Stanford Psychology Podcast

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The Stanford Psychology Podcast invites leading psychologists to talk about what’s on their mind lately. Join PhD students Anjie and Eric as they chat with their guests about their latest exciting work. Every week, an episode will bring you new findings from psychological science and how they can be applied to everyday life. The opinions and views expressed in this podcast represent those of the speaker and not necessarily Stanford's. Let us hear your thoughts at Follow us on Twitter @StanfordPsyPod. (Soundtrack: Corey Zhou (UCSD); Logo: Sarah Wu (Stanford))

Episode Date
22 - Kelly McGonigal: Communicating Psychology

Eric chats with Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford who specializes in understanding the mind-body connection. She is the best-selling author of The Willpower Instinct and The Upside of Stress. Her TED talk, "How to Make Stress Your Friend," is one of the most viewed TED talks of all time, with over 27 million views. Kelly’s latest book, The Joy of Movement, explores why physical exercise is a powerful antidote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. In January 2020, Oprah Magazine named Kelly the first ever O! Visionary, people whose groundbreaking way of seeing the world mean a better future for us all. In this episode, Eric and Kelly chat about science communication, and the joys and challenges that come from engaging with the public about the latest findings from psychology at a time where many distrust science, and where psychologists themselves have become skeptical about the accuracy of their findings.


TED talk: 

Dec 02, 2021
21 - James Gross: Building Emotion Regulation Skills During the Pandemic and Beyond

Kate chats with James Gross, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and the director of the Stanford Psychophysiology Lab. His work focuses on emotions: What they are, how they unfold over time, and how people regulate them in different contexts. In this episode, James shares insights from a recent study examining the effects of brief emotion regulation interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic across 87 countries. James also discusses the broader implications of his work and talks about how people can learn to work with their emotions instead of fighting against them. 


Nov 18, 2021
20 - Jillian Jordan: Victimhood and Morality

Eric chats with Jillian Jordan, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Jillian’s work has focused on human morality and the role that reputation plays in shaping cooperative behavior. Her fascinating research has integrated methods from psychology, behavioral economics, and evolutionary game theory and has been featured in outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian. In this episode, Jillian discusses her new paper on the Virtuous Victim Effect: victims of wrongdoing are seen as more moral than nonvictims. She explains this finding with what is called the Justice Restoration Hypothesis: seeing victims as morally good people makes the wrongdoing seem unjust, which motivates people to help the victim and punish the perpetrator. Jillian then chats about the philosophy guiding her research, and why appealing to people’s concerns about how others see them can be a powerful way to make the world a better place.


Nov 11, 2021
19 - Michal Strahilevitz: Teaching Happiness

In this episode, Anjie chats with Dr. Michal Strahilevitz. Michal is currently a marketing professor at Saint Mary’s College of California. Her research focuses on how emotions affect decision-making in a variety of contexts. In addition to being an enthusiastic researcher, Michal is an amazing teacher. She has won teaching awards from three different universities. blogs for Psychology Today and is often quoted in the global media outlets. She is particularly passionate about helping people become happier, healthier, and more resilient. In today's episode, Michal shares her journey both creating and teaching her favorite course: The Science of Happiness and Well-Being. 

To hear from five scholars whose research and teaching focuses on happiness, watch Michal’s recent panel discussion on this topic: 

Learn More About Michal and her Work:

Psychology Today: and 

Saint Mary’s College Profile: 


Twitter: @MarketingProf 


Nov 04, 2021
18 - Abigail Marsh: Surprising Predictors of Everyday Kindness

Eric chats with Abigail Marsh, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Georgetown. Her work has focused on phenomena as diverse as empathy, altruism, aggression, and psychopathy. In 2017,  Abby published her book, The Fear Factor, describing her fascinating research with extreme altruists on the one hand and individuals with psychopathy on the other. She is the former President of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society. In this episode, Abby challenges the common assumption that individualism means selfishness. Instead, she has found that individualism predicts more kindness, just like being healthy and wealthy predicts being kinder to others. Eric and Abby discuss if our understanding of individualism is wrong, if kindness might look different in individualistic versus collectivistic cultures, and if people are too cynical these days.



