PoS seminar 11.1. with Hugo Mercier

At the next PoS seminar on Monday 11.1., Hugo Mercier (Institut Jean Nicod) will give a presentation titled “The Science of Who We Trust and What We Believe“. The seminar takes place in Zoom from 15:30 to 16:30 sharp.

Perspectives on Science is a weekly research seminar which brings together experts from science studies and philosophy of science. It is organized by TINT, the Centre for Philosophy of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. More information about the seminar here.

To join the seminar please contact tatu.nuotio@helsinki.fi for the Zoom invitation.

Author bio:

Hugo Mercier is an evolutionary and cognitive psychologist who works at the CNRS (Institut Jean Nicod) in Paris with the Evolution and Social Cognition team. In his research, he has focused on two main topics: the function and workings of reasoning, and how information is evaluated and communicated. He is the co-author of The Enigma of Reason (2017) with Dan Sperber. In 2020 he published his second book, Not Born Yesterday: The Science of Who We Trust and What We Believe.


In this talk Hugo Mercier will be talking about his new book, Not Born Yesterday: The Science of Who We Trust and What We Believe. Information about the book is provided below:

Not Born Yesterday explains how we decide who we can trust and what we should believe—and argues that we’re pretty good at making these decisions. In this lively and provocative book, Hugo Mercier demonstrates how virtually all attempts at mass persuasion—whether by religious leaders, politicians, or advertisers—fail miserably. Drawing on recent findings from political science and other fields ranging from history to anthropology, Mercier shows that the narrative of widespread gullibility, in which a credulous public is easily misled by demagogues and charlatans, is simply wrong.

Why is mass persuasion so difficult? Mercier uses the latest findings from experimental psychology to show how each of us is endowed with sophisticated cognitive mechanisms of open vigilance. Computing a variety of cues, these mechanisms enable us to be on guard against harmful beliefs, while being open enough to change our minds when presented with the right evidence. Even failures—when we accept false confessions, spread wild rumors, or fall for quack medicine—are better explained as bugs in otherwise well-functioning cognitive mechanisms than as symptoms of general gullibility.

Not Born Yesterday shows how we filter the flow of information that surrounds us, argues that we do it well, and explains how we can do it better still.