Taylor Nicole Carlson.

Welcome! I am a PhD candidate in political science at the University of California, San Diego. I study political communication and political psychology in American Politics. In my dissertation, I examine how information gets distorted as individuals "play telephone" with political information--and why it matters. My work has been published or is forthcoming in Political Behavior and The Journal of Politics. I am also passionate about teaching, with experience teaching Political Psychology (instructor of record), Introduction to American Politics and Political Inquiry (section leader), and research apprenticeships. My CV can be found here.

Learn more about my research


Currently, my research falls into three large-scale projects. The first is my dissertation, which uses innovative experiments and text analysis to characterize how political information gets distorted as it flows through communication networks. A portion of the first chapter of my dissertation is forthcoming in The Journal of Politics. The second, is a coauthored book project with Jaime Settle called the Contentious Interpersonal Political Interactions (CIPI) Project. This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation. The third is a collaborative project funded by the James Irvine Foundation with co-PIs Marisa Abrajano and Lisa Garcia Bedolla. In this project, we use original survey data matched with publicly available voter records to examine how political discussion networks vary between ethnoracial minority groups.

Dissertation Part 1.

How is socially supplied political information different from information supplied by the media? In the first half of my dissertation I characterize the ways in which political information changes as it flows from the media, to person, to person. I use an innovative experimental design modeled after the "Telephone Game" to manipulate characteristics of information diffusion chains, such as whether individuals know the people with whom they are communicating, whether they communicate with copartisans, and the type of information they are communicating. I find that individuals who receive socially supplied information are exposed to far less information (only about 3 percent) than those who get information from the media. In addition, this condensed information is distorted, conditional on the partisanship of the information senders and receivers.

Dissertation Part 2.

What are the consequences of receiving information from others instead of from the media? I answer this question using both observational and experimental data from original surveys to examine how reliance on socially supplied information affects political learning, attitudes, engagement, and belief in misinformation. I find that those who are exposed to socially generated information learn less than those who are exposed to a news article on the same topic. However, those randomly assigned to receive information from an "ideal opinion leader" who is more knowledgeable and like-minded actually learned the same amount as those who received the full news article. But, they had completely opposite subjective evaluations. This speaks to the strengths and limitations of opinion leaders. When it comes to misinformation, I find that individuals who report relying on other people for political information are significantly more likely to believe political rumors.


In addition to my dissertation research, I have been working on a series of collaborative projects with Jaime Settle. In these projects, referred to as the Contentious Interpersonal Political Interactions Project (CIPI), we explore how contentious political conversations influence the way individuals perceive conflict in their environment, evaluate other people, and engage in (or disengage from) American politics. We use several different methods, including nationally representative surveys, text analysis, and lab experiments using psychophysiological data.


Teaching is incredibly important to me. I love being in the classroom and working with students one-on-one. I was the instructor of record for POLI 100M: Political Psychology, an upper division undergraduate course at UC San Diego. 100% of my students who completed evaluations recommended me as an instructor and this course. I have also taught discussion section for POLI 10D: Introduction to Politics: American Politics, for which I have been recognized with a departmental TA Excellence Award for the 2016-17 academic year. I am currently serving as a TA for POLI 30D: Political Inquiry, which is an undergraduate research design and statistics course. Finally, I have mentored four undergraduate students through the Research Apprenticeship Program. Below are some of my teaching materials. Please feel free to reach out with any questions.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions or comments! I can be reached at tncarlson@ucsd.edu.