Expert faculty and alumni share expert insights into the future of science, business, politics, health care, social justice, and much more.

Emory faculty and alumni don’t need to read tarot cards or interpret the holes in cheese (yes, it’s a real practice, albeit an ancient one, called tyromancy) to predict the future. They use their deep scholarly expertise and years of industry insights to spot shifts in their fields and stay ahead of the curve. In fact, in most cases they are part of the curve — making the trends as often as they are watching them.

From the impact of technological advancements to the ever-changing landscape of international relations, here these experts share their unique perspectives on 23 different trends shaping our world today and in the years to come.



Trend: No matter the outcome in its war with Ukraine, Russia will become more authoritarian.

Matthew Payne, associate professor of history, studies modern Russian history and has been closely following the Ukraine-Russian war since the Russian aggression began in February 2022.

“Despite the fact Russia has so far been defeated decisively in the war — strategically, operationally and logistically — I think the Putin regime will survive and become more authoritarian,” Payne says. “Russian troops will be hard if not impossible to be dislodged from the territory in Ukraine it now controls and a war of attrition is likely to continue, forcing more of Russia’s neighbors to rely on it economically and politically.

A great deal hinges on Russia’s allies — India and China, which don’t show any sign of abandoning Moscow — and whether or not there is some kind of direct Western military intervention.” Both India and China are also becoming increasingly authoritarian, Payne says, doubling down on populism and nationalism, and other countries with historically more liberal leanings such as Hungary, Turkey, and maybe now even Italy are following suit.



Trend: How we reconcile pandemic-era behaviors will determine our near-term economic future.

Betting on cryptocurrencies. Buying up real estate. Spending all around. All these consumer habits developed during the height of COVID-19 — despite the millions of deaths and upheaval of entire industries — are coming home to roost right now and will help determine if we beat inflation and avoid a full-fledged recession in 2023 and beyond, says Tom Smith, economics expert and professor in the practice of finance at Goizueta Business School.

“I really thought at the end of last year that we were actually already in a recession,” he says. “However, there’s a lot of mixed messages and reconciliation happening in the economy right now. Inflation and prices are still high, though trending downward. Interest rates are climbing, mortgages up to around 7% and the housing market has cooled off from the record highs of the pandemic. Cryptocurrencies have plummeted — in value and appeal — and the tech industry overall is hurting and going through a recalibration.”

"With adjustments come a little bit of pain."
Tom Smith, professor in the practice of finance

And yet at the same time, he notes, the job market has shown impressive growth while unemployment has remained low. “In January, more than 500,000 jobs were added,” Smith says. “Some would say maybe we’re due for a soft landing, but I think we’ll continue to hover around a potential recession until the reconciliation and market adjustments shake out. With adjustments come a little bit of pain. You go to the chiropractor and get your back adjusted, and it feels good afterwards — but during it you really feel the impact as everything pops into place.”



Trend: We need to embrace ‘woke’ as the recognition of our full humanity — not as a negative epithet.

Carol Anderson, Charles Howard Candler Professor and chair of African American Studies, is tired of the term “woke” being used derogatorily by politicians, pundits, and everyday people on social media as a term of fear and misunderstanding.

“I teach the civil rights movement, and we see the videos of the epithets being hurled at Black folks trying to go to school,” Anderson says. “What woke is about is about being civil. It is about recognizing somebody's full humanity. There is nothing wrong with recognizing somebody's full humanity. And we need to lean into that and not be on the defensive about being woke.”

Anderson sees the term being bandied about all around us — without grace. For example, critical race theory is called woke by those who don’t really understand what it actually is, she says. Anderson has spoken with those who oppose critical race theory to get at the truth behind the assault on it: “What they’re saying is ‘We don’t want to really learn … real American history’ and ‘They’re teaching our kids to hate America,’” Anderson says.

She believes many people don’t understand that America has long been an aspirational nation — our quest for a truly just society is a journey not a destination. “What you see in American history is this struggle . . . to make that aspiration real,” she says. “That is a powerful, incredible history. It is a history that draws folks here. It is a history that has people standing in line 12 hours to vote. It is a history that has folks marching and protesting. It is a history that should be embraced. Where we end up with a problem is when you have folks who treat that aspiration as an achievement like we're already there.”

She believes that this type of thinking — this anti-wokeness — is one of many reasons why our nation’s democracy is in trouble. “We're in trouble because we have folks who have their hands on the levers of power, who don't believe in democracy, or who are trying to get their hands on the levers of power,” Anderson says.

