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The main goal of my research is to understand social differences in what people think and how they act. I am especially interested in trust in different systems of knowledge and values like science, religion, and law. I mostly use national and international surveys but I use archival data and experiments, too.

In one line of research, I study people's perspectives on science and religion, how these beliefs have changed over time, how they differ from place to place, and how they relate to broader political and cultural divides.

In another line of research, I study how scientific knowledge affects legal decision making by examining judges' and jurors' decisions about expert evidence.

In a third area of research, I study how the performance of social institutions shapes trust in institutions, including studies of science, religion, police, and courts.  

Select Publications

O’Brien, Timothy L., 2023. "Ethnicity, Imprisonment, and Confidence in Police and Courts: Evidence from an International Survey." Social Problems. First Published April 15, 2023.

O’Brien, Timothy L., Stephen L. Hawkins, and Adam Loesch. 2022. "Scientific Disciplines and the Admissibility of Expert Evidence in Courts." Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World 8: 23780231221108044.

Noy, Shiri, and Timothy L. O’Brien. 2021. “Learning Right from Wrong: A Cross-national Analysis of Education, National Scientific Investment, and the Morality of Science.” Science, Technology, & Human Values. First Published November 8, 2021.

O’Brien, Timothy L., 2020. “Racing Justice: Mass Incarceration and Perceptions of Courts.” Social Science Research 90: 102443.

O’Brien, Timothy L., and Shiri Noy. 2020. “Political Identity and Confidence in Science and Religion in the United States.” Sociology of Religion 81(4): 439-461.

Gauchat, Gordon, Timothy L. O’Brien and Oriol Mirosa. 2017. “The Legitimacy of Environmental Scientists in the Public Sphere.” Climatic Change 143(3–4): 297–306.

​O’Brien, Timothy L., and Shiri Noy. 2015. “Traditional, Modern, and Post-Secular Perspectives on Science and Religion in the United States.”

American Sociological Review 80(1): 92-115.

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