Plenary Presentation:
Sheldon Solomon: (Un)Truth and Totalitarianism (60 min)

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Abstract: In this presentation Dr. Solomon will explore the central role of untruth in fascism; psychological factors contributing to devotion to charismatic/populist leaders and their “big lies”; how social media in the 21st century magnifies untruths and amplifies psychological affinity for big liars; the grave danger this poses to democracy; and the role of “radical mindfulness” to offset these pernicious tendencies.

The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.” Hannah Arendt, The Origin of Totalitarianism, 1951.

Bio: Sheldon Solomon, PhD, is an American social psychologist. He is a professor of psychology at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. His studies of the effects of the uniquely human awareness of death on behavior have been supported by the National Science Foundation and Ernest Becker Foundation and were featured in the award-winning documentary film Flight from Death: The Quest for Immortality. He is co-author of In the Wake of 9/11: The Psychology of Terror and The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life. Sheldon is an American Psychological Society Fellow, and a recipient of an American Psychological Association Presidential Citation (2007), a Lifetime Career Award by the International Society for Self and Identity (2009), the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs Annual Faculty Award (2011), and a Career Contribution Award by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (2021).