Interview with Elliot Berkman: Change Your Life, Change Your Brain

This site is called BlackBoxPhd because we take an inside look into the minds of experts and learn how to apply their wisdom in daily life; This week’s interview is a perfect example of that. Elliot Berkman is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Social and […]

The Psychology Behind the Stupid Things that All of Us Do

A lot of social and cognitive psychologists study why people do dumb things, like eating until we’re stuffed, but then then eating more. Or avoiding getting tested for disease because we don’t like the name of the disease. But there’s one field that really takes pride in studying the dumb things that people do. Behavioral economics. The psychologists and economists in this field are also some of the smartest researchers in the world. One example is Danny Oppenheimer. He’s a cognitive psychologist who studies how people make decisions, especially ones that are comically irrational. He’s a Professor of Psychology and Marketing at UCLA. Prior to that he was a Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. He’s received awards for being a top teacher, as well as the Ig Nobel Prize for Research that Makes you Laugh. He also wrote a popular book on the Science of Giving. We caught up last week to do one of his favorite hobbies, eat chocolate chip cookies. When I asked him to do the interview he warned me that the answers to this interview (like the answers he has discovered in the rest of life) would relate to chocolate chip cookies. In this week’s interview, he’ll teach you about people’s decisions, especially the ones we make that are really dumb. He’ll also teach all of us how to be a little smarter.

The Physiology of Social Connection

Kevin Bickart has been studying for a long time. And he’s still not done. He’s got a PhD in neuroscience, an MD, and going to start his residence at my grad school Alma Mater. He also loves technology. He’s not just smart, but he’s been studying some cool things about physiology, wearable devices, sports, and how the heart is even more tied to compassion and social connection than we thought. He’ll tell you about those things in this week’s interview.

Goodbye Silicon Valley, Hello Brazil

He was always interested in world, politics, business, and entrepreneurship. That’s how I met him. We were both undergraduates living at the International House at UC Berkeley. After leaving for his Master’s at Harvard, he came back to Stanford to study how to build companies. But Raj Patel’s hometown San Francisco felt like well-traveled territory already. He needed a change in lifestyle and culture. He needed something more international. So he packed his bags to become an entrepreneur in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In this week’s interview, Raj Patel will tell you what it’s like to pack your bags and head to Brazil to start a company.

Does Going to Law School Mean You’re a Lawyer for Life?

Law school, medical school, graduate school, or something else. That’s the way a lot of American non-engineering college students think about their future choices. Jason Gross chose the law school route. He practiced for years as a successful litigation attorney but then decided he wanted to work in a new area. It’s a daunting thought to change fields after putting so much time into school and developing a specialization. So if you’re a lawyer who went to law school and has been working, what do you do if you want to change careers? This week we interview Jason Gross who went from being a litigation attorney to working at UCLA in development. He’ll tell you about his journey and what you can do if you’re thinking about switching careers.