Michael H. Pasek
I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The New School for Social Research and Artis International, where I work with Dr. Jeremy Ginges.
I completed my Ph.D. in social psychology at The Pennsylvania State University in 2018, and earned a B.A. from Bates College in 2012.
Eighty-four percent of the world’s population is religious and religion has historically played a central role in intergroup conflict. Despite this reality, social psychology has dedicated considerably less attention to religious intergroup relations than to relations between other social groups. There are reasons to think that religion might operate in ways that differ from other identities, such as gender or race. For one, religious identities can often be concealed. Moreover, religious affiliations are accompanied by religious beliefs, which simultaneously strengthen these identities and impart norms of behavior that could either exacerbate or attenuate intergroup conflict.
My work examines the social psychology of religious bias by asking two interrelated questions: First, how do people experience their religious identities when those identities are under real or perceived threat? Second, how does the presence of religious belief systems shape intergroup attitudes and behaviors?
In trying to understand what makes religious intergroup conflict unique, I am interested in the potential for social psychological interventions to promote religious tolerance. From this perspective, in another line of research I examine how targeted interventions can help members of marginalized groups better cope in stereotype-laden social environments. I have conducted this work with other social categories (e.g., race) with the intention to extend lessons from intervention science to the study of religious identity.
Using cross-cultural field research, longitudinal studies, controlled experiments, and surveys, my work expands social psychology beyond WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) populations to build ecologically valid, culturally informed, and contextually grounded theories on intergroup relations. I also use diverse statistical methods, including multilevel modeling, to rigorously assess the multifaceted role religion plays in human behavior and to elucidate how theory-informed interventions can foster intergroup harmony.
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