William J. Berger, PhD

Fellow; Philosophy, Politics & Economics


I am a fellow with Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) at the University of Pennsylvania, where I work with Cristina Bicchieri on research regarding American perceptions of inequality and autonomy. I also consult on a Democracy Fund project through CHIP that looks at how philanthropy might strengthen democracy.

Broadly, my work seeks to inform democratic theory and political epistemology by marrying empirical, formal, and normative work in political science. My dissertation titled, Affective Trust and the Role of Social Norms in Constructing Faith in Others, identifies the role social norms play in eliciting the attitudes that ground trust. While there is plenty of scholarship on how information generates trust, far less attention has been paid to its affective character. The project follows Christian missionaries to explore how they come to trust those to whom they preach, particularly under conditions of information scarcity. Using an institutional lens, I argue that social norms can generate attitudes of optimism among missionaries, thereby explaining trust’s affective valence and ultimately the faith we place in others.

On the computational end, I work in the Computational Social Philosophy Lab with Patrick Grim, Daniel Singer, Aaron Bramson, Bennett Holman, Karen Kovaka, and Jiin Jung. We use elegant computer and analytic models to uncover the dynamics and plausibility of prominent conjectures in social epistemology, philosophy of science, and political philosophy. We've written papers on issues such as trust, polarization, and scientific experimentation. Thanks to Scott Page (who collaborated with us on a paper), I have an Erdos Number of five.

Previously, I served as a scholar with the Center for Complex Systems at the University of Michigan, where I completed my PhD in political theory in the Department of Political Science, studying with Don Herzog (chair), Arlene Saxonhouse, Jenna Bednar, and Liz Anderson. My undergraduate degree is from the University of Chicago, where I worked with Jean Elshtain (1941-2013) and Abe Stone.

zberger at sas dot upenn dot edu

313 Cohen Hall

Curriculum Vitae