Robb Willer

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Robb Willer
Robb Willer.jpg
Born1977 (age 41–42)
Alma materCornell University
Scientific career
InstitutionsStanford University University of California, Berkeley

Robb Willer (born 1977) is an American sociologist and social psychologist who studies politics, morality, status, cooperation, and masculinity. He is a professor of sociology, psychology, and organizational behavior at Stanford University[1]. He earned his Ph.D. in sociology at Cornell University[1][2].


Robb Willer has published more than 40 scientific articles in journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly, American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Annual Review of Sociology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences, and Psychological Science[3][1]. He has received grants from the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and the National Science Foundation[1]. As of July 12, 2017, his Google Scholar h-index was 30 and his i10-index was 49, with 5,402 citations[3].

Much of Willer's research focuses on political psychology and sociology, exploring both sources of political polarization and ways it can be reduced[1][4]. He and Matthew Feinberg developed the idea of "moral reframing"[5]. Based on moral foundations theory, moral reframing is a technique of political persuasion in which a political message draws a connection between a given issue and the audience's assumed moral values[6]. Willer's talk on political communication has been viewed over 1 million times since it was posted on the TED website January 20, 2017[7].

Willer's other research on politics emphasizes the effects of various forms of threat and anxiety on political attitudes, for example, the effects of racial status threats,[8] terror threats,[9] and masculinity threats[10]. He has studied masculine overcompensation, showing that men whose masculinity has been threatened tend to adopt more stereotypically masculine attitudes on issues like war and gay rights[11].

His master's thesis used the text from the Sokal affair to investigate the effects of academic status on the evaluation of unintelligible academic texts, finding that unintelligible texts are evaluated more positively if authored by high status academics.

He contributed research to the best-selling book Modern Romance: An Investigation, by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg.


Prior to moving Stanford, Willer was an assistant professor at UC Berkeley's Sociology Department[1]. Willer was the 2009 recipient of the Golden Apple Award for Outstanding Teaching[12], the only teaching award given by the UC-Berkeley student body.

Media coverage[edit]

Willer's research has received widespread media coverage including from the Chicago Tribune[13], CNN[14], Forbes[15], Huffington Post[16][17], LA Times[18], Nature[19], New York Daily News[20], New York magazine[21][22][23], NPR's Morning Edition[24], Pacific Standard[25][26][27], Salon[28], San Francisco Chronicle[29][30], Science[31], Scientific American[32], The Atlantic[33][34][35][36][37][38][39], The Daily Telegraph[40], The New York Times[41][42][43][44], Time[45], USA Today[46][47], Vox[48][49], Wall Street Journal[50][51], and Washington Post[52][53][54].

Selected publications[edit]

