Author Archives: Laura Akers, Ph.D.

About Laura Akers, Ph.D.

I'm a research psychologist at Oregon Research Institute, and I'm writing a book about meta-narratives, the powerful collective stories we share about who we are and where we're headed. My interests include beliefs and worldviews, ethics, motivation, and relationships, both among humans and between humans and the natural world.

Practicing music, practicing empathy

Every morning, the first thing I do after checking my email is reading Carolyn Hax’s advice column. I love her sharp sense of humor, and her advice is always sound. This week, two letter writers wondered whether there was something … Continue reading

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What color is your pandemic?

One of the most interesting studies I’ve done during the help-people-quit-tobacco part of my career was a study of the metaphors people use when they think about quitting. Metaphors are so fundamental to how we understand things – if you’re … Continue reading

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The “make it so” mentality – some thoughts on trust and systems

Q: What do Donald Trump, Elizabeth Holmes, and an alarming fraction of the vaccine “skeptics” have in common?A: Apparently, a belief in their own personal immunity from the basic laws of cause and effect. Let’s start with Trump. Well, first, … Continue reading

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A story about family and community, for our time

During these polarized times, when even public health has become politicized, it’s extra-important to build bridges between our two “sides,” and to retain and strengthen the dialogues we already have. That’s why I want to talk today about the new … Continue reading

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Empirical and conceptual science: a vital partnership

It’s great fun to be an interdisciplinary thinker. It’s exciting to make connections that shed new light on old problems. I love the world “outside the box.” Or rather, here’s the graphic on my ironic Halloween t-shirt: Even though it’s … Continue reading

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How the War on Terror gave us Donald Trump

Twenty years ago, the United States began waging a “war” on terror, and now we learn that it was War on Terror ideas that fueled Trump’s rise to power. Today, the NYT’s Ezra Klein interviewed his colleague, Spencer Ackerman, about … Continue reading

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George Packer’s four warring visions

Are we really “Four Americas,” as George Packer’s recent Atlantic article tells us? Does this really mean, as he says, that “competing visions of the country’s purpose and meaning are tearing it apart”? I haven’t yet read his new book, … Continue reading

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“Happily ever after!” The new GOP storyline

On the one hand, it’s heartening that Republicans recently voted to make Juneteenth a new federal holiday. On the other hand, with all the Lost Cause handwringing during the Trump years, one wonders why. In a recent Slate interview, historian … Continue reading

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The ‘agile dolphin’ plan: Boris Johnson’s meta-narrative vision for Britain

Say what you will about British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – the man clearly grasps the political power of meta-narratives. Tom McTague profiled Johnson in the latest issue of The Atlantic, and concluded that to Johnson, “the point of politics … Continue reading

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There are storms, and then there are “storms” — reassurance from the world of survey science

In yesterday’s Washington Post, columnist Karen Tumulty described her concerns about the Republicans’ failure to endorse the January 6 investigation for which they’d helped set the terms. Some of her worries are based on recent non-partisan polling. As she put … Continue reading

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