Meet the Scholars: Tyler Jimenez
Tyler Jimenez is a PhD student in social and personality psychology at the University of Missouri. He is a part of the Health Policy Research Scholars Cohort 2017.
Before we begin, tell us a little bit about yourself and what your research interests are.
I’m a fourth-year PhD student at the University of Missouri. I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. I’m also a member of Nambé Pueblo, a small tribe in northern New Mexico.
Broadly, my research focuses on how people perceive and think about contemporary social issues. Right now, I have projects focused on health inequalities, immigration, abortion and police militarization. In each of these, I’m interested in how people are thinking about these issues, and what types of policies they are willing to support as a result.
What’s the story behind why you’re doing what you’re doing?
I think my current work is a result of my political and academic interests and values coming into alignment.
Tell us about a project you are currently working on that you are excited about.
I’m really excited about a relatively new project focusing on police militarization. I became interested in this topic while working on the HPRS Case Competition last summer. Broadly, the project is looking at the connection between prejudice (and similar ideological factors like authoritarianism) and police militarization at the individual and population level. On the individual level, we are finding that prejudice is associated with supporting the police use of military weapons and equipment. On the population level, which is still underway, I’m collaborating with a sociologist to use historical violence such as slavery and lynching, and modern county-level prejudice, to predict modern police militarization in the same areas. I think this topic is really interesting because it has an opportunity to connect seemingly disparate historical phenomenon as well as provide more insight into the process of police militarization, which in my opinion has not received the amount of research attention that it warrants.
For people unfamiliar with your research area, what is one piece of information you think is important for them to know?
How people think about political issues is often influenced by seemingly unrelated situations and experiences. As one example of this, we’ve found that reading about immigrants described using water metaphors—a wave of immigrants—can make people more likely to support the building of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. To the extent to which people view immigration as a problem, when thinking about immigrants in terms of water, they are more likely to prefer deterrent strategies that seemingly match that metaphor. It’s really important to understand these and other psychological principles when communicating about social issues.
Who is a researcher you admire and why?
Many, including many of my fellow Health Policy Research Scholars. If I had to choose one I most admire and who has had the greatest impact on me, I would say Noam Chomsky. In addition to reshaping the fields of linguistics and psychology, he’s always offered a critical perspective on systems of domination like capitalism and imperialism, as well as being outspoken on some of the most pressing contemporary issues.
How has being an HPRS Scholar helped you during your time as a doctoral candidate?
HPRS has completely changed my academic trajectory, most notably by exposure to perspectives and ideas that would not have otherwise been included in my graduate work. As a result, my research blends social psychology, sociology, public health, and policy to understand, and hopefully address important social issues.
In the RWJF HPRS program we have worked with you to help you think further about using your research to develop policy. If you could use your research to change any policy, what policy would it be?
I would shut down the 1033 Program, which facilitates the transfer of military equipment to local police departments. Items like Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and grenade launchers should not be available to police, as their use perpetuates violence against already marginalized people and communities.
OK, here’s a fun question to wrap things up. If you could visit any place in the world, where would you choose to go and why?
Kazakhstan! I’ve always had an affinity for Central Asia, particularly the ex-Soviet nations.