On Wisdom

On Wisdom

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.... Show More

Episodes

August 16, 2020 44 min
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 ne...
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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 o...
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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 ...
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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...
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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 persona...
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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...
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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 ...
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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 violen...
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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, clini...
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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 se...
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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 di...
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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 bo...
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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 ...
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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 so...
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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,...
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‘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 j...
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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’ soc...
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February 21, 2019 52 min
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 identi...
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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 ...
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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 incentiv...
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