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.
August 16th, 2020 | 44 mins 41 secs
alzheimer’s disease, attention, balloon analogue risk task, culture, emotions, happiness, heiko braak, hyperphosphorylated tau, iowa gambling task, laura carstensen, locus coeruleus, mara mather, meaning, memory, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, purpose, reasoning, social psychology, society, socio-emotional selectivity theory, time horizons, wisdom
Despite the common stereotype of ‘older and crankier,’ psychologists suggest we become more positive as we age. Why? Do our aging brains become worse at detecting threats in the environment? Do we choose to focus on more positive aspects of our experience as we age? And what does the latest scientific research say about one of the major dangers of older age — Alzheimer’s disease? Mara Mather joins Igor and Charles to discuss the neuroscience of emotional aging, the role of the locus coeruleus in memory and attention, emotion-induced blindness, and the parallels between Cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Igor digs into the different roles of culture and the lack of good longitudinal studies of aging, Mara reveals how intense emotions can sharpen some aspects of our memories of an event while blunting others, and Charles learns that he and many others may be on the Alzheimer’s spectrum. Welcome to Episode 30.
June 21st, 2020 | 1 hr 8 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
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. Welcome to Episode 29.
April 23rd, 2020 | 31 mins 55 secs
9-11, barbara fredrickson, coronavirus, counting blessings, covid-19, culture, depression, ed diener, effort, emotions, eudaimonic happiness, face-to-face connection, global pandemic, gratitude, happiness, happiness intervention dosage, happiness intervention fit, hedonic happiness, immunity, indebtedness, life satisfaction, lockdown, meaning, mother teresa, motivation, optimism, personal connection, philanthropy, philosophy, positive emotions, psychology, purpose, reasoning, resilience, social science, sonja lyubomirsky, south korea, well being, wisdom
Is happiness research even relevant in such times of crisis, or is focusing on our happiness simply a luxury we can no longer afford? And, while effective for many people, why does the cultivation of gratitude sometimes result in unexpectedly negative consequences? Sonja Lyubomirsky joins Igor and Charles to discuss the key components of happiness, lessons from 9-11, ‘happiness-intervention fit’, Mother Teresa’s dark side, and the unexpected psychological impact of the global pandemic to date. Igor reflects on life-under-lockdown vs life in the downfall of the Soviet Union, Sonja discusses the subtle art of balancing optimism with positive action, and Charles learns that when it comes to counting one’s blessings, it pays not to count too high.
April 6th, 2020 | 53 mins 42 secs
abraham maslow, age diversity, ageism, airbnb, baby boomer, brian chesky, burning man project, chip conley, curiosity, emotions, gavin newsom, governor of california, happiness, intergenerational housing, meaning, middlescence, midlife wisdom school, modern elder, modern elder academy, peter drucker, philosophy, psychology, purpose, reasoning, sandwich generation, social science, stanford center on longevity, u-curve of happiness, viktor frankl, well being, wisdom, wisdom @ work: the making of a modern elder
Though there is a lot of talk about diversity in the workplace, “age diversity” is often overlooked. Might there even be an emerging mission-critical role for wise elders in the world’s most cutting-edge tech companies? Hospitality maverick and Airbnb Strategic Advisor Chip Conley joins Igor and Charles to discuss the U-Curve of happiness, the surprises and challenges of mentoring billionaire CEOs and State Governors, the potential of intergenerational housing, the emergence of a new generation of wisdom workers, and his new project to build the world’s first midlife wisdom school - The Modern Elder Academy. Igor seeks new solutions for the stressed 'sandwich generation', Chip highlights the importance of curiosity at work and how mentoring and interning often go hand-in-hand, and Charles picks Chip’s brain on how to make wisdom more hip and sexy. Welcome to Episode 27.
