World after
How do we navigate
the changes ahead?
How do we navigate
the changes ahead?
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Howard Nusbaum, Wisdom & Cognitive Psychology


Wisdom & Cognitive Psychology

Howard Nusbaum


Howard C. Nusbaum is the Stella M. Rowley Professor of Psychology, a member of the Grossman Institute of Neuroscience, Quantitative Biology, and Human Behaviour, and the current Director of the Chicago Center of Practical Wisdom.  He has published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles on the topics of perceptual learning, environmental neuroscience, neuroeconomics, hallucination, and wisdom.

Transcription of the video


Which domain or aspect of social life will show the most significant positive societal and/or psychological change in response to the pandemic?

The most positive social psychological change that will last after the end of the pandemic, is likely to be the ability to make a real and meaningful social connection at a distance. That is, using the kind of tools we’re using now to actually feel connected to somebody. I can see my colleagues doing things like having a toast over zoom now, actually doing this to welcome a new faculty member and beyond, my daughter’s playing games with groups online, this way, or with zoom, and so forth. This will be a skill, it’s been debatable for a long time, whether people in online settings are really making social contact and feeling social connection. One of the things we’re learning is the skill of how to do that in these current circumstances. And that means that long distance friendships and relationships can be bolstered, more easily at the end of the pandemic.


What kind of wisdom will people need to capitalize on the positive societal and/or psychological change after the pandemic?

The psychological evidence is mixed about whether online social connection is really functional in the way that face-to-face is. I think there will need to be the development of certain kinds of skills related to wisdom, things like improved perspective taking, understanding what people are seeing in you, how they’re thinking about the connection you’re making, increased empathic resonance. There’s a distinction often made between empathic resonance and empathic cognition. Feeling what other people are feeling in taking perspective, when you’re connecting to them socially, I think is going to be critical. I think that reflection is going to be part of that as well. That is, what you take from that social interaction, how you reflect on it, and make use of it, how it affects you in the future is also important.


Which domain or aspect of social life will show the most significant negative societal and/or psychological change in response to the pandemic?

As people become more socially distanced and isolated, they may lose some of the skills of face-to-face interaction. They may start to become more in their own heads, and less adept at connecting to other people. There’s a risk, at least for some people in society, we’re not making use of these tools or not connecting effectively with these tools, to basically withdraw within themselves and lose the sense of that social connection. We’ve become at risk for greater social isolation and not physical social isolation. This sort of increasing negative construal about our social interactions so that we feel bad and become worse off as a function of those social connections.


What kind of wisdom will people need to master to overcome major negative societal and/or psychological changes after the pandemic?

It requires this notion of reflection, but reflection that’s not as a clinician might refer to it, rumination that is, not cycling through the bad thoughts and focusing on those, but actually reflecting on and taking the perspective of other people and learning to ask other people about what their states are like and learning to learn about other people. It’s that notion of being open to other people’s states, open to other people’s values and considerations, that becomes important.


What piece of wisdom do people need to make it through the pandemic?

Going back to this issue of reflection and thinking about it in terms of self-awareness, that is, becoming more thoughtful and aware of what your values are, and how best to satisfy or address those values, under the current constraints, is critical. What are the things that you can do for yourself that bolster your sense of self, bolster your own human flourishing, and how you can maintain what is important to you about social connections and develop those.

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