One of the core themes guiding Hema’s work is that equality, justice, and peace is often achieved through sustained group-based efforts. Her PhD research culminated in three lines of research on intergroup relations and social change: 1) Why are people, especially those that are more advantaged in society, motivated to engage in collective action for intergroup justice and equality? 2) How do groups with different levels of power and privilege build effective solidarity for a common cause? 3) What is the psychological impact of collective action for social change on broader society? In doing this work, Hema draws inspiration from ongoing social problems and she is passionate about translating social problems into testable research questions.
Hema’s overarching goal as a scholar is to conduct research that advances our scientific understanding of how to achieve a more just and equitable society. To do so, she studies the psychology of social change from an intergroup perspective to help illuminate the antecedents, barriers, and outcomes of collective action for social change. In this effort, she collects data around ongoing social and political issues using a range of quantitative (e.g., cross-sectional, longitudinal, experimental), qualitative (e.g., interviews, content coding), and mixed (Q methodology) methods in laboratory, online, and field settings.
To provide a more complete picture of human psychology, Hema examines the perspective of both high-status/majority and low- status/minority groups in various regions of the world, including the United States, Malaysia, Bosnia, Serbia, and Israel-Palestine. Such work also necessitates close collaboration with community partners (e.g., activists/grassroot organizers), other professionals (e.g., software developers), as well as local and international researchers from psychology and allied fields (e.g., international relations).