This month at The Psychology Podcast we discussed moral outrage in the digital age with Molly Crockett, the evolutionary origins of a good society with Nicholas Christakis, everyday creativity with Ruth Richards, and restoring the playground with Gwen Gordon.

Moral Outrage in the Digital Age with Molly Crockett

Molly Crockett is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Yale University and a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics. Prior to joining Yale, Dr. Crockett was a faculty member at the University of Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology and a Fellow of Jesus College. Dr. Crockett holds a BSc in Neuroscience from UCLA and a PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cambridge, and completed a Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellowship with economists and neuroscientists at the University of Zürich and University College London.

In this episode we discuss:

  • The discrepancy between outrage in real life vs. online outrage
  • Cultural evolution and the selection and amplification of online content
  • How basic reinforcement learning principles drive the design of online systems to maximize the amount of time we spend on the platforms
  • Is the “habitual online shamer” addicted to outrage?
  • Habitual behavior vs. addiction
  • Is “outrage fatigue” happening en masse?
  • Should we be thinking about rationing our outrage (reserving it for issues we find most important)?
  • The costs and benefits of outrage
  • Why people punish and the discrepancy between the actual reasons why we punish (inferred from behavior) vs. self-reported motives
  • The difficulty doing science on topics that are incredibly heated in public social discourse
  • The intractably intertwined nature of science and social justice
  • What technologies might be doing to the way that young people construe the social world
  • The human capacity for forgiveness
  • Twitter Q & A

The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

Nicholas Christakis is a physician and sociologist who explores the ancient origins and modern implications of human nature. He directs the Human Nature Lab at Yale University, where he is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science in the departments of Sociology, Medicine, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Statistics and Data Science, and Biomedical Engineering. He is also the codirector of the Yale institute for Network Science, the coauthor of Connected, and most recently, author of the book Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society, which on its first week became a NY Times bestseller.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Why breadth of knowledge across fields is important
  • The evolutionary forces that have shaped our capacity for living socially
  • Can you love your own group without hating everyone else?
  • How can crowds be a force for good?
  • How the capacity for friendship is connected to the evolution of cooperation
  • Can you love your own group and evenloveother groups as well?
  • Framing group dynamics in terms of collective narcissism
  • The “social suite” of human nature
  • The “forbidden experiment”
  • Experiments on artificial societies
  • How long will Homo Sapiens last?
  • The importance of elephant friendships
  • How evolution has shaped our societies
  • The importance of recognizing our common humanity

Everyday Creativity with Ruth Richards

Ruth Richards is a psychologist, psychiatrist, professor at Saybrook University, and Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Richards has published numerous articles, edited/written three previous books on everyday creativity, and received the Rudolf Arnheim Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement (Division 10, American Psychological Association). Dr. Richards sees dynamic creative living as central to individuals and cultures, and a new worldview. Her latest book is called “Everyday Creativity and the Healthy Mind: Dynamic New Paths for Self and Society”, which recently won the won a Nautilus Silver Award.

In this episode we discuss:

  • What is “everyday creativity”?
  • What is “universal creative potential”?
  • All the ways people can do things differently
  • The four P’s of creativity
  • Openness and creativity
  • Chaos and complexity in creativity
  • The role of the unconscious mind in creativity
  • The link between mental illness and creativity
  • The controlled chaos of creativity
  • The healing function of creativity
  • Can consciousness get in the way of creativity?
  • Can creativity heal the world?

Restoring the Playground with Gwen Gordon

Gwen Gordon began her career building Muppets for Sesame Street. Since leaving Sesame Street, Gwen developed Awakened Play, a play-based approach to making behavior change irresistible and transformation delightful. She has applied her insights in organizations ranging from San Quentin Prison to the MIT Media Lab and from IDEO to PepsiCo. Along the way, Gwen has collected a master’s degree in philosophy and an Emmy award in children’s programming. Her latest book is The Wonderful W, which is the first picture book for grownups.

In this episode we discuss:

  • What is play?
  • How everything is really “fear of the void”
  • The doorway to the sense of wholeness
  • Gwen’s experience working at Sesame Street
  • Correcting the record about how Gwen created the Rockheads on Sesame Street
  • Scott’s crush on Miss Piggy
  • The shadow side to play
  • How the playground is our true habitat
  • The incredible importance of adult play
  • The inherent paradoxes of play
  • How play relates to attachment theory
  • How play is a healthy stepping stone to healthy childhood development