Oct 28, 2021
17 - Scott Barry Kaufman: The Light Triad - A Psychology of Everyday Saints

Eric chats with Scott Barry Kaufman, cognitive scientist and humanistic psychologist renowned for a series of groundbreaking books such as Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, Wired to Create, and, most recently, Transcend. Scott is founder and director of the Center for the Science of Human Potential and has taught various classes at universities such as Columbia, Yale, NYU, and the University of Pennsylvania. He hosts the #1 psychology podcast in the world, “The Psychology Podcast,” with over 20 million downloads. He has written for outlets such as The Atlantic, Scientific American, and Harvard Business Review. In this episode, Scott discusses his latest research on what he calls the “light triad.” While many researchers have been concerned with what is called the “dark triad,” encompassing features of everyday psychopaths, Scott and his co-authors have started to investigate what makes for an everyday saint. Eric and Scott discuss that we have more everyday saints among us than we think and that everyone is a mix of everyday saint and psychopath.

Article in the Scientific American: 


(Edited by Anjie Cao.)

Oct 21, 2021
16 - Erin Westgate: Why People Would Rather Shock Themselves Than Sit Alone with Their Thoughts

Eric chats with Erin Westgate, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Florida. The work from Erin’s lab has focused on topics such as thinking for pleasure and boredom and has been featured in outlets such as the New York Times, CNN, and the BBC. Erin has famously found that people would rather shock themselves than sit alone with their thoughts for a few minutes. In this episode, Erin discusses the question we all have in mind when we hear about this finding: Why? More precisely, what makes thinking often so unpleasant? And how can we make it more pleasurable? How can we avoid boredom? And should we avoid it in the first place?


Oct 14, 2021
15 - Robert Sapolsky: Why Society Would Be Fairer If We Stopped Believing in Free Will

Eric chats with Robert Sapolsky, Stanford Professor of Biology, Neurology, and Neurosurgery. Robert is a world-renowned academic and author of highly successful books such as A Primate’s Memoir, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, and Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. His Stanford lectures were among the first to be made available online across the entire university and have been watched tens of millions of times. Robert is a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow. He is a highly engaging teacher and lecturer, not least because of his wonderful sense of humor. In this episode, Robert announces his upcoming (yet-to-be-written) book “Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will.” Robert discusses when and how he came to give up his belief in free will, and why we all should if we want to live in a fairer society. However, Eric and Robert also discuss some alluring upsides of believing in free will, and Robert acknowledges he’d love to swallow the blue pill, allowing him to believe in free will again.

Oct 07, 2021
14 - Alison Gopnik: How Can Understanding Childhood Help Us Build Better AI?

In this episode, Anjie chats with Alison Gopnik, Professor at the Department of Psychology and Affiliate Professor at Department of Philosophy at UC Berkeley. Alison is not only a great cognitive scientist and philosopher who has made many groundbreaking contributions to the field, but also a great science communicator. Alison authored multiple bestselling books, including The Scientist in the Crib, The Philosophical Baby, The Gardener, and the Carpenter. She also writes widely about cognitive science and psychology for multiple national outlets including the NYT, the Atlantic, and so on. In this episode, we discussed one of her recent review pieces on the role of childhood in solving the explore-exploit dilemma, a challenge to contemporary artificial intelligence.   

To learn more about Alison's research or her writings, you can visit her personal website or her lab's website.  You can also follow Alison on Twitter (@AlisonGopnik).

Oct 01, 2021
13 - Wade Davis: A More Tolerant And Compassionate Mindset For Everyday Life

Eric chats with Wade Davis, Professor of Anthropology at UBC. Wade has a fantastically diverse background: Next to being a prolific academic with 22 published books, he was also a long-time Explorer-In-Residence at the National Geographic Society, taking him to what seems like every country on this planet. He is a professional photographer and has produced 18 documentary films based on his travels. In 2018, he became an honorary citizen of Colombia. He has become famous around the world advocating for the diverse indigenous cultures of the planet. In this episode, Wade talks about the importance of an open-minded anthropological mindset in everyday life, how anthropology has traditionally been fighting for tolerance and compassion, and briefly discusses his newest book: Magdalena, River of Dreams.



