Scott Barry Kaufman on Transcendence

April 9, 2020

On this episode of The Psychology Podcast, physicist Sean Carroll chats with Scott Barry Kaufman, host of The Psychology Podcast, about his new book Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization, which is out today!

In this episode we discuss:

  • Why studying humans is more complicated than studying the universe
  • The importance of having humility as a psychologist
  • How Scott’s new book Transcend builds on the work of Abraham Maslow
  • How Maslow never actually drew a pyramid
  • What Maslow actually meant by his “Hierarchy of Needs”
  • The dialectical between security and growth
  • Scott’s new metaphor for the hierarchy of needs
  • How humans can be greater than the sum of their parts
  • Scott’s revised integrated hierarchy of needs
  • Why attachment styles are continuums, not types
  • Why the need for belonging is not the same as the need for intimacy
  • The effects of loneliness on our physical health
  • The latest science of introversion
  • Healthy self-esteem vs. narcissism
  • The “growing tip”
  • Psychological entropy
  • The need for exploration and information seeking
  • The more cosmic aspect of love, or “B-Love”
  • The need for purpose
  • Why self-actualization is not achievement
  • The form of purpose that can lead to transcendence
  • Why nothing is absolutely good or bad

8 Responses to “Scott Barry Kaufman on Transcendence”

  1. Chad says:

    Dear Dr Scott Barry Kaufman,

    You mention that humans can become greater than the sum of the parts, ala transcendence. If our human needs of belonging are being subjugated by outside processes, such as living in environments that social attachments are governed by ideologies, can this hinder an individuals ability to transcend? Individuals’ attitudes and moral perceptions are heavily influenced by their upbringing, and the people who surround them. What about people who have grown up in the communities like Westboro Baptist Church, Rajneeshpuram, Jonestown, or who demonstrate cult-like characteristics though fandom of a musician or genre, such as trap and drill music which promotes gangster lifestyle, stabbing and drug dealing? What kind attachment style would this be, and could such environments affect the process of transcendence.

    I hope I have made this question clear enough.

    Best regards,

  2. Shawn O'Brien says:

    As a psychologist who admires and relies on Carl Rogers’ teachings, I appreciate that Scott is trying to bring back humanistic psychology, which we need now more than ever. I agree with Chad (above) that culture is also likely to influence transcendence, which is why I would love to hear what Scott thinks of the ideas put forth by the transdisciplinarian anthropologist, Ernest Becker, who wrote the Pulitzer prize winning book, “The Denial of Death.” As the Ernest Becker Foundation website says, “…a true understanding of human behavior requires a ‘science of man within society,’ in other words, it must include the social and cultural environment within which people live. Becker believed that the one universal is that human behavior is rooted in a fear of death, and our attempts to psychologically deny and defend against it. The behaviors that serve this function vary across cultures, as does their efficacy, but the fear is universal. He called behavior that served this purpose “heroic,” since humans attempt to be heroes in the sense of overcoming death (but not in the sense of how heroism is typically defined.) He indicated that “The most exalted type of heroism involves feeling that one has lived to some purpose that transcends oneself.” Sounds like that’s right up your alley, Scott. Perhaps you can explore it further in future podcasts and/or writing.

  3. Emily says:

    Hey Scott, I just wanted to say this episode was really great. I love the variety of your guests and your interview style but it was so good to hear you as the interviewee for once and to really delve deeper into your work and thinking. You make so much sense to the non-scientist listener who understands the need for scientific evidence. I can’t wait to read your book!

  4. Laura says:

    Hi Scott, I have ordered Transcend a while ago, but in these special times it takes a while for transatlantic books to reach my local Dutch bookshop. Fortunately, in the meantime I’m able to enjoy sneak previews of your work like this excellent interview, and I also very much enjoyed your interview in Third Factor. I can’t wait to start reading your book, and come across deeply resonating concepts like “love is an attitude, not a feeling” and “it’s not about happiness, but growth”. I definitely prefer to go on the sailing trip instead of climbing the pyramid!

    • Denise Girdlestone says:

      Hi Scott,
      I have been slowly listening to all the talks on the Psychology Podcast just wanted to say that I really enjoyed listening to this episode. The question I have is do you think that for some people transcendence might be something that reoccurs fleetingly… maybe only for a day or even a few hours? For example… a moment in time when it feels like all your needs are being met… your bills are paid, the kids are doing well, friendships and intimate relationships are strong, you’ve helped some strangers, you’ve completed a successful project… you have clear plans and goals and are aware of your purpose and place in the world. A moment in time when you can sit and appreciate that everything is as it should be for you right now… but at the same time, also be aware that things may change tomorrow, and you could find yourself back in the hull of the boat!

  5. John Bolton says:

    Scott, I’m definitely going to get your book as I’m very excited about the fruit of your studies on Maslow.
    I just want to point out to others that you also were on MIchael Gervais’s podcast finding Mastery introducing your book. I actually preferred that interview as I felt you sounded much more relaxed- and so it was more fun to listen to than this one…

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