My name is Cliff. I’m a postdoctoral fellow in the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics, located at the University of Pennsylvania and directed by Professor Anjan Chatterjee. My research investigates the dark side of morality. Morality refers to the values and customs that guide social behavior within groups. This guidance is provided by signals emerging from the integration of intuitive and deliberative psychological processes.
When morality works properly, it enables compassion for those in need, it provides the courage to stand up to bad guys, and it stops us from hurting the people who anger us, and much more. What happens, however, when it fails to work properly? For example, can our moral intuitions sometimes impair our social functioning? Are some of our moral intuitions about ourselves and others susceptible to features that aren’t relevant (or shouldn’t be, at least), like the physical attractiveness of our social partners? Why do some people but not others feel so convicted about moral issues that they believe the need for violence outweighs social rules against physically harming others? Can individuals unlearn this belief and, if so, how? With these questions in mind, I am currently working on projects examining:
1. The role of moral emotions in aesthetic evaluations and their shared neural substrates.
2. The neurocognitive mechanisms underpinning support for ideologically-motivated violence.
3. The psychological dispositions and neural markers that predict moral inspiration’s influence on prosocial behavior.
4. The behavioral and neurocognitive correlates of experiencing epistemic injustice by having one’s credibility repeatedly undermined.
5. Abnormal social functioning in psychiatric disorders (e.g., the social consequences of excessive and overgeneralized guilt in major depressive disorder)