On Wisdom

What does science tell us about wisdom?

About the show

On Wisdom features a social and cognitive scientist in Toronto and an educator in London discussing the latest empirical science regarding the nature of wisdom. Igor Grossmann runs the Wisdom & Culture Lab at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Charles Cassidy runs the Evidence-Based Wisdom project in London, UK. The podcast thrives on a diet of freewheeling conversation on wisdom, decision-making, wellbeing, and society and includes regular guests spots with leading behavioral scientists from the field of wisdom research and beyond. Welcome to The On Wisdom Podcast.

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  • 58: The Social Robots are Coming! (with Kerstin Dautenhahn)

    November 1st, 2023  |  49 mins 2 secs
    ai, artificial life, assistive technology, chatgpt, emotions, happiness, human-robot interaction, kerstin dautenhahn, llm, meaning, philosophy, psychology, purpose, reasoning, robot-assisted interventions, robotics, robotiquette, social anxiety, social robots, social science, well being, wisdom, wise robots

    Can we create wise robots? Kerstin Dautenhahn joins Igor and Charles to dive into the intriguing world of social robots, the finer points of “Robotiquette,” and the potential role such robots can play in supporting therapeutic treatments. Igor reflects on the limits of robot-based wisdom, Kerstin reveals the potential of Generative AI like ChatGPT to generate false information about her own professional identity, and Charles considers the perils of socially awkward machines. Welcome to Episode 58.

  • 57: The Epic Challenge of Knowing Thyself (with David Dunning)

    October 7th, 2023  |  1 hr 3 mins
    ai, checklists, dale carnegie, david dunning, dunning-kruger, emotions, happiness, how to win friends and influence people, jury service, justin kruger, meaning, metacognition, philosophy, psychology, purpose, reasoning, self-assessment, self-awareness, social science, well being, wisdom

    Can we ever really know ourselves, or are we destined to always make overly optimistic self-assessments? David Dunning joins Igor and Charles to discuss the Dunning-Kruger effect, the importance of asking the right questions, why arriving at an accurate view of ourselves is so challenging, and the implications for teaching, medicine, and even scientific research. Igor explores the possible reemergence of group assessments in education as a result of advances in AI, David shares why conversations with smart people often end up as competitions to ask the most questions, and Charles reflects on the wisdom-enhancing experience of jury service. Welcome to Episode 57.

  • 56: Awe Reloaded (with Dacher Keltner)

    August 29th, 2023  |  50 mins 8 secs
    awe, awe walk, dacher keltner, emotions, happiness, horror, meaning, meta awareness, moral beauty, philosophy, psychology, purpose, reasoning, social science, terror, uc berkeley, well being, wisdom

    Have we overlooked a major source of awe, right under our collective noses? Dacher Keltner returns to the On Wisdom studio to discuss his new book "Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life", the power of moral beauty, the desire for connection, and the importance of wandering. Igor suggest that awe can also entail feelings of terror, Dacher reflects on the perils of awe being used against us, and Charles shares his experience of an awe walk-around-the-bloc. Welcome to Episode 56.

  • 55: Wise of the Machines (with Sina Fazelpour)

    August 5th, 2023  |  1 hr 4 mins
    ai, algorithms, alignment, alphago, artificial intelligence, bias, chatgpt, constitutional ai, diversity, emotions, god’s touch, happiness, large language model, lee sedols, llm, machine learning, meaning, philosophy, psychology, purpose, reasoning, sina fazelpour, social science, well being, wisdom

    How can we make AI wiser? And could AI make us wiser in return? Sina Fazelpour joins Igor and Charles to discuss the problem of bias in algorithms, how we might make machine learning systems more diverse, and the thorny challenge of alignment. Igor considers whether interacting with AIs might help us achieve higher levels of understanding, Sina suggests that setting up AIs to promote certain values may be problematic in a pluralistic society, and Charles is intrigued to learn about the opportunities offered by teaming up with our machine friends. Welcome to Episode 55.

