Luke Conway

Special guest

I have two primary research emphases that cut across all the broad focal areas listed above. (1) How do people come to share a particular set of beliefs and behaviors? I am especially interested in ways that people come to share beliefs with others unintentionally and implicitly – that is, it sort of happens to them without their awareness or consent. (“I woke up one day and realized that my beliefs look just like my parents! How on earth did that happen?”) For example, I’ve done work that suggests people can form shared beliefs on things even when they don’t talk about them – such as forming shared impressions with others about how much time has passed, even when they are interacting with those others about something completely unrelated to their experience of time. I’m also currently pursuing work on how, unless we actively think about what other people are saying, we inevitably come to agree with them. All of this work on the formation of implicit consensus has multiple implications for politics, international peace, and the origins of culture.

(2) A second area I’m also passionate about involves the causes and consequences of complex (as opposed to simple) thinking. Complexity research is cool, because – using the well-validated integrative complexity construct -- we can code all sorts of famous people’s public and private statements for how complex they are, and test all kinds of interesting ideas in the process. Recently-completed, ongoing, or planned research projects are relevant to the following focal questions: Are lies more complex than the truth? (For example, we coded archival materials for one famous case of lying – Enron leaders during that company’s scandal). What is the impact of complex thinking on international peace? Relatedly, what is the relationship between complexity and political leadership? (For example, we coded Middle Eastern leaders’ speeches for complexity before, during, and after 9/11; we are currently coding all State of the Union speeches from every single U.S. President, in order to compare their complexity to various personality and outcome variables; we will soon undertake a similar project comparing the complexity of Canadian Prime Ministers previously rated “good” versus “bad” by historians). Complex thinking obviously has many applied outcomes worthy of pursuing – on an individual level, it has both known and potential effects on mental health and development; on a larger scale, it has both known and potential effects on international peace (and war). I am interested in all of these consequences of complex thinking – and more.

Both of these broad areas of interest often come together in the study of one topic relevant to politics, peace, and culture: Stereotypes.

Luke Conway has been a guest on 1 episode.