Political psychologist & behavioral economist, best known for long ago predicting the rise of Trump-like figures under the kinds of conditions we now confront.
I am best known for research I first started presenting two decades ago that predicted the rise of 'Far Right' candidates and politics under exactly the kinds of conditions we now confront. (Go here for a review). But my research goes much further than that, being a general account of the conditions under which a large proportion (around a third) of humanity, who harbor (relatively immutable) predispositions to favor 'oneness and sameness' over freedom and diversity, come to find their societies and polities intolerable, and push back with a vengeance. In essence, it is about the limits to liberal democracy. But it is written with a desire to save liberal democracy (from itself).
As I noted back in 2005: "Democracy is most secure, and tolerance is maximized, when we design systems to accommodate how people actually are. Because some people will never live comfortably in a modern liberal democracy" (The Authoritarian Dynamic, p. 335).
My research on authoritarianism and 'Far Right' politics uses psychological theories and methods (in particular, Randomized Controlled Trials) to explain human behavior. These days, I also use those same theories and methods (particularly RCTs) to shift human behavior... via more effective communications and campaigns (of every kind), including designing and embedding messages that de-activate authoritarianism and diminish expressions of intolerance and racism in a society.
I'm a behavioral economist with a PhD in Political Psychology. Formerly an academic (Princeton, Duke), I left academia with a strong desire to apply my unique combination of talents and skills to the resolution of pressing, real-world problems, and this is what motivates all of the enterprises described here.
A selection of my research publications on authoritarianism, conservatism and politics:
Recent media articles that cover my political research.
Here's what I've been up to lately. These articles, podcasts and interviews answer many of the central questions people have about my work on authoritarianism and liberal democracy.
Podcast: The authoritarian personality - why some voters feel drawn to populism and how to lure them away, with Rafael Behr @PoliticsOnTheCouch.
My discussion with Rafael Behr re. many practical ways of attracting authoritarian populists away from the far right.
Interview: The political implications for liberal democracy of authoritarian predispositions, with Helen Lewis of BBC Radio 4.
Helen Lewis interviewed me on how liberal democracy has to come to terms with authoritarian predispositions in the population.
Alex Evans interviewed me on why support for authoritarianism is so widespread, what we can do about it, and what's next in countries like the U.S. where authoritarian intolerance has been surging.
Article: Can Chloé Valdary Sell Skeptics on DEI?, by Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic
My research on how tolerance is enhanced not by emphasising human difference but rather creating feelings of 'oneness and sameness' is cited here as Friedersdorf discusses Chloé Valdary's innovative work on reducing bigotry via love (including self-love). Suggests the best means of reducing bigotry is not the current practice of 'anti-racism' – an insight that might singlehandedly transform the contemporary 'Diversity, Equity & Inclusion' industry.
Article: Beware of Authoritarianism and Conspiratorialism, Twin Threats to our Democracy, by Scot Lehigh of the Boston Globe
A clear and thoughtful piece by Scot Lehigh, featuring some of my research on authoritarianism. We discuss the potential links between authoritarian personality & belief in wild conspiracies.
Essay: Authoritarianism and the Future of Liberal Democracy, in HOPE Not Hate magazine
Liberal democracy has now exceeded many people’s capacity to tolerate it. A HOPE not hate special essay by Karen Stenner.
Article: What Ails the Right Isn’t (Just) Racism, by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic
Here's another brilliant piece by Conor Friedersdorf that extensively cites my research. He discusses how authoritarianism underwrites all kinds of intolerance (racial, political, moral, and punitiveness). In this way it provides a fuller account than racism of our current political moment (and developments across western liberal democracy more generally) and thus better guidance on how to respond to it.
Podcast: The Authoritarian Vote, my discussion with Yascha Mounk on The Good Fight
Spoke with the wonderful @Yascha_Mounk about the dynamics of authoritarianism and populism, and their implications for the survival of liberal democracy around the globe. Includes ideas for helping authoritarians live in peace with democracy!
Interview: with Tom Jacobs at Pacific Standard
My interview with Tom Jacobs following the publication of my essay with Jonathan Haidt: "Authoritarianism is not a momentary madness", in Cass Sunstein's edited collection: Can It Happen Here? We talked about why authoritarianism persists - in around a third of the citizens in modern liberal democracies - and how living in a vibrant liberal democracy itself produces conditions guaranteed to 'activate' authoritarians and increase their display of intolerant attitudes and behaviors.
Analysis: EuroPulse Survey 2016
Evidence from my analysis of the 2016 EuroPulse Survey (Dalia Research) indicates that authoritarianism and 'Right-wing' self-placement are distinct dimensions.
The repository contains additional material (appendices & figures) related to research conducted as part of Authoritarianism is Not a Momentary Madness (with Jonathan Haidt) and The Authoritarian Dynamic.