March 5th, 2020 | 59 mins 44 secs
age, culture, doctors, emotional sensitivity, emotions, empathy, exploratory processing, happiness, judith gluck, managing uncertainty & uncontrollability, meaning, more model of life experience, nic weststrate, openness, paul baltes, performance-based measures, philosophy, politics, psychology, purpose, reasoning, redemptive processing, reflectivity, self-report measures, social psychology, society, susan bluck, teachers, wisdom, wisdom measurement
Bad things happen to all of us. But why do some people grow wiser, while others simply grow bitter? What do scientists do to reliably measure wisdom in the laboratory? And might this research suggest solutions to some of the most pressing problems of our time? Igor and Charles welcome one of today's leading wisdom scientists - Judith Glück, who discusses the MORE Model of Life Experience, different ways of reflecting on personal experiences, collaborative doctors, compassionate teachers, and pervasive foolishness across the entire political spectrum. Igor ponders potential paths to wiser politics in the face of the world's uncertainties, Judith reminds us that our choice of confidants is critical if we are to extract wisdom from challenging experiences, and Charles is surprised to learn that neither the left nor the right has a monopoly on championing unwise leaders. Welcome to Episode 26.
25: 'This is Basically a Revolution': Self-Knowledge and The Battle for Better Science (with Simine Vazire)
February 12th, 2020 | 59 mins 1 sec
benevolence, culture, data police, emotions, happiness, intellectual humility, kindness, meaning, meta-science, methodological terrorism, open science movement, philosophy, philosophy of science, preprint, psychology, purpose, reasoning, replication crisis, scientific credibility, scientific revolution, self-insight, social psychology, society, transparency, wisdom
Is the “business-as-usual” approach to science in crisis? Does the public have a good grasp of how scientific knowledge is really generated? And might scientists be as much prey to self-serving biases as the rest of us mortals? Simine Vazire joins Igor and Charles to discuss the thorny complexity of seeking reliable knowledge about the world and about ourselves, the perils of being a whistleblower in the competitive world of modern science, and the on-going scientific credibility revolution. We discuss meta-scientists, the Open Science movement, and the power of preprints to bust open the black box of peer review. Igor tries to unpack the dialectic of motives among the ‘data policemen,’ Simine issues a call-to-arms for a grassroots-powered future for the scientific community, and Charles learns that the planet of self-knowledge is in a galaxy still far, far away. Welcome to Episode 25.
January 13th, 2020 | 39 mins
books, cass sunstein, choice architecture, civic law, civic norms, common’s dilemma, cooperation, cultural change, dictator game, economic games, economics, emotions, ethics, experimental philosophy, fairness, formal logic, friedrich von hayek, game theory, happiness, john rawls, keynesian economics, meaning, milton friedman, moral psychology, neoliberalism, nudging, philosophy, prisoner’s dilemma, psycholinguistics, psychology, public policy, purpose, rational choice theory, reason, reasoning, richard thaler, self-interest, sharing, social psychology, social science, taxes, tv sitcoms, utility maximization, well being, wisdom
Are people being reasonable when they act irrationally? Doesn’t rationality and reasonableness mean the same thing? Charles and Igor kick of the new decade by diving into a messy mix of behavioral economics, nudges, moral philosophy and legal studies, to examine what standards guide people’s decisions. Charles asks Igor about core standards that guide people when they try to make a good decision. Igor unpacks how the standard of a rational agent evolved in the 20th century and what implications it has had for modern economics and politics. Charles wonders if there are any reasonable people left on the Clapham omnibus in London. Igor discusses his new work assessing how most people define rationality and reasonableness, showing that irrational behavior may be a consequence of focusing on reasonableness instead. Welcome to Episode 24.
November 4th, 2019 | 57 mins 38 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
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. Welcome to Episode 23.
