Below you can find links to most of my published papers and manuscripts in press or under review.
Ruisch, B. C. & Ferguson, M. J. (2022). Changes in Americans’ Prejudices During the Presidency of Donald Trump. Nature Human Behaviour.
Abstract: The presidency of Donald Trump represented a relatively unique event in modern American history, whereby a sitting U.S. president made numerous controversial remarks about minority groups yet nonetheless maintained significant public support. Trump’s comments constituted a departure from the egalitarian norms that had long characterized American political discourse. Here, we examine the potential effects of Trump’s rhetoric on Americans’ attitudes, predicting that these high-profile norm violations may have reshaped the personal prejudices of the American people. In 13 studies including over 10,000 participants, we tested how Americans’ prejudice changed following the political ascension of Donald Trump. We found that explicit racial and religious prejudice significantly increased among Trump’s supporters—whereas individuals opposed to Trump exhibited decreases in prejudice. Further, changing social norms appear to explain these changes in prejudice. These results suggest that Trump’s presidency coincided with a substantial change in the topography of prejudice in the United States.
Ruisch, B. C., Moore, C. A., Granados Samayoa, J. A., Boggs, S. T., Ladanyi, J. T., & Fazio, R. H. (2021). Examining the Left-Right Divide Through the Lens of a Global Crisis: Ideological Differences and Their Implications for Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Political Psychology.
Abstract: The COVID-19 disease pandemic is one of the most pressing global health issues of our time. Nevertheless, responses to the pandemic exhibit a stark ideological divide, with political conservatives (versus liberals/progressives) expressing less concern about the virus and less behavioral compliance with efforts to combat it. Drawing from decades of research on the psychological underpinnings of ideology, in four studies (total N = 4,441) we examine the factors that contribute to the ideological gap in pandemic response—across domains including personality (e.g., empathic concern), attitudes (e.g., trust in science), information (e.g., COVID-19 knowledge), vulnerability (e.g., preexisting medical conditions), demographics (e.g., education, income) and environment (e.g., local COVID-19 infection rates). This work provides insight into the most proximal drivers of this ideological divide, and also helps fill a longstanding theoretical and empirical gap regarding how these various ideological differences shape responses to complex real-world sociopolitical events. Among our key findings are the central role of attitude- and belief-related factors (e.g., trust in science and trust in Trump)—and the relatively weak influence of more domain-general personality factors (e.g., empathic concern, disgust sensitivity). We conclude by considering possible explanations for these findings and their broader implications for our understanding of political ideology.
Fazio, R. H., Ruisch, B. C., Moore, C. A., Granados Samayoa, J. A., Boggs, S. T., & Ladanyi, J. T. (2021). Social Distancing Decreases an Individual’s Likelihood of Contracting COVID-19. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Abstract: Past research has established the value of social distancing as a means of deterring the spread of COVID-19 largely by examining aggregate level data. Locales in which efforts were undertaken to encourage distancing experienced reductions in their rate of transmission. However, these aggregate results tell us little about the effectiveness of social distancing at the level of the individual, which is the question addressed by the current research. Four months after participating in a study assessing their social distancing behavior, 2,120 participants indicated whether they had contracted COVID-19. Importantly, the assessment of social distancing involved not only a self-report measure of how strictly participants had followed social distancing recommendations, but also a series of virtual behavior measures of social distancing. These simulations presented participants with graphical depictions mirroring specific real-world scenarios, asking them to position themselves in relation to others in the scene. Individuals’ social distancing behavior, particularly as assessed by the virtual behavior measure, predicted whether they contracted COVID-19 during the intervening four months. This was true when considering only participants who reported having tested positively for the virus and when considering additional participants who, although untested, believed that they had contracted the virus. The findings offer a unique form of additional evidence as to why individuals should practice social distancing. What the individual does matters, not only for the health of the collective, but also for the specific individual.
Fazio, R. H., Ruisch, B. C., Moore, C. A., Granados Samayoa, J. A., Boggs, S. T., & Ladanyi, J. T. (2021). Who is (not) complying with the social distancing directive and why? Testing a general framework of compliance with multiple measures of social distancing. PLOS ONE.