  • 54: Emotions Are Not What You Think (with Lisa Feldman Barrett )

    May 30th, 2023  |  49 mins 4 secs
    affect, allostasis, anthropology, cognition, complex signal ensembles, computer science, context, developmental biology, emotions, engineering, evolutionary biology, happiness, history of science, how emotions are made, inside out movie, linguistics, lisa feldman barrett, meaning, motivation, neuroscience, philosophy, philosophy of science, physiology, predictions, psychology, purpose, reasoning, relational meaning, social science, theory of constructed emotion, well being, wisdom

    What actually are “emotions” and how are they made? Lisa Feldman Barrett joins Igor and Charles to discuss what we’ve got right and what we’ve got completely wrong about the nature of our emotional lives. Igor grapples with the idea that red apples aren’t necessarily red, Lisa shares that anger doesn’t always look like anger, and Charles learns that a racing heartbeat can be interpreted in fundamentally different ways. Welcome to Episode 54.

  • 53: Moral Reframing and The Science of Political Persuasion (with Robb Willer)

    April 10th, 2023  |  59 mins 36 secs
    activist’s dilemma, covid-19, emotions, happiness, matthew feinberg, meaning, metaperceptions, moral reframing, partisan animosity, philosophy, political persuasion, psychology, purpose, reasoning, robb willer, social science, well being, wisdom

    How can you persuade someone who disagrees with you on everything? In this episode, we discover the secrets of political persuasion with Robb Willer, a leading expert on political persuasion and moral reframing. Igor grills Robb on the ethics of activism in social science, Robb defends his mission to make a difference in the world, and Charles is amazed to find out that he can fix his misperceptions with a few simple tricks. Don’t miss this inspiring and ground-breaking conversation that will transform how you communicate with others. Tune in to Episode 53 now!

  • 52: World Wide Wisdom (with Deepak Ramola)

    January 5th, 2023  |  55 mins 12 secs
    deepak ramola, emotions, happiness, life lessons, meaning, morality, perspective-taking, philosophy, project fuel, psychology, purpose, reasoning, social science, well being, wisdom, wise wall project, world wisdom map

    Imagine gathering hard-earned lessons from survivors of human trafficking in Nepal, middle school children in Afghanistan, refugees in Europe, and even a man who has witnessed over 12,000 deaths. Deepak Ramola has been on such a lesson-gathering mission for a while, and he joins Igor and Charles to discuss the life lessons he has collected, who gets to define moral behaviour, and how we might change our culture to encourage more perspective-taking. Igor highlights the challenge of stepping outside ourselves in the heat of the moment, Deepak asks some challenging questions about love, and Charles learns the surprising value of proverbs as tools of reflection.

  • 51: Tricky Colleagues and Contagious Emotions (with Tessa West)

    November 15th, 2022  |  57 mins 48 secs
    affect contagion, emotions, happiness, jerks at work, meaning, new york university, philosophy, physiological synchrony, psychology, purpose, reasoning, social science, tessa west, well being, wendy berry mendes, wisdom

    How do we respond wisely to foolish behaviour in the workplace? Tessa West joins Igor and Charles to talk about the most common types of ‘jerks at work’ - including the bulldozer, the credit stealer, and the gaslighter, discussing what drives such unhelpful behaviour, and how best to deal with it. Igor explores the different ways we can respond to uncertainty in the workplace, Tessa suggests that we’re surprisingly nice to moral violators, and Charles learns the importance of building in ‘affect contagion buffers’ into his day! Welcome to Episode 51.

