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Welcome to Cognitive Revolution with Cody Kommers. In this show we'll explore the personal side of the intellectual journey. It's all too easy to see the successes of great scientists, creatives, and thinkers as unattainable. But that's because we only see the outcome, not the process. Cognitive Revolution is a show about the steps these great minds took to get to the top.
 
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I've been a fan of Susanna for a long time following her on her social media. She's one of my favorite personalities in science communication, and it's been impressive and inspiring to watch her grow her platform over the last few years. She just recently graduated with her PhD in microbiology from University of North Carolina. During her time in g…
 
I've been following Nicole's work for a long time, and I'm a big fan. She's developed a platform for her writing as well as a presence on social media. It's been cool to watch her do it. Nicole has a PhD from Oakland University in psychology with a specialization in evolution and human development. Most of her recent work focuses that expertise on …
 
Tara Thiagarajan is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Sapien Labs. Based in Washington, DC, Sapien Labs is a non-profit organization whose mission is to take brain diversity seriously. Most research in psychology and neuroscience treats the brain as a kind of monolithic entity, as if every brain were the same. But we know that's not true: there ar…
 
Andy Luttrell is the kingpin of a content empire. His work spans from podcasts (Opinion Science) to YouTube (catchy summaries of key psych topics) to online courses (which have been taken tens of thousands of times on platforms such as Udemy) to all sorts of other stuff. He is also—and I suppose this is technically his day job—an Assistant Professo…
 
David Edmonds did his degrees in philosophy. Then he did something unexpected. He made money. I don't know how much. But, as far as I can tell, enough to reasonably call what has had so far a "career." He was a long-time broadcaster doing features at the BBC World Service. He also hosts and produces a number of popular podcasts, including Philosoph…
 
Salma Mousa is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale. She recently took that position after a post-doc in Stanford's Center for Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law, and the Immigration Policy Lab. She is a rising star in the field of political science and has published some of the field's highest profile papers in recent years. He…
 
Coltan Scrivner: you may not know the name, but you will. Coltan is a first-gen college student, and one of the most impressive PhD students I've come across. His family is from Slaughterville, Oklahoma, and did his undergrad and masters in Oklahoma before beginning his PhD at the University of Chicago's Department of Comparative Human Development.…
 
Alexandra Chesterfield is co-author of the book Poles Apart: Why People Turn Against Each Other, and How to Bring Them Together. It's a look at political polarization in our society, how we've gotten to this point, and what we can do about it. Jonathan Haidt called it "A fascinating read, which will help anyone who wants to step out of the polariza…
 
I have been a big fan of Rebecca and her work for a long time. She is the John W. Jarve (1978) Professor in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. She is a co-author on a handful of my all-time favorite papers in my own area of research interest, called "theory of mind" — the process by which we come to understand the minds of others. There's so much…
 
Gordon Allport was one of the most influential psychologists of the twentieth century. He was the progenitor of the modern forms of both social and personality psychology. His 1954 book, The Nature of Prejudice, is one of the most cited works in the whole field. He also happens to be one of my favorite thinkers of all time.Allport's core drive as a…
 
I really enjoyed this conversation with Elizabeth Ricker; it was one of those conversations where I felt as though I'd found a kindred spirit, someone who goes about life in approximately the same way as myself. Elizabeth did her undergraduate in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT and her master's in Mind, Brain, and Education at Harvard. She is a…
 
Azeem Azhar is a technologist and investor with a background in technology journalism. His newsletter, Exponential View, is enjoyed by ~200,000 readers per week. The occasion for our discussion was Azeem's new book: The Exponential Age; or in the UK: Exponential. It is about the discrepancy between the rate of technology's change—which is exponenti…
 
Jay Van Bavel is the closest thing social psychology has to a rock star. His official title is Associate Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University, and both he and his work are much beloved by young psychologists everywhere. His lab studies intergroup neuroscience, and I've found much of his research incredibly inspiring thr…
 
Ted Slingerland is a professor at the University of British Columbia, where his interests and affiliations include East Asian studies, psychology, philosophy, and religious history. He is also unconscionably good looking. His latest book is "Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization." It's a fun take on the functional role …
 
Wow. Scott Atran. What a guy. What a career. I'd be willing to bet that Scott has had the highest density of near-death encounters during his research than anyone else in the history of the social sciences. He details a number of them over the course of this conversation. He holds various academic appointments in Paris, Michigan, and Oxford. Scott …
 
