Self-control, the science of social psychology, and “The Power of Us,” with Dr. Jay Van Bavel

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What happens when we define ourselves in terms of group memberships? How does culture and society affect our capacity for self-control and self-regulation? Why does the toxic binary of “us” versus “them” seem to be so powerful these days? How can we instead use our shared identities to improve our wellbeing and work toward harmony and flourishing?
My guest for this episode of Flourishing After Addiction is Dr. Jay Van Bavel, a social psychology researcher who studies questions like these in his Social Identity and Morality Lab at NYU. “From neurons to social networks,” he investigates how culture and group identities influence our feelings, self-control, and even our sense of morality. We talk about the relevance of his work for addiction and recovery: how to harness his findings to work toward personal change, why to be skeptical of the usual narrative about self-control, and the urgent need to wake up to the “gravitational pull” of social groups.
Jay Van Bavel, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Psychology & Neural Science at New York University, an affiliate at the Stern School of Business in Management and Organizations, and Director of the Social Identity & Morality Lab. He is the co-author of “The Power of Us: Harnessing Our Shared Identities to Improve Performance, Increase Cooperation, and Promote Social Harmony." Find him on Twitter, and see more at his personal page, his lab website, and his book website.
In this episode:
- See this page on Jay’s lab website for his publications
-note in particular Jay’s research on maple syrup, and what that means for the relationship between food and identity
- Against Willpower, my article about why we should be skeptical about the usual model of self-control
- Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages, and Well-Being. George A. Akerlof and Rachel E. Kranton
- Conspirituality: “a neologism portmanteau describing the overlap of conspiracy theories with spirituality”.
- Ward, Charlotte and Voas, David (2011) ‘The Emergence of Conspirituality’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, 26(1): 103-121.
- See also the Conspirituality podcast by Julian Walker, Matthew Remski, and Derek Beres: “A weekly study of converging right-wing conspiracy theories and faux-progressive wellness utopianism.”
- Jay on polarization in the Guardian: The big idea: are we really so polarised?
- My interview with addiction recovery advocate Ryan Hampton on ideology and recovery
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