R. Gordon Rinderknecht started his undergraduate career as an English major at the University of Iowa. However, he soon realized that so far, his life had left him with little to write about. Sociology offered recourse, and he has yet to run out of subject matter.
Gordon’s earliest research consisted of interviews with young-earth creationists about the nature of their beliefs and political views. This project pushed him to expand his knowledge of science and scientific reasoning, which inspired him to continue conducting research and eventually pursue graduate school at UMD, where he is now a third year graduate student with a focus in social psychology.
His current research pertains to how gifts act as signals of association, and how receivers’ desire for these signals vary depending on several factors, including the relative status between giver and receiver. Gordon and his colleagues are also conducting research on Americans’ trust in government institutions – how our own perceived competence affects attachment to rules and tradition. Last year, he co-authored research on people’s increased cohesion with computerized, as opposed to human, exchange partners. This publication garnered attention on social media and was featured in Le Monde. His research interests vary, but they all coalesce around fundamental social psychological concepts, including status, power, trust, identity, and cohesion.
Apart from the substance of his research, Gordon is interested in new ways of conducting social scientific research, especially using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (mTurk)—an online platform providing researchers with easy access to thousands of participants. He has written open-source software for conducting research using this platform (available on his blog at RGordonR.com), and he continues to advise researchers across UMD and other universities who are interested in using mTurk. Recently, Gordon also turned a critical eye toward this platform. He is preparing an article for submission that will detail how mTurk is being overused by researchers studying some of social psychology’s most popular subjects.
His interest in online research was further bolstered by being selected to present at the U21 graduate conference on the “Digital Future,” held in Shanghai, China last summer. This experience exposed him to new ideas and colleagues who are shaping the direction of his future research. For example, Gordon and Prasanta Bhattacharya (National University of Singapore, Department of Information Systems) are currently evaluating the use OkCupid.com as a platform for conducting field research.