Abstract: A study involving over 2000 online participants tested a general framework regarding compliance with a directive in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study featured not only a self-report measure of social distancing but also behavioral measures — simulations that presented participants with graphical depictions mirroring multiple real-world scenarios and asked them to position themselves in relation to others in the scene. The conceptual framework highlights three essential components of a directive: (1) the source, some entity is advocating for a behavioral change; (2) the surrounding context, the directive is in response to some challenge; and (3) the target, the persons to whom the directive is addressed. Belief systems relevant to each of these three components are predicted, and were found, to relate to compliance with the social distancing directive. The implications of the findings for public service campaigns encouraging people to engage in social distancing are discussed.
Granados Samayoa, J. A., Ruisch, B. C., Moore, C. A., Boggs, S. T., Ladanyi, J. T., & Fazio, R. H. (2021). When does knowing better mean doing better? Trust in President Trump and in scientists moderates the relation between COVID-19 knowledge and social distancing. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties.
Abstract: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have sought to better understand the psychological characteristics associated with adoption of preventative behaviors. Several studies point to knowledge about the virus, trust in government officials, and trust in scientists as reliable predictors of social distancing, yet the exact nature of the relations between these predictor variables remains unexplored. Examining these relations in a study involving 998 participants, we found that less trust in former President Trump’s ability to guide the nation through the COVID-19 crisis and greater trust in scientists predicted greater COVID-19 knowledge. In turn, greater COVID-19 knowledge predicted greater social-distancing behavior, and did so most strongly among those who reported (1) relatively low levels of trust in Trump and (2) relatively high levels of trust in scientists. These findings add a layer of complexity to our understanding of how knowledge about an issue and trust in authority figures shape behavior, suggesting that in addition to predicting the amount of knowledge people have on a certain issue, trust may play role in influencing the perceived validity of that knowledge as a basis for behavior. The implications of this work for campaigns aimed at increasing compliance with scientific guidelines are discussed..
Ruisch, B. C., Anderson, R. A., Inbar, Y., & Pizarro, D. A. (2020). A matter of taste: Gustatory sensitivity shapes political ideology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Abstract: Previous research has shown that political attitudes are highly heritable, but the proximal physiological mechanisms that shape ideology remain largely unknown. Based on work suggesting possible ideological differences in genes related to low-level sensory processing, we predicted that taste (i.e., gustatory) sensitivity would be associated with political ideology. In 4 studies (combined N = 1,610) we test this hypothesis and find robust support for this association. In Studies 1-3, we find that sensitivity to the chemicals PROP and PTC – two well established measures of taste sensitivity – are associated with greater political conservatism. In Study 4, we find that fungiform papilla density, a proxy for taste bud density, also predicts greater conservatism, and that this relationship is partially mediated by disgust sensitivity. This work suggests that low-level physiological differences in sensory processing may shape an individual’s political attitudes.
Ruisch, B. C. & Stern, C. (2020). The confident conservative: Ideological differences in judgment and decision making Confidence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Abstract: Building on research that has shown ideological differences in epistemic needs to avoid ambiguity, we hypothesized that there may be broad and domain-general ideological differences in judgment and decision-making confidence. Across 13 studies (total N = 4,346), we find support for this prediction, finding that political conservatives tend to exhibit greater judgment confidence than do liberals. In Studies 1A-1F, we find that conservatives are more confident in a wide range of basic judgment/decision-making tasks (e.g., numerical estimation, memory recall). In Studies 2A and 2B, we find that the conservatism-confidence link is robust to manipulations of features of the decision task (e.g., manifesting across both easy and hard tasks). In Studies 3A and 3B, we find that this effect manifests not only in subjective feelings of confidence, but also on another conceptually analogous measure of confidence. In Study 4, we find that this effect emerges even when participants are provided with an objective benchmark by which to judge their responses. In Studies 5A and 5B, we examine the mechanism behind this effect. We find that the need for cognitive closure (the psychological motivation to “seize and freeze” on an answer when faced with a decision) explains, in part, the conservatism-confidence relationship. Specifically, when faced with a decision, conservatives tend to make a more rapid and final choice. Liberals, meanwhile, deliberate longer on possible alternative answers, which undercuts their confidence in their own judgments. Results are considered in light of the current “post-truth” U.S. political landscape.
