Each week for the next several weeks we’ll be highlighting Bryn Mawr’s newest faculty members. The College supports faculty excellence in both research and teaching and is committed to social justice and inclusion in the classroom and in the community at large.
My research investigates social and biological influences on the development of self-regulation, with a focus on adolescent risk taking and antisocial behavior. For instance, my dissertation research used experimental methods to identify immaturities in adolescent neuropsychological function associated with risky decision making in peer contexts. As a postdoctoral fellow, I broadened my focus to examine the interactive influence of genotype and environmental quality on brain and behavioral development. I plan to extend both lines of research at Bryn Mawr College. Laboratory-based research contrasting adolescent and adult neuropsychological function in variable social contexts will provide opportunities for undergraduates to gain experience with experimental methods. I will also involve students in my longitudinal research on genetic and environmental influences on brain development, using large observational datasets maintained by collaborators at Duke and elsewhere.
My research is focused on two broad topics. First, I’m interested in the emotions and attitudes that connect us to people, animals, and objects. Much of my recent work focuses on person-directed attitudes, such as resentment, contempt, guilt, and shame. I aim to give an account of the nature of these attitudes, what it means for them to be appropriate or justified, how they shape the way subjects see and respond to the world, what kind of knowledge they provide, on what grounds they may be criticized, and what role they should play in our moral lives. My second area of research concerns how we ought to respond to serious immorality and injustice. While contemporary moral theorists have given various accounts of right action, far less attention has been paid to the distinct moral trouble created by wrongdoing and what I call “badbeing.” Both wrongdoing and badbeing damage our relationships with other persons, and this is, I argue, a central component of what makes them objectionable. How should we respond to this relational damage? Should we affectively resist wrongdoing and badbeing with hostile emotions such as resentment and contempt, or should we strive to overcome these feelings though forgiveness? What sorts of considerations, if any, give persons reasons to forgive? Should institutions attempt to right historical wrongs by offering reparations or should we simply allow the memories of past injustice to slowly fade away? These and other pressing practical questions are just now beginning to receive philosophical attention.