Name Aleah Goldin, ’13
Major Planning to create an interdisciplinary major in epidemiology
Minor creative writing, biology and psychology
Academics Boatwright Scholar
Activities Common Ground, Richmond Hillel Board, Diversity Roundtable, cultural advisor, leadership research assistant, Images Club, Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art attendant

Aleah Goldin, ’13, started her summer research project with the intention of studying whether thinking about mortality, related to terrorist attacks in particular, increases negative attitudes toward ethnic groups.

After gathering some preliminary data, however, she says the results “told a different story entirely,” and completely changed the focus of her project.  

“This is what I find fascinating about research,” Goldin said. “We enter the process with good questions and a hypothesis, but the data speaks with its own voice.”

Instead Goldin’s project, “Political Ideology: Pro-America Attitude, Blatant Prejudice & Sympathy,” examines whether a person’s political views are correlated with their decision to donate to an American charity versus one benefitting an ethnic minority.

Tell us about your project.
Two hundred and six University of Richmond undergraduates and graduates completed an online study, which recorded self-reported blatant prejudice, sympathy measurement and a six-point scale for conservativeness, liberalness, and pro-America attitudes.
Participants were told that as a thank you for completing the short survey, $1 would be donated to the organization of the participants’ choice from the list below. The $1 donation could be given in a $1 increment, two $.50 cent increments, or four $.25 increments.
I analyzed the results and found that political ideology is significantly correlated with donation choice.

What were your findings?
Conservatives tended to donate the money to an American organization rather than ethnic minority organizations. Conservatives, also, had more self-reported blatant prejudice and pro-American attitudes than liberals did. When controlled for political ideology, both pro-American attitudes and self-reported blatant prejudice against Arabs, Chinese, and Jews mediated donation choice. Conservatives also tended to be more religious and spiritual than liberals, though neither of these factors mediated donation choice.
Meanwhile, liberals tended to give more to the ethnic minority organizations than the American organization. They also had more sympathy for the ethnic minority groups, less blatant prejudice, and less pro-American attitudes than the conservatives did. When controlling for political ideology, sympathy mediated donation choice for liberals.
Like most research studies, what we found is only the tip of the iceberg. The data generates more questions. I hope to conduct other related studies.

What inspired you to pursue undergraduate research this summer?
In my first semester, all my classmates in Leadership 102 were asked if they wanted to complete research outside of class, as a volunteer. Everyone was given the opportunity to delve into the world of the social scientist, run laboratory experiments and clean excel spreadsheets of data.

I was ecstatic. This is why I chose Richmond—the promise of being able to join a research team, early in my college experience. Four of us jumped on board.
It was then that the ideas started flowing through my head. I kept a notebook of various research ideas I wanted to study. The university’s research fellowships gave me the perfect opportunity to try out some of the ideas.

You’ve got a crystal ball.  What’s in store for you after graduation?  

I plan to be an epidemiologist.  My research has definitely helped prepare me for this career, because epidemiology is a lot like psychology. You’re still looking at data, but you’re examining disease. You can save lives.

What does a liberal arts education at the University of Richmond mean to you?
With a liberal arts education, I am able to get a taste of everything I could be. I have taken anthology and biology classes. I have fallen in love with creative writing and psychology. A liberal arts curriculum has helped me find myself and decide who I really am. It has been an exploration of self-identity and a quest for knowledge. Its interdisciplinary nature has left me looking at a single subject, such a global health, through different lenses.

A full day of research lies ahead of you.  What’s on your iPod?
“Good Morning Baltimore” from the musical Hairspray.