I am a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
My Approach to Ethical Systems:
I am a social psychologist who studies mind reading: how we make inferences about others’ thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, emotions, intentions, and other mental states. Of particular interest is trying to understand how smart people like us can so easily misunderstand each other, and what can be done to make us better.
The major problem is a failure of perspective taking. Each of us is the center of our own universe, viewing the world through own eyes and interpreting it through own interpretive lens of experience, beliefs, and attitudes. Getting over ourselves and being able to consider, accurately, the interests, emotions, feelings, and rights of others is a major challenge in any ethical system. We find little evidence in our research that actively trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, trying hard to adopt his or her perspective, actually makes you understand the other person better. Instead, it may actually inflame misunderstanding.
The only way you truly understand the mind of another person is by getting the person’s perspective directly, either by experiencing the other person’s situation for yourself or by listening carefully as they explain it to you.
My Major Relevant Publications:
- Mindwise (2014) (public library). This book describes our impressive ability to understand the minds of others, and how the shortcomings of this ability lead to predictable and problematic misunderstanding. Understanding these mistakes helps you be wiser about the minds of others.
- Can We Ever Really Know Another Person? Nautilus (2015)
- Let’s make some Metra noise, Chicago Tribune (2011)
- Rebate Psychology, The New York Times (2008)
- “The Sound of Intellect: Speech Reveals a Thoughtful Mind, Increasing a Job Candidate’s Appeal,” study in The Journal of Psychological Science (forthcoming).
- “Motivated mind perception: Treating pets as people and people as animals,” chapter in Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (2013).
- “Solving the (real) other minds problem,” article in Social and Personality Psychology Compass (2008).
- “When perspective taking increases taking: Reactive Egoism in social interaction,” article in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2006).
- “Egocentric ethics,” article in Social Justice Research (2004).