Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Think Like a Scientist

Think Like a Scientist

I recently read the book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant, Ph.D. Dr. Grant has been recognized as Wharton’s top-rated professor for seven straight years. He is an organizational psychologist and leading expert on how we can find motivation and meaning in our lives. He has been recognized as one of the world’s 10 most influential management thinkers.

This insightful read encourages “unlearning” and the ability to rethink – in other words, to change our mind. Dr. Grant proposes that rethinking opinions and ideas is a skillset that we all can practice.

You might say, as I did: why would I want to do that? Well, there are several good reasons. One is the problem of first-instinct fallacy. We make up our mind about something and convince ourselves that we must be right. I learned that psychologists call this “seizing and freezing.” Maybe we didn’t have all of the facts. Maybe we are dealing with our own biases. Maybe we’ve grown since the time we first formed that view. We won’t budge—hardening of the attitudes. Not a good place to be, it seems to me.

One particular idea in the book that I have found especially thought provoking is to think like a scientist. This means testing hypotheses, experimenting and searching for knowledge and truth. We obviously have many brilliant, scientific minds here at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, but the author encourages us ALL to think like a scientist in many aspects of life – relying on facts and findings from experimenting when making a decision.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is accused by many of “flip-flopping” on certain issues. His response, which I think Dr. Grant would like, is, “That’s what’s called the scientific process. As you get more information, it is essential that you change your mind, because you have to be guided by the science and the current data.” Dr. Grant says it is good to even seek out information that goes against your views. Ask people to critique your views and ideas. When talking to others, a good question to ask is, “What evidence would change your mind?” Dr. Grant addresses slipping into “preacher” mode (giving a lecture on why we are right), “prosecutor” mode (telling other people how wrong they are) or “politician” mode (seeking support for our views). No, he thinks it's better to be the scientist.

In conclusion, we must be open to being wrong. I must be open to being wrong. Even find joy in being wrong, because it means we have discovered something new. And, oh, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. If you have ever looked back at your high school annual and said, “What was I thinking with those psychedelic bell-bottomed pants and weird hairstyle?”—you’ll learn to laugh and rethink rather quickly. I did.