Sep 23, 2021
12 - Tobias Gerstenberg: Whose Fault Is It? Causal Judgments in Everyday Life

Eric chats with Tobias Gerstenberg, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford where he runs the Causality in Cognition Lab. His lab focuses on the cognitive processes involved in causal judgments: How are physical events caused? How do we use counterfactual thinking to attribute causation? In this episode, Tobi talks about his recent paper summarizing these lines of research. In the second half, he discusses broader implications: how do we make causal judgments in the social and moral domain?


Sep 16, 2021
11 - Special Episode: The Past, Present and Future of the Paths to Ph.D. Event

For this week’s episode, we planned something special. Each year, the Stanford psychology department hosts Paths to Ph.D., a free, open-to-public information session on how to apply to Ph.D. programs and research positions in psychology. This year’s event is scheduled on Saturday, October 16th from 10:00 am-5:00 pm and the application deadline is on September 17th. In this episode, we invited Lauren Borchers, a rising 4thyear Ph.D. student in the department, and Dr. Camilla Griffiths, a recent graduate of the department. They are two pivotal figures in the shaping of this event. We talked about what this event is about, how it came to be, what will happen in the future, as well as the joy and challenges of organizing and planning Paths to Ph.D.

Paths to Ph.D. is an event initiated and organized by the diversity committee in the Psychology Department. The Diversity Committee consists of student members (Since 2020: Sai Auelua, Lauren Borchers, Akshay Jagadeesh, Sama Radwan, Andrea Sims, and Nicky Sullivan; New members: Anjie Cao, Leigh Chu, Nicole Corso, Emily Kubota, Catherine Thomas, and Jenny Yang) and faculty members (Kalanit Grill-Spector, Steven Roberts, Claude Steele, Greg Walton).

To learn more about the event, visit this website:

Sep 08, 2021
10 - Hyowon Gweon: What Makes Us So Good at Learning from Each Other?

In this episode, Anjie chats with Hyo Gweon, an associate professor at Stanford Psychology Department. Hyo directs Social Learning Lab, where the research focus is our abilities to learn from others and teach others.  In this episode, she will share with us a very recent review article that came out on Trends in Cognitive Sciences titled "Inferential social learning: Cognitive foundations of human social learning and teaching". Is learning from others really that different from learning about other things in the world? What makes humans so good at learning from other people and enable others to learn from them?  Listen to this episode to find out. 

The paper:
To learn more about Hyo's research, you can visit her lab's website:

Aug 28, 2021
09 - Alan Fiske: The Problems with Labeling Emotions, And the Case for a New Emotion

Eric chats with Alan Fiske, Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology at UCLA. Alan is the author of multiple books, including Structures of Social Life and Virtuous Violence. Alan discusses why labeling emotions can often lead us to misunderstand our emotions. He then makes the case for a new emotion: Kama Muta, or “being moved, touched, stirred, having a rapturous experience, or tender feelings toward cuteness.” Eric and Alan discuss newest work on Kama Muta, produced by the Kama Muta Lab at UCLA, and Alan introduces his newest book called “Kama Muta: Discovering the Connecting Emotion.”



Aug 26, 2021
08 - Judith Fan: The Wonders of Playing With Blocks

In this episode, Anjie chats with Judy Fan, Assistant Professor at the University of California, San Diego. Judy’s research is at the intersection of computational neuroscience, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. In this episode, she discusses a new line of research in her lab exploring how people learn about objects by trying to build them from scratch. She and her team recruited people online to play a game where they aimed to reconstruct various block towers and analyzed the types of mistakes they made, as well as how they got better at the game over time. Insights from experiments like these may help reveal the cognitive principles that govern how people "reverse-engineer" how things are made — from how an unfamiliar dish was prepared to how a song was composed. You can learn more about this project by visiting this site: and read their paper here:

To learn more about Judy Fan's research, check out her lab's website: You can also follow her on Twitter (@judyefan).