  • Michael W. Macy and Robb Willer. 2002. "From Factors to Actors: Computational Sociology and Agent-Based Modeling". Annual Review of Sociology. 28:143-66.
  • Damon Centola, Robb Willer, and Michael W. Macy. 2005. "The Emperor's Dilemma: A Computational Model of Self-Enforcing Norms". American Journal of Sociology. 110(4):1009-40.
  • Pat Barclay and Robb Willer. 2007. "Partner Choice Creates Competitive Altruism in Humans". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences. 274:749-753.
  • Robb Willer, Ko Kuwabara, and Michael W. Macy. 2009. "The False Enforcement of Unpopular Norms". American Journal of Sociology. 115:451-90.
  • Robb Willer. 2009. "Groups Reward Individual Sacrifice: The Status Solution to the Collective Action Problem". American Sociological Review. 74:23–43.
  • Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer. 2011. "Apocalypse Soon? Dire Messages Reduce Belief in Global Warming by Contradicting Just World Beliefs." Psychological Science. 22:34-38.
  • Matthew Feinberg, Robb Willer, and Dacher Keltner. 2012. "Flustered and Faithful: Embarrassment as a Signal of Prosociality." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 102:81-97.
  • Cameron Anderson, Robb Willer, Gavin Kilduff, and Courtney Brown. 2012. "The Origins of Deference: When do People Prefer Lower Status?" Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 102:1077–1088.
  • Matthew Feinberg, Robb Willer, Jennifer Stellar, and Dacher Keltner. 2012. "The Virtues of Gossip: Reputational Information Sharing as Prosocial Behavior." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
  • Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer. 2013. "The Moral Roots of Environmental Attitudes". Psychological Science. 24:56-62.
  • Robb Willer, Christabel Rogalin, Bridget Conlon, and Michael T. Wojnowicz. 2013. "Overdoing Gender: A Test of the Masculine Overcompensation Thesis." American Journal of Sociology. 118:980-1022.
  • Stéphane Côté, Julian House, and Robb Willer. 2015. “High Economic Inequality Leads Higher Income Individuals to be Less Generous.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer. 2015. "From Gulf to Bridge: When Moral Arguments Facilitate Political Influence." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Robb Willer - Department of Sociology". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  2. ^ "Robb Willer". Robb Willer. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Robb Willer - Google Scholar Citations". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  4. ^ "Robb Willer". Robb Willer. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  5. ^ University, Stanford (October 12, 2015). "Stanford sociologist shows how to make effective political arguments". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  6. ^ Feinberg, Matthew; Willer, Robb (January 1, 2013). "The Moral Roots of Environmental Attitudes". Psychological Science. 24 (1): 56–62. doi:10.1177/0956797612449177. Retrieved October 5, 2017 – via SAGE Journals.
  7. ^ "How to have better political conversations". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  8. ^ Ehrenfreund, Max (May 13, 2016). "How psychologists used these doctored Obama photos to get white people to support conservative politics". Retrieved October 5, 2017 – via
  9. ^ "Current Research in Social Psychology" (PDF). Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  10. ^ "American Journal of Sociology" (PDF). Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  11. ^ "Stronger reaction to masculinity threats tied to testosterone, Stanford sociologist says". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  12. ^ "The coolest professors at Berkeley, according to the Golden Apple Awards - The Daily Californian". March 11, 2013. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  13. ^ "Some male egos need extra traction". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  14. ^ "Gossip may have social purpose, study says". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  15. ^ League, Levo. "How can getting embarrassed help get you ahead?". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  16. ^ Feigelson, Josh (June 28, 2017). "We The People, and We, Our Media". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  17. ^ Craven, Julia; Grim, Ryan (May 6, 2016). "Here's Actual Evidence That Racial Fear Benefits The Tea Party (And Probably Trump)". Retrieved October 5, 2017 – via Huff Post.
  18. ^ Healy, Melissa (November 23, 2015). "Income inequality makes the rich more Scrooge-like, study finds". Retrieved October 5, 2017 – via LA Times.
  19. ^ Kaplan, Matt (January 4, 2011). "Why dire climate warnings boost scepticism". Nature News. doi:10.1038/news.2011.701. Retrieved October 5, 2017 – via
  20. ^ "Atheists more compassionate than religious: study". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  21. ^ "How Conservatives Can Sway Liberals, and Vice Versa". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  22. ^ "Psychologists Are Learning How to Convince Conservatives to Take Climate Change Seriously". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  23. ^ "How to Win Your Next Political Argument". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  24. ^ "Is Arguing With Passion The Most Effective Way To Persuade Opponents?". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  25. ^ "Economic Inequality Dampens the Generosity of the Wealthy". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  26. ^ "How to Convince Men to Help the Poor". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  27. ^ "How Gossip Serves a Greater Good". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  28. ^ "How to talk to a conservative about climate change". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  29. ^ "Embarrassment seen as a sign of many virtues". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  30. ^ "Research shows generosity repaid on many levels". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  31. ^ "How To Sell Humvees To Men". August 4, 2005. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  32. ^ American, Scientific. "Is Climate Change Too Scary?". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  33. ^ Friedersdorf, Conor. "Working Toward the Same Ends for Different Reasons". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  34. ^ Calamur, Krishnadev. "Does Terrorism Sway Elections?". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  35. ^ Khazan, Olga. "What Makes a Protest Effective". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  36. ^ Khazan, Olga. "The Simple Trick to Getting People to Support Refugees, Immigrants, and Obamacare". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  37. ^ Thompson, Derek. "Donald Trump and the Twilight of White America". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  38. ^ Beck, Julie. "Have You Heard? Gossip Is Actually Good and Useful". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  39. ^ McElwee, Sean. "How to Tap Latent Conservative Support for Climate-Change Policy". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  40. ^ Furness, Hannah (April 26, 2013). "Greed is no longer good, study finds". Retrieved October 5, 2017 – via
  41. ^ Gross, Neil (June 16, 2017). "Opinion - Does Trump Embarrass You?". Retrieved October 5, 2017 – via
  42. ^ Nuwer, Rachel. "What's Your Meme? Changing the Climate Change Conversation". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  43. ^ "Studies Find That Gossip Isn’t Just Loose Talk". The New York Times. June 16, 2012. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  44. ^ Revkin, Andrew C. "An Inconvenient Mind". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  45. ^ Song, Sora. "The Upside of Gossip: Social and Psychological Benefits". Retrieved October 5, 2017 – via
  46. ^ " - Feds mum on pre-election terror threat". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  47. ^ " - Voters will find their way". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  48. ^ "7 psychological concepts that explain the Trump era of politics". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  49. ^ "Most people are bad at arguing. These 2 techniques will make you better". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  50. ^ Shea, Christopher (May 3, 2012). "Atheistic Compassion". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  51. ^ Shea, Christopher (January 21, 2012). "Week in Ideas: Christopher Shea". Retrieved October 5, 2017 – via
  52. ^ Ehrenfreund, Max (May 13, 2016). "How psychologists used these doctored Obama photos to get white people to support conservative politics". Retrieved October 5, 2017 – via
  53. ^ Juliet Eilperin. "Gloom and doom on climate can backfire, new study says". Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  54. ^ "Will Terror Alert Level Show Its True Colors?". Retrieved October 5, 2017.