Wade Davis makes his living being interesting. He is a cultural anthropologist and ethnobotanist by trade, and holds a position as the BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia. In August 2020, he wrote an essay that became the most viral piece ever published on Rolling Stone's website (link below)…
 
Chris Bail is a professor of sociology and public policy at Duke and directs the Polarization Lab. He's done a lot of great research in the last half decade or so on how social media affects political polarization in our society. He's written a great book summarizing this research, called Breaking the Social Media Prism. It's out now, and it's a cr…
 
Jeff Hawkins is one of my favorite neuroscientists ever. He does the kind of big, ambitious projects I love to see people going after. The driving question of his research is no less than "How does the neocortex work?" He wants to solve intelligence, and he wants to do it the way the brain does. Jeff is an innovative in mobile computing and is wide…
 
Nancy Kanwisher is a much beloved cognitive neuroscientist at MIT. She has published some of the most influential papers in her field (for example, the discovery of the Fusiform Face Area). And it often seems that most other influential findings in cognitive neuroscience which were not made directly by Nancy herself were made by one of her students…
 
Louis Menand is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of English at Harvard University. He has been a staff writer at the New Yorker since 1995. He is also my favorite non-fiction writer. His latest book, The Free World, is perfect. His book, The Metaphysical Club, won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for history. They are two of the greatest things I've…
 
Brian Christian probably has a better handle of the human aspects of artificial intelligence than any other writer today. He recently published The Alignment Problem, his third book on this theme. His first was The Most Human Human, an exploration of what AI can tell us about what makes us human, and his second was Algorithms to Live By (co-authore…
 
I first became familiar with Pedro's work through his 2015 book, The Master Algorithm. But as it turns out, his existence extends prior to my familiarity with him—which is what the bulk of what we explore in this conversation. Pedro is a professor at the University of Washington and a venerable AI researcher. He has a great quote about how as field…
 
Liz is a world-renown science communicator. She is founder and CEO of Liminal, a very exciting project which we get into in this conversation. We also talk about Liz's experience leaving graduate school to pursue a non-academic path, choosing uncertainty over the linear path, what it means to tell good stories about science, creating new webs of me…
 
Ben Moser is the pulitzer prize winning author of the recent biography of Susan Sontag, innovatively entitled "Sontag." This is one of the most fun and wide ranging conversation I'd had on the show. I stewed over whether or not to release the whole two hour conversation. But I loved how so many of the themes that we began early in the conversation—…
 
Damon Centola is a professor in the Annenberg School for Communication, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is Director of the Network Dynamics Group and Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. His latest book is Change: How to Make…
 
Ethan Kross is a Professor of Psychology and Management at the University of Michigan. His new book is "Chatter: the voice in our head, why it matters, and how to harness it." In this episode, we talk about Ethan's early connection with meditation and other forms of inspecting inner life, his personal mantra, the influence of his father, how he got…
 
Joseph Henrich is Professor and Chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. He is the co-author of one of the most influential social science papers of the previous decade. That paper described "WEIRD" people—those who are from a Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic culture—and how overgeneralization …
 
Sir Simon Baron-Cohen is professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, where he is Director of the Autism Research Centre and a Fellow of Trinity College. Simon's work has been foundational in research into Theory of Mind (how we understand the contents of others' thoughts) and Autism. His most recent book is The Patter…
 
William Labov is professor emeritus of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of the field of sociolinguistics. In other words, he was the first person to build a modern study of linguistics based on what people actually say, rather than artificial sentences made up by researchers (yes, I'm talking about you, Chomsky). Bill recen…
 
To say Nicholas Christakis has mastered a few skills throughout his career would almost certainly be underselling it. Nicholas is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale. He has an MD from Harvard, a PhD in sociology from Penn, and a masters in public health from Harvard. Throughout the pandemic, he's been working tirelessly to…
 
Tanya Luhrmann is the Watkins University Professor in the Stanford Anthropology Department. Much of her work has taken an anthropological perspective on psychological topics. For example, her most recent book: How God Becomes Real. It takes an ethnographic approach to understanding how individuals and cultures maintain belief in divine powers. Anot…
 
Anil Seth is a Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, where he is also Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. His TED talk has over 10 million views, and he's been featured on many big-name podcasts such as Making Sense with Sam Harris and BBC's Life Scientific. Anil comes to the stu…
 
Something big is happening right now in Myanmar. As of today, the military has taken over, announcing measures taken in the name of emergency rule. In others words: a coup. It's absolutely devastating news. But not unprecedented: Myanmar has a long history with this sort of thing. A big headline is that Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained by militar…
 
