Naomi Fa-Kaji is a PhD candidate in organizational behavior. She holds a BA in psychology and sociology from Rice University. Her research interests broadly fall into two categories: the first concerns how people make sense of the world and how they react when their worldview is challenged; the second focuses on inter- and intragroup dynamics, particularly in the context of social hierarchies (e.g., race, gender). Her dissertation examines how people’s attempts to understand harmful events can act as a potential mechanism of polarization. In other projects, she examines strategies for confronting prejudice, judgments about the trustworthiness of groups, and how race and age hierarchies intersect to determine to whom we extend protection and who
may be shielded from age-based discrimination.
Seeing Harm, Thinking “Humans:” Perceptions of Harm Prompt Human-Driven Explanations
When something harmful happens – such as a wildfire or a disease epidemic – people seek to understand why it occurred. This research examines how the causal attributions people make when faced with harmful events impact perceived polarization in society. I have found that the more harmful the outcome of the event, the more people attribute it to human causes. These attributions increase the perceived degree of polarization in society and people’s negativity toward their ideological opponents. Going forward, the goals of this research are to identify the underlying mechanism and to explore ways of intervening to mitigate the negative downstream consequences.
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