Date of Award

Fall 12-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Eddy Nahmias

Second Advisor

Bill Edmundson

Third Advisor

Andrew I. Cohen

Abstract

Humans have now amassed a sizable knowledge of widespread, nonconscious cognitive biases which affect our behavior, especially in social and economic contexts. I contend that a democratic government is uniquely justified in using knowledge of cognitive biases to promote pro-democratic behavior, conditionally justified in using it to accomplish ends traditionally within the scope of government authority, and unjustified in using it for any other purpose. I also contend that the government ought to redesign institutional infrastructure to avoid triggering cognitive biases where it is not permitted intentionally to manipulate such biases and to optimize the effects of such biases where permissible. I shall use the United States of America as an example throughout, but my conclusions apply equally to any democracy which values the political autonomy of its populace.

Included in

Philosophy Commons

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