On Wisdom

On Wisdom

On Wisdom features a social-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 and decision-making, and includes regular guests spots with leading behavioural scientists from the field of wisdom research and beyond. Welcome to The On Wisdom Podcast. ... Show More

Episodes

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... Read more

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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... Read more

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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... Read more

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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... Read more

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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... Read more

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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 ... Read more

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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... Read more

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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,... Read more

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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... Read more

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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... Read more

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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... Read more

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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 ... Read more

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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... Read more

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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 proces... Read more

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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... Read more

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September 27, 2018 58 min

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... Read more

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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 rea... Read more

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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... Read more

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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 su... Read more

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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? St... Read more

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