Ruisch, B. C., Shook, N. J., & Fazio, R. H. (2020). Of unbiased beans and slanted stocks: Neutral stimuli reveal the fundamental relation between political ideology and exploratory behaviour. British Journal of Psychology. doi: 10.1111/bjop.12455
Abstract: Fiagbenu et al . (2019, British Journal of Psychology ) questioned the nature and extent of ideological differences in learning and behaviour documented by Shook and Fazio (2009, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology , 45, 995). We correct a mischaracterization in their depiction of Shook & Fazio’s research, and in doing so, we outline why the original findings represent domain‐general ideological differences in attitude‐formation processes, rather than simple differences in responses to physical threat. We also report new data that suggest a potential mechanism for the authors’ findings and further highlight the importance of novel, ideologically neutral stimuli when examining fundamental psychological differences between liberals and conservatives.
Anderson, R. A., Ruisch, B. C., & Pizarro, D. A. (2020). Differentiating between different forms of moral obligations. Brain and Behavioral Sciences.
Abstract: We argue that Tomasello’s account of the moral psychology of obligation overlooks important psychological distinctions between how humans judge different types of moral obligations, such as prescriptive obligations (i.e., what one should do) and proscriptive obligations (i.e., what one should not do). Specifically, evaluating these different types of obligations rests on different psychological inputs and has distinct downstream consequences for judgments of moral character.
Ruisch, B., Cone, J., Shen, X., & Ferguson, M. (2018). Dual- and single-process perspectives on the role of threat detection in evaluation. Psychological Inquiry.
Abstract: We outline two broad theoretical issues that are especially relevant for evaluating and interpreting the dual implicit processes model (DIPM). First, we consider the conceptual distinction between threatening and other negative stimuli. We then discuss the extent to which the current evidence supports the conclusion that threatening and nonthreatening stimuli exhibit qualitatively different processing characteristics. We focus particularly on whether it is currently empirically justified to posit the existence of a distinct process responsible for threat detection that is independent of other implicit evaluative processes. Second, we seek to broaden the theoretical “playing field” to consider alternative models that propose the existence of multiple, dissociable implicit processes that may operate in the context of implicit evaluation. We also consider single-process models that propose that the dissociations between implicit and explicit evaluation are not explained by a distinction in underlying mental representation, process, or structure. Finally, we examine whether single-process models may be able to successfully account for the apparent privileged processing of threat in implicit evaluation, and what these models might suggest about how threat processing may operate, if not via a distinct threat detection process or system.
Ruisch, B., Anderson, R., & Pizarro, D. (2018). The challenge of accounting for individual differences in folk-economic beliefs. Brain and Behavioral Sciences.
Abstract: We argue that existing data on folk-economic beliefs (FEBs) present challenges to Boyer & Petersen’s model. Specifically, the widespread individual variation in endorsement of FEBs casts doubt on the claim that humans are evolutionarily predisposed towards particular economic beliefs. Additionally, the authors’ model cannot account for the systematic covariance between certain FEBs, such as those observed in distinct political ideologies.
Rosenzweig, C, Ruisch, B., & Stern, C. (2018). Accumulative fusion and the issue of age: Reconciling the model with the data. Brain and Behavioral Sciences.
Abstract: We discuss a disconnect between the predictions of Whitehouse’s model regarding the accumulative nature of fusion and real-world data regarding the age at which people generally engage in self-sacrifice. We argue that incorporating the link between age and identity development into Whitehouse’s theoretical framework is central to understanding when and why people engage in self-sacrifice on behalf of the group.
Hennes, E. P., Ruisch, B. C., Feygina, I., Monteiro, C.A., & Jost, J. T. (2016). Motivated Recall in the Service of the Economic System: The Case of Anthropogenic Climate Change. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 145(6), 755.