October 7th, 2019 | 51 mins 46 secs
10% of your brain, abraham lincoln, bias blind spot, carl sagan, clinical psychology, cognitive biases, confirmation bias, daniel kahneman, elizabeth loftus, emily pronin, emotions, epistemic humility, evidence-based medicine, evidence-based practice, happiness, intellectual humility, linus pauling, lucy, mark leary, meaning, nobel prize, philosophy, psychology, purpose, reasoning, richard nisbett, scarlett johansson, seymour epstein, social science, walter mischel, well being, werewolves, wisdom
Patients always receive treatment in agreement with the best scientific evidence available, right? Well, no. Not really. Clinical practitioners seem to suffer from many of the cognitive biases that affect the rest of us, and treatment decisions are often much less science-based that we might like to think. Scott Lilienfeld joins Igor and Charles to discuss evidence-based practice in psychotherapy, the importance of doubting, clinical psychology’s dirty little secret, Scarlett Johansson’s brain, confirmation bias, how science really works, and why people just can’t let go of the idea that a full moon triggers werewolf-style behaviour. Igor reveals he learnt his English from TV detective ‘Columbo’, Scott discusses the fine art of planting seeds of doubt in conversations, and Charles learn from Abraham Lincoln that intellectual humility can ultimately be a path to earned intellectual confidence. Welcome to Episode 22.
September 13th, 2019 | 53 mins 32 secs
algorithms, contempt, corrigibility, digital mining, education, emotions, engagement, enlightenment, epistemic humility, experimental philosophy, facebook, happiness, hume, intellectual humility, intellectual modesty, intellectual virtues, kant, machine-learning, meaning, moral virtues, nietzsche, open-mindedness, philosophy, polarization, politics, psychology, purpose, reasoning, social media, social science, socrates, twitter, virtue education, virtues, well being, wisdom
We live in confusing times. Politics is polarizing. Opinions clash on many topics leading to heated discussions. Take environmental change and what to do about it, the best ways to achieve prosperity, or the threats and opportunities of our globalized economy. Are we ready to admit that we often actually don’t understand what’s going on? Mark Alfano joins Igor and Charles to discuss the importance of ‘intellectual humility’ when seeking a more accurate grasp of reality, the perils of poorly designed virtue education programmes, Nietzsche and his take on the intellectual virtues, and the training of machine-learning algorithms to mine our digital footprints for signs of virtuous behaviour. Igor raises concerns that embracing uncertainty may hobble vital action, Mark talks of the dangers of creaking open your social media newsfeed too wide, and Charles learns that fostering contempt for oneself and one’s group may be essential on the path to truth. Welcome to Episode 21.
August 20th, 2019 | 58 mins 8 secs
admiration, appraisal theory of emotion, awe, constructionist theory of emotion, culture, darwin, ehrfurcht, emodiversity, fear, jon haidt, psychology, social psychology, wisdom
What exactly is ‘awe’ and does it bring us, as individuals or as a society, any benefit? Dacher Keltner joins Igor and Charles to discuss why Canadians feel differently about awe than the Chinese, how to take an ‘awe walk’, why emotions vary across historical time, and the importance of experiencing diverse emotions and how to balance them, while the 'Dacher-Guesses-Emotions' game reveals the alarmingly fine line between disgust and desire. Igor digs into controversies over different theories of emotion, Dacher talks of inequality and elation as the new frontiers of social psychology, and Charles learns that awe may play a key role in the very process of scientific discovery itself. Welcome to Episode 20.
July 30th, 2019 | 30 mins 42 secs
adam grant, attention management, cognitive entrenchment, culture, culture carriers, culture change, give & take, giving culture, nobel prize, non-conformity, organizational psychology, originals, psychology, social psychology, social responsibility, wisdom
Can an individual really change a culture? Adam Grant joins Igor and Charles to discuss cultures of non-conformity and giving in the workplace, the perils of cognitive entrenchment, the critical role of culture carriers, and why we should be managing our attention rather than our time. Igor delights in learning of the astoundingly high frequency of dancers among Nobel prize winners, Adam suggests that moral arguments still trump bottom-line arguments in the boardroom, and Charles learns that the secret route to culture-change might be found in asking your boss for advice. Welcome to Episode 19.
