Grand Rounds : Archive, 2003-2013

Dr. David Dunning

David Dunning is Professor of Psychology at Cornell University. An experimental social psychologist, Dr. Dunning is a fellow of both the American Psychological Society and the American Psychological Association. He has published over 80 scholarly journal articles, book chapters, and commentaries, and has also served as an associate editor of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.He is currently the Executive Officer of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, an international organization with over 5,600 members, as well as the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology. He has also spent time as a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan, Yale University, the University of Mannheim (Germany), and the University of Cologne (Germany).

His research focuses primarily on the accuracy with which people view themselves and their peers. In his most widely-cited work, he showed that people tend to hold flattering opinions of themselves and their decisions that cannot be justified from objective evidence—a phenomenon that carries many implications for health, education, the workplace, and economic exchange. This work that has been featured in numerous newspapers (e.g., New York Times, Chronicle of Higher Education), magazines (e.g., U.S. News & World Report, Scientific American MIND), radio (e.g., National Public Radio, BBC), and television (e.g., CBS Early Show, ABC World News Now). It has even been mentioned in aDoonesbury cartoon. This work on the self has been supported financially by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation, and was recently reviewed in his book Self-insight: Roadblocks and detours on the path to knowing thyself (2005, Psychology Press).

Dunning’s other research focuses on decision-making in various settings. In work on economic games, he examines the extent to which choices that seem economic actually hinge more on psychological factors, such as social norms and emotion. In particular, he documents that people trust complete strangers in situations in which the economic analysis would suggest no trust whatsoever, finding that this decision is prompted more by psychological forces than economic concerns. In his psychology and law research, he focuses on diagnosing eyewitness accuracy—striving to determine which questions should be asked of the eyewitness to determine whether an identification is accurate or erroneous. In more recent work on visual and auditory perception, he has shown that people’s motives and desires influence what they literally see and hear in their physical environment. Thus, the world people believe they inhabit is importantly shaped by intrapsychic events occurring within themselves.