T-ERC - Tremplin-ERC

Vigilance and Credulity in Human Communication – VICCOM

Submission summary

Humans have been berated for their poor abilities to evaluate communicated information, be it credulity—accepting the costly messages of demagogues or marketers—or conservativeness—refusing to accept valuable ideas in favor of instinct and tradition. Contemporary psychology provides experimental results that seem to demonstrate both human credulity and conservativeness. To integrate and better understand these results we rely on the framework of epistemic vigilance. This framework hypothesizes that humans are endowed with a set of cognitive mechanisms whose function is to evaluate communicated information. Are these mechanisms effective? Are humans vigilant, rather than credulous or conservative? Four Working Packages offer in-depth studies of specific mechanisms of epistemic vigilance: 1) The ability to evaluate arguments, and recognize strong arguments even if they challenge our beliefs; 2) The ability to track commitment, and lower our trust in committed but unreliable speakers; 3) The ability to distinguish independent from dependent information sources, and appropriately discount the latter; 4) The ability to rely on deference (towards prestigious individuals) and ingratiation (towards dominants) as warranted. To study these cognitive mechanisms, we use the tools of experimental psychology (including cross-cultural and developmental psychology) and neuroscience. These in-depth studies are complemented by a broad review of the data speaking to the question of human credulity and conservativeness, not only in psychology but also in the social sciences. This data will be used to better understand how mechanisms of epistemic vigilance function, an improved understanding which in turn will illuminate large-scale social and cultural phenomena from the efficacy and limits of propaganda to the spread of harmful ideas such as resistance to vaccination.

Project coordination

Hugo Mercier (Institut des sciences cognitives Marc Jeannerod)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Institut des sciences cognitives Marc Jeannerod

Help of the ANR 110,700 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2016 - 12 Months

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