My work focuses on bringing cognitive and social science to bear on communication strategies for social and public health problems. I have designed and analyzed research investigating public understanding of a host of social issues – including child and youth development, mental health and addiction, racial and economic equity – and designed and tested messages that improve understanding and support for policy. The bulk of my applied work is translating evidence from social science into concrete strategies and tools that help communicators understand and navigate several layers of challenges, including:
• Non-experts‚ typical patterns of reasoning about social problems; • Dominant frames on issues found in our public discourse; and • Inherited messaging from previous efforts, campaigns or organizational eras.
I began my career as a professor of psychology at St. Joseph’s College in Maine, where I created the college’s department of psychology, developed major programs of study in psychology and human development, and served as chair of the department for seven years. Frustrated by the disconnect between scholarly knowledge about human development on the one hand, and communications strategies for social problems on the other, I left a tenured position to focus on bringing social science to social change efforts.
Before starting my own consultancy in 2011, I served as Vice President of the FrameWorks Institute, a Washington D.C. framing science think tank, where I designed and analyzed research that investigated public understanding and identified frames that would improve understanding of a host of social issues (child and family issues, mental health, addiction, racial equity). Through trainings and intensive technical assistance, I focus my work on helping scientists and social change advocates adapt framing research to their own work.