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Dan Gardner    

Journalist, Lecturer & Author, "Risk," "Future Babble" & "Superforecasting"

Dan Gardner is a journalist, author, and lecturer who enjoys nothing so much as writing about himself in the third person.

Trained in law (LL.B., Osgoode Hall Law School, Class of ’92) and history (M.A., York University, ’95), Dan first worked as a political staffer to a prominent politician. In 1997, he joined the editorial board of the Ottawa Citizen. His writing has won or been nominated for most major prizes in Canadian journalism, including the National Newspaper Award, the Michener Award, the Canadian Association of Journalists award, the Amnesty International Canada Media Award for reporting on human rights, and a long list of other awards, particularly in the field of criminal justice and law. Today, he is an opinion columnist who refuses to be pigeonholed as a liberal or a conservative and is positively allergic to all varieties of dogma. If you must label him — and he’d rather you didn’t — please call him a “skeptic.”

In 2005, Dan attended a lecture by renowned psychologist Paul Slovic. It was a life-changing encounter. Fascinated by Slovic’s work, Dan immersed himself in the scientific literature. The result was a seminal book on risk perception, "Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear." Published in 11 countries and 7 languages, Risk was a bestseller in the United Kingdom and Canada. But more gratifying to Dan was the support of leading researchers, including Slovic, who praised the book’s scientific accuracy.

In his latest book, "Future Babble," Dan delved deeper into psychology to explain why people continue to put so much stock in expert predictions despite the repeated — and sometimes catastrophic — failure of efforts to forecast the future. Again, Dan was delighted that his book garnered the praise of leading researchers, including Philip Tetlock of the University of California, who called it “superb scholarship,” and Steven Pinker of Harvard University, who said it should be “required reading for journalists, politicians, academics, and those who listen to them.”

Psychology is fundamentally about how people perceive, think, decide, and communicate — and modern research shows that much of what people assume to be true about these basic processes is, in fact, wrong. The success of Risk led Dan to develop a series of lectures that expose and correct those assumptions, helping people think, decide, organize, and communicate better. Dan is also Panelist on CTV’s Question Period.

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Speech Topics


Getting Risk Right

Research shows people routinely get risk wrong. We worry about things we shouldn’t. We don’t worry about things we should. And we swing from complacency to panic, and back again. The result is one bad decision after another — with costs measured in lost dollars, health, and peace of mind. Why does this happen? Gardner delves into cognitive and social psychology to explain where our perceptions of risk come from and why they so often don’t match reality. Understanding how we form perceptions, and how they can go wrong, is the indispensable first step to making better decisions about risk. Harnessing the Full Power of Language Language always works on multiple levels. Yes, there are the words we see, the words we hear, the words defined in the dictionary. But that’s only one dimension of language. As neuroscience and psychology have revealed, language has many other dimensions and all influence what people perceive, feel, and decide. Drawing on the latest scientific research and his own long experience in the business of communication, Gardner explains how to harness the full power of language.

Frightened by Shadows

We are by far the safest, healthiest, and wealthiest people who ever lived. But we sure don’t act like it. If we are so safe, why are we so afraid? Gardner demonstrates that the media’s portrayal of the risks we face is consistently wrong. He explains how politicians, activists and corporations promote fear to win votes, generate support and make money. And he delves into the latest scientific research to explain how the human brain decides what is worth worrying about and what is not, and why it is often wrong.

The Forecast for Tomorrow: More Future Babble

The media are partly to blame for not holding experts to account when their predictions fail. But more fundamentally, the answer lies in psychology and the brain’s profound aversion to uncertainty: We believe because we want to believe. But we don’t have to be suckers for soothsayers. If we understand the psychology that compels us to believe, we can learn to distinguish between reasonable forecasts and the tales of confident experts. And that can help us make good decisions that leave us better prepared for the future. No matter what happens.

Think Like a Fox

To use the terminology of Philip Tetlock, a renowned psychologist at the University of California’s Haas School of Business, George Soros is a classic “fox.” Tetlock distinguishes between two types of thinkers — “hedgehogs” and “foxes.” Hedgehogs insist on simplicity and certainty. They see problems through a single analytical lens. And they are very confident. They know the answer. Foxes are much more comfortable with complexity and uncertainty. They’ll use lots of analytical lenses to look at problems, and ask other people what they see. They are not nearly so confident as hedgehogs. They may know the answer, but they’re never sure. The foxes came out on top every time. Styles of thinking are not innate. They can be learned. Gardner explains how.

Harnessing the Full Power of Language

Puppy. Sunshine. Lollipop.

Reading those words, did you feel anything? A rush of warmth and happiness? Did you smile and think, “gosh, puppies are cute.” Probably not. You’re only reading words on a screen, after all. You felt nothing.

Or so you think. Cognitive science tells us you almost certainly did experience an emotional response to these words. You just weren’t conscious of it.

Language is like that. It always works on multiple levels. Yes, there are the words we see, the words we hear, the words defined in the dictionary. But that’s only one dimension of language. As neuroscience and psychology have revealed, language has many other dimensions and all influence what people perceive, feel, and decide.

Drawing on the latest scientific research and his own long experience in the business of communication, Gardner explains how to harness the full power of language.

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