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CM 112: Nicholas Epley on How Well We Know Each Other: Do we know what others think? What about our partners or closest friends? Nick Epley, author of the book, Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want, explains that we can read the minds of others,

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Do we know what others think? What about our partners or closest friends?

Nick Epley, author of the book, Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want, explains that we can read the minds of others, but not nearly as well as we think. In fact, we can barely read our own minds. 

Nicholas Epley is Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His research has appeared in more than two dozen journals, including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and his work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Wired, NPR, and on CNN.

In this interview we discuss:

The fact that we aren’t as good at understanding others -- even those closest to us -- as we think we are
How our predictions of what a group thinks of us is are, on average, more accurate than what we think any one individual in that group thinks of us
Why our confidence in how well we understand people we spend a lot of time with outstrips the accuracy with which we actually do understand them
How the faster we decide what another person thinks can cause us to be that much more confident in our assessment, even if we’re wrong
The gap between what we think we’ll do in a particular situation and the ways we behave when we’re actually in that situation
How we’re really making up stories or guessing when we attempt to explain why we feel a certain way or take a particular action
Why a surefire way to ensure we won’t understand others is to dismiss their capabilities, dehumanize them and, in general, distance ourselves from them
How we can misunderstand others just by paying attention to different things or focusing on something else
Why interpreting information differently from others -- seeing the same situation in a different way -- makes it difficult to understand their perspective
How body language reveals much less than we assume when it comes to understanding what others are thinking
The importance of perspective getting over perspective taking -- how we need to test out our understanding by asking the other person what their experience was like, listen to what they have to say and then repeat it back to ensure our understanding, rather than work from the stories we’ve made up in our minds
How we’re happier connecting with strangers on trains, buses, and in cabs, though we predict we’d be happier if we kept to ourselves

Links to Topics Mentioned in the Podcast

Nicholas Epley at Chicago Booth

Richard LaPiere

The Influential Mind by Tali Sharot

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Thank you to Emmy-award-winning Creative Director Vanida Vae for designing the Curious Minds logo, and thank you to Rob Mancabelli for all of his production expertise!

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