Saturday, October 6, 2012

About Me

I am Dr. James Benjamin, a social psychologist. My main area of expertise is human aggression - specifically the influence of situational cues on aggressive cognitions, affect, and behavior. I have a secondary research interest in political psychology - specifically the relationship between authoritarianism and various political attitudes.

I have been hesitant to start a blog, and had an unfortunate experience with a blogger a few years ago that left me very jaded regarding bloggers and blogging in general. The bottom line is that I learned the hard way that anyone with internet access can assume whatever identity he or she pleases, regardless of the real personal consequences for the person whose identity is taken; and that anyone else can, through anonymity or pseudonymity, subsequently lob accusations at the real person whose name has been assumed, with potential damaging professional consequences for that real person. My own experience as a victim left me questioning a good deal about how much information on blog platforms is actually real, and about the lack of editorial oversight and basic journalistic ethics currently endemic within the confines of what is called the blogosphere.

So why engage in an activity that I generally find useless? I suppose my main hope is to use this space as a sounding board for some ideas that I am working on, and perhaps by offering an informed, data-driven perspective on some issue on which I have some legitimate expertise, I can contribute to improving the quality of what is available on the so-called blogosphere. My secondary purpose is to get my identity back, so that those who from this day forward see my real name associated with blogging, they have some assurances that I am the person who wrote the words they are reading.

I won't post often, but when I do, whatever is written will meet what I consider crucial to good writing within this particular format: my conclusions will be based on existing data (either data that I have collected or data that others have collected and published in peer-review journals) and within the mainstream of my academic discipline. I often tell my students that any crackpot can start a blog. I have a short fuse when it comes to crackpots. In a sense this is a place to beta-test some thoughts, and perhaps set the stage for blogging via a more legitimate science blogging platform (such as is offered through the APA).

Nor will I post much (if at all) about my politics. Obviously, I have opinions on such matters, but they have little to no bearing on my research interests, and are so well within the mainstream as to be largely uninteresting to those looking for controversial reading material. Regardless, I seem to have taken a page from Bob Altemeyer, a social psychologist whom I know only through his writings, and chosen to compartmentalize my beliefs and my scholarship - preferring instead to follow the evidence wherever it may lead.

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