Motivation and Emotion in Political Thought and Division

Monday, Feb. 13, 2023 (3:30 PM – 5:00 PM)

David Dunning

Professor of Psychology
Faculty Associate, RCGD
University of Michigan

Whether people adopt conclusions and misinformation that support their political preferences is often thought to be a product of intellectual ability. However, studies suggest that cognitive ability has little to do with whether people endorse politically-friendly falsehoods. I discuss research suggesting that emotional dynamics are very much relevant to false beliefs, such as conspiracy theories, that people adopt in favor of their political leanings. It also underlies motivated reasoning in support of those beliefs. 

David Dunning (BA, Michigan State; PhD, Stanford) is a social psychologist focusing primarily on the psychology underlying human misbelief.  His most cited work shows that people hold flattering self-opinions that cannot be justified from objective evidence, work supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Templeton Foundation. He has served as president of both the Society of Experimental Social Psychology and the Society for the Science of Motivation. 

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