About Us

Who are we?
We are an interdisciplinary group that conducts community-centered research to explore the psychology behind how disasters are understood, with a focus on the societal inequality and injustice by which risk profiles are defined. We aim to support risk reduction in Floridian communities by providing empirical evidence for different ways to tell disaster stories, frame problems and solutions, and motivate community efforts for organization and policy change.

What do we do?
We use diverse methods to understand the psychology behind disaster perceptions, attitudes, and decision-making. To empower communities towards change organizing and the reduction of disaster risk, the team studies how narratives and communication shape understandings of disaster phenomena and build or inhibit trusting relationships between stakeholders. We believe that bi-directional trust between communities and researchers is key to disaster prevention and recovery. Community members’ perspectives are centered and community-centered methodologies are used to gather data first-hand.

Key research areas include:

  • Structural, sociopolitical, and psychological barriers that leave communities vulnerable to disaster.
  • Individual and community level factors (e.g., needs, narratives) that should inform prevention and recovery strategies.
  • Risk perception and communication
  • Disaster behavior and decision-making

Why is the disciplinary mix important?
Interdisciplinary research is both consistently lauded and rare. Though challenging, it’s critical to the success of the project because we each come to the work from different theoretical angles. Additionally, we bring a broadened methodological toolset to enhance conducting and disseminating this work. The group is built on a foundational mix of disaster risk reduction and behavioral social psychology. To effectively study the impact of narratives on individuals and their communities, we need a strong base of psychology theory and methods as well as the contextual knowledge of disaster studies.

Who is our work for?
Currently, our primary focus is to support Floridian citizens and advocates who wish to reduce risk in their communities. We especially aim to incorporate and amplify the perspectives of historically vulnerable Floridians in our work. In the longer-term, we hope that our work can be applied in ways that benefit historically vulnerable communities on a broader geographic scale (via research collaborations or informing policy change).

Why is it of value?
We study the psychology of disaster risk with a focus on social justice and science communication that builds trust. The Lab delivers empirical evidence that is built WITH communities from the ground up, connecting to the rich theoretical (and interdisciplinary) traditions of disaster studies, with a distinct flavor of psychological methods of study.

Lab Members and Affiliates

Jason von Meding, PhD:

Theoretical expertise and link to group purpose:
I have a background in architecture/shelter/project management but have also hold diverse research experience in disaster studies. My work with affected communities has led me to understand the power of narratives, language and framing. I can connect the group effort with the wider context of disaster studies, a truly interdisciplinary field.

What would you like to work on as part of this group?
I would like to work directly with communities facing risk in its various manifestations, studying how the causes of disasters are understood and the reasons that people believe, trust, behave, organize the way that they do.

Methodological Keywords: Qualitative Research Design; Community Engagement and Partnership; Co-design; Creative arts; Journalism

Colin Tucker Smith, PhD:

Theoretical expertise and link to group purpose:
I am a Social Psychologist who defines myself as an “attitudes researcher” – I specialize in the measures used in implicit social cognition (e.g., Implicit Association Test). I understand the social psychology view on persuasion (in terms of attitude change) well. I also study attitude formation and change in the political psychology domain.

What would you like to work on as part of this group?

Methodological Keywords: Experimental Design; Social-Personality Psychology Paradigms;  Implicit Attitude and Bias Measurement; Quantitative Data Analysis

Marjorie Prokosch, PhD:

Theoretical expertise and link to group purpose:
My degree-work is in Experimental Psychology. I have received formal training in Social Psychology, Evolutionary Psychology, Biopsychology, and informal training in Health Psychology. I am hoping to apply theory from my past work to conduct applied work that can amplify the perspectives of (and hopefully benefit) historically underrepresented and vulnerable groups.

What would you like to work on as part of this group?
I’m especially interested in chances to study how specific stressors (e.g., discrimination, poverty, safety concerns, past disaster experience) andhealth states (e.g., health perceptions; immunological and endocrine shifts) shape decision-making (e.g., trust, risk regulation) in ways that impact disaster prevention or recovery efforts.

Methodological Keywords: Experimental Design; Social Psychology Paradigms; Physiological Data Collection and Analysis; Quantitative Data Analysis

Victoria Colvin

I am Victoria, a second year graduate student in social psychology working with Dr. Colin Smith. My work aims to understand the role that gender stereotypes play in implicit and explicit attitudes toward female leaders. At the moment, I am doing work on how political ideology can impact the traits voters value most in male vs. female political candidates, and how these differences may help us understand the disparity in the number of female elected officials compared to male. 

Methodological Keywords: Experimental Design; Social Psychology

Collin Bowie

I earned my undergraduate degree in landscape architecture at UF where I learned the ins and outs of designing space for people, developed an understanding of the importance of thorough site analysis and planning, and studied how people respond to their environment. I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in construction management at UF with a specific interest in building information modeling (BIM) and how it can be used to enhance current construction workflow practices. I am
also working with Dr. Von Meding and assisting in the facilitation of his podcast known as “Disasters Deconstructed ” where he and his cohost examine human society and the social injustices that form the root causes of disasters.

Methodological Keywords: architecture; construction management; building information modeling; podcasting

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