Reason, trust and the corona virus: A public opinion investigation

This is a research interdisciplinary class, which will study how individuals and groups perceive, rationalise and pass judgement on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemics and how from the individual and small-group level a national public opinion emerges. Times of exceptional challenges like pandemics also play a large role in shaking established public opinion. Individuals and groups need to rationalise events which challenge the routine of their lives and their most commonly held beliefs.

Governments need to make people change behaviour and manage the crisis, while not losing trust. This is the first time since the Internet and social media have changed the fundamentals of communication, that a global crisis on the proportion of the Great Plague, or the fall of Constantinople (for the Western world), has occured.

In our inquiry we shall read anthropological literature, historical and social psychological literature and use a variety of methods. We will study the student body, our countries and the world, analyse existing surveys and develop our own survey. In the process, we shall learn how to develop a questionnaire; which people to ask (and where to find them); how to discern between the individual, group and societal levels (a great challenge in any research design); and how to use such knowledge to make policies acceptable to people and increase trust.

Instructor