraduate student, please follow this link.
More information and pictures to be posted!
Spring 2015: Congrats to Alex Fennell on winning an undergraduate research award for “Judging Right From Wrong: An Investigation into Factors Influencing Moral Judgments,” mentored by myself and Evangelia Chrysikou! Read more here.