Steve studies misinformation and political polarization on social media using methods from experimental psychology and computational social science.
Steve is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge (Trinity College), where he studies as a Gates Cambridge Scholar as a member of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab. Previously, he studied Psychology and Symbolic Systems at Stanford University. He has published in journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and his research has been covered by outlets such as the BBC, NBC, and the Guardian. He has written about psychology for the Washington Post, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, and Psychology Today. He has received grants from the Center for Moral Understanding, Heterodox Academy, and AE foundation. His thesis was recently awarded the Psychology of Technology Dissertation Fellowship. In 2022, he will be a post-doctoral researcher at NYU with the Social Identity and Morality Lab, funded in part by a “Synergy Scholar” award from the Center for the Science of Moral Understanding.
To learn if you have shared fake news on Twitter, you can try out his web app “Have I Shared Fake News” here.
Download Steve’s CV.
PhD Psychology, 2022
University of Cambridge
BA in Psychology, Minor in Symbolic Systems, 2018
There has been growing concern about the role social media plays in political polarization. We investigated whether outgroup animosity was particularly successful at generating engagement on two of the largest social media platforms: Facebook and Twitter. Analyzing posts from news media accounts and US congressional members (n = 2,730,215), we found that posts about the political outgroup were shared or retweeted about twice as often as posts about the ingroup. Each individual term referring to the political outgroup increased the odds of a social media post being shared by 67%. Outgroup language consistently emerged as the strongest predictor of shares and retweets: the average effect size of outgroup language was about 4.8 times as strong as that of negative affect language, and about 6.7 times as strong as that of moral-emotional language – both established predictors of social media engagement. Language about the outgroup was a very strong predictor of “angry” reactions (the most popular reactions across all datasets), and language about the ingroup was a strong predictor of “love” reactions, reflecting ingroup favoritism and outgroup derogation. This outgroup effect was not moderated by political orientation or social media platform, but stronger effects were found among political leaders than among news media accounts. In sum, outgroup language is the strongest predictor of social media engagement across all relevant predictors measured, suggesting that social media may be creating perverse incentives for content expressing outgroup animosity.
Can attending live theatre improve empathy by immersing audience members in the stories of others? We tested this question across three field studies (n = 1622), including a pre-registered replication. We randomly assigned audience members to complete surveys either before or after seeing plays, and measured the effects of the plays on empathy, attitudes, and pro-social behavior. After, as compared to before, seeing the plays, people reported greater empathy for groups depicted in the shows, held opinions that were more consistent with socio-political issues highlighted in the shows, and donated more money to charities related to the shows. Seeing theatre also led participants to donate more to charities unrelated to the shows, suggesting that theatre’s effects on pro-sociality generalize to different contexts. Altogether, these findings suggest that theatre is more than mere entertainment; it can lead to tangible increases in empathy and pro-social behavior.