Denise Sekaquaptewa is the University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. She did her PhD at the Ohio State University, and her research has focused on stereotype threat, implicit bias, and prejudice. In this conversation we talk about her family's heritage, her experience in community college,…
 
Richard Nisbett is the Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished Professor of social psychology and co-director of the Culture and Cognition program at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He is also the co-author of one of my favorite psychology papers of all time: "Telling More than We Can Know." In this conversation, Richard self-reports on what got…
 
Michael McCullough is a professor of psychology at University of California, San Diego, where he runs the Evolution and Human Behavior Lab. Mike and I had a chat about his new book, "The Kindness of Strangers." The title for that book as originally conceived was "Why We Give a Damn" -- and even prior to that "Why We Don't Give a Damn." I happen to …
 
A couple of weeks ago, Mickey Inzlicht and Yoel Inbar, of the excellent podcast Two Psychologists Four Beers, released a discussion of theirs called 'Against Academia?' The motivation for the discussion was that Mickey had noticed several occasions on which people -- one of them being himself -- were called out for expressing positive takes on life…
 
Howard Gardner is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Research Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He's best known as the developer of the theory of multiple intelligences, the idea that being smart is more complex than just an IQ score. That theory was introduced in his 1983 book Frames of Mind. In this…
 
Yael Niv is a professor in Princeton department of psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. She is also a discernibly high-quality human being. I have been an admirer of her and her work for many years now. But she's been in the fore of my mind of late because of a couple papers she recently published: on "The Primacy of Behavioral Rese…
 
Barry Wellman was instrumental in developing the modern understanding of social networks. Barry co-founded the International Network for Social Network Analysis in 1977, with Bev Wellman. The original ideas surrounding social networks began with sociologists -- especially Harrison White, of Harvard, with whom Barry studied -- who were changing the …
 
Susan Goldin-Meadow is the 2021 recipient for the Rumelhart prize, the highest award in cognitive science. She has amassed an amazing body of research throughout her career. It centers on gesture, and how our bodies integrate into our linguistic communication. We touch on a lot of her greatest research hits in this episode. Something she said that …
 
This is an excerpt from my new show, Notes from the Field. It's one of my favorite episodes from Season 1. It features a place that I previously knew nothing about before going there: the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. If you enjoy this episode, I encourage you to go back and listen to the rest of the first season.More info: https://www.codykommers.c…
 
In this episode I talk to Richard Shweder, one of the founders of the field of cultural psychology. He has had a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary career. We talk about his roots, early education, biggest influences, his experience as a grad student at the Department of Social Relations, the origins of cultural psychology, and his recent work on p…
 
One thing that's immediately clear about Annie Duke is that her best self is pretty damn awesome. In this conversation, we get deep into the story of her career and the key moments that defined who that best self is. It gets really personal really quick. We start off with a discussion of her family, and in particular how she learned to separate wor…
 
Don Norman is a cognitive scientist and designer. He is perhaps best known for his book "The Design of Everyday Things." This was a landmark work which detailed the fundamentals of human-centered design. It is a conception of design not just based on how things looks, but how people think. And while this book has been most influential among designe…
 
In this episode, I go in-depth with Mahzarin Banaji on her life story. Mahzarin started off just about as far away from life as a Harvard professor as you can imagine. And while she's a superstar of social psychology now, her introduction to the field was a chance encounter with a set of the five volume Handbook of Social Psychology, which she hagg…
 
This week's guest is neuroscientist, filmmaker, and inimitable personality Sade Abiodun. She is a first year PhD student the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, and her latest film project was Godspeed. This short film has done well on the festival circuit, and Sade was a finalist for the highly selective Sundance fellowship. In this episode, we talk…
 
The name "Nigel Shadbolt" is spoken in my corner of the world with hushed tones and much reverence. This is not only because he is a big deal generally, but because he is an especially around Jesus College, Oxford, where he currently serves as Principal. What exactly one does as Principal of an Oxford college, I'm not entirely sure, but like all of…
 
This is the first podcast episode I've released in a couple months. The honest reason for that is that I've found it hard to cope with the pandemic. In this episode, I talk about what I've struggled with, the areas in which I've grown, and how I want to grow going forward.Written version: https://www.codykommers.com/post/covidNewsletter: https://ww…
 
Dan Everett is the closest thing we have to a real life Indiana Jones. He is an academic whose work has mostly taken place in the far reaches of the jungle, where few others dare to tread. His crowning achievement is learning the Pirahã language, which before Dan undertook it had never before been cracked by an outsider. Dan began his swashbuckling…
 
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