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 Studies. A native Nebraskan, I earned by Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2012.
Gender and Politics
Religion & Politics
Women And Religion
Biology And Politics
What explains individual preferences for organizing society? How do these political preferences develop, and do they overlap with other areas of an individual’s disposition and belief systems? How do identities and group membership—such as religion and gender—interact with these orientations? By integrating various social science fields as well as leveraging innovations in biological measurements and correlates of political attitudes and behaviors, I seek to understand the psychology behind, and origins of, political ideology and issue attitudes. A repository of my published work (in pre-print form) can be found here: https://scholarworks.iupui.edu/handle/1805/4006/browse?value=Friesen%2C+Amanda&type=author
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.
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.
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.