Can People Learn to be Better at Thinking? With Richard E. Nisbett

Few psychologists in the world have contributed more to scientific discovery than our guest Richard E. Nisbett. He joins us to discuss his latest book, the title of which embodies one of his favorite activities: Thinking: A Memoir. Thinking weaves Richard’s personal story through his research journey, painting a richer sense of the thought process behind his discoveries.

Richard E. Nisbett is the Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Michigan. Many of his previous books have been co-authored with his collaborator and friend, the late Lee Ross. The two first met in graduate school when they studied under the ground-breaking researcher Stanley Schachter at Columbia University.

Later in his career, alongside Tim Wilson, the two made the ground-breaking observation: they noted that we can only identify “what people think about how they think,” but not “how they really think.” Join our podcast conversation with Richard to explore how we can improve our thinking, reasoning, and decision-making.

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Topics we Discuss with Richard E. Nisbett

(3:20) Welcome and speed round.

(7:25) What motivated Richard to write his memoir?

(12:12) Why do we so readily disregard base rates?

(15:56) Why do we disconnect ourselves from the behavior in Stanley Milgram’s experiment?

(17:21) Richard’s work on Attribution Theory.

(20:25) How does our unconscious mind affect our behaviors and decision-making?

(23:27) Richard’s insight on why we rationalize our decision-making.

(27:13) Working in a vacuum in academia.

(30:03) Interdisciplinary work at Michigan University.

(32:23) Can we teach people to become better at reasoning?

(39:15) The problems with replicating social psychology studies.

(46:28) What is Richard thinking about these days?

(51:32) What music would Richard take a desert island?

(57:13) Grooving Session with Kurt and Tim discussing their interview with Richard.

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AIRDATE: August 29, 2021 EPISODE 249

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Can People Learn to be Better at Thinking? With Richard E. Nisbett