  • 50: Morality Meets World (with Joshua Greene)

    October 9th, 2022  |  57 mins 28 secs
    culture, dual process theory, effective altruism, emotions, giving multiplier, happiness, joshua greene, meaning, moral tribes, no cognitive miracles principle, pandemic, philosophy, psychology, purpose, reasoning, social psychology, society, trolley problems, wisdom, wisdom of repugnance, yuck factor

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    Can insights from moral psychology increase donations to more effective charities? Joshua Greene joins Igor and Charles to discuss ventilator allocation and other pandemic-related trolley problems, deep pragmatism, the dual process theory of moral judgement, and the power of the veil of ignorance. Igor gets excited about the role of metacognition for wisdom, Joshua reveals in what contexts we feel more comfortable pushing a fat man off a bridge, and Charles learns that when it comes to unfamiliar moral problems, we should not expect cognitive miracles! Welcome to Episode 50.

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  • 49: Wise Goals (with Ayelet Fishbach)

    August 31st, 2022  |  47 mins 44 secs
    assessment, ayelet fishbach, culture, emotions, goals, habits, happiness, meaning, philosophy, psychology, purpose, reasoning, self-regulation, social psychology, society, wendy wood, wisdom

    What does goal-setting have to do with wisdom and how do we pick wise goals? Ayelet Fishbach joins Igor and Charles to discuss the dangers of moving too swiftly from planning-mode to action-mode, how to compromise across multiple goals, and why we need to rethink our relationships with vegetables! Igor underscores the importance of thinking of wisdom as a process rather than an outcome, Ayelet encourages us to change our situation rather than ourselves, and Charles learns the benefits of approaching a choice as if you’d make it 100 times. Welcome to Episode 49.

  • 48: A Joyous Journey from Black-and-White to Grey (with Tom Gilovich)

    August 1st, 2022  |  48 mins 26 secs
    amos tversky, basketball, bias blind spot, black and white thinking, cosmic insignificance, critical thinking, daniel kahneman, emotions, george loewenstein, happiness, hot hand effect, i-frame, less ross, meaning, nick chater, nudges, oliver burkeman, philosophy, psychology, purpose, reasoning, richard nisbett, s-frame, social science, spotlight effect, tom gilovich, well being, wisdom

    Is "the spectrum" a more helpful way to think about the world than "categories"? Tom Gilovich joins Igor and Charles to discuss the perils of black-and-white thinking, the evolving data on the hot hand phenomenon, the science of regret, why foxes are wiser than hedgehogs, and the freedom that comes from learning that we are of less interest to other people than we think. Igor considers the limits of psychological nudging in tackling society’s structural problems, Tom shares the perspective that leads him to be so unrelentingly joyful, and Charles learns that even scientists have to work hard to avoid being typecast. Welcome to Episode 48.

  • 47: Charting Pandemic Waters: A Common Wisdom Model for Uncertain Times (with Howard Nusbaum) - Rebroadcast

    July 20th, 2022  |  1 hr 2 mins
    adversity, alfred binet, artificial intelligence, balance of self- and other-oriented interests, candace vogler, centre for practical wisdom, common wisdom model, cortex-adaptability, dialectal thinking, emotions, epistemic humility, happiness, howard nusbaum, iq, jingle-jangle fallacy, keith stanovich, meaning, metacognition, moral-grounding, nancy snow, perspectival insight, perspectivism, philosophy, propositional logic, psychology, purpose, pursuit of truth, reasoning, shared humanity, social science, social-cognitive processing, toronto wisdom task force, university of chicago, valerie tiberius, value-action gap, values, well being, wisdom, wisdom measurement

    (First Broadcast - 21st June 2020)

    What is the value of wisdom in the time of the global pandemic? Does the community of behavioural scientists studying wisdom agree on anything about the nature of wisdom? Can we say what we now know about wisdom and, conversely, what do we know we don’t yet know? Howard Nusbaum joins Igor and Charles to discuss the recently assembled Toronto Wisdom Task Force and the resulting Common Wisdom Model, meta-cognition, the thorny issue of moral-grounding, and sage advice regarding how to measure wisdom in the lab. Igor stresses the importance of building solid theoretical foundations for the field in the context of the pandemic, Howard reflects on the viability of evil wisdom, and Charles learns that we had better pay close attention today to the values we program into the decision-making robots of tomorrow.

