My primary research interests are in moral judgment, the effects of emotion on judgment, and on the overlap between these two. In my lab in the psychology department at Cornell we also study a wide range of topics involving emotion, judgment, and behavior.
But here's more detail if you're interested:
One of my primary interests is in how people arrive at judgments about moral responsibility. Most people seem to have intuitions about what sorts of things matter when determining whether a person deserves blame (or praise) for any given act. For instance, people seem to believe that in order to be held responsible for something a person should have (among other things) intended and caused the event in question, and that unintended or accidental actions usually receive less blame. Some of our work has documented just how sophisticated these lay intuitions can actually be (e.g., Pizarro, Uhlmann & Bloom, 2003; Pizarro, Uhlmann & Salovey, 2003).
Yet these judgments can also be influenced by biases people may not be aware they possess (e.g., attributing a greater degree of intentionality for an act to someone simply because the act or individual is particularly disliked). In our lab we have investigated both the nature of the underlying intuitions about responsibility (intuitions that individuals endorse as “correct”), as well as the biases that can affect these judgments. Lately we have also been investigating the nature of beliefs about free will and judgments of responsibility.
Emotion and Judgment
In our lab (primarily in collaboration with Yoel Inbar), we have shown that an increased tendency to experience disgust (as measured using the Disgust Sensitivity Scale, developed by Jon Haidt and colleagues), is related to political orientation (Inbar, Pizarro, & Bloom, 2009). The more likely people report that they are easily disgusted, the more likely they are to report that they are politically conservative (or, just as accurately, the less disgust individuals report the more likely they are to be politically liberal). Such disgust sensitivity seems to only predict attitudes in the “sociomoral” domain, such as attitudes toward gay marriage and abortion, rather than other features associated with conservative belief (such as fiscal attitudes or beliefs about foreign policy). Most recently, with the group of psychologists at yourmorals.org, we have demonstrated this in a much larger sample of respondents from around the US and in 121 countries throughout the world (Inbar, Pizarro, Iyer & Haidt, 2012).
We have also shown that even for people who may not be willing (or aware) of their attitudes toward homosexuality, the degree of disgust sensitivity predicts so-called “implicit” attitudes toward homosexuality (Inbar, Pizarro, Knobe & Bloom, 2009). Finally, in ongoing work we have shown that manipulating disgust with a noxious odor leads to more negative attitudes toward gay men (Inbar, Pizarro, & Bloom, ).
I also have a general interest in the influence of emotional states on thinking and deciding. I am particularly interested in specific emotions (anger, disgust, fear, etc.), and on “visceral” affective states (e.g., thirst, hunger, sexual arousal) and their impact on how we process information, how we remember events, and how these emotions impact our moral judgments. We have shown, for instance, that people become insensitive to the risks of a gamble taken to win chocolate chip cookies when the smell of freshly-baked cookies permeates the lab, and that men report a greater willingness to engage in risky sexual behavior when sexually aroused (Ditto et al., 2006).