University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Current Students

Daniel Chapman

Daniel Chapman received his BA in both Psychology and Government & Political Affairs in 2013 from Millersville University. As an undergraduate he conducted a number of research projects on how different types of psychological threat influence public policy preferences. He also served as a research assistant for an initiative in Millersville University’s Center for Disaster Research and Education involving academic institutions in four countries seeking to collaborate on topics related to natural disaster risk reduction and resiliency.

Daniel’s current interests fall broadly at an intersection between social psychology, environmental conservation, and international relations. In one area of research he is exploring psychological factors that affect adaptive responses to resource scarcity, environmental conflict, and projected climate change impacts. One current focus of this work is to develop frameworks of individual and group-level processes related to risk perceptions, resource management, adaptive capacity and disaster resiliency. His research also examines how individuals prepare and respond, both individually and collectively, to large-scale disaster events and instances of localized environmental degradation. He also has additional research interests in the role of emotions in conflict resolution and methods for improving the effectiveness of post-conflict justice procedures.

Given the complexity and multidimensionality of these issues, he is actively engaging in and pursuing further interdisciplinary collaborations with researchers in environmental conservation, sociology, political science, and marine science, among others.

Daniel Chapman’s Webpage

Mengyao Li

Mengyao Li received her BA in Psychology and Human Rights from Bard College.  As part of a study-abroad program, she studied human rights law and international politics at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. She has also worked at Soliya, an international NGO aiming to use new media technologies to promote cross-cultural understanding between Western and predominantly Muslim societies.

Broadly speaking, her research interests include the psychology of social justice, group-based violence, conflict resolution, and intergroup reconciliation. Her most recent research explored the role of retributive and restorative justice in conflict resolution and reconciliation. Currently, she is also interested in disentangling the link between intra-group and inter-group conflict. She hopes to conduct empirical research that will help better understand human rights issues and will contribute to a more peaceful international community.

Thomas O'Brien

Thomas received his AB in Psychology and Islamic and Near Eastern Studies from Washington University in 2009.  He conducted a senior thesis project on how reminders of historical injustice by one’s own nation affect willingness to criticize the nation. In 2008 he travelled to Tbilisi, Georgia to conduct field experiments involving memories of the Rose Revolution.  After college, Thomas interned with the International Center for Journalists in Washington D.C., and he wrote news briefs for the website Palestine Note.

He is now collecting data for a longitudinal project on cross-ethnic friendship among middle schoolers. In addition, he is also interested in framings and perceptions of intergroup conflict, emotions, and public support for different forms of third-party interventions. He was previously involved in program evaluation for PROOF: Media for Social Justice; their Rescuers Project exhibition, to be shown in Bosnia and Cambodia, which will showcase examples of individuals who have intervened in times of genocide or mass violence to rescue others. Thomas O'Brien was awarded a National Science Graduate Research Fellowship in 2013 for his purposed research on the effects of social identity and social categorization on persuasion in foreign policy attitudes.

Seyyed Nima Orazani

Nima received a Master of Science in Social Psychology in 2010 from Guilan University in Iran. Nima’s master’s thesis was about the relationship between religious style (authoritarian vs non-authoritarian) and sexism. His research with Dr. Chavoshian revealed that authoritarian religious styles lead people to have more sexist beliefs about women. Authoritarian religious people are close-minded to criticisms against their religious beliefs. These people process information concerning their religious belief system from top-down and therefore are either blinded to empirical findings and evidence or distort them in a way that fit into their religious beliefs. On the other hand, non-authoritarian religious people are open-minded to empirical evidence which is against their belief system and are willing to accept that some religious laws need to be changed. 

He is currently a research scholar at The University of Massachusetts Amherst. His current research interests are in collective action, moral disengagement, intergroup processes and related issues. Nima is especially interested in the social psychological aspects of religious violence and any other inhumane or immoral behaviors in which religious people might engage.

Hemapreya Selvanathan

Hema recently received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, majoring in Psychology with a topical minor in Human Functioning from the Biopsychosocial, Philosophical, Spiritual and Sociocultural Dimensions. During her undergraduate career, she served as a research apprentice on student-faculty collaborative projects. She was involved in an exploratory research on the psychological variables of the positive psychology phenomenon of mindfulness in healthy young adults. She also studied the unique patterns of religious orientation in predicting prejudice and prosociality. Following her interest in prejudice and discrimination, she had the opportunity to serve as a student academic apprentice for a course on stigma, prejudice and intergroup relations.

Her personal interest in intergroup contact led her to be involved in the on-campus interfaith organization, Better Together Eau Claire, an extension of the Chicago-based non-profit Interfaith Youth Core, aiming to promote interfaith dialogue, understanding and cooperation between people of different religious and non-religious affiliations.

She is currently interested in studying the importance and implications of building personally meaningful relationships between in-group and out-group members, and to further explore the intergroup contact theory in practice. Inspired by the idea of translating observations of the social context into empirical questions to guide research, she hopes to apply her work to promote peaceful coexistence between social groups across ethnic, religious and racial divide.

Rachel Steele

Rachel holds a Master’s in peace and justice studies from the University of San Diego. Most recently she worked at the United States Institute of Peace for three years addressing governance and legal issues in Iraq and post-conflict justice and reconciliation in a variety of settings. Prior to attending graduate school, she worked with peace activists in Seattle and volunteered in the Philippines with the Mennonite Central Committee working alongside local peace-builders.

To help address gaps in research on the effectiveness of war crimes trials and truth commissions, Rachel is exploring the conditions that can aid in a society’s psychological recovery from armed conflict and wide scale human rights abuses with a particular focus on the roles of reparations and apology. She would also like to investigate the roles of revenge and blame in the breakdown of the reconciliation process, which can lead to renewed conflict.