Leah Henderson, Associate Professor in Philosophy of Science, will be appointed professor by special appointment in Societal Trust at the University of Groningen as of 1 July. The new chair was established in close collaboration with the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (KHMW) and the UG’s Rudolf Agricola School for Sustainable Development.
Social trust is the cement that holds society together. This applies to people's trust in each other and to the bond between people and institutions. Henderson’s chair focuses on understanding processes that undermine social trust, such as the spread of disinformation and increasing polarization in society.
Henderson explains: ‘I want to understand more about societal trust. That includes: knowing what is currently undermining societal trust and developing a positive vision of how we can improve it. What I find particularly worrying is ‘disinformation’: the active manipulation of information through propaganda and other, more devious practices. We need to understand the mechanisms to know how to best deal with it. For a solution, we need to dig a little deeper and look into the reasons that make people susceptible to such disinformation. Broader issues may then emerge, such as inequality in society.’
The Rudolf Agricola School is one of four new interdisciplinary schools in science & society. Within the Schools, academics from different disciplines work together with social partners on pressing issues. Societal trust is a prominent part of long-running research within the school, for example on issues such as the effects of local gas extraction in the province of Groningen on trust between citizens and government. Henderson will develop an interdisciplinary community for research, education, and awareness about societal trust.
● Leah Henderson will be installed as Endowed Professor of Societal Trust during the official opening of the Rudolf Agricola School on 21 June.
● Interview Leah Henderson: ‘Trust holds society together. Most successful when it is invisible’
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