Demagoguery, Technology, and Cognition: Addressing the Threats to Democracy

Paul-B.-Baltes Lecture

05. Oktober 2022

Akademiegebäude am Gendarmenmarkt, Leibniz-Saal, Markgrafenstraße 38, 10117 Berlin

Democracy is in retreat or under pressure worldwide. Even in countries with strong democracies, polarization is increasing, and the public sphere is awash in misinformation and conspiracy theories.

Many commentators have blamed social media and the lack of platform governance for these unfortunate trends, whereas others have celebrated the Internet as a tool for liberation, with each opinion being buttressed by supporting evidence. One way to resolve this paradox is by identifying some of the pressure points that arise between the architecture of human cognition and the online information landscape, and how these pressure points can be used by populist demagogues to undermine democracy. The lecture by Stephan Lewandowsky (University of Bristol; guest professor at the University of Potsdam) will survey some of those pressure points, focusing on the attention economy and the algorithms that curate our news feeds. Partly based on the current ERC advanced grant “Protecting the Democratic Information Space in Europe (PRODEMINFO)”, it will be shown how such pressure points allow politicians to replace evidence-based discourse with often emotive belief-speaking that is less sensitive to evidence and accountability. A spectrum of possible solutions will be discussed.


A lecture series hosted by the Psychological Institutes of the Freie Universität Berlin, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Technische Universität Berlin and the Universität Potsdam in collaboration with the BBAW and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. Supported by the Margret M. and Paul B. Baltes Foundation .

Die Veranstaltung findet in englischer Sprache statt.


Eine Anmeldung ist für diese Veranstaltung nicht erforderlich.

Franziska Urban
Veranstaltungskoordinatorin
Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Tel.: +49 (0)30 20370 529
franziska.urban@bbaw.de 
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10117 Berlin
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