Leadership, Influence and Decision Making


Thursday, February 25, 2021, 4:15pm to 5:30pm


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This speaker series provides an opportunity for scholars to share and learn about cutting edge research related to the topic of leadership, broadly defined.

"Sources of Opinion:
The Community of Knowledge and How to Take Advantage of Outsourcing"

People have some crazy opinions. Generally, these are the opinions that we disagree with. The standard view in both academia and the wider culture is that people have such opinions due to knowledge deficits; they are lacking information. On this view, providing information and critical reasoning skills is the best way to get opinions to converge, because they'll converge to the truth. There is already strong reason to doubt the generality of this deficit model. I provide more in the form of evidence that knowledge is only weakly related to attitudes about a variety of issues; what people think they know is just as good a predictor. And the sense of understanding, like attitudes, is often a product of ideology, not knowledge. A competitor to the deficit model, the cultural cognition view, explains the effect of ideology on attitudes, but does not address the sense of understanding. I follow the cultural cognition view in proposing that people outsource much of their reasoning to their communities; I add that it is the resulting sense of understanding that mediates their attitudes. This community of knowledge view suggests that people outsource most of their reasoning. I show how this fact can be deployed to bring evidence to bear on policy.


Steven Sloman received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University in
1990 and completed his post-doctoral research at University of Michigan. He began teaching at Brown in 1992. Steven is a cognitive scientist who studies how people think. He has studied how our habits of thought influence the way we see the world, how the different systems that constitute thought interact to produce conclusions, conflict, and conversation, and how our construal of how the world works influences how we evaluate events and decide what actions to take. The focus of his current research is collective cognition, how we think as a community, a topic elaborated on in his book with Phil Fernbach The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone. His work has been discussed in the New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Vice, the Financial Times, the Economist, Scientific American, National Geographic, and more. He is former Editor-in-Chief of Cognition: The International Journal of Cognitive Science and currently on the Editorial Board of Decision and Psychological Science.


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This event is open to HKS students, faculty, and staff. The session will be recorded, and may be posted to YouTube and/or CPL's social media channels. Attendees must register for this event using the registration link above. Persons with disabilities who wish to request accommodation or who have questions about access, please contact cpl_events@hks.harvard.edu in advance of the session.