Azim Shariff


Research Interests

Psychology of Religion
Evolutionary Psychology
Cultural Evolution
Moral Psychology
social psychology
Cross Cultural Psychology
Motivational Psychology
Philosophy of Religion
Human-technology interactions
Ethics of automation (self driving cars)

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Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Cultural change fast and slow : a novel measure of the speed of cultural change (2023)

What cross-national patterns of variation in the speed of cultural change exist? And whatexplains this variation? Prior research on cultural change has tended to focus on describing andexplaining changes along narrow dimensions of culture, while leaving these questions aboutbroader patterns of cultural change unaddressed. Due to this dimension-focused approach,cultural psychology has yet to develop any adequate methods for measuring cross-nationalvariation in the speed of cultural change. To address the gap in the literature, we repurposestatistical tools conventionally used to measure cross-national cultural distance and develop anindex measuring country-level rates of cultural change over the last 20 years: the cultural changeindex. We present our approach to building this index and provide an analysis of its statisticalproperties and robustness. We perform exploratory analyses that examine the correlation betweenthe cultural change index and a wide range of variables that prior research has identified aspotentially having a causal impact on the speed of cultural change. We find correlations with thecultural change index across five classes of predictor variables— socioeconomic development,globalization, gender equality, cultural orientations, and ecological factors. To conclude, wediscuss limitations of the present research and make recommendations for how future researchon this topic can build upon our measurement techniques and analytical approaches.

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Why do people choose their beliefs? A New Pluralist Perspective on belief regulation (2020)

Why do people choose their beliefs? Research on this question has been dominated by a Traditional Monist Perspective, assuming that people think reasoning must always be in service of producing unbiased, evidence-based beliefs, embodying Epistemic Value. But recent research hints at the possibility that this may be an unwarranted assumption. People knowingly hold incorrect beliefs (Walco & Risen, 2017), prescribe morally motivated reasoning to others (Cusimano & Lombrozo, 2020), and report not caring that much about Epistemic Value when directly asked (Ståhl, Zaal, & Skitka, 2016; Pennycook, Cheyne, Koehler, & Fugelsang, 2019). Extending this work, I propose a New Pluralist Perspective, arguing that people find it worthwhile to believe in service of non-epistemic goals, embodying other values. Based on a review of the motivated reasoning literature, I propose a non-exhaustive list of three non-epistemic values about believing that people could explicitly endorse: (1) Emotional Value (that beliefs can be valuable by supporting positive emotions), (2) Moral Value (that beliefs can be valuable by supporting a moral agenda), and (3) Affiliative Value (that beliefs can be valuable by supporting meaningful affiliations). In Study 1 (n=456), I develop a self-report scale, the Values about Belief Scale (VBS), to measure endorsement of these values. In Study 2 (n=207), I assess the convergent validity of the Emotional Value subscale, and its relationship with emotionally motivated beliefs. In Study 3 (n=449), I explore how Emotional Value predicts palliative beliefs about the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, in Study 4 (n=200) I explore how the non-epistemic values predict a classic case of motivate reasoning in action: system justification. Results generally support the New Pluralist Perspective over the Traditional Monist Perspective. I discuss the implications of the New Pluralist Perspective for the study of belief regulation.

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News Releases

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Member of G+PS
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