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The Nature & Nurture Podcast

The Nature & Nurture Podcast

By Adam Omary
Discussing the nature of our universe, our biology, our environment, and how these forces impact our lives. New episodes every week with scientists, authors, and bright minds from a wide array of backgrounds.


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Nature & Nurture #14: Dr. Nadia Chernyak - How Children Quantify Fairness
Dr. Nadia Chernyak is an Assistant Professor of Cognitive Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. In this episode we discuss her research on children's moral development, conceptions of fairness and inequality, and the role numeracy skills play in these conceptions. Learn more about Dr. Chernyak's research at:    Video available at: Timestamps: 0:00 - Introduction 0:35 - How Nadia became interested in studying moral and social development 1:48 - Psychology vs. philosophy  2:48 - Conducting psychological experiments with young children  4:06 - Inequalities perceived by young children and even monkeys  8:55 - When and how children begin to apply moral stances to inequality 10:42 - Nadia's research on children's moral cognition 14:24 - Is the motivation for sharing innate?  15:28 - How temperament influences moral values  16:37 - Why Nadia focuses her research on children  17:45 - Looking at numeracy development in the context of fairness and morals  22:18 - How perceptions of inequality scale 25:26 - Cognitively advanced but selfish children  27:05 - Merit vs. equality  28:30 - Practical implications of Nadia's research 31:01 - The difficulty of comparing unquantifiables   32:18 - Cognitive mechanisms behind the development of high-level reasoning 34:00 - Moral stage theory  34:53 - Moral thought experiment  36:32 - Fairness vs. prosociality  40:09 - Group biases in prosocial behavior 42:20 - Overlap between moral psychology and moral philosophy  46:02 - Creating quantifiable scales of unquantifiables  49:00 - Evaluating ulterior motives 51:18 - Nadia's plans for future research 55:10 - How stereotypes influence cognition
July 28, 2021
Nature & Nurture #13: Dr. Felipe De Brigard - Imagination & Modal Cognition
Dr. Felipe De Brigard is a Professor of Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience at Duke University, where he runs the Imagination and Modal Cognition Lab. Learn more about his research at:    In this episode we discuss Felipe's background in philosophy and neuroscience, his research on imagination and counterfactual thinking, and the role of memory in consciousness.    Timestamps:  0:00 - Introduction 0:29 - Felipe's background in philosophy and neuropsychology 1:58 - Bridging philosophy and cognitive neuroscience in his PhD 3:41 - Neuroscience as an applied medical field vs. a theoretical study of the mind 9:00 - The rise of experimental philosophy  11:12 - Felipe's research interests in memory, imagination, and counterfactual thinking 15:26 - The role of memory in consciousness 22:07 - Is experience discrete or continuous? 24:37 - Phenomenology in neuroscience 30:59 - Does multitasking exist?  33:08 - Different types of cognitive processes involved in imagination 36:09 - Felipe's own research on counterfactual thinking 39:20 - Differences in brain activation when imagining things that do vs. do not involve yourself 43:25 - The evolution of counterfactual thinking  46:35 - How counterfactual thinking influences our memory 47:36 - The most interesting question Felipe would like to see answered in his career
July 22, 2021
Nature & Nurture #12: Dr. Essi Viding - Psychopathy & Antisocial Behavior
In this episode I interview Dr. Essi Viding, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at University College London and author of Psychopathy: A Very Short Introduction. We discuss her research on the development of antisocial behavior, the degree to which psychopathic traits are influenced by genetic and environmental factors, and early-intervention strategies which may help improve the developmental trajectory of antisocial children.
