Changing minds

Online chin-scratching club Edge have asked their annual question. This year’s it’s “What have you changed your mind about?” and the respondents include a number of cognitive scientists or people thinking about mind and brain issues.

Actually, all of them are a good read (although spot the few who don’t seem to have changed their mind very much!).

We’ve listed the psychology and neuroscience-related answers below if you want to cut to the chase (and fixed a few broken links from the original website along the way).


Joseph LeDoux: Like many scientists in the field of memory, I used to think that a memory is something stored in the brain and then accessed when used.

Karl Sabbagh: I used to believe that there were experts and non-experts and that, on the whole, the judgment of experts is more accurate, more valid, and more correct than my own judgment.

Howard Gardner: Wrestling with Jean Piaget, my Paragon.

Donald Hoffman: Veridical Perception.

Michael Shermer: The Nature of Human Nature.

Irene Pepperberg: The Fallacy of Hypothesis Testing.

Rudy Rucker: Can Robots See God?

Nick Bostrom: Everything.

Arnold Rehub: I have never questioned the conventional view that a good grounding in the physical sciences is needed for a deep understanding of the biological sciences. It did not occur to me that the opposite view might also be true.

Dan Sperber: How I Became An Evolutionary Psychologist.

Thomas Metzinger: There are No Moral Facts.

Marc D. Hauser: The Limits Of Darwinian Reasoning.

Robert Provine: In Praise of Fishing Expeditions.

Todd Feinberg: Soul Searching.

David Myers: Reading and reporting on psychological science has changed my mind many times…

Daniel Everett: Homeopathic Bias and Language Origins.

Max Tegmark: Do we need to understand consciousness to understand physics? I used to answer “yes”, thinking that we could never figure out the elusive “theory of everything” for our external physical reality without first understanding the distorting mental lens through which we perceive it.

Robert Sapolsky: I’m both a neurobiologist and a primatologist, and I’ve changed my mind about plenty of things in both of these realms. But the most fundamental change is one that transcends either of those disciplines ‚Äî this was my realizing that the most interesting and important things in the life sciences are not going to be explained with sheer reductionism.

Rodney Brooks: Computation as the Ultimate Metaphor.

Robert Trivers: The Science of Self-deception Requires a Deep Understanding of Biology.

Gary Marcus: What’s Special About Human Language.

A. Garrett Lisi: I Used To Think I Could Change My Mind.

Jeffrey Epstein: The question presupposes a well defined “you”, and an implied ability that is under “your” control to change your “mind”. The “you” I now believe is distributed amongst others (family friends, in hierarchal structures)…

Stephen Kosslyn: The World in the Brain.

Gary Klein: Exchanging Your Mind.

John McCarthy: Attitudes Trump Facts.

Ernst P√∂ppel: Being Caught In The Language Trap ‚Äî Or Wittgenstein’s Straitjacket.

Marcel Kinsbourne: The Impressionable Brain.

Marti Hearst: Computational Analysis of Language Requires Understanding Language.

Diane F. Halpern: From A Simple Truth To “It All Depends”.

Roger Shank: AI?

John Horgan: Changing My Mind About the Mind-Body Problem.

Sherry Turkle: What I’ve Changed My Mind About.

Daniel Gilbert: The Benefit of Being Able to Change My Mind.

Judith Rich Harris: Generalization.

Terrence Sejnowski: I have changed my mind about cortical neurons and now think that they are far more capable than we ever imagined.

Jon Haidt: Sports and fraternities are not so bad.

Steven Pinker: Have Humans Stopped Evolving?

Eduardo Punset: The soul is in the brain.

Leo Chalupa: Brain plasticity.

Scott Atran: The Religious Politics of Fictive Kinship.

Marco Iacoboni: The eradication of irrational thinking is (not) inevitable (it will require some serious work).

Richard Wrangham: The Human Recipe.

Stanislas Deheane: The brain’s Schr√∂dinger equation.

Mary Bateson: Making and Changing Minds.

Aubrey de Brey: Curiosity is addictive, and this is not an entirely good thing.

Helena Cronin: More dumbbells but more Nobels: Why men are at the top.

Daniel Dennet: Competition in the brain.

Nicholas Christakis: Culture can change our genes.

Rupert Sheldrake: The skepticism of believers.

Philip Campbell: I’ve changed my mind about the use of enhancement drugs by healthy people.

James Geary: Neuroeconomics really explains human economic behavior.

Daniel Goleman: The Inexplicable Monks.

David Buss: Female Sexual Psychology.

Sam Harris: Mother Nature is Not Our Friend.

Paul Ewald: Trusting Experts.

Nicholas Humphrey: The hardness of the problem of consciousness is the key to its solution.

Susan Blackmore: The Paranormal.

Gerd Gigerenzer: The Advent of Health Literacy.

Jaron Larnier: Virtual Reality and PTSD.

Simon Baron-Cohen: Equality.

Alison Gopnick: Imagination is Real.

Geoffrey Miller: Asking For Directions.

Barry Smith: The Experience of the Normally Functioning Mind is the Exception.

Roger Bingham: Changing My Religion (‘The Church of Evolutionary Psychology’!).

Lera Boroditsky: Do our languages shape the nuts and bolts of perception, the very way we see the world?

Jamshed Bharucha: Education as Stretching the Mind.

Linda Gottfredson: The Calculus of Small but Consistent Effects.

Randolph Nesse: Truth does not reside with smart university experts.

Daniel Kahneman: The sad tale of the aspiration treadmill.

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