Belonging: A Conversation with Geoffrey Cohen


Why do we feel the need to belong, and what happens when we don’t? This episode explores:

  • What it takes to belong.
  • Why it physically hurts to be excluded.
  • How perspective-gathering can help create more inclusion.
  • A Discussion of the book Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides.

Today’s book is: Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides, by Dr. Geoffrey Cohen, which explores how we became so alienated from one another, the physical and emotional costs of exclusion, and what we can do to create belonging even in polarized times. Dr. Cohen applies his and others’ groundbreaking research to offer solutions for improving daily life at work, in school, in our homes, and in our communities. We all feel a deep need to belong, but most of us don’t fully appreciate that need in others. Small acts of connection such as reflecting on our core values, and a suite of practices that Cohen defines as “situation-crafting,” can lessen polarization, improve performance in school and work, and unleash the potential in ourselves and in our relationships.

Our guest is: Professor Geoffrey Cohen, whose research examines processes that shape people's sense of belonging and self and implications for social problems. He studies the big and small threats to belonging and self-integrity that people encounter in school, work, and health care settings, and strategies to create more inclusive spaces for people from all walks of life. He believes that the development of psychological theory is facilitated not only by descriptive and observational research but by theory-driven intervention. He has long been inspired by Kurt Lewin's quip, "The best way to try to understand something is to try to change it."

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, a historian of women and gender.

Listeners to this episode may also be interested in:

  • Brady, S. T., Cohen, G. L., Jarvis, S. N., & Walton, G. M. (2020). A brief social-belonging intervention in college improves adult outcomes for black Americans. Science Advances, 6(18), eaay3689.
  • Connor, Alice. How To Human: An Incomplete Manual for Living in a Mess-up World.
  • Frank Martela, A Wonderful Life: Insights on Finding a Meaningful Existence.
  • Milam, L. A., Cohen, G. L., Mueller, C., & Salles, A. (2019). Stereotype threat and working memory among surgical residents (vol 216, pg 824, 2018). American Journal of Surgery, 218(3), 668.

Welcome to The Academic Life! On the Academic Life channel we embrace a broad definition of what it means to lead an academic life. We view education as a transformative human endeavor and are inspired by today’s knowledge-producers working inside and outside the academy. Find us on Twitter: @AcademicLifeNBN.

Your Host

Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler is the creator, show host, and producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in U.S. history.
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