Abstract: The contemporary political landscape is characterized by numerous divisive issues. Unlike many other issues, however, much of the disagreement about climate change centers not on how best to take action to address the problem, but on whether the problem exists at all. Psychological studies indicate that, to the extent that sustainability initiatives are seen as threatening to the socioeconomic system, individuals may downplay environmental problems in order to defend and protect the status quo. In the current research, participants were presented with scientific information about climate change and later asked to recall details of what they had learned. Individuals who were experimentally induced (Study 1) or dispositionally inclined (Studies 2 and 3) to justify the economic system misremembered the evidence to be less serious, and this was associated with increased skepticism. However, when high system justifiers were led to believe that the economy was in a recovery, they recalled climate change information to be more serious than did those assigned to a control condition. When low system justifiers were led to believe that the economy was in recession, they recalled the information to be less serious (Study 3). These findings suggest that because system justification can impact information processing, simply providing the public with scientific evidence may be insufficient to inspire action to mitigate climate change. However, linking environmental information to statements about the strength of the economic system may satiate system justification needs and break the psychological link between proenvironmental initiatives and economic risk.
Manuscripts Under Review
Ruisch, B. C., Lewis, Jr. N., A., Ferguson, M. J. (accepted in principle). When and why women are (dis)favored in the hiring process: The effects of gender and qualification strength on hiring decisions. Nature Human Behaviour. (original research and registered report proposal)
Abstract: Decades of social scientific research has found that women face discrimination in stereotypically masculine occupations and domains, such as leadership, the workplace, and academia. However, a recent series of large-scale hiring experiments by Williams and Ceci (2015A) challenged this conclusion, finding that not only were women not disadvantaged in academic hiring, they were actually favored at a rate of 2 to 1. These findings raise questions about whether gender bias may have declined – or perhaps even reversed – in the decades that have elapsed since most classic research on gender bias was conducted. In this work, we propose a replication and extension of Williams and Ceci (2015A) to provide additional insight into the questions of whether and when women may be advantaged in academic hiring. In four pilot studies (total N = 2,459), we identify two possible boundary conditions that may limit the generalizability of Williams and Ceci (2015A), suggesting that this pro-woman bias may be limited to 1) exceptionally qualified women and 2) subjective, non-zero-sum outcome measures (e.g., those measuring verbal praise rather than allocations of objective resources like salary and start-up funding). In our registered report proposal, we plan to extend these findings to a sample of tenure-track academics to provide a more ecologically valid test of these questions. In doing so, we aim both to provide a better understanding of this highly influential set of studies, as well as to shed greater light on the current state of gender bias in academia and beyond.
Ruisch, B., C., Anderson, R. A., & Krosch, A. (invited resubmission, 3rd round). Are there ideological differences in intergroup bias? Examining liberal-conservative (a)symmetries in minimal groups cognition and behavior. Nature Human Behaviour. (original research and registered report proposal)
Abstract: The liberal-conservative divide is one of the most contentious divisions in modern society. Several influential theoretical perspectives contend that this divide hinges primarily on orientations towards social groups, such that conservatives (versus liberals) generally tend to be more oriented towards protecting and benefitting their social “ingroups” (i.e., social groups to which they themselves belong), and exhibiting greater discrimination and aggression towards social “outgroups.” However, empirical support for this theoretical perspective has been mixed. We argue that the empirical stalemate that characterizes this area of research stems from inherent limitations of the research paradigm used by both sides of the debate: examining attitudes towards real-world social groups. Drawing on research and theory from the social identity literature, we propose a novel approach—using “minimal groups” (i.e., experimentally constructed groups)—to answer whether, when, and why ideological differences in intergroup bias may exist. In this Registered Report proposal, we describe pilot data that we have collected that provide new insights into this longstanding debate, documenting both ideological symmetries and asymmetries in intergroup cognition, and suggesting that ideological extremity may also independently play a role in driving intergroup bias. We then propose additional research to more decisively answer these questions. We believe that this research will help reconcile this longstanding debate and provide a deeper understanding of the psychological underpinnings of political ideology.
