Become an intellectual explorer: Master the art of conversation

Want to be smarter than you were yesterday? Learn to have better conversations using these 3 design principles.

  • What is a great conversation? They are the ones that leave us feeling smarter or more curious, with a sense that we have discovered something, understood something about another person, or have been challenged.
  • There are 3 design principles that lead to great conversations: humility, critical thinking, and sympathetic listening.
  • Critical thinking is the celebrated cornerstone of liberalism, but next time you're in a challenging and rewarding conversation, try to engage sympathetic listening too. Understanding why another intelligent person holds ideas that are at odds with your own is often more enlightening than merely hunting for logic errors.
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Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies

How to defeat moral grandstanders (and stay classy while doing it)

These effective strategies can minimize harmful moral grandstanding – in yourself and in others.

  • What is moral grandstanding? Here's a comprehensive explanation of the psychology that drives this disruptive and divisive online behavior.
  • Moral grandstanding may have very serious consequences for social discourse, but calling it out and shaming moral grandstanders is unproductive, says Brandon Warmke.
  • To defeat moral grandstanding, you can do several things. Before posting anything online, ask yourself: 'Am I doing this to do good or am I doing this to look good?'. You can deny attention and praise to moral grandstanders, and you can redirect your own impulse to signal morality into actual volunteer work instead of online posts.
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Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies

Understanding what tolerance means in a highly polarized America

Changing people's minds isn't how we end polarization. Tolerance is the gateway to peaceful coexistence.

  • The goal of tolerance is not for everyone to arrive at a consensus on divisive issues, or to accept each other's views. Sarah Ruger suggests that tolerance is learning how to coexist peacefully through difference.
  • Tolerance is a word with a lot of baggage, but tolerance is not patronizing or insulting; it is a starting point for something better.
  • Peaceful coexistence and a focus on common goals enables people of all convictions to work towards positive social ends like innovation, social progress, and the defense of equal rights.
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Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation

Why a great education means engaging with controversy

Jonathan Zimmerman explains why teachers should invite, not censor, tough classroom debates.

  • During times of war or national crisis in the U.S., school boards and officials are much more wary about allowing teachers and kids to say what they think.
  • If our teachers avoid controversial questions in the classroom, kids won't get the experience they need to know how to engage with difficult questions and with criticism.
  • Jonathan Zimmerman argues that controversial issues should be taught in schools as they naturally arise. Otherwise kids will learn from TV news what politics looks like – which is more often a rant than a healthy debate.
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Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies

Are people getting smarter or dumber? Yes.

The Flynn effect shows people have gotten smarter, but some research claims those IQ gains are regressing. Can both be right?

  • Many countries made incredible gains in IQ scores during the 20th century, averaging three IQ points per decade.
  • Studies out of Europe have shown a reversal of this trend.
  • Such declines are not universal, and researchers remain unsure of what is causing them.
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