It is often thought that humans are gullible, easily manipulated by demagogues, advertisers, and politicians. Mercier will argue that the opposite is true: humans are equipped with a set of psychological mechanisms that allow them to properly evaluate communicated information and to reject information that is false or harmful. He will rely on experimental psychology data as well as studies showing the failures of mass persuasion, from Nazi propaganda to American presidential campaigns. He will also offer explanations for the success of some misconceptions—from pizzagate to flat earth—that are not based on credulity.
Hugo Mercier is a cognitive and evolutionary psychologist. Most of his work focuses on reasoning, argumentation, and communication — in particular how we decide who to trust and what to believe. He is the author, with Dan Sperber, of The Enigma of Reason, which developed a novel and influential theory of human reason. Mercier is a CNRS researcher, working at the Institut Jean Nicod in Paris, where he had completed his Ph.D. in cognitive science, and which he joined after working in the US (University of Pennsylvania) and Switzerland (University of Neuchâtel).