Episode 18: The End of the World is Nigh: Polarised Tribes, Passionate Words, and the Partisan Brain (with Jay Van Bavel)
June 29th, 2019 | 1 hr 3 mins
bias, culture, echo chambers, jay van bavel, mathematics, moral-emotional language, motivated reasoning, neuroscience, off-ramps, partisanship, perception, polarisation, politics, psychology, social media, social psychology, superheroes, wisdom
How did politics get so damn polarised? Jay Van Bavel joins Igor and Charles to discuss political polarisation, the partisan brain, the inexorable rise of superheroes in dark times, the misperceptions of polarisation levels, and how to reach out to other tribes. Igor highlights the partisanship-transcending benefits of a Watchmen-style alien invasion, Jay proposes the judicious use of ‘off-ramps’ when engaging with loved-ones from across the political divide, and Charles learns that even the abstract purity of Mathematics is not immune from the tentacles of partisanship when guns are involved. Welcome to Episode 18.
May 28th, 2019 | 1 hr 2 mins
backwards law, culture, guardian, inbox zero, ironic effect, jevons paradox, keynes, nietzsche, oliver burkeman, psychology, social psychology, the antidote, this column will change your life, wisdom
Our current productivity culture appears to peddle a false promise: If we can just get better organised, we really can do everything - no tough life choices or trade-offs need to be made! Guardian journalist and author Oliver Burkeman joins Igor and Charles to discuss the ironic effects of the pursuit of productivity, the inbox zero phenomenon, the futile denial of limitations, the Jevons paradox, Keynes’ concerns about a future society drowning in leisure time, Nietzsche’s suspicions regarding our beloved busyness, the social complexities of sending back a poorly made coffee, and the importance of living a life that is larger than politics. Igor wonders if the ‘slow-food’ philosophy can be extended to start a ‘slow-work’ movement in social and medical sciences to help address replication concerns, Oliver explains why he sat on the London underground loudly calling out the names of approaching stations to a carriage full of strangers, and Charles reveals how a ‘free-coffees-for-nice-customers’ policy can badly backfire, particularly if your customers are British. Welcome to Episode 17.
April 28th, 2019 | 59 mins 26 secs
binet, cognituve inoculation, culture, damasio, grossmann, iq test, lisa feldman-barrett, monte carlo fallacy baloney detection kit, psychology, robson, sagan, self-distancing, social psychology, somatic marker hypothesis, sternberg, terman, termites, wisdom
Do highly intelligent people actually take better decisions in their daily lives than everyone else? And if not, what’s missing from our picture of what it means to be ‘smart’? Can you be highly intelligent, yet flunk a rationality test? And rather than noise to be ignored, might our emotions help us make decisions that are actually more rational? David Robson joins Igor and Charles to discuss intelligence traps, Terman’s Termites, the Monte Carlo fallacy, Damasio’s Somatic Marker hypothesis, the competitive humility of the start-up culture, and the ‘brutal pessimism’ baked in to the dark history of the Intelligence test. Igor wrangles with the challenge of convincing leaders of the merits of intellectual humility in a culture obsessed with certainty, David advocates for widespread cognitive inoculations, and Charles learns that butterflies in the stomach after a date may mean love, but also may mean gastric flu. Welcome to Episode 16.
April 7th, 2019 | 45 mins 7 secs
climate change, cognitive reflection test, dual process theory, fake news, misinformation, motivated reasoning, psuedo-profound bullshit, psychology, social psychology, wisdom, wisdom of chopra
‘Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena?’ Does it, really?! Why do some people fall for pseudo-profound bullshit and others don’t? When we share fake news stories, is this because we're motivated to think they're real, or because we don't bother to think at all? And why do scientists fight tooth-and-nail over the mechanisms involved, such as “System I vs. System II”, “Fast vs. Slow” and other frameworks? Gordon Pennycook joins Igor and Charles to discuss the critical distinction between a liar and a bullshitter, the cognitive reflection test, the random Deepak Chopra quote generator, the Ig Nobel prize, motivated reasoning, climate change beliefs, academic turf wars among dual process theorists, and how to stop yourself from compulsively retweeting fake news. Igor suggests that Gord only thought of studying bullshit after disbelief at one of Igor’s early talks, Gord reminds us that even the most enlightened social media platforms are in no hurry to help people STOP sharing news, and Charles unexpectedly finds common ground with the Chinese government. Welcome to Episode 15.