Outsmarting Human Minds

Applying insights from psychological science to help us improve the decisions we make in life and at work

Out of sight and into the mind

Outsmarting Human Minds (OHM) was created by a grant from PwC to Harvard University. OHM offers learning modules for the broader public, in the form of podcasts and videos, to showcase the science of how human minds work and shape the decisions we make in the workplace and in life, more generally. Watch the videos. Listen to the podcasts. Start conversations about how to outsmart your mind!

These modules have been created by the Outsmarting Human Minds Project at Harvard University. For direct access to the Harvard site and additional materials, including quizzes and articles, visit: www.outsmartinghumanminds.org

 

The universe inside your mind

400 years ago, we began to explore the universe with simple tools, and it challenged our beliefs about our place in the universe. Are investigations of the universe inside our minds any different? In this video, OFM Founder, Professor Mahzarin Banaji explains why the study of the human brain is every bit as fascinating and important as the study of far-flung stars and galaxies.

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The universe inside your mind

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About face: How first impressions fool us

Our faces broadcast information about us: whether we’re smart, warm or trustworthy. How do these signals affect decision-making—and are they accurate? Psychologist Alexander Todorov discusses the science behind face value.

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Who are we helping?

Humans help each other all the time. So what’s wrong with helping?

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The pygmalion effect

Expectations can be powerful. Even if they're never said out loud, the beliefs we carry in our minds can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

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Can you solve the surgeon riddle?

Expectations help us quickly navigate our world. Yet they can also keep us from the simple solutions, talent and opportunities that are right in front of us.

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Moral credentialing

We work out, then pig out. We donate to charity, then indulge in retail therapy. Does this also happen with our good deeds? How can we avoid bringing our moral scorecards to the workplace?

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Self-fulfilling prophecies

You perform well at work one day, but not the next. One person sees you as “warm,” another as “cold.” Maybe it’s you—but there is another possibility: that a belief in one person’s mind can shape another person’s behavior.

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The endowment effect

We overvalue the things we own. This is fine when it's a family keepsake or memento—but how does this influence decisions we make about our homes, investments and more?

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Hear me out: Accent bias

Voices are more than sounds. They’re auditory faces that can give clues to who we are. In the time it takes to say “hello,” we can identify a person’s ethnic or cultural background as different from ours. Yet this can lead to other impressions that are just...wrong. How might accents influence our judgments? And what’s the cost?

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The standards we choose: the police chief study

Book-smart or street-smart? Education or experience? We like to think we use objective criteria to make decisions. But what happens when we choose the person first, then use the standard that supports our decision? How might the “pictures in our heads” drive the criteria we choose?

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Shifting standards

Leonardo Da Vinci, we would say, is a genius. Yet we might say the same for a puppy that can open a cabinet to get her snacks. Sometimes it makes sense to shift our standards based on context. But are we raising and lowering the bar when we shouldn’t?

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The availability bias

What’s more likely: death by shark attack, or death by lightning strike? The science suggests you’ll choose “shark attack”… but that’s not the right answer. So why do so many of us agree? It’s called the availability bias: our tendency to assume that events that come easily to mind must be more common or true.

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Implicit revolution

40 years ago, memory researchers showed us that patients with amnesia could form new memories... implicitly. This sparked an ongoing revolution in research on the hidden mind: how it learns, how it influences us and how it can be measured and changed. 

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Implicit revolution 1: How we develop implicit bias

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Implicit revolution 2: Testing our implicit associations

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Going beyond the science with PwC
 

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“At PwC, we are committed to creating leaders who act with integrity and make a difference in the world. Investing in tools to help us be introspective and mindful of our unconscious biases is one step we are taking to support our people in working better with others and to achieve their full potential.”

Tim Ryan, US Chairman and Senior Partner, PwC


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Elena Richards

US Minority Initiatives & Talent Management Leader, Office of Diversity, PwC US

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