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Trust the people! On the psychology of authoritarian populism

Joint British Academy/British Psychological Society Lecture, delivered on 14 September 2017 (venue: The Royal Society).

Professor Stephen Reicher FBA, University of St Andrews

Chaired by: 
Professor Dominic Abrams FBA, University of Kent

Globally, democracy is threatened by the rise of authoritarian leadership. What is it that makes such figures so appealing? Many assume that the answer lies in the prejudices of the populace and the flaws of popular thinking. But equally, such disdain for ordinary people may be the root and not the explanation of this phenomenon. In this talk, speaker Stephen Reicher approaches authoritarianism as a process of collective mobilisation. Drawing on examples from past and present, notably the election of Donald Trump, Reicher examines both how authoritarian leaders appeal to people and also why people support these leaders.

Speaker Stephen Reicher is Professor of Psychology at the University of St. Andrews. His work examines how people behave in groups and he has studied a range of collective phenomena including crowds and riots; national identity and nationalism; intergroup hatred, leadership and, latterly, the psychology of tyranny and obedience.

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