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.
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.
March 13th, 2019 | 59 mins 2 secs
autocratic recidivism, collectivism, cross-cultural psychology, culture, individualism, leadership, psychology, social psychology, tightness-looseness theory, wisdom
Is it wiser for a society to be ‘tight’ – strictly enforcing social rules, or ‘loose’ – in which social rule-breaking barely raise an eyebrow? What do social norms have to do with a sense of threat? And might wise leaders have worked out how to dynamically calibrate the tightness or looseness of their organisations as the situation demands? Michele Gelfand joins Igor and Charles to discuss the role of threat in ‘tight vs loose’ societies, the goldilocks principle, ‘real vs perceived’ threat’s in Trump’s America, autocratic recidivism, rum-fuelled meetings, transgressive hand puppets, and the case for recalibrating the internet. Igor reflects on the tight-loose contradictions at the beating heart of the Disney Corporation, Michele cautions against ‘flipping-off’ drivers in the honour culture of the southern states, and Charles makes peace with his inner spirit muppet, Kermit the frog. Welcome to Episode 14.
February 21st, 2019 | 52 mins 40 secs
culture, psychology, social psychology, wisdom
Can, or even should wisdom be taught at school? Would teaching about wisdom in the classroom even translate into wiser behaviour? And might learning about wise historical figures in school actually decrease the likelihood of students behaving more wisely? Igor and Charles tinker with the nuts and bolts of a speculative wisdom curriculum, discussing the stark limits of formal ethics classes, future technological tools to help identify when wise reasoning is necessary, and the counterproductive impact of presenting wise figures out of context. Igor commends Yoda for wisely encouraging Luke to share his failures, and alerts us to the dangers of turning sages into saints, while Charles struggles to acquire the wisdom necessary to know when wisdom is necessary. Welcome to Episode 13.
January 23rd, 2019 | 1 hr 52 secs
culture, emotions, incentives, laura carstensen, life expectancy, longevity, positivity effect, psychology, regret, retirement age, selective optimization with compensation, social psychology, socioemotional selectivity theory, time horizons, wisdom
Life expectancy increased more in the 20th century than in the entire prior history of humanity combined. With many more of us now getting the opportunity to live into old age, what do we have to look forward to? Do our social and emotional lives degrade in step with our physical bodies as we age, or do we in fact get much happier as we get older? How does the sense of ‘time-left’ impact our wisdom, behaviour and priorities? Laura Carstensen joins Igor and Charles to discuss individual and societal aspects of human aging. We focus on the implications and opportunities of recent extraordinary gains in life expectancy, the socio-emotional selectivity theory, the positivity effect, the thorny issue of increasing retirement age, and the surprising role of time-horizons in how we choose to spend our time. Igor alerts us to the cultural differences and the positive impact old people have on a work team’s productivity, Laura reassures us that no-one ever wants to repeat their twenties, and Charles learns of the dangers of young people trying to think like old people as a route to happiness. Welcome to Episode 12.
December 28th, 2018 | 58 mins 40 secs
aristotle, barry schwartz, character, feedback, free-rider, freelancers, idea technology, incentives, money, practical wisdom, rules, salary, virtue ethics, wisdom, work, workplace
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. Welcome to Episode 11.
November 22nd, 2018 | 49 mins 35 secs
challenge response, culture, emotional contagion, heart rate variability, mind-body, mybplab, paced breathing, psychology, psychophysiology, social psychology, stress, threat response, vagal flexibility, vagal tone, vagus, wisdom
Is our capacity for wise behaviour determined not just by our psychology but also by our physiology? Is there such a thing as ‘good stress’, and how might our assessment of a situation reduce the chances of us 'choking'? And can our own bodies actually be physically affected by other people's emotions? Wendy Berry Mendes joins Igor and Charles to discuss the interaction between the psychological and physiological processes underpinning wise behaviour, exploring 'challenge vs threat' stress responses, vagal flexibility, affect contagion, and the physiology of social sensitivity and good judgement. Igor wants to know how to stay calm before dance competitions, Wendy shares tales of stressing out unsuspecting young mothers and their babies, and Charles learns of the hidden upsides to mind-body meltdowns. Welcome to Episode 10.
October 29th, 2018 | 50 mins 4 secs
culture, psychology, social psychology, wisdom
Can philosophers and psychologists work together to guide us towards living wisely? In pursuing the good life, can too much reflection be dangerous? Might philosophers have downplayed the importance of getting lost in experience? Valerie Tiberius joins Igor and Charles to discuss positive illusions, values integration, bearing our own reflective survey, and the perils of excessive introspection. Igor has questions about the rise of the empirically-informed movement in philosophy, Valerie suggests humility is critical to friendship, and Charles wants to know how hit-moral-philosophy-comedy ‘The Good Life’ ever got commissioned. Welcome to Episode 9.
September 27th, 2018 | 58 mins 40 secs
against empathy, culture, dehumanisation, empathy, harmless torturer, moral outrage, online shaming, paul bloom, psychology, rational compassion, social psychology, third-party punishment, wisdom
One thing we all seem to agree on is that empathy is an unmitigated good. But what if we are wrong? Might some forms of empathy actually be dangerous for society, biasing preferences towards those that look like us, or even those we find attractive? And even when our closest companions are in pain, is ‘feeling what they feel’ really the best way to help? Are horrific acts of cruelty made palatable by dehumanising the victims, or is the truth actually much worse? And how can social media turn do-gooders into deliverers of unlimited vengeance? Paul Bloom takes Igor and Charles for a walk on the dark side, exploring the treacherous hidden terrain of empathy, harmless torturers, aggregate cruelty and third-party punishment. Igor calls for tech companies to start hiring moral philosophers, Paul raises moral objections to loving your own children, and Charles has his mind blown and heart crushed by a revelatory, yet even darker, interpretation of human cruelty. Welcome to Episode 8.
August 24th, 2018 | 55 mins 42 secs
culture, exploratory processing, gay culture, gay liberation, generativity, holocaust, narrative, post gay, psychology, redemptive processing, social psychology, st louis, stonewall, storytelling, wisdom
Why do we spend so much time telling stories - about ourselves, about each other, even about fictional characters? If storytelling isn’t simply about information exchange, what role does it really play in our lives? Why do older people feel compelled to share their hard-earned wisdom with younger people? And do the younger people actually get anything from these exchanges? Nic Weststrate joins Igor and Charles to pull apart the real reasons we share stories. We discuss exploratory and redemptive processing of life-shattering events, the complex motivations behind Holocaust survivors recounting of the Jewish refugees on the St. Louis ship at the U.S. shore, and the Stonewall riots as the mythical origin story of the Gay Liberation movement. Igor questions the role of the omnipresent Netflix storytelling machine. Nic suggests that greater tolerance around sexuality can rob people of their once revolutionary identities. Charles learns that, when our lives are broken, we may have to choose between the path to wisdom and the path to happiness. Welcome to Episode 7.