David Dunning

David Dunning is a retired Professor of Psychology at Cornell University. As an experimental social psychologist, Dr. Dunning was a fellow of both the American Psychological Society and the American Psychological Association. He 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 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 focused 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 was featured in many 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 was also mentioned in a Doonesbury cartoon. His work on the self was 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 examined the extent to which choices that seem economic actually hinge more on psychological factors, such as social norms and emotion. He documented how people trust complete strangers in situations when 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 focused 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 showed 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.




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