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Why do people do what they do?

Growing up, I had a lot of questions about behaviors and situations that others seemed to unblinkingly accept. How come my country can send rockets to the moon, but my neighbor can’t afford to treat a painful cavity? Why are my friends so quick to follow the latest trends shown on TV and in magazines rather than trying to figure out what they like for themselves? And why are so many people uncomfortable around strangers when I find meeting new people so rewarding?

I turned to political science and social psychology to explore how different methods of communication affect human perception and understanding. To truly understand an individual or a group, it isn’t enough to ask what they think or to observe what they do; instead, I had to examine belief systems as well as the larger societal context in which they exist.

More women giving birth at home? More teens seeking help for depression? More girls committing violent crime? These are all facts, but I wanted to know why these things were happening, and to study the broader context in which they took place.

In my reporting, I try to step back and explore how peoples’ biases and circumstances shape their presentation of “the facts.” And I try to understand how the myriad belief systems in the world—which are constantly evolving and bumping up against one another–shape the way we think and behave.

My hope is that by understanding why people do what they do, and say what they say, and believe what they believe, we might better understand our own thinking so that we can, perhaps, become more open to others.

Thank you for visiting my site, and please check out some of the people whose work I find inspiring.

—Julie Scelfo