  • 46: Antifragility, Gut Feelings, and the Myth of Pure Evil (with Jonathan Haidt) - Rebroadcast

    June 27th, 2022  |  58 mins 20 secs
    antifragility, authoritarian conservatives, buddhism, chris martin, culture, dale carnegie, donald trump, edmund burke, emotions, evergreen state college, greg lukianoff, happiness, heraclitus, heterodox academy, jonathan haidt, karen stenner, laissez-faire conservatives, manichaeism, marcus aurelius, meaning, middlebury college, moral foundations theory, more in common, narrowcasting, nassim nicholas taleb, national review magazine, nicholas rosenkranz, philosophy, polarization, psychology, purpose, reasoning, richard schweder, robert putnam, ronald reagan, social psychology, social science, society, status quo conservatives, stoicism, the coddling of the american mind, the great awokening, the happiness hypothesis, the perception gap, the righteous mind, thomas sowell, well being, wisdom

    (First Broadcast - 4th November 2019)

    Does that which doesn’t kill you make you weaker? Should we always follow our emotions? Is life a battle between good people and bad people? And critically, what might the adoption of these three popular, but unwise, ideas be doing to a rising generation of young adults? Jonathan Haidt joins Igor and Charles to discuss the three great untruths of modern life, the nature of antifragility, the 'great awokening,' rising violence on US university campuses, and the origin story of the Heterodox Academy. Igor suggests that diversity can help some projects while hindering others, Jon shares his ultimate conflict-resolving ninja skill, and Charles learns that conservative voters come in radically different shapes and sizes.

  • 45: Wisdom at Work (with Barry Schwartz) - Rebroadcast

    June 7th, 2022  |  59 mins 20 secs
    aristotle, barry schwartz, character, feedback, free-rider, freelancers, idea technology, incentives, money, practical wisdom, rules, salary, virtue ethics, wisdom, work, workplace

    (First Broadcast - 28th December 2018)

    Can we design our workplaces to generate wiser behaviour? Why do we work anyway, and would we still work if we didn’t get paid? Do employers even want their employees to develop wisdom? Barry Schwartz joins Igor and Charles to discuss how Aristotle’s Practical Wisdom applies in the 21st Century, the reasons why we work, idea technology, the unintended consequences of rules-based systems, and the moral dangers and limits of incentives. Igor proposes the idea of algorithm-based wise machines, Barry suggests companies hire for character rather than skill, and Charles learns why, in wiser work places, the cost of free-riders may well be a price worth paying.

  • 44: A Special Announcement

    May 24th, 2022  |  1 min 48 secs
    culture, emotions, happiness, meaning, philosophy, psychology, purpose, reasoning, social psychology, society, wisdom

    Igor and Charles return with a special announcement for On Wisdom listeners ...

  • 43: Invisible to Ourselves: A Life of a Psychological Scientist (with Richard Nisbett)

    December 4th, 2021  |  1 hr 11 mins
    actor-observer bias, amos tversky, analytic perception, culture, daniel kahneman, emotions, happiness, holistic perception, intelligence, iq, job interviews, lee ross, meaning, mental processes, philosophy, psychology, purpose, reasoning, richard nisbett, social psychology, society, wisdom

    A disturbing thought - might it be impossible for us to directly observe the workings of our minds? Richard Nisbett joins Igor and Charles to discuss a life lived on the cutting edge of behavioral sciences in the second part of the 20th Century. He shares tales from his groundbreaking research into our faulty mindware, discussing various biases, cultural differences in cognitive processes, our inability to directly observe our mental processes, and why job interviews are not only unhelpful but potentially harmful to our ability to hire the best person for the job. Igor is keen to learn about the human beings behind some of the 20th Century’s academic idols in social psychology like Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky and Lee Ross, Richard explains why important work and interesting work are not necessarily the same thing, and Charles struggles to make sense of when we do and don’t intervene to help strangers in peril. Welcome to Episode 43.