The UCSD Rady Ethics and Conflict Lab



Prof. Rai is a psychologist who studies ethics, culture, and conflict. He is interested in the social-relational nature of morality, its origins, and its consequences. In recent work, he and his collaborators have found that when perpetrators are motivated by moral sentiments, they may humanize rather than dehumanize their victims, experience greater rather than lesser self-control when harming them, and respond irrationally to material costs and benefits. Moving forward, he is especially interested in developing psychological approaches to combating institutional violence and promoting collective action, studying the ethical consequences of moral injury and its treatment, and examining the developmental trajectory of moralistic violence.



Arathy is a second-year graduate student in the Management program. She is interested in politics, morality, and emotional experience. In her current work, she is investigating how victims' feelings of whether they deserve harm impact their experience of pain itself.  Going forward, she is very interested in the politics of food as a mechanism for authoritarianism.


Raihan is a first-year graduate student in the Management program. He is interested in morality and violence. In his current work, he is investigating how and when people conceptualize violence as a possible course of action at all, as well as how different approaches are required for reducing violence that is motivated by moral rather than material ends. Going forward, he is interested in ways to cultivate moral outrage as a catalyst for social movements. 

NOTE: I am accepting graduate students for the 2024-2025 Academic year

What I look for in potential advisees:

1) Have interests in morality, culture, violence, and their evolution. Feel a drive toward social justice and a curiosity about the social structures that lead to injustice. Students can expect to read very widely, drawing on scholarship across the full breadth of social sciences from cognitive science to cultural anthropology

2) Have interest in learning and using multiple, mixed methods (e.g., interviewing, in-lab and online experiments; dyadic/group interaction studies, psychophysiological measurements; experience sampling methods, archival analyses, and more). Stats training, computational skills, etc are all a plus but not required

3) Eagerness to engage in fieldwork! Moving forward, many of our projects will move beyond the lab to study morality "in the wild" across a variety of organizational and cultural settings

4) Diverse backgrounds and life experiences. Academically, I welcome students from non-psychological fields that can complement my expertise (e.g. sociology, economics, etc.). I am also happy to discuss the differences between pursuing a PhD at Rady vs. a more traditional subdiscipline

5) Ability to work independently and solve problems. Desire to work hard, seize every day, be passionate, all that good stuff.

In your statement of purpose, you are encouraged to:

(1) State a general research question or area that you’re most interested in pursuing, and why you are passionate about the topic

(2) Give a general sense of the reading that you’ve done, (beyond what has been written by Prof Rai) that has inspired you and different areas of research might be combined

(3) Communicate your research skill set, and describe some of your key experiences relevant to conducting Ph.D. research in the lab and in the field

(4) Give a sense of the type of questions or projects that you can envision working on with Prof. Rai, and why your skills and interests would make for a great fit. One strategy is to identify a paper written by Prof. Rai that connects well with your interests, and say why (e.g., maybe the topic/research questions align with your interests; maybe the methods would be useful for examining a different research question; maybe the findings spark ideas for pursuing different questions)

(5) Identify 1-2 other Rady faculty (particularly in the Management area) who you might also work with—our Ph.D. students are encouraged to work with multiple faculty. This is critical, as students who can work with multiple faculty in the Management area will have an advantage in being selected.