July 14, 2021
Nature & Nurture #11: Dr. Zlatan Damnjanovic - Logic & Philosophy of Mathematics
In this episode I interview Dr. Zlatan Damnjanovic, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California. We discuss his research in logic and the philosophy of mathematics, the epistemological of whether the languages of logic and math are universal or man-made, and the historical development of formal systems of logic and mathematics. Additionally, we discuss the paradox logical systems necessarily being either incomplete or inconsistent without the fundamental axiom of truth-preservation (i.e., not contradicting oneself). Video available at: 
July 8, 2021
Nature & Nurture #10: Dr. Carlos Cardenas-Iniguez - Social Stratification & Environmental Neuroscience
In this episode I interview Dr. Carlos Cardenas-Iniguez, neuroscientist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Southern California. We discuss his background in cognitive neuroscience, his transition to researching the influence of social and environmental factors on the brain, and his current work in environmental neuroscience. Additionally, we discuss issues in science including the operationalization of variables, identity, (statistical) power, and group stratification.
June 28, 2021
Nature & Nurture #9: Dr. Mark Goulston - Surgical Empathy & The Importance of Listening
Dr. Mark Goulston is a psychiatrist, former UCLA professor with expertise in suicide prevention, former FBI and police hostage negotiation trainer, inventor of the therapeutic technique of Surgical Empathy, bestselling author of 9 books, and host of the My Wakeup Call podcast.  In this episode we discuss Dr. Goulston's books "Just Listen" and "Get Out of Your Own Way." In addition, Dr. Goulston shares stories from his training as a psychiatrist and discusses the technique of surgical empathy in both clinical and personal settings. Video available at: Learn more about Dr. Goulston at Find Dr. Goulston on Twitter and Instagram @MarkGoulston Listen to Dr. Goulston's course Defeating Self Defeat at: (Use promo code DEFEAT to access for free)
June 21, 2021
Nature & Nurture #8: Dr. Daniel Lapsley - Moral Psychology & Development
In this episode I interview Dr. Daniel Lapsley, Professor of Psychology at Notre Dame University. We discuss the overlap between philosophy and experimental psychology in the study of morality, early psychological theories of moral development including those of Piaget and Kohlberg, modern perspectives on moral psychology including Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory, and the value of intellectual humility. Video available at: 
June 10, 2021
Nature & Nurture #7: Dr. Vera Gluscevic - Dark Matter, Dark Energy, & Cosmology
In this episode I interview Dr. Vera Gluscevic, Gabilan Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southern California. We discuss her background in astrophysics and her research in cosmology, the beginnings of our Universe, the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, and touch briefly on metaphysics and the probabilistic nature of the quantum world.
June 1, 2021
Nature & Nurture #6: Dr. Alex Bezzerides - Evolution Gone Wrong: Why Our Bodies Work (Or Don't)
In this episode I interview Dr. Alex Bezzerides, Professor of Biology at Lewis-Clark State College, about his book Evolution Gone Wrong: The Curious Reasons Why Our Bodies Work (Or Don't). We discuss his background in biology, inspirations for the book, our evolutionary past, and the trade-offs that come with adaptation: from the benefits of walking on two feet and having large brains, to the pains of backache and childbirth.   Find his book here:
May 27, 2021
Nature & Nurture #5: Dr. Cecilia Heyes - Cognitive Gadgets: The Cultural Evolution of Thinking
In this episode I interview Dr. Cecilia Heyes, Professor of Psychology at Oxford University, about her book Cognitive Gadgets: The Cultural Evolution of Thinking. We discuss her background in animal research, the nature vs. nurture debate, culture as an evolutionary process, and discuss various "cognitive gadgets" such as literacy and imitation, which Heyes argues are not biologically programmed, but culturally evolved feats of cognition. Find her book at:
May 5, 2021
Nature & Nurture #4: Dr. Toby Mintz - Psycholinguistics & Early Language Development
In this episode I interview Dr. Toby Mintz, Professor of Psychology and Linguistics at the University of Southern California. We discuss language in the context of cognitive science: from artificial intelligence to human language development, and discuss his research on language acquisition in infants and children.    Video available at: Papers discussed:   Mintz, T. H. (2003). Frequent frames as a cue for grammatical categories in child directed speech. Cognition, 90(1), 91-117.   Mintz, T. H. (2005). Linguistic and conceptual influences on adjective acquisition in 24-and 36-month-olds. Developmental Psychology, 41(1), 17.
