Why do people hold false or unsupported beliefs about politics and public policy and why are so those beliefs so hard to change? This three-credit graduate course will explore the psychological factors that make people vulnerable to misinformation and conspiracy theories and the reasons that corrections so often fail to change their minds. We will also analyze how those tendencies are exploited by political elites and consider possible approaches that journalists, civic reformers, and government officials could employ to combat misperceptions. Students will develop substantive expertise in how to measure, diagnose, and respond to false beliefs about politics and public policy; methodological expertise in reading and analyzing quantitative and experimental research in social science; and analytical writing skills in preparing a final research paper applying one or more theories from the course to help explain the development and spread of a specific misperception or conspiracy theory. Each class period will include a mix of lecture highlighting and expanding on key points from the readings and answering any questions about them, class discussion, and active learning exercises in which we critically examine the ideas introduced in the readings.
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