The Mind is a Difference-Seeking Machine

Interview with Mahzarin Banaji

Krista Tippett of On Being interviews Mahzarin Banaji, a professor of social ethics in the psychology department at Harvard University, co-author of Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, and the creator of the Implicit Association Test.

“TIPPET: She’s helping us see how the mind is a “difference-seeking machine” – and in this way, it helps us order and navigate what could be the overwhelming complexity of reality. Yet this same gift creates blind spots and biases as we fill in what we don’t know with the limits of what we do know. This is science that takes our grappling with difference out of the realm of guilt and into the realm of transformative good.”

Click here for podcast and transcript



Complicating the Narratives

What if journalists covered controversial issues differently  —  based on how humans actually behave when they are polarized and suspicious?

By Amanda Ripley / Solutions Journalism Network

This is an outstanding article about the importance of spending time to explore complex narratives, because doing so will give us a different understanding of any given issue and make us less prone to binary thinking. Thank you, Francesco, for forwarding it!

Read article



The Right to Speak

Guy Raz, host of the TED Radio Hour, interviews four people who have a particular perspective on free speech. This is a very interesting exploration of what to do when we find some views offensive. You can read the transcript or listen to the podcast.

Read / listen



George Saunders’ Convocation Speech

These are pearls of wisdom, expressed in a way that makes a lasting impression. George Saunders is a gifted writer because he writes about familiar ideas in new ways. This is George Saunders' convocation speech at Syracuse University for the Class of 2013. Watch the video of his speech or read the transcript. It is well worth the time. Thank you, Cindy, for forwarding it!

“Do all the…ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers… — as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.”

Watch video

Read transcript



What You Practice Grows Stronger

In this TEDx Talk, Shauna Shapiro, psychologist and researcher, discusses the neuroscience behind mindfulness. Extensive research on the brain now shows that “what you practice grows stronger.”

She also points out that shame never works, whether applied to others or ourselves. “Shame literally robs the brain of the energy needed to do the work of changing.”
Finally, she emphasizes the importance of kindness in all we do. “Mindfulness is intentionally paying attention with kindness.”

Watch TEDx Talk



You Aren’t at the Mercy of Your Emotions – Your Brain Creates Them

This is a fascinating TED Talk by Lisa Feldman Barrett, neuroscentist and psychologist. It will forever change how you think about emotions.

For the past 25 years, psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett has mapped facial expressions, scanned brains and analyzed hundreds of physiology studies to understand what emotions really are. She shares the results of her exhaustive research – and explains how we may have more control over our emotions than we think.

Watch TED Talk



Zachary Wood – Testimony Before The U.S. Senate On Free Speech

June 20, 2017

Zach Wood explains the importance of hearing and debating controversial ideas, even those we find offensive. He gives an important and eloquent 5-minute speech before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

“For me, free speech is not about grinding a partisan axe or advancing any set of enduring ideological preferences. I care deeply about my education and I value the freedom to interrogate all manner of contentious ideas and beliefs in hope of gaining a deeper understanding of the world and using that knowledge to one day make a positive difference in the lives of others. Free speech and intellectual freedom matter to me because they are among the founding principles that animate the vibrancy and ensure the sustenance of our democracy.”

Read transcript

Watch video


Do Liberals Hold the Moral High Ground?

Debate hosted and sponsored by Intelligence Squared. Debaters for the motion: Howard Dean and Melissa Harris-Perry. Debaters against the motion: David Brooks and Robert George.

[The two debaters against the motion are well known for their lucid, eloquent, and cogent arguments.]

Visit website

What Moderates Believe

David Brooks writes that moderates “… believe creativity happens when you merge galaxies of belief that seem at first blush incompatible. They might combine left-wing ideas about labor unions with right-wing ideas about local community to come up with a new conception of labor law. Because they are syncretistic, they are careful to spend time in opposing camps, always opening lines of communication. The wise moderate can hold two or more opposing ideas together in her mind at the same time.”

[No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, this short article is well worth reading. Very thought-provoking.]

Visit website

The Psychology of Self-Righteousness

Krista Tippett (host of On Being) interviews Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU’s Stern School of Business. “The surprising psychology behind morality is at the heart of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s research. He explains “liberal” and “conservative” not narrowly or necessarily as political affiliations, but as personality types — ways of moving through the world.”

[Among his many important contributions, Haidt highlights the extent to which emotions drive our rational thought.]

Listen to podcast and read transcript

Democracy at the Crossroads

Read these international perspectives from The Graduate Institute, Geneva, Switzerland, a European graduate school and think-tank. “…democracy continues to be acclaimed everywhere, but indicators of political and civic freedom show it to be in deep trouble. This paradox of democratic success but liberal decline calls for a more fine-grained analysis…”

[Always refreshing to step out of a U.S.-centric perspective on global affairs and see issues through a different lens.]

Visit website

Viewpoint Diversity on Campus

A panel discussion among four professors from four different American universities, hosted at New York University and sponsored by Heterodox Academy, FIRE, and So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast. “What can we do to break this cycle, to reduce the fear, and to help American universities return to their historic missions of education and research?”

[Interesting discussion about tensions on American campuses and how to shift the dynamics.]

View Video  

Listen to Podcast

America’s Changing Role in the World

Washington University in St. Louis hosted the first in a series of debates on America’s changing role in the world, convened by the Foreign Policy program at Brookings and the Charles Koch Institute. “The goal of these debates, to be held in cities around the United States, is to foster a vigorous, civil, and constructive national discussion on the future of American foreign policy.”

[The debate includes both an American and European perspective.]

Visit website to view list of speakers, moderator, and a video of the live-streamed event.



Fascinating, high-quality debates out of Toronto on global issues, all available through video streaming.

Topics include: The West vs. Russia; Gender in the 21st Century; Future of Geopolitics; Global Refugee Crisis; Religion; among others.

Past participants include: Henry Kissinger, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Ingraham, Jennifer Granholm, Paul Krugman, Fareed Zakaria, Hanna Rosin, Maureen Dowd, Tony Blair, Camille Paglia, among others.

Visit website


Provides a simple yet structured format for initiating conversations in small groups to discuss issues for which there are many (and sometimes divisive) perspectives. The goal is to cultivate civil discourse around difficult issues, and “pave the way for collaborative and inclusive problem-solving.”

Visit website


This website has a wealth of information, including:

  • News stories from left, center, and right perspectives;
  • List of publications and whether they lean left or right;
  • Dictionary of words with different interpretations on left and right;
  • School program and suggested curriculum;
  • Blog and newsfeed.

Visit website

"INDIVISIBLE" podcasts

These podcasts are enlightening because the hosts invite interesting and knowledgeable guests, and the discussion goes far beyond what the title suggests. A great place to hear a range of views and perspectives.

Visit website

"ON BEING" Podcast: Repairing the Breach

This is a podcast of a great conversation with Heather McGhee and Matt Kibbe, hosted by Krista Tippett, about building bridges in conversation.  "It’s hard to imagine honest, revelatory, even enjoyable conversation between people on distant points of American life right now. But in this public conversation at the Citizen University annual conference, Matt Kibbe and Heather McGhee show us how. He’s a libertarian who helped activate the Tea Party. She’s a millennial progressive leader. They are bridge people for this moment — holding passion and conviction together with an enthusiasm for engaging difference, and carrying questions as vigorously as they carry answers."

Visit website