Amanda Friesen, Ph.D.

Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis

City: Indianapolis, Indiana

Country: United States

About Me:

I am an Associate Professor of Political Science, a Project Director for the Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture and Adjunct in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. I earned by Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2012.

Research Interests

Gender and Politics

Religion & Politics

Political Psychology


Women And Religion

Biology And Politics




Abortion Politics

Countries of Interest

United States

My Research:

My research agenda focuses on three contributions:(1) advancing an understanding of the human condition, i.e., how individual differences impact beliefs and behaviors;(2) examining the influence of biology (behavioral genetics and physiology) and the environment on the interaction between identity (gender, religiosity, race/ethnicity), dispositions (personality) and political orientations; and(3) integrating theories, methods, and technologies from social and biological sciences to bridge the disciplinary silos that sometimes inhibit the advancement of science and knowledge. A repository of my published work (in pre-print form) can be found here:


Journal Articles:

(2017) ”Conscientious Women: The Dispositional Conditions of Institutional Treatment on Civic Involvement.”, Politics & Gender

Current thinking about the effect of religion on civic engagement centers on “institutional treatment” – the development of resources, social pathways to recruitment, and motivation that occurs in small groups and activities of congregations. None of this work has, as of yet, incorporated the personality traits that may shape the uptake of institutional treatment. Following a growing line of research articulating how individual predispositions condition political involvement, we argue that gendered personality differences may moderate civic skill development. With new data, we find that women do not develop skills from religious involvement at the same rate as men, and this pattern is due in large part to their distinctive personality profile. The results reshift the balance between individuals and institutional influences by augmenting the cognitive bases for acquiring church-gained experiences and linking them to the public square.

(2017) “Physiological Arousal and Self-Reported Valence for Erotic Images Correlate with Sexual Policy Preferences.”, International Journal of Public Opinion Research

Individuals do not always accurately report the forces driving their policy preferences. Such inaccuracy may result from the fact that true justifications are socially undesirable or less persuasive than competing justifications or are unavailable in conscious awareness. Because of the delicate nature of these issues, people may be particularly likely to misstate the reasons for preferences on gay marriage, abortion, abstinence-only education, and premarital sex. Advocates on both sides typically justify their preferences in terms of preserving social order, maintaining moral values, or protecting civil liberties, not in terms of their own sexual preferences. Though these are the stated reasons, in empirical tests we find that psychophysiological response to sexual images also may be a significant driver of policy attitudes.

(2015) “Do Political Attitudes and Religiosity Share a Genetic Path?”, Political Behavior

Social scientists have long recognized and sought to explain a connection between religious and political beliefs. Our research challenges the prevalent view that religion and politics constitute separate but related belief sets with a conceptual model that suggests the correlation between the two may be partially explained by an underlying psychological construct reflecting first principle beliefs on social organization. Moreover, we also push this challenge further by considering whether part of the relationship between political and religious beliefs is the result of shared genetic influences, which would suggest that a shared biological predisposition, or set of biological predispositions, underlies these attitudes. Using a classic twin design on a sample of American adults, we demonstrate that certain religious, political, and first principle beliefs can be explained by genetic and unique environmental components, and that the correlation between these three trait structures is primarily due to a common genetic path. As predicted, this relationship is found to hold for social ideology, but not for economic ideology. These findings provide evidence that the overlap between the religious and the political in the American context may in part be due to underlying principles regarding how to understand and organize society and that these principles may be adopted to satisfy biologically-influenced psychological needs.