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Scott Barry Kaufman

Psychologist, Professor, Writer, and Podcaster
Scott Barry Kaufman is a psychologist, professor, writer, and podcaster. Now teaching a class at Columbia called “The Science of Living Well,” Kaufman ranks as one of the top 20 psychologists under 40 by The Best Schools, and The Psychology Podcast has been downloaded over 7 million times. Before joining the Columbia faculty, Kaufman was a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was invited by Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, to serve as the Scientific Director of the Imagination Institute. There, Kaufman investigated how we measure human potential, perseverance, achievement, and creativity. In his book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, he counters traditional metrics for assessing potential and intelligence with his “Theory of Personal Intelligence”: a radical argument for a more holistic, individual way to assess cognitive strengths—and appreciate all kinds of minds. In Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind (a book based on a Huffington Post article that went viral), he shows how creativity can be cultivated, and offers a practical, science-backed manifesto for living a more imaginative life.

But these hard-earned achievements emerged from Kaufman’s own struggles to be seen. Diagnosed with Central Auditory Processing Disorder, he spent the first three years of his life almost deaf and was assumed to have a learning disability. After a teacher recognized him as misdiagnosed, he began his incredible journey of self-actualization. And in a few years, he went from special-ed to straight As—then a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Yale and an M.Phil in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cambridge under a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

Today, Kaufman is a whirlwind of creative output. While Angela Duckworth was working on her book Grit, she asked him to teach her popular U Penn course Introduction to Positive Psychology. He’s the editor of numerous books, including Twice Exceptional: Supporting and Educating Bright and Creative Students with Learning Difficulties. His writing is regularly featured in places like The Atlantic, Scientific American (where his column “Beautiful Minds” is consistently their most popular online article), Psychology Today, and Harvard Business Review—and insights from his work are featured in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Brain Pickings, and Heleo. As host of The Psychology Podcast—named by Business Insider as a podcast that “will change how you think about human behavior”—he explores human possibility with guests like Alain de Botton, Susan Cain, and Robert Wright (and Lavin speakers Angela Duckworth, Mitch Prinstein, Daniel Lerner, Emily Esfahani Smith, and Ryan Holiday). And he also appears on radio, television, and the web for places like Big Think, MSNBC, CBS Sunday Morning, and beyond.

As a keynote speaker, Kaufman brings sensitivity, openness, and infectious optimism to the stage, weaving his own story of determination with original research into psychology and neuroscience. He’s plain-spoken and funny, articulate and warm—exhibiting a comfortable presence honed from his daily lectures at Columbia and U Penn and from his major talks for groups like LEGO, Vogue, the Aspen Ideas Festival, the Creativity World Forum, and many more. Audiences of all sizes leave his talks inspired and moved.

In addition, he serves on the advisory board of the non-profit organization The Future Project, sits on the editorial board of journals BioMed Central Psychology and Journal of Intelligence, and is co-founder of The Creativity Post, a non-profit committed to disseminating new work on creativity in all categories: business, science, academics, technology, and more.
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