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Nate’s Notes 46: Jesse Graham | Question Your Convictions

By December 26, 2022June 8th, 2023No Comments

Jesse Graham

Professor at the University of Utah

Jesse Graham is one of the most impactful researchers of our day, and I love the lessons he shared.

First, use a calendar. By scheduling blocks of time, Jesse became more productive and learned to accurately estimate how long it took to complete specific tasks. And it was also during this productive period that he developed, with Jonathan Haidt, Moral Foundations Theory, one of the most well-known, impactful theories on morality today.

Second, be a good collaborator. By trying to show everyone how smart you are, people aren’t going to want to work with you. But if people do want to work with you it will be good for your career. When describing this lesson, Jesse mentioned briefly the paper in which he was 54th author. But what he didn’t mention was that this paper may be one of the most important psychology papers published in the last several decades, and led to what has been called the replication crisis, which I discuss in Season 1 Episode 14 of this podcast. 

And finally, question your convictions. Jesse’s research on moral foundations shows that all too often, people who argue, fight, or even go to war with each other, ground their beliefs in morality. Some people focus on whether their action is fair or harmful to others while others focus on whether their action is loyal or respects authority. By focusing on different moral foundations, people can vehemently disagree, all the while feeling like they are morally superior. For this reason, it’s important that we question our own convictions. As Jesse said, moral humility is needed. We should all be open to being wrong about things. 

Jesse Graham is one of the most accomplished researchers of our day, but to meet him, speak with him, or work with him, you would never know it, because he’s a walking, talking example of the lessons he shared today: use a calendar and be humble.

It’s a simple idea. Please take it seriously.

Jesse Graham Bio

Jesse Graham, professor of business ethics at the University of Utah, typifies underappreciated…or at least understated. He’s most known for his work with Jonathan Haidt in developing Moral Foundations Theory which I discuss in Season 1, Episode 20 of this podcast. Their theory provides the best explanation I’ve ever heard for why people disagree so much about politics…and why everyone thinks they’re right. But if you look up Jesse Graham on his University’s website, you won’t find a self-aggrandizing biography, but rather just a link to his CV. And given the lessons he shared today, it’s no surprise that he doesn’t draw attention to himself.

Jesse earned an undergraduate psychology degree from Chicago, a masters of theological studies from the Harvard divinity school, and then a masters and PhD in psychology from the University of Virginia.

I hope you enjoyed learning from Jesse Graham, because I always do. 

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