Aug 14, 2021
07 - Ovul Sezer: The Case for Sharing Good News

Eric chats with Ovul Sezer, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Ovul’s research focuses on impression mismanagement, or the mistakes we make as we try to impress others. Her research has been featured in outlets such as Time Magazine and Forbes Magazine. In this episode, Ovul discusses her recent paper on Hiding Success: People are often reluctant to share good news with others, but Ovul’s research suggests that this can harm their relationships and create competitive cultures. Ovul and Eric then make a special “pact,” and encourage listeners to do the same.


Aug 12, 2021
06 - Deon Benton: What a Computational Model Can Tell Us About Babies' Inner (Moral) Life?

In this episode,  Anjie chats with Deon Benton, a Visiting Assistant Professor at Swarthmore College.  He directs the Causality, Mind, and Computational Modeling Lab. Deon investigates causal learning in infants and children with a particular focus on those mechanisms and processes that support such learning. He uses both behavioral research and computational (connectionist) modeling to examine this topic. In this episode, he will be sharing with us his recent research on using a connectionist model to investigate infants’ understanding of morality.

You can read more about Deon's research on his lab's website:
His podcast on developmental psychology: It's Innate
You can also follow him on Twitter @DeonTBenton

Aug 01, 2021
05 - Linda Skitka: Moral Convictions

Eric chats with Linda Skitka, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Linda runs a very prolific lab on many things social, political, and moral psychology. Linda is a former president of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and her work has been covered in outlets such as Science Magazine, the Huffington Post, and the New York Times. In this episode, Linda and Eric chat about moral convictions: why are we so morally convicted about so many things these days? How are issues moralized and demoralized? How do emotions factor into this? How do we stop our moral convictions from disrupting our relationships? Also, what does it all have to do with overflowing toilets? Finally, Eric asks Linda the biggest of questions: is there moral truth?


Jul 29, 2021
04 - Edouard Machery: What Is A Replication?

In this episode, Anjie chats with Edouard Machery, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also the Director of the Center for Philosophy of Science. Edouard's main research focuses on the intersection between cognitive science and philosophy. In this episode, Edouard shares his recent work on a topic that is extremely important for psychology today: replication. In an era of the replication crisis, it is more important than ever to understand the concept of replication. What are we really talking about when we are talking about replication? Is preregistration the cure-all magic for the crisis? Why is scientific reform so difficult? These are the questions Edouard ponders on. You can learn more about his research on his personal website.

Paper: Machery, E. (2020). What is a replication?. Philosophy of Science87(4), 545-567.

Jul 17, 2021
03 - Thomas Talhelm: Is Our Understanding of Collectivism Wrong? A New Theory of Responsibilism

Eric chats with Thomas Talhelm, Professor of Behavioral Science at UChicago's Booth School of Business. Thomas is a cultural psychologist who has written extensively about how culture affects how we think, feel, and behave. Thomas has spent several years living in China. His work has been covered in outlets all across the globe including National Geographic, Time Magazine, BBC Future, and the New York Times. In this episode, Eric and Thomas chat about how both academics and nonacademics might have a somewhat mistaken view of what collectivistic cultures (such as China) are really like. As they share travel stories and discuss research on the topic, Thomas introduces his theory of Responsibilism as an alternative to Collectivism: the focus in many cultures is not on positive feelings towards the collective - but on duties and responsibilities.


Jul 15, 2021
02 - Michael Frank: The Universals and Variations of Children's Early Language Learning

In this episode, Anjie chats with Michael Frank, a professor in the Psychology Department here at Stanford University. He is the David and Lucile Packard Professor of Human Biology and is the director of the Symbolic Systems Program. Mike studies language use and language learning, with a focus on early word learning.  In this episode, they talk about his recent book on early language acquisition, Variability and Consistency in Early Language Learning: The Wordbank Project.  Mike also shares how the research has informed his own parenting practices.

Book link:
Wordbank project:

Jul 09, 2021
01 - Jamil Zaki: Cynicism and Market Cognition

Eric chats with Jamil Zaki, professor of psychology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab. Jamil is an expert in all things empathy, and he is the author of The War for Kindness. His writings have appeared in outlets such as The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Time Magazine. In this episode, Eric and Jamil chat about their recent paper on how market societies shape people's moral behavior. They discuss why people seem so cynical these days, and why cynicism can be a double-edged sword.


Jul 01, 2021