April 29, 2021
Nature & Nurture #3: Dr. Frank Manis - Literacy Development & The Dynamic Child
In this episode I interview Dr. Frank Manis, Professor of Psychology at the University of Southern California and author of The Dynamic Child. We discuss his early career studying literacy development and dyslexia, his textbook and MyVirtualChild program, and his thoughts on the field of developmental psychology. Video available at:
April 23, 2021
Nature & Nurture #2: Dr. Megan Herting - Environmental Neuroscience & Brain Development
In this episode I interview Dr. Megan Herting, neuroscientist and professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California. We discuss her early career and transition from behavioral neuroscience in rats to humans, recent studies in neuroimaging and environmental neuroscience, and the importance of science education and holism. Papers discussed: Cserbik, D., Chen, J. C., McConnell, R., Berhane, K., Sowell, E. R., Schwartz, J., ... & Herting, M. M. (2020). Fine particulate matter exposure during childhood relates to hemispheric-specific differences in brain structure. Environment International, 143, 105933. Campbell, C. E., Mezher, A. F., Eckel, S. P., Tyszka, J. M., Pauli, W. M., Nagel, B. J., & Herting, M. M. (2021). Restructuring of amygdala subregion apportion across adolescence. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 48, 100883. Timestamps:  0:00 - Introduction 0:35 - How Megan first became interested in psychology & neuroscience 3:25 - Megan's research experiences as an undergraduate 6:38 - Learning to read scientific jargon in academic journals 8:30 - How Megan decided to pursue graduate school 10:45 - Navigating graduate school as a first-generation student 12:44 - How Megan's research interests developed in graduate school 15:07 - Megan's PhD dissertation on how exercise influences brain health in adolescents 19:26 - Switching focus post-PhD and searching for faculty jobs 22:50 - Teaching in addition to doing research 26:38 - Research in the Herting Neuroimaging Laboratory from 2016-2020 28:15 - The national Adolescent Brain & Cognitive Development (ABCD) study 33:13 - How air pollution impacts the developing brain 37:30 - Environmental neuroscience as a means for public policy intervention 40:42 - Why does the brain get more attention than the body?  44:40 - Sex differences in the amygdalae of adolescents 50:05 - The role visual learning plays in understanding the brain 53:11 - Megan's ongoing and future work 55:29 - The importance of science communication
April 15, 2021
Nature & Nurture #1: Dr. Jonas Kaplan - Cognitive Neuroscience, Belief, & Consciousness
In this episode I interview Dr. Jonas Kaplan, cognitive neuroscientist and co-director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California. We discuss his early career and inspirations, his favorite studies, and the neural underpinnings of belief and consciousness. Video available at:  Timestamps:  0:00 - Introduction 0:40 - How Jonas first became interested in neuroscience 2:00 - Jonas describes an experience in college which changed his views on consciousness 3:40 - Jonas describes his college studies and research 5:57 - Jonas describes his graduate school experience 11:10 - Left brain/right brain hemispheric specialization 14:53 - Back to graduate school and the rise of neuroimaging technology 17:03 - The timeline of MRI technology and how it works 22:22 - Post-graduate school and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) 29:34 - Moving to USC & working with Antonio Damasio 33:38 - Predicting visual stimuli on the basis of activity in auditory cortices 38:19 - Working with Sam Harris to study the neural correlates of religious belief 39:55 - The role of belief being tied to identity 44:22 - Free will and the deterministic universe 47:05 - Challenges to belief and trait openness  49:45 - The impact of environment on belief 51:21 - Evolutionary selection for different patterns of belief 53:20 - Why we believe in free will 1:01:49 - Panpsychism and the origins of consciousness 1:07:20 - Conclusion and future work Papers discussed:  Meyer, K., Kaplan, J. T., Essex, R., Webber, C., Damasio, H., & Damasio, A. (2010). Predicting visual stimuli on the basis of activity in auditory cortices. Nature Neuroscience, 13(6), 667. Kaplan, J. T., Gimbel, S. I., & Harris, S. (2016). Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence. Scientific Reports, 6(1), 1-11.
April 13, 2021