I use both qualitative and quantitative methods including ethnography, in-depth interviews, content analysis, survey analysis, archival research and field experiments. I am especially interested in expanding our methodological toolkit with ideas from cognitive sociology. In my most recent project I designed several field experiments that were conducted with people at my ethnographic fieldsites:
Several of these experiments were combined into a single package. The first field experiment in the package investigated areas of overlap between practical definitions of religion among atheists and evangelicals by having respondents rate the degree to which words from their combined free lists described the concepts of religion, atheism, spirituality, and Christianity. The second field experiment looked at how respondents imagined the field of religions by having them sort cards with the names of religions and religious denominations on them into piles that “go together.” Respondents then again sorted the same cards they had just sorted, but this time into piles that reflect those religions’ relationship to politics. The third exercise further explored the interplay between religion and politics by asking people to rate on a scale from one to nine whether certain public figures, for example the Dalai Lama or George W. Bush, were more political or religious. Lastly, the fourth experiment in the package asked people to respond to a series of vignettes designed to elicit their conceptions of the interplay between religion and politics, as well as further information about how they understood the category of religion itself.