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Sam McNerney

Science writer

I graduated from Hamilton College with a degree in Philosophy. Now I write about philosophy (mostly epistemology) and psychology (mostly decision making and well-being) at Scientific American and Big Think. My personal blog is SamMcNerney.com. @SamMcNerney.

The Illusion of Conscious Will

The following is a guest post by Mark Molloy “Sir we know our will is free, and there’s an end on’t.” (Samuel Johnson as quoted by J. Boswell in The Life […]

Excess is Not a Modern Problem

Consider the story of the wealthy New York banker and the Greek fisherman. While vacationing in Greece, the banker meets a Greek fisherman and asks him how long it takes […]

Modern Art Is Indebted To Descartes

Writers and historians enjoy making the case for one or another thinker as the starting point for an epoch. Did Galileo launch the scientific revolution? Or was it Copernicus? Or […]

The Bias Within The Bias

Too often, readers finish popular books on decision making with the false conviction that they will decide better. 

Learning From the Illusion of Understanding

The feeling of certainty might be our default setting. We spend most of our mental life confirming our opinions, even when those opinions involve complex issues. We believe we understand […]

How Optimism Distorts The Future

Humans are an optimistic bunch. We overestimate desirable traits (humor), skills (driving) and our future states (well-being and health). Worse, we believe that we are immune to these better-than-average errors, […]

Why Writing Fluently Is Hard

The human mind likes simplicity. It’s a complicated world, so we filter it into one cohesive and easy-to-digest worldview. This perspective is a rather unscientific one, however. When we observe […]

Mindfulness: Observing Without Questioning

The story of discovery goes something like this: the inventor investigates what he knows (the properties of stapholycocci) and uncovers something else (penicillin), which changes the world. The scientific method […]

Drunk Tank Pink: A Q&A With Adam Alter

Today Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel and Behavegoes on sale. The author is NYU Assistant Professor of Marketing Adam Alter. I came […]

The Albatross and the Chameleon

I’ve never seen an albatross but I’m told the regal bird can glide for hundreds of miles without flapping his wings. On land, however, the large wings drag like “drifting […]

Getting Attention By Avoiding Attention

Recall Anthony Comstock (1844-1915), America’s “archprude” and upholder of Victorian morality. Comstock devoted his life to denouncing art he deemed “obscene, lewd or indecent.” In response to a New York […]

We Don’t Need No Education

One salient feature of the United States in the 21st century is a belief that our school system – from pre-kindergarten to higher education – is failing us. There are […]