Gears_labClashing views about right and wrong can be disruptive, but they can also spur social progress. The Applied Moral Psychology Lab examines conflict and peace through the lens of psychological science, asking questions like: How do individuals and groups thrive amid moral complexity? How do moral commitments reflect and shape basic information processing? 

Broadly, the research program aims to (a) build a mechanistic description of morality (e.g., values; blame and praise; attributions of responsibility) in terms of language and cognition; and, (b) increase understanding of how moral commitments and their cognitive-linguistic underpinnings can lead to well-being and discord.

To increase the chances that this endeavor is useful and accurate, the lab uses multiple methodologies to test models of moral cognition, and considers various kinds of exposure to morally relevant events (e.g., victims of crime, harm-doers, helpers).  

Ongoing projects include basic research on language and cognition in value-laden contexts — for example, the role of moral and political commitments in judgments of linguistic causality and quantitative information-processing. Other topics have broader relevance to social issues, such as: first responders’ stress injury; the partisan news media’s influence on moral judgments; victimization and self-injury; understanding of causation and mental health; and knowledge discrediting across demographic groups. 

Ultimately, being able to synthesize findings about which devices in language and thought lead to conflict or peace across the various personal and public roles people occupy will enrich the science of morality and reveal features of moral psychology that contribute to human flourishing.   

Some papers and commentaries below; see CV for updated list.

  • Stanley, M., Henne, P., Niemi, L., Sinnott-Armstrong, W., De Brigard, F. (accepted, 2021). Making moral principles suit yourself. Psychological Bulletin and Review. PDF
  • Niemi, L., Kniffin, K., & Doris, J. (in press, 2021). It’s Not the Flu: Popular Perceptions of the Impact of COVID-19 in the U.S. Frontiers in Psychology: Personality and Social Psychology. PDF
  • Niemi, L., Leone, C. & Young, L. (2021). Linguistic evidence for the dissociation between impurity and harm: Differences in the duration and scope of contamination versus injury, Social Cognition, 39(1), 126–148. PDF
  • Niemi, L., Hartshorne, J., Gerstenberg, T., Stanley, M., & Young, L. (2020). Moral values reveal the causality implicit in verb meaning. Cognitive Science. Preprint

  • Marginalia Science. [*Dietz, P., *Gantman, A., *Nam, H. H., *Niemi, L.] (2019). Marginalised ideas are key to scientific progress. Nature Human Behaviour, 3, 1024. Online
  • Niemi, L., & Young, L. (forthcoming). The moral psychology of victimization. In (Eds.) M. Vargas & J. Doris. Oxford Handbook of Moral Psychology. Oxford University Press: New York, NY. 
  • Niemi, L., Roussos, G., Young, L. (2019). Political partisanship alters the causality implicit in verb meaning. Journal of Language and Social Psychology. PDF.  
  • Henne, P., Niemi, L., Pinillos, A, De Brigard, F., Knobe, J. (2019). A counterfactual explanation of the action effect. Cognition. Preprint
  • Niemi, L., Leone, C., Boychuk, N., Hadjis, Z., Roussos, G., Warchol, M., You, L. (2019).  Extraordinary duties, extraordinary stressors: Assessing the need and potential for innovative approaches to first responders’ stress injuries. White paper: PDF.
  • Niemi, L., Woodring, M., Young, L., Cordes, S. (2019). Partisan mathematical processing of political polling statistics: It’s the expectations that count. Cognition,186, 95-107. PDF.
  •  Niemi, L. & Graham, J. (2018). Acknowledging and managing deep constraints on moral agency and the self. [Commentary on Doris]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, DOI 10.1017/S0140525X17001182. Online.
  • Niemi, L. (2018). The morally relevant consequences of disgust in the context of sexual assault. In N. Strohminger & V. Kumar (Eds.) The Moral Psychology of Disgust. 
  •  Niemi, L., Wasserman, E., Young, L. (2017). The behavioral and neural signatures of distinct conceptions of fairness. Social Neuroscience, DOI:10.1080/17470919.2017.1333452. PDF.
  • *Hamamouche, K, *Niemi, L., & Cordes, S. (2017). Quantifying a threat: Evidence of a numeric processing bias. *contributed equally. Acta Psychologica, 177, 1-9.
  •  Niemi, L. & Young, L. (2017). Who sees what as fair? Mapping individual differences in valuation of reciprocity, charity, and impartiality. Social Justice Research, DOI 10.1007/s11211-017-0291-4. PDF.
  •  Niemi, L. (2017). Victim-blaming. In K. Nadal (Ed.) The SAGE Encyclopedia of Psychology and Gender, pp. 1756-1757. London: UK. 
  •  Niemi, L. & Young, L. (2016). When and why we see victims as responsible: The impact of ideology on attitudes toward victims. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(9), 1227-1242. PDF
  • Niemi, L. & Young, L. (2016). Justice and the moral lexicon. Psychological Inquiry, 27(1), 50-54. PDF.
  • Niemi, L., Hartshorne, J., Gerstenberg, T. & Young, L. (2016). Implicit measurement of motivated causal attribution. Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
  • Niemi, L. & Young, L. (2014). Blaming the victim in the case of rape. Psychological Inquiry, 25(2), 230-233. PDF
  • Niemi, L. & Young, L. (2013). Caring across boundaries versus keeping boundaries intact: Links between moral values and interpersonal orientations. PLOS ONE, 8(12). PDF

*Contributed equally

Name changed from Laura Niemi Young (Young, L. N.) to Laura Niemi (Niemi, L.) in 2013.

My dissertation research was advised by Dr. Liane Young and conducted at the Morality Lab at Boston College and the Harvard Center for Brain Science. In this work “Interrogating Moral Values: The meta-ethical implications of associations among moral values, interpersonal orientations, and neural substrates”, I investigated the cognitive & neural mechanisms associated with people’s diverse views on morality. Access some previews of my papers.