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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.

Why We Laugh and What We Laugh At

The following is an upcoming post for It riffs on themes I discussed in my previous post on humor. If you have not already, check out There’s great […]

Why We Love Violence In Fiction

“How do Americans spend their leisure time?” That question was posed by Yale psychologist Paul Bloom in his 2010 book How Pleasure Works. The answer, Bloom says, is “participating in […]

Why You Shouldn’t Focus Too Much

Humans are a distractible bunch. We’re easily seduced by ads and offers, memes and tweets. When we’re not focused on useless gimmicks and irrelevant social chatter our minds drift into […]

The Science of Incentives, Motivation and Choking

Breakthrough ideas don’t happen overnight. Origins of Species was published in 1859, 28 years after Darwin first boarded HMS Beagle;James Joyce spent seventeen years writing Finnegans Wake;and when Edison filed […]

How Your Mood Affects Your Creativity

While writing this post, my mood will vary. I’ll enjoy the beginning – riffing on a new idea is always exciting – but I’ll inevitably hit difficult patches. A few […]

The Right Mindset

“Are great musician born or made?” That question was posed by Gary Marcus, who at the age of 38, wondered if he could overcome a lifetime of musical failure – […]

What Motivates Creativity?

The ultimate goal of any education system should be to give people the opportunity to find and bring to life that which motivates them intrinsically. 

Environmental Cues That Boost Creativity

For most of human history creativity was something that came from the muses; it was about flashes of insight from another world. Today we know that creativity is something that […]

What Improv Teaches Us About Creativity

Improv isn’t about wisecracks and one-liners. It’s about creating a structure where characters and narratives are quickly created, developed, sometimes forgotten and other times resolved. 

How to Generate a Good Idea

Several years ago, Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister conducted a study that measured the productivity of computer programmers. Their data set included more than 600 programmers from 92 companies. According […]