Eric chats with Robb Willer, Professor of Sociology, Psychology, and Organizational Behavior, and the Director of the Polarization and Social Change Lab at Stanford University. Robb is also the co-Director of Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. He studies social forces that bring people together (such as morality and altruism), forces that divide them (such as fear and prejudice), and domains of social life that feature the complex interplay of the two (such as hierarchies and politics). Robb has published in top journals across different fields, and his lab’s work has been featured in outlets such as the New York Times, Vox, and Washington Post.
In this episode, Eric chats with Robb about his latest work on false meta-perceptions. This line of work suggests something counter-intuitive: Democrats and Republicans might overestimate how violent the other party is. Such misguided perceptions can become self-fulfilling: each party risks reacting with violence to the overly violent picture they have painted of the outgroup. Robb also shares how he knows what research ideas to pursue and what other projects he is excited about these days. Finally, he talks about his less-than-straightforward journey into psychology and gives advice on how to teach psychology in a fun and engaging way.
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Robb's Paper: https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.2116851119
Robb's Strengthening Democracy Challenge: https://www.strengtheningdemocracychallenge.org/paper