#70: Salma Mousa on Investing in Big Projects

Salma Mousa is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale. She recently took that position after a post-doc in Stanford's Center for Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law, and the Immigration Policy Lab. She is a rising star in the field of political science and has published some of the field's highest profile papers in recent years. Her work centers around questions of how people build social cohesion after conflict. What drew me to her work is that it addresses some of our most significant social questions—about how reduce prejudice and violence, about how to make a society that works for everyone—in ways that are both theoretically motivated and have a grounding in the real world. Her work breathes new life into established theories, such as intergroup contact theory—the idea that the most effective way to reduce prejudice between groups is positive social contact. She recently published a solo-author paper in Science on "Building social cohesion between Christians and Muslims through soccer in Post-ISIS Iraq" which we discuss at length toward the end of the conversation. She is also an author on a paper about "The Mo Salah Effect" which showed genuine reductions in anti-Muslim prejudice in Liverpool after Mohamed Salah joined the city's football team. It's an awesome study, the details and backstory of which we also get into. One thing that stood out to me about Salma's work is that she does a smaller number of big, important project really well, rather than a bunch of smaller projects that aren't as meaningful. I so often feel that science (especially in psychology) rewards quantity over quality, and so it is incredibly inspiring to see someone who invests in big projects which will lead to actually important advancements in our understanding of human behavior. She was a pleasure to talk to, and I know you'll enjoy this conversation.