I am an Associate Professor in the Departments of Sociology, Psychology (by courtesy), and the Graduate School of Business (by courtesy) at Stanford University. Before this I was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley for six years. I received my Ph.D. (2006) and M.A. (2004) in Sociology from Cornell University.
Broadly speaking, I study the social forces that bring people together (norms, morality, altruism), mechanisms that divide them (threat, fear, prejudice), and social settings featuring the complex interplay of the two (hierarchies, politics).
One line of my research looks at how behavior and social interaction produce social order. I am interested in how moral values and social norms promote cooperation, generosity, and group solidarity. In this vein, I have studied how people's reputational concerns can motivate and sustain pro-group behaviors, and the role gossip plays in heightening those concerns. I also study the dynamics of status hierarchies in groups, with a focus on when and how group members come to agree on one another's rank in the group. Most recently, I have studied the role emotions play in the formation of moral judgments, and how those judgments in turn can promote cooperation and solidarity in groups.
I am also deeply interested in the forces shaping Americans’ political attitudes. Several of my papers in this area highlight the effects that different sources of threat - threats to masculinity, racial status, the security of the U.S., or the stability of the earth - have on a variety of politically-relevant outcomes, including belief in global warming and support for the Tea Party. I also study the application of political psychology findings for crafting effective political messages and occasionally consult in this area.
In my work I try to employ the research method that offers the most leverage on a given research question. As a result, I have used a wide array research methods, including laboratory and field experiments, large-scale surveys, archival research, social network analysis, physiological measurement, agent-based modeling, and direct observation of behavior.
My research has primarily appeared in sociology, psychology, and organizations journals, including the American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Annual Review of Sociology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, and Administrative Science Quarterly.
Sociology Department MC 2047
Main Quad - 450 Serra Mall
Building 120, Room 160
Stanford, CA 94305-2047
E-mail: willer at stanford.edu