PHD, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE
Social and Personality Psychology; Quantitative Methods
2008 - 2014
BA, OHIO UNIVERSITY
Social Cognition, Judgment & Decision Making, Bias, Moral & Political Psychology, Metascience
I am a behavioral scientist interested in how social motivations influence human judgment and empirical beliefs. Human cognition evolved to help us avoid ostracism and gain social status (among other things). We thus reason in ways that help us persuade others of our moral righteousness and of our value and commitment to our social groups. Although humans care about truth and accuracy, human cognition is also biased toward achieving these social goals.
In the moral domain, I have found that belief in free will is at least partially motivated by desires to blame and punish others. Asserting the existence of human free will and moral responsibility allows people to justify punishment to observers and thus reduce risks of retaliation.
In the political domain, I have found that people hold double standards in their evaluations of information and behavior. Both liberals and conservatives are relatively credulous toward information that supports their ideological agenda and skeptical and censorious of information that challenges it. And both are relatively forgiving of the moral failings of in-group members compared to those of outgroup members. Although scholars continue to debate differences in epistemic virtues on the left and right, my research suggests both liberals and conservatives are similarly vulnerable to such in-group biases. In my view, this is to be expected given the evolutionary pressures for social status and evolutionary costs of ostracism.
I am also interested in motivated cognition in evaluations of science and among scientists. Scientists are humans after all, and it would be quite surprising if they were not vulnerable to similar biases, errors, and motivations as other people. My ongoing work has found that scientists who believe that unpopular conclusions are empirically true are particularly likely to self-censor their beliefs and particularly scared of peer ostracism and punishment. This suggests that professional discourse (and perceived scientific consensus) surrounding controversial conclusions is systematically biased toward the rejection of socially undesirable empirical conclusions.
On the more applied side, I am interested in finding ways of de-biasing science and scientists and expediting the truth discovery process. Over the past three years, I (along with Professor Philip Tetlock) have been participating in and advocating for adversarial collaborations, a methodological procedure in which disagreeing scholars mutually design research procedures to test their competing hypotheses. This process can facilitate more rigorous science because both proponents and opponents must agree to fair and unbiased tests. Learn more about our initiative here.
You can read most of my publications here.
Clark, C. J., Costello, T., Mitchell, G. & Tetlock, P. E. (in press) Keep your enemies close: Adversarial collaboration will improve behavioral science. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.
Clark, C. J., Winegard, B. M., & Shariff, A. F. (2021). Motivated free will belief: The theory, new (preregistered) studies, and three meta-analyses. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 150(7), e22–e47
ABOUT CORY J CLARK
I grew up in Bath, Ohio, birthplace of serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, and sometimes home of the GOAT, LeBron James.
A contrarian and skeptic since childhood, at age 7, I disproved the existence of Santa Claus. Peering out my window late one Christmas Eve, I noticed my Aunt and Uncle (and also neighbors) rolling a mini trampoline down their stairs to their Christmas Tree. I realized I could seize this opportunity for discovery. The next day, I asked my cousin whether Santa or her parents gave her the trampoline. She said Santa. Case closed. Only months later I inquired of my Monday night religion teacher, "If there were only two ants on Noah's Arc, what did the anteaters eat?" She provided no satisfactory answer.
Up until college, my long-term plan was to be a backup dancer for Snoop Dogg. Snoop Dogg had to cancel his concert due to bad weather (typical Ohio hazard), and so I was forced to make other plans.
Once in college, I couldn't decide whether I wanted to be an astronaut (physics major), Bertrand Russell (philosophy major), or a person who runs experiments on humans (psychology major). After I calculated my slim odds of being the first person to discover extraterrestrial life and my mom vetoed philosophy, I landed on psychology.
Since then, I received my PhD from University of California, Irvine, and worked as a Postdoctoral Scholar at University at Buffalo and Florida State University, an Assistant Professor at Durham University in the United Kingdom, and the Director of Academic Engagement for Heterodox Academy. Now, I am the Director of the Adversarial Collaboration Project and a Visiting Faculty Scholar in The Wharton School and School of Arts and Sciences at University of Pennsylvania.
My hobbies include phojography (taking pictures while jogging), phodography (taking pictures of my dog), solo travel to beautiful or weird and murdery places, and planning for my future beet farm/live music venue/goat sanctuary, to be called Beets, Beats, & Bleats.
Follow me on Twitter @ImHardcory.
Note. My chin is not surgically enhanced. That really is just the way it is.
BBC SPECIAL ON WILLPOWER
What is willpower and can we improve it?