Igor Grossmann is a world traveller. Born during the downfall of the Soviet Union on a day of October revolution, and growing up in Ukraine and Germany, ever since childhood he has been wondering about how people make sense of complex social challenges. He has studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany and the University of Michigan in the US and is currently an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Waterloo in Canada. His work explores the interplay of sociocultural factors for wisdom in the face of daily stressors using a wide range of methods, including big data analytics, psychophysiology, diary surveys, and behavioural experiments.
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.
July 16th, 2018 | 1 hr 3 mins
class, culture, inequality, marshmallow test, psychology, social psychology, wisdom
If a typical white family in the US has 100 dollars, how many dollars does a typical black US family have? Wrong! Why are we so bad at guessing levels of inequality in society? How much of a role does your class play in preventing wise decision-making? Are upper and middle-class people especially bad at taking wise decisions? Why does more education equate to less wise reasoning in interpersonal affairs? And just how good are we at spotting someone’s class from their shoes or even eyes? Michael Kraus joins Igor and Charles to tease economic fact from fiction, discussing accuracy of class signalling, implications of new marshmallow-based research, woeful underestimations of inequality, and the roots of our convenient blindness. Igor breaks down surprising research suggesting that we should both pay more attention to how working class people approach interpersonal clashes and be wary of disruptive hipster beards, Michael forces us to look at the dark underbelly of the American dream, and Charles has questions about Jay-Z and the validity of cockney impersonations as a measurement tool. Welcome to Episode 6.
June 24th, 2018 | 52 mins 50 secs
actor-observer bias, aristotle, culture, person-situation, personality, philosophy, psychology, skinner, social psychology, stanford prison experiment, the big 5, virtues, whole trait theory, wisdom, zimbardo
Do 'wise people' even exist? Do we have 'wise characters' or is our behaviour more influenced by 'wise situations'? And if so, what kinds of situations best support wise behaviour? Eranda Jayawickreme joins Igor and Charles to discuss the classic battle royale of the person-situation debate, whole trait theory and the ever-controversial Stanford Prison experiment. Igor outlines the actor-observer bias and suggests that westerners should be more sympathetic to grumpy waitstaff, Eranda considers the motivations behind blaming bad apples vs bad barrels and the implications for the justice system, and Charles learns that overestimating the robustness of his own virtue can lead to all manner of perilous situations. Welcome to Episode 5.
May 11th, 2018 | 1 hr 3 mins
culture, emotional intelligence, emotions, psychology, social psychology, wisdom
Are emotions simply bugs in the system that prevent us from taking wise decisions? Or do they play an essential role in guiding us towards the wisest path? In short, should we be like hyper-rational cool-headed Mr Spock, or more like the emotionally sensitive Master Yoda? How much can we even observe and guide our emotions as they unfold anyway? And are emotionally intelligent geniuses necessarily more moral than the rest of us? Stéphane Côté joins Igor and Charles to discuss the science of emotional intelligence, machiavellian deviants, emotional super-readers, deep-acting vs surface-acting emotional management, and why you can't hide your motivations from airport customs agents. Igor uncovers the mechanics of the jingle-jangle fallacy, Stéphane warns of the 'danger zones' highly empathic people enter when discussing the attractiveness of friends with their partners, and Charles finally understands why you shouldn’t sit opposite someone you don’t like in a team meeting. Welcome to Episode 4.
April 25th, 2018 | 53 mins 40 secs
culture, death, death reflection, laura blackie, psychology, socio-emotional selectivity theory, terror management theory, wisdom
Why do we avoid thinking about our own death? How does contemplating our own mortality change our day-to-day behaviour? Why do drivers, when reminded of the fact that they will die, actually drive even faster? Whilst society typically hides death from us, might certain death reflection scenarios actually lead to the development of wisdom? Laura Blackie has considered these and many related questions, and joins Igor and Charles to discuss Terror Management Theory, Death Reflection, and the potential upsides of contemplating our own demise. Igor dismisses a death clock which tells him he won't live as long as Charles, Laura outlines the possible prosocial benefits of imagining a painful and horrible death, and Charles admits to spending too much time thinking about whether his funeral will be well attended. Welcome to Episode 3.
April 22nd, 2018 | 56 mins 20 secs
ageing, cross-sectional studies, experience, wisdom
Does wisdom really come with age? Or is this an outdated myth from a bygone era? How might wisdom develop in a brain that's ageing? Or perhaps by 'age', are we really talking about 'experience'? If so, do all experiences lead to wisdom, or only bad ones? If old people can be foolish, can young people ever be wise? And how on earth do you even gather reliable evidence across generations? Igor brings sad news of declining brain function to anyone over 25 and cautions against seeking out traumatic experiences as a strategy for developing wisdom, whilst Charles is forced to rethink his whole position on Jude Law. Welcome to Episode 2.
April 20th, 2018 | 1 hr 1 min
culture, intelligence, psychology, social psychology, wisdom
What's the difference between someone who's smart and someone who's wise? If you can you be intelligent without being wise, can you be wise without also being intelligent? If wisdom's so essential for taking good decisions, what's driving our exclusive obsession with intelligence? And which is really more helpful in our daily lives? Igor describes some surprising fighter-plane-based scenarios when wisdom is as useless as intelligence and Charles explains how open-ended questioning in the classroom comes with its own unique set of risks. Welcome to Episode 1 of the On Wisdom podcast.