She aspires for a democracy that embraces wokeness — that embraces our full humanity — and gives us the power to protect it. “It would look like automatic voter registration,” she says. “It would look like civic education starting in probably junior high, and up through high school. It would look like real consequences for those who [falsely holler, ‘Voter fraud, voter fraud, voter fraud.’”

[Anderson’s commentary comes from a three-part 2O36: The Podcast interview conducted by Emory Alumni Board president Munir Meghjani 08Ox 10C. You can listen to it, along with podcasts featuring other Emory faculty and alumni at 2036.emory.edu/the-podcast.]



Trend: Shifting to more climate-smart agricultural practices can help in the fight against food scarcity.

Climate change will negatively impact the U.S.’s farming capabilities if we don’t improve cultivation technologies and change what, where, and how we grow our food, says Emily Burchfield, assistant professor of environmental sciences at Emory College. “It’s not enough to simply depend on technological innovations to save the day,” she says. “Climate change is happening, and it will continue to shift U.S. cultivation geographies strongly north. We need continued investments by companies and our federal government in climate-smart agricultural transitions.”

To date, the nation’s investments have focused largely on the three crops that make up most of our food system—corn, soy, and wheat—and on livestock production, which is an extremely resource-intensive food source, Burchfield says. “However, climate-smart futures must also be diversified, nutrient rich, and preserve and protect increasingly scarce environmental resources,” she notes. “Our food systems must focus on producing nutritious food, mainly fruits and vegetables, in a way that supports the ecological systems essential to food production rather than depleting them.”

Burchfield says that we’re already seeing the changes in Georgia, most notably the shift of citrus farming into the state and increased challenges in apple farming. “Farmers in Georgia and nationwide are experiencing more weather extremes and more unpredictability,” she says. “We can support our farmers by committing to buying local. Part of them navigating farming unpredictability is having a more predictable local market of consumers they can access — and the market of consumers in Atlanta is a really important one for farmers in our state.”



Trend: Employers are still figuring out how to make remote and hybrid work work.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced most employers to embrace distant, virtual work back in the spring of 2020. Now, three years later as coronavirus risks have waned, they are still wrestling to optimize it. The key factor driving most of the struggle, says Emory faculty member and alumnus Brandon Smith 05MBA, is how organizations can build relationships and a sense of culture when so many of their people are working virtually.

To solve this — and uncover hidden employee underperformance — some companies like Amazon are starting to require workers to be in the office on a regular, more frequent schedule. “But employees have grown used to (and thoroughly enjoy) their work-from-home time and you can’t take it completely away from them,” says Smith, a consultant who specializes in workplace dynamics and serves as an adjunct instructor at Goizueta Business School. “That’s especially true when you consider today’s ultra-competitive job market,” he says. “Job candidates are expecting or outright demanding a substantial amount of remote work time.”

Ironically, Smith adds, new hires are the ones who are in most need of being in the office to learn the culture and make connections. “When you bring in new folks — new to the company or new to a role — it takes a lot longer to bring them up to speed on their jobs when they’re not physically in the office,” he says. “Building these work relationships early is far more difficult in remote environments, especially when companies don’t invest in remote onboarding.”

Another factor facing employers is the shifting role of managers. “Before COVID-19, companies preferred their ‘classic’ managers to be outgoing, approachable, friendly, and create a psychologically safe and warm team environment,” Smith says. “But virtual employees don’t really want all that because it takes up too much time and effort. So now companies are training managers on conciseness and clarity — clarity on expectations and deadlines and goals — as well as to be more operationally focused.”



Trend: Clinical practices are now harnessing the dual power of university research and data science.

A neurologist and neuroscientist internationally recognized for his work in Alzheimer's disease and related disorders, Allan Levey is redefining how we understand neurodegenerative diseases and helping lead new methods of prevention and treatment. As director of the Goizueta Institute for Brain Health, founded at Emory in 2021, he and a host of clinicians and researchers are working to improve brain health and patient outcomes through personalized medicine and data science.

“The future of medicine that I see is bringing breakthroughs in research into clinical practice by unraveling the myriad of factors that contribute to the causes of brain disease and translating this information into tangible ways to identify those at risk and intervene early to prevent disease,” says Levey, Goizueta Foundation Endowed Chair for Alzheimer's Disease Research and professor of neurology at Emory School of Medicine. “What I'm realizing is that our research programs already collect much of the necessary information — from genetic, molecular, brain imaging, and lifestyle data — to more effectively care for individuals.”

Yet little of that information is currently available to