Max Henning is a Technical Specialist in Social and Behavioral Sciences at Democracy International (DI). In this role, Mr. Henning supports the Strategy and Technical Leadership team in thought leadership by informing program design and implementation with the rich academic literature on human behavior. He brings a deep and specialized knowledge of human feeling, emotion, and motivation to DI’s governance and civic engagement work. His focus is on helping DI develop next-generation approaches to build pro-democratic attitudes, norms, and identities through programs that leverage local values and traditional institutions to increase civic empowerment and government responsiveness.
Mr. Henning earned his BA in Neuroscience at the University of Southern California (USC) and worked for five years with renowned neuroscientist Dr. Antonio Damasio at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute. He studied the molecular and evolutionary foundations of feeling and emotion; researched prosocial motivation and behavior; and helped develop novel theories of consciousness. During this time, he became increasingly concerned that anti-democratic actors were effectively leveraging emotion and feeling to undermine democratic attitudes and behaviors in the US, while pro-democratic actors did not seem to know how to effectively counter them. Mr. Henning pushed for a new research program to study how feeling and emotion could be used to support pro-democratic attitudes and behaviors, culminating in a study that effectively shifted politicized attitudes and behaviors around mask-wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic using moral reframing. Encouraged that the neuroscience of feeling had legitimate value to democracy assistance, he enrolled in a master’s program in Democracy and Governance at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.