Colloquium with Dr. Jane Risen

Thursday November 3, 2016
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM



Dr. Jane Risen, University of Chicago


Believing What We Know Isn’t So: Acquiescence to Superstitious Beliefs and Other Powerful Intuitions


Even smart, educated, emotionally stable adults believe superstitions that they recognize are not rational. Dual process models, such as the corrective model advocated by Kahneman & Frederick (2002; 2005), are useful for illustrating why superstitious thinking is widespread, why particular superstitious beliefs arise, and why superstitious beliefs are maintained even though they are not true. In the first part of my talk, I will highlight some of my research on magical thinking that supports a basic dual process model. To understand why superstitious beliefs are maintained even when people know they are not true, however, requires that the model be refined. It must allow for the possibility that people can recognize ­ in the moment ­ that their belief is not rational, but act on it nevertheless. People can detect an error, but choose not to correct it, a phenomenon I refer to as acquiescence. This notion is not only useful for understanding how people can believe superstitions that they know are false, but also for understanding when and why people will follow other powerful intuitions that run contrary to reason. In the second part of my talk, I will describe research that tests for acquiescence. I find that people can 1) have a faulty intuitive belief about the world, 2) acknowledge the belief is irrational, but 3) follow their intuition nonetheless.


Jane Risen conducts research in the areas of judgment and decision making, intuitive belief formation, magical thinking, stereotyping and prejudice, and managing emotion. She is interested in how people form judgments to help them negotiate our complicated, uncertain world. When does reason or intuition have the upper hand in influencing judgment and behavior, and when do the two work in tandem? How do motivational goals and cognitive processes independently and interdependently influence judgment? These are the questions Dr. Risen tries to answer through her research.

Annually the Department of Psychology hosts a Colloquia Series throughout the academic year.