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Jan is a researcher focusing on
social change, political conflict,

persuasion, and metascience.


Jan G.

PhD candidate at
Polarization and Social Change Lab,
Stanford University



Jan G. Voelkel is a PhD candidate in Sociology and a member of the Polarization and Social Change lab at Stanford University. 

Jan's research examines under which conditions micro-level preferences for more equality and unity translate into voting decisions that are crucial for systemic change. For example, Jan’s research has examined under what conditions American voters (i) refuse undemocratic elites, (ii) support women candidates for president, and (iii) back economically progressive politicians. Jan co-led the Strengthening Democracy Challenge, a megastudy that tested 25 crowdsourced interventions for reducing anti-democratic attitudes and partisan animosity. 

Jan’s research has been published in journals, such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Human Behaviour, PNAS Nexus, and Psychological Science. His research has been covered by media outlets, such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, Die Zeit, and Der Tagesspiegel.

At Stanford, Jan is the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow and a former Philanthropy and Civil Society Fellow and Stanford Impact Labs Fellow. Jan has won the Open Science Innovator Award, the Barbara and Sandy Dornbusch Award for Best Paper in Social Psychology, and the Leila Arthur Cilker Award for Outstanding Teaching Assistance.

Before his dissertation work, Jan earned a MA in Sociology from Stanford University, a MS in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Tilburg University, and a BS in Social Sciences from the University of Cologne. In his spare time, Jan enjoys moral dilemmas, plays racket sports, and plans political murder mystery parties.


Contemporary societies often maintain high levels of inequality and intrasocietal conflicts even when their members prefer equality and peace. It is particularly troubling when misperceptions keep people from pursuing social change that is feasible. Such situations arise across a variety of domains:


Why is U.S. society so polarized even though most Americans wish there was less division? Why do voters who claim to value democratic principles elect undemocratic candidates? Why is the U.S. still waiting for its first woman president although a large share of voters report they are ready or even excited for a woman candidate? And why does economic inequality keep rising when even a conservative majority believe that inequality is too high?


Below you find a selection of papers.
Please find the full list of publications here.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Correcting exaggerated meta-perceptions reduces American legislators’ support for undemocratic practices.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America


Corbett, C. M.*, Voelkel, J. G.*, Cooper, M., & Willer, R.

Podcasts & Talks

Below you find a selection of podcast interviews and academic talks.

All Videos
The Key to Democracy with Jan Voelkel

The Key to Democracy with Jan Voelkel

Play Video
Ep 15: Psychologists discuss political persuasion w/ a Real Organizer! Jen Snyder of Red Bridge

Ep 15: Psychologists discuss political persuasion w/ a Real Organizer! Jen Snyder of Red Bridge

Play Video
Strengthening Democracy Challenge Workshop

Strengthening Democracy Challenge Workshop

Play Video
Week 7: Open Science Fundamentals

Week 7: Open Science Fundamentals

Play Video


Changing existing social inequalities requires new leaders. The goal of my teaching is to equip students with the knowledge and analytical skills to recognize and question structural inequalities as well as lead efforts to achieve lasting social change.


The central tenets of my pedagogical approach are five principles. First, I aim to understand the students’ needs and goals. Second, I emphasize knowledge and skills in my teaching that students can use across different domains and careers. Third, I make important constructs more tangible by combining short lectures that focus on building intuitions, small-group exercises that foster exposure to diverse perspectives, and application to students’ own topics of interest. Fourth, I provide regular feedback and highlight areas for improvement. Finally, the trademark of my teaching approach is that I am willing to go above and beyond for my students, especially those who are motivated but struggle to master the course materials.

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