Upcoming Program: Marie Helweg-Larsen

Dickinson College

Why Are We Optimistically Biased About Our Risks?: Applications to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Monday, April 6, 2020
Live Stream Event, NOON – 1 p.m.
Live Stream Link
(to be provided at 11:50 a.m. on day of event)

The optimistic bias (thinking you are less at risk than other people) is well documented. This talk will explain why it is so pervasive and how it can help us understand complacency in following coronavirus precautionary behaviors.


Marie Helweg-Larsen is a social psychologist who examines why smart people do dumb things. Helweg-Larsen has examined the causes, consequences, and correlates of optimistic bias (thinking you are less at risk than others) as well as other health-related behaviors and cognitions. Most recently she has examined cross-culturally how moralized beliefs about smoking affect risk perceptions and willingness to quit smoking. In her current NIH-funded research she is examining the effects of stigmatization on smokers’ willingness to quit smoking. Last week Helweg-Larsen began a research project with two Dickinson alumni (Laurel Peterson ’06 and Sarah DiMuccio ’15) in which they are examining the gendered and political factors in the link between coronavirus risk perceptions and preventive behaviors.

Upcoming Program: Update on this Semester’s Programming

Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Dickinson College has made the decision to complete the semester online. The college is following federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance that all gatherings of 50 or more people should be suspended for eight weeks. In accordance with this guidance, all Clarke Forum programs are postponed. We are looking into the possibility of live-streaming events so stay tuned. You can take advantage of past programming by viewing our lecture videos or listening to interviews of our guest speakers.

The Clarke Forum’s Semester Theme & Faculty Seminar

Each semester the Clarke Forum devotes a major portion of its resources to programs organized around a semester theme that is also the basis for a faculty seminar. All members of the faculty are invited to propose topics for themes/faculty seminars. Past themes/faculty seminars have included Sexuality and Societies; Living in a World of Limits; The Meanings of Race WaterLanguage; War at Home; Disability Inequality and Mass Incarceration in the United States;  Food; Media, Technology & Civic Engagement, Big Data,  Indigeneity in the Americas and Sustainability. The theme/faculty seminar for the fall 2019 semester is Masculinities. If you are interested in proposing a Clarke Forum theme/faculty seminar, please visit Proposing a Clarke Forum Theme/Faculty Seminar.

The Clarke Forum’s Leadership In an Age of Uncertainty Series


The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues has established a series of programmatic events dedicated to the theme of leadership in an age of uncertainty. This initiative is grounded on the reality that today’s generation of Dickinson students confronts a large number of intractable political, economic, and social problems: terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, environmental pollution, global warming, a sustainable energy policy, the ongoing financial crisis, the federal deficit, the amount of public and private debt, the health care crisis, along with issues regarding race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, as well as technology and privacy. These issues and problems directly or indirectly pose challenges to the College and the local community that may in time require fundamental changes in institutions, values, and practices across the public, private, and non-profit sectors of American society. How Dickinsonians respond to these challenges presents us with an opportunity for reflection on the meaning of leadership in the contemporary world. This series is partially supported by a fund created by Betty R. ’58 and Dan Churchill.