Ruisch, B. C., Manzi, F., & Scheepers, D. (under review). How the (Perceived) Ideological Trajectory of Society Drives Support for Anti-Democratic Behavior. PsyArXiv. doi: 10.31234/osf.io/cqs9j
Abstract: Nations around the world have been witnessing a gradual erosion of democracy. Explanations for why citizens increasingly support anti-democratic behavior range from concern about changing racial/ethnic demographics to growing polarization and cues from political elites. In 13 studies (total N = 9,766), we propose and test an alternative, more parsimonious account for why some people support anti-democratic behavior—and why this support often appears to be higher among those on the political right. We find that people—both liberal and conservative alike—perceive that society is becoming increasingly liberal over time. This leads to feelings of advancement and growth among liberals, but creates a sense of collective threat among conservatives, who fear for the continued existence of their ideological group. This sense of threat, in turn, drives greater support for anti-democratic behavior aimed at protecting and advancing their group’s aims. Importantly, however, leading liberals to experience similar levels of collective threat affects their support for anti-democratic behavior in parallel ways, demonstrating that these processes are rooted in a shared psychology of threat that is common to both left and right.
Ruisch, B. C., Fazio, R. H., & Scheepers, D. (under review). Sensitive Conservatives and Unfeeling Liberals? Examining the Relation between Interoceptive Sensitivity and Political Ideology. (Original Research and Registered Report Proposal)
[ Paper Coming Soon ] [ OSF Site ]
Abstract: The stark divide between the political right and left is rooted in conflicting beliefs, values, and personality—and, recent research suggests, perhaps even lower-level physiological differences between individuals. In this work, we investigate a novel domain of potential ideological differences in physiological processes: interoceptive sensitivity—that is, a person’s attunement to their own internal bodily states and signals (e.g., physiological arousal, pain, and respiration). Building on recent pilot data we collected, we predict that greater interoceptive sensitivity is associated with political conservatism. Specifically, we hypothesize that interoceptive sensitivity increases a person’s (1) faith in intuition and (2) disgust sensitivity—which, in turn, lead to the adoption of more conservative political positions. We test these predictions in two studies: one carefully controlled laboratory study using a physiological heartbeat detection task (the current gold standard measure of interoceptive sensitivity) and one large-scale online study employing an innovative webcam-based measure of interoceptive sensitivity.
Ruisch, B. C., Boggs, S. T., Moore, C. A., Granados-Samayoa, J., Ladanyi, J. T., & Fazio, R. H. (under review). Investigating the conservatism-disgust paradox in reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic: A critical reexamination of the interrelations between political ideology, disgust sensitivity, and pandemic response.
Abstract: Research has documented robust associations between greater disgust sensitivity and (1) concern about disease, and (2) political conservatism. However, the COVID-19 disease pandemic raised challenging questions about these associations. In particular, why have conservatives—despite their greater disgust sensitivity—exhibited less concern about the pandemic? Here, we aim to resolve this “conservatism-disgust paradox” and address several outstanding theoretical questions regarding the interrelations between disgust sensitivity, ideology, and pandemic response. In four studies (N=1,764), we identify several methodological and conceptual factors—in particular, an overreliance on self-report measures—that likely inflated, or even wholly created, the apparent associations between these constructs. Using non-self-report measures, we find that disgust sensitivity is a far less potent predictor of disease avoidance than is typically believed, and that ideological differences in disgust sensitivity may be limited to self-report measures. These findings help resolve this paradox, while providing important insight into the nature of these associations.
Stern, C., Ruisch, B. C., & Rule, N. O. (under review). Political Conservatism (But Not Ideological Extremity) Predicts Metacognitive Confidence in Social Categorization Judgments.
[ Paper and OSF Site Coming Soon ]
Abstract: People routinely infer others’ social groups (such as their race, sex, and sexual orientation) with accuracy that tends to exceed chance. But beyond objective accuracy, individuals vary in their subjective certainty in categorizing others—i.e., their metacognitive confidence, or how accurate they feel their judgments are—differences that could hold important implications for intergroup outcomes. Scholars currently know little about the factors that shape individuals’ confidence in categorizing others. Here, we examined how political ideology relates to categorization confidence. Across 13 studies (total N = 4,386), we test the prediction that conservatives feel more confident in their judgments of others’ social groups than liberals. We contrast this with the competing prediction based on prior research that ideological extremists—both conservative and liberal alike—feel more confident. We find robust support for the former hypothesis: Conservatives express greater confidence in judgments of sex, gender, race, sexual orientation, and political party. However, we observe little evidence that extreme individuals feel more confident. Importantly, conservatives were not more accurate judges. Rather, their preference for more intuitive (vs. deliberative) reasoning and greater prejudice toward lower status groups partially explained ideological differences in confidence. Further, conservatives’ greater confidence helped explain their greater stereotyping of novel targets.
