People readily evaluate their world, including the people in it, in terms of good and bad. Implicit (nonconscious) evaluations—i.e., whether someone is good, or bad, or both—can serve as a filter shaping perception, judgments, and ultimately behavior. During her fellowship, Vivian Zayas will study implicit evaluations of public figures and their downstream consequences on consumption of digital news, interpretation and attributions of political events, and susceptibility to believing and spreading fake news. The work aims to elucidate the cognitive and affective architecture that attracts people towards strong leaders and sustains continued support of them.
Zayas is an associate professor of psychology at Cornell University. Her research focuses on the relational mind examining questions such as: how do we mentally represent the emotional complexity that defines human interactions? Why do we trust some people and not others? How do we perceive allies and foes? Her research appears in journals such as Psychological Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Communications, and Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, as well as in the popular press, such as the New York Times, Quartz, Newsweek, Discover Magazine, and Psychology Today. Her research has received funding from NSF and NIH.