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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Philosophical Psychology

For a Special Issue on
COVID-19 Collective Irrationalities

Manuscript deadline
31 March 2022

Cover image - Philosophical Psychology

Special Issue Editor(s)

Kengo Miyazono, Hokkaido University, Japan
[email protected]

Rie Iizuka, Kansai University, Japan
[email protected]

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COVID-19 Collective Irrationalities

This special issue will gather empirical and conceptual contributions to a better understanding of collective irrationalities, especially those the global community has experienced since the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Conspiracy theories, vaccination scepticism, unrealistic optimism, national exceptionalism, misinformation, and fake news have been serious social and political problems and have attracted the attention of philosophers and psychologists interested in belief, rationality, delusion, social cognition, reasoning bias, critical thinking, disagreement, partisanship, and science communication.

Collective irrationalities pose a unique theoretical challenge to previous research on the nature of irrationality which has mainly focused on the epistemic practices of individual agents. Collective irrationalities also pose a unique practical challenge to previous research on the interventions into irrational behaviour with pervasive negative effects within society: although long-term solutions may be effective (such as educational reforms), the pandemic context requires also quick fixes. The purpose of this call for papers is to encourage original articles in this area, explaining the mechanisms leading to collective irrationalities or arguing for effective ways to prevent the uptake of unfounded beliefs and to reduce the spread of misinformation.

Sample research questions include:

  • What are collective irrationalities and why do they prosper during a pandemic?
  • Do these collective beliefs just appear as irrational or are they genuinely irrational?
  • What are the similarities and differences between collective irrationalities and clinical delusions?
  • How do people’s basic needs, motivations, and personal and shared values drive the elaboration of new information and the adoption of conspiracy theories?
  • Why are some people more prone than others to believe conspiracy theories?
  • What motivates and sustains vaccine hesitancy?
  • Do collective irrationalities have an identity building function? If so, can they be seen to be psychologically adaptive?
  • Do optimism bias, epistemic uniqueness, exceptionalism, and other cognitive biases and motivational factors support collective irrationalities? If so, in what way?
  • What is the role of the social context in the adoption and maintenance of irrational beliefs?
  • How do political affiliation, echo chambers on social media, the need to belong, and in-group and out-group dynamics contribute to the adoption of conspiracy theories and the spread of fake news?
  • What steps can we take to stop the spreading of misinformation?
  • Is epistemic paternalism justifiable as a response to collective irrationalities?
  • What is the most effective form of paternalistic intervention into collective irrationalities?

A number of experts have been invited to contribute. Confirmed contributors include:

  • Rik Peels with members of the Extreme Beliefs project, funded by the European Research Council. Peels is Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department and in the Beliefs & Practices Department at VU Amsterdam.
  • Anna Ichino who is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Milan. She is currently co-leading with Ema Sullivan-Bissett a project on conspiracy ideation and pathological belief, funded by the British Academy.
  • Neil Levy who is Professor of Philosophy at Macquarie University in Sydney and Senior Research Fellow at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics in Oxford. He is the author of Bad Beliefs: Why they happen to good people (Oxford University Press).
  • Regina Rini with Andrew Buzzell. Rini is Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Moral and Social Cognition in the Department of Philosophy at York University in Toronto. She is the author of The Ethics of Microaggression (Routledge).
  • Mark Alfano with Colin Klein and Ignacio Ojea Quintana. Mark Alfano is Associate Professor at Macquarie University, using tools and methods from philosophy, psychology, and computer science to explore topics in social epistemology, moral psychology, and digital humanities.

Submission Instructions

  • Submitted work will be between 5,000 and 8,000 words.
  • Submitted work can present empirical studies on misinformation, conspiracy theories, fake news, and similar phenomena; or provide philosophical analyses of those phenomena.
  • Submitted work can contribute to an understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on shared beliefs; or discuss the merits of various individual and societal responses to collective irrationalities.
  • The special issue is expected to be published in late 2022. All manuscripts will be independently reviewed. Submissions are welcome from researchers at all career stages and from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds as long as the manuscripts contribute to the themes of the call for papers.
  • For queries, please contact Professor Lisa Bortolotti or Dr Kengo Miyazono.

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