Anderson, R. A., Ruisch, B. C., & Pizarro, D. A. (under review). On the highway to hell: Slippery slope perceptions in moral judgment.
Abstract: Across eight studies (total N = 2,989), we find support for the hypothesis that people exhibit “slippery slope” thinking in their judgments of moral character, such that committing a single immoral act is seen to (a) lead to a lasting negative shift in a person’s character and (b) increase a person’s likelihood of committing additional immoral acts in the future. In Studies 1-3b we document the slippery slope effect, finding that a person who commits an immoral act is judged as subsequently more likely to commit additional immoral acts, and as generally having worse moral character in the future than in the past. In Studies 4a-4b, we also find that it is the commission of an immoral act specifically—rather than merely intending or attempting to commit an immoral act—that gives rise to this slippery slope effect on judgments. In Study 5, we find that the slippery slope effect is most likely to occur for subsequent immoral acts that are perceived as similar to the initial act. Finally, in Study 6 we test two potential psychological mechanisms underlying this effect: (1) that an immoral act is seen to “corrupt” a peron’s moral character and (2) that the rewards and punishments that result from committing an immoral act shape future moral behavior. We find that only the former mediates the slippery slope effect, indicating that this effect does not stem from the possible positive consequences of the immoral act for the agent (e.g., beliefs that “crime pays”), but instead from a perceived corrupting of moral character. In contrast to “consistency-in-character” models of moral judgment, we find that people judge immoral behavior as indelibly corrupting the character of a moral agent.
Boggs, S. T., Ruisch, B. C., & Fazio, R. H. (under review). Salient disease threats increase sensitivity to disgust.
Abstract: Individuals vary substantially in their sensitivity to disgust—differences that have implications for intergroup attitudes, political ideology, and beyond. However, the source of this variability in disgust sensitivity remains a subject of debate. In this work, we test the hypothesis that sensitivity to disgust is “calibrated” by an individual’s concern about disease threats in their local ecology. Leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic, we obtain strong support for this hypothesis, finding that disgust sensitivity increased following the COVID-19 outbreak and that the degree of this increase was moderated by an individual’s subjective concern about contracting the disease. This work fills a longstanding theoretical gap regarding the sources of variability in disgust sensitivity, while challenging the view that disgust sensitivity is an immutable individual difference. Given the role of disgust in motivating intergroup prejudice and right-wing ideologies, we anticipate that these increases in disgust sensitivity are likely to have important downstream societal implications.
Moore, C. A., Ruisch, B. C., Granados-Samayoa, J., Boggs, S. T., Ladanyi, J. T., & Fazio, R. H. (under review). Contracting COVID-19: A Longitudinal Investigation of the Impact of Beliefs and Knowledge.
Abstract: Recent work has found that an individual’s beliefs and personal characteristics can impact perceptions of and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Certain individuals—such as those who are politically conservative, endorse conspiracy theories, or who believe the threat of COVID-19 to be exaggerated—are less likely to engage in such preventative behaviors as social distancing. The current research aims to address whether these individual difference variables not only affect people’s subjective and behavioral reactions to the pandemic, but also whether they actually impact individuals’ likelihood of contracting COVID-19. In the early months of the pandemic, U.S. participants responded to a variety of individual difference measures as well as questions specific to COVID-19 and the pandemic itself. Four months later, 2,120 of these participants responded with whether they had contracted COVID-19. Nearly all of our included individual difference measures significantly predicted whether a person reported believing they had contracted COVID-19 as well as whether they had actually tested positive for the virus in this four-month period. Additional analyses revealed that all of these relationships were primarily mediated by whether participants held accurate knowledge about COVID-19. These findings offer useful insights for developing more effective interventions aimed at slowing the spread of both COVID-19 and future diseases. Moreover, some findings offer critical tests of the validity of such theoretical frameworks as those concerning conspiratorial ideation and disgust sensitivity within a real-world context.