Psychologically “Wise” Interventions: How They Can Help Us Understand and Solve Persistent Social Problems
There are many ways to think about persistent problems in social life and how to solve them. In this talk, beginning with a central example, Greg Walton introduced a distinctly social-psychological approach: psychologically “wise” interventions: Even brief exercises (e.g., an hour or less) that precisely address how people make sense of themselves, other people, and social situations can, in at least some cases, transform people’s lives.
The central example: One of the most important questions students ask themselves when they come to school is, “Will I belong here?” Featuring intervention field experiments, Greg explored “belonging uncertainty,” how it arises and perpetuates inequality in education and beyond; how brief but targeted exercises that help students address questions of belonging productively can, in the right circumstances, improve school and life trajectories as long as a decade later; how these interventions can be scaled to full institutions and, in so doing, inform contextual boundary conditions that constrain their effects.
Greg closed by addressing: What are psychologically “wise” interventions and what are they not? How do they work? And how can we develop and use wise interventions in diverse contexts to help people flourish?