grpennycook@gmail.com / gordon.pennycook@uregina.ca

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Background and Education

I am an Associate Professor of Behavioural Science at University of Regina’s Hill/Levene Schools of Business. I am also an Associate Member of the Department of Psychology. In July 2023, I will be moving to the Psychology Department at Cornell University.

I am a member of the editorial boards for Thinking & Reasoning and the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, and I am a consulting editor for Judgment and Decision Making. I was elected to be a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists in 2020. I’m fortunate enough to have received early career awards for the Association for Psychological Science (“Rising Star”), the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, & Cognitive Science, the International Social Cognition Network, and the Psychonomics Society. In 2016, I (with my co-authors) received the Ig Nobel Peace Prize for our work on the psychology of bullshit. Our bit in the (highly amusing) ceremony can be found here.

I completed my Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree in 2009 under the supervision of Dr. Valerie Thompson at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada). In 2010, I moved to the University of Waterloo (also Canada) to work with Dr. Jonathan Fugelsang and Dr. Derek Koehler, receiving a Master of Arts degree in 2011 and a PhD in 2016. I then completed a two-year Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University (Department of Psychology) with Dr. David Rand and taught at the Yale School of Management with Dr. Shane Frederick.

I grew up in Carrot River, a lovely but remote* town of ~1,200 in Saskatchewan, Canada. [*Closest Walmart is ~2 hours away]

Research Interests

My research focus is on reasoning and decision-making, broadly defined. I investigate the distinction between intuitive processes (“gut feelings”) and more deliberative (“analytic”) reasoning processes and am principally interested in the causes (a) and consequences (b) of analytic thinking. That is, what makes us think and why is it (thinking) important? This is critical to understand if we’re ever to find better ways to make decisions. Alas, a lot of our problems as a species come from errors that we make during reasoning and decision-making – from global warming to health issues (including, but not limited to, the spread of pandemics) to political polarization and misinformation – and, thus, understanding why people make these errors is a major focus of mine. A recent review of my theoretical perspective and much of my research can be found here.

I have fairly broad interests, although most are organized under these two broad research programs (causes versus consequences). I’ve published on religious belief, sleep paralysis, morality, creativity, smartphone use, health beliefs (e.g., homeopathy), language use among climate change deniers, pseudo-profound bullshit, delusional ideation, fake news (and disinformation more broadly), political ideology, and science beliefs (in roughly that order). I am also interested in the methodological and theoretical issues that pertain to the measurement of cognitive reflection and motivated reasoning. My research sits at the intersection of cognitive and social psychology and most recently I have gotten interested in the use of social media data for social science (both correlational and experimental). I’ve also done some work on misinformation and misperceptions relating to COVID-19. For an overview of recent work on misinformation and motivated reasoning, click here. See published work for a full list of publications and working papers.

For a synthesis of behavioural science research on fake news (with a social and cognitive psych focus), see here.

Below is a short explanation of some of our fake news research:

Note for Potential Students

I am not looking for any graduate students for the upcoming year, alas. If you’re curious about the program or anything else for future years, please send inquiries about grad school to pennycook.behscilab@gmail.com.

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