David Rand

Cognitive and behavioral science expert focusing on fake news.


Thinkers50 Radar Class of 2023. 


Shortlisted for the Thinkers50 2023 Digital Thinking Award.


Named to Wired magazine’s Smart List 2012 of ‘50 people who will change the world.’ 


Bridging the fields of cognitive science, behavioral economics, and social psychology, Rand’s research combines behavioral experiments run online and in the field with mathematical and computational models to understand people’s attitudes, beliefs, and choices. His work uses a cognitive science perspective grounded in the tension between more intuitive versus deliberative modes of decision making, to explore topics such as cooperation, outrage, misinformation, political preferences, and social media platform behavior. He focuses on illuminating why people believe and share misinformation and ‘fake news,’ understanding political psychology and polarization, and promoting human cooperation. 


Rand is the Erwin H Schell Professor and professor of management science and brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, the director of the Applied Cooperation Team, and an affiliate of the MIT Institute of Data, Systems, and Society, and the Initiative on the Digital Economy. Rand received his BA in computational biology from Cornell University in 2004 and his PhD in systems biology from Harvard University in 2009, was a post-doctoral researcher in Harvard University’s Department of Psychology from 2009 to 2013, and was an assistant and then associate professor (with tenure) of psychology, economics, and management at Yale University prior to joining the faculty at MIT.


‘Getting the facts straight on online misinformation’ (Financial Times, 16 October 2022); ‘The Right Way to Fight Fake News’ (The New York Times, 24 March 2020); ‘Are You “Virtue Signaling”’ (with Jillian Jordan, The New York Times, 30 March 2019); ‘Why Do People Fall For Fake News’ (with Gordon Pennycock, The New York Times, 19 January 2019); ‘The Rise and Fall of Cognitive Control’ (with Jonathan Cohen, Behavioral Scientist, 07 July 2017); ‘The Real Problem With Hypocrisy’ (with Jillian Jordan, Roseanna Sommers, The New York Times, 13 January 2017).


Media picks



The Psychology of Fake News


“Critical, scholarly work on misinformation and fake news, and intuition vs deliberation.”

Stuart Crainer & Des Dearlove, Thinkers50

Named to Wired magazine’s Smart List 2012 of ‘50 people who will change the world.’ 

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