Fabrice Clément is a social scientist, born in 1967 in the Swiss alpine village of Champéry. As the randomness of what people spontaneously took for granted struck him from a very early age, he decided to broaden his understanding of the social and psychological mechanisms underlining human beliefs.
After a Master in anthropology and sociology at the University of Lausanne, he furthered his conceptual and analytical skills in Geneva, where he got a master in Philosophy. Thanks to Joelle Proust, invited professor at the university, he realized how significant cognitive sciences could be for his topic, and went on to study cognitive sciences in Paris, where he got a Diplome d’etude avancee (DEA).
After a conceptual work on the notion of belief with Pascal Engel, Fabrice Clément started to investigate, with the help of Dan Sperber, the psychological and social mechanisms that underpin the phenomenon of credulity. This research led to a PhD in “Philosophy and Social Sciences” and is the source of his first book, Les mécanismes de la crédulité (The mechanisms of credulity).
Fabrice Clément then decided to give his research an empirical twist and went to the USA, where he stayed for just over three years. First At UC Berkeley, Alison Gopnik initiated him to developmental psychology, conceived as a kind of “field philosophy”. Then, he worked in the “Culture and Cognition Program” at the University of Michigan, where he developed theoretical and empirical tools to link cognitive and social sciences. He finally went on to Harvard, where he started a long term collaboration with Paul Harris and Melissa Koenig, publishing with them papers based on his empirical studies on trust, and testimony.
Now back in Switzerland, Fabrice Clément has recently taught at the universities of Geneva and Neuchâtel and resumed his long term collaboration with the sociologist Laurence Kaufmann. They have published together a book on the philosophy of John Searle, Le monde selon John Searle (The World According to John Searle). They have also initiated in Lausanne a lab dedicated to “naïve sociology”, working experimentally on various kinds of cognitive inferences made by children in social contexts.
Fabrice Clément’s thinking is converging on a new paradigm of “cognitive sociology”. Inspired by philosophy of mind, neurosciences and psychology, he suggests a new way to investigate some of the basic notions of social sciences, such as the epidemiology of beliefs, collective representations, or socialization.