From Principles to Practice: Methods to Increase the Transparency of Research Ethics in Violent Contexts (with Lauren Young). 2021. Political Science Research and Methods, FirstView: 1-8.
There has been a proliferation of research with human participants in violent contexts over the past ten years. Adhering to commonly held ethical principles such as beneficence, justice, and respect for persons is particularly important and challenging in research on violence. This letter argues that practices around research ethics in violent contexts should be reported more transparently in research outputs, and should be seen as a subset of research methods. We offer practical suggestions and empirical evidence from both within and outside of political science around risk assessments, mitigating the risk of distress and negative psychological outcomes, informed consent, and monitoring the incidence of potential harms. An analysis of published research on violence involving human participants from 2008 to 2019 shows that only a small proportion of current publications include any mention of these important dimensions of research ethics.
Teaching Trump: Why Comparative Politics Makes Students More Optimistic About US Democracy (with Robert A. Blair and Shelby Grossman). 2019. PS: Political Science & Politics 52(2): 347-52.
How does learning about democratic erosion in other countries shape opinions about the state of democracy in the United States today? We describe lessons learned from a collaborative course on democratic erosion taught at nearly two dozen universities during the 2017–18 academic year. We use survey data, student-written blog posts, exit questionnaires, and interviews with students who did and did not take the course to explore the effects of studying democratic erosion from a comparative perspective. Do comparisons foster optimism about the relative resilience of American democracy or pessimism about its vulnerability to the same risk factors that have damaged other democracies around the world? Somewhat to our surprise, we find that the course increased optimism about US democracy, instilling greater confidence in the relative strength and longevity of American democratic norms and institutions. We also find, however, that the course did not increase civic engagement and, if anything, appears to have exacerbated skepticism toward activities such as protest. Students who took the course became increasingly sensitive to the possibility that some forms of civic engagement reflect and intensify the same threats to democracy that the course emphasized—especially polarization.
The Criminal Justice System in Mexico (with Matthew Ingram). 2022. Chapter for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.
This chapter examines the criminal justice system in Mexico with a focus on the major constitutional reform to criminal procedure in 2008. Part 1 briefly situates the reform by providing background on Mexico’s political, legal, and security context. Part 2 discusses the reform’s de jure impact on the justice system and its de facto implementation. The reform touched every aspect of the criminal justice system, from police to prisons, and many elements of the reform promised to strengthen and democratize criminal justice with the aim of aligning institutional design and practices with principles of democratic governance and the rule of law. However, the reform’s implementation has been uneven and incomplete. Part 3 reviews the factors that helped reform implementation, and those that continue to hinder it. A group of legal practitioners, scholars and activists pushed for the reform, although, unsurprisingly, it has been challenging to advocate for due process and rights of the accused among both elites and the public amidst criminal wars. The forward and backward movement of criminal procedure reform is, we argue, an important part of the liberalizing and “illiberalizing” dynamics of democracy in Mexico. The chapter concludes with the reform’s implications for the quality of democracy in Mexico within the context of ongoing criminal wars, and suggests avenues for future research.
A Transformed Latin America in a Rapidly Changing World (with Abraham F. Lowenthal). 2015. In Jorge I. Domínguez and Ana Covarrubias (eds.). Routledge Handbook of Latin America in the World. Routledge: New York.
Why Human Rights are Losing their Good Reputation. Political Violence @ a Glance, July 28, 2021.
Democratic Erosion in Comparative Perspective: Lessons from a Multi-University Consortium (with Robert A. Blair, Jessica Gottlieb, and Shelby Grossman). 2019. In Finkel, Eugene, Adria Lawrence and Andrew Mertha (eds.). The US in Comparative Perspective. Newsletter of the Organized Section in Comparative Politics of the American Political Science Association. 29(1): 77-84.
Look Beyond Our Borders (with Robert A. Blair and Shelby Grossman). Inside Higher Ed, March 6, 2019.
Moral reasoning and support for punitive violence: A multi-methods analysis (with Omar García-Ponce, Jorge Olmos Camarillo, Lauren Young, and Thomas Zeitzoff), Revise & Resubmit.
When do residents in communities affected by violent crime support punitive violence? Are they less likely to support harsh punishments when they use moral principles to guide their decisions? Does the use of dehumanizing language to describe criminals predict support for harsh punishments? We document and analyze decisions about responding to crime from 62in-depth qualitative interviews with individuals affected by violence in the Mexican state of Michoacán to address these questions. We conduct a quantitative analysis of how different forms of moral reasoning are related to punishment preferences for specific crime events, and a qualitative content analysis to investigate mechanisms. We find that two types of moral reasoning are particularly associated with support for punitive punishments: “consequentialist” reasoning that involves weighing the costs and benefits of an action, and reasoning that dehumanizes accused criminals. “Deontological” reasoning about the right or just action, while extremely common, is used more equally across arguments for and against punitive violence. Analysis of social media posts of elites provides suggestive evidence that these patterns hold with elites who have more influence on the occurrence of violence events and criminal justice policy. Our results provide micro-foundations for theories that assume that consequentialist decision-making leads to support for punitive violence in high-violence, high-impunity settings, and show how psychological processes like dehumanization can feed into those processes.
Can Americans Depolarize? Assessing the Effects of Reciprocal Group Reflection on Partisan Polarization (with Robert A. Blair, Donghyun Danny Choi, Jessica Gottlieb, Laura Gamboa-Gutierrez, Amanda Lea Robinson, Steven C. Rosenzweig, Megan M. Turnbull, & Emily A. West), under review.
Overcoming America’s deep partisan polarization poses a unique challenge: Americans must be able to disagree on policy while nonetheless agreeing on more fundamental democratic principles. We study one model of depolarization—reciprocal group reflection—inspired by marital counseling and implemented by a non-governmental organization, “Braver Angels.” We randomly assigned undergraduate students at four universities either to participate in a Braver Angels workshop or simply to complete three rounds of surveys. The workshops significantly reduced polarization according to explicit and implicit measures. They also increased participants’ willingness to donate to programs aimed at depolarizing political conversations. These effects are consistent across partisan groups, though some dissipate over time. Using qualitative data collected during the workshops, we generate a new theory of depolarization that combines both informational and emotional components such that citizens, moved to empathize with an outgroup, become more likely to internalize new information about outgroup members.
Lynching and State Intervention in Mexico
Making or Breaking the Rule of Law? Attitudes toward Vigilante Crime Control in Mexico.
The limits of deliberation: A field experiment on criminal justice preferences in Mexico (with Omar García-Ponce, Lauren Young, and Thomas Zeitzoff).
Work in progress
The Causes and Effects of Lynchings in Mexico (with Sandra Ley & Lauren Young).
Ethically Measuring Violence (with Graeme Blair, Rebecca Littman, & Lauren Young).
Violence Research and the Dilemmas of Practical Engagement (With Marco Alcocer).