A picture of the thinker statue beside a functional MRI of someone in the thinker pose.

About Nick Byrd

Hi! I am a philosopher-scientist — like a physician-scientist who studies and teaches more broadly about rationality and well-being (compared to a narrower focus on health and medicine). This website hosts my blog, contact formpodcast, résumé/CV, teaching materials, and more.

What do I do?

Background. I studied philosophy, quantitative cognitive science, and religion at Palm Beach Atlantic University, University of Colorado, and Florida State University. Then I started an Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University that I completed at Stevens Institute of Technology while transitioning to a tenure-track position. After completing that appointment, I started a lab at Geisinger College of Health Sciences in the Department of Bioethics and Decision Sciences. In spare time, I have co-managed the Brains blog (with Dan Burnston), contributed to Psychology Today, edited Wikipedia, blogged, and posted about education and research on social media.

Research. A primary focus has been reflective reasoning: stepping back from an initial impulse or impression to think more carefully. Colleagues and I use both the history of ideas and quantitative scientific methods to answer questions like, “How is reflection different from mere rumination?”, “What decisions actually benefit from reflection?”, “When can reflection improve our well-being?”, and “How can technology support or suppress reflective thinking?”. Our methods involve tracing each step in people’s reasoning (with think-aloud recordings or chat transcripts) and intervening on people’s reasoning (to correct, debias, depolarize, etc.).

Numbers. We are fortunate that institutions like the U.S. Intelligence Community, the John Templeton Foundation, and various universities have committed more than $800,000 to support this work. The resulting peer-reviewed research is among the top 5% in terms of online attention — and the free, educational posts and podcasts on this site have reached hundreds of thousands of people from 195 countries. Other aspects of our work have been shared in presentations on at least three continents or in articles, podcasts, videos, radio segments, press releases, virtual presentations, or mentions in venues like Nature, NPR, and Forbes. More information about what we’re up to — including free access to all publications (PDF and audio) — can be found on my resumé: byrdnick.com/cv. [Jump to top]

Updates. For the latest, you can follow me on the social and academic platforms listed below where I share what I am learning from colleagues as well as my teams’ research papers, presentations, and other projects. 

What do I do for fun?

When I am not working, I am spending time with my spouse, exercising outside, learning, traveling, watching stand-up comedy, and — on good days — going to bed early. You can follow some of these activities on Instagram or Strava. [Jump to top]

How did I get here?

OriginsMy mother was an accountant, jeweler, and social worker. My father was a restauranteur. I grew up in Western Massachusetts and South Florida.

ChildhoodAs a kid, I enjoyed constructing and deconstructing physical stuff — Lego™️, Erector™️, K’Nex™️, bicycles, go-carts, boats, etc. One of my first (and favorite) jobs was building and remodeling homes. My favorite classes involved building, computers, or some combination thereof. Other activities included track, cross country, soccer, football, band, church, theatre, video games, and volunteering.

Education. As a teenager, I liked constructing and deconstructing arguments. For example, I spent free periods in high school writing about geopolitics and education policy. As an undergraduate, I majored in both Engineering and Religion. A few years into college, I realized that logic is more foundational: a sort of meta-engineering and meta-religion. So I became a philosophy major. In graduate school, I realized that cognitive science is more useful: it can help us understand (and improve) the logic of our intuitions, beliefs, and decisions. So cognitive science has become the keystone of my work. [Jump to top]

Has anyone ever told you…?

Yes. I have been told that I look like Steve Kerr, Neil Patrick Harris, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. And no: it’s not annoying. I probably benefit from associations with well-liked, talented people. [Jump to top]