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.

Fighting injustice with fantasy fiction

I read a great trilogy this past week, and I’m going to tell you all about it, but bear with me a moment – first I want to share a personal story. My late step-dad, Arnold, was in many respects … Continue reading

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What it means to be a “we”

Today I read a really interesting idea in the New York Times. Columnist Jay Caspian Kang proposed that maybe it’s time to treat the “unhoused” (a.k.a. “homeless”) as a protected group. If this were to happen, he foresees three main … Continue reading

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“Bracketing” – with spoilers for my least favorite episode of Perry Mason

This morning, as I sat down to eat my breakfast with Perry Mason, as one does, I made a disappointing discovery. My DVR had only one new Perry recording on it, and it was the episode I enjoy least of … Continue reading

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Career or hobby? The life-saving work of countering others’ recipes for disaster

I started my day today by reading Ezra Klein’s interview with Holden Karnofsky. He’s the co-founder of GiveWell, an organization that studies charities and helps figure out where donations really make the most impact. And now he’s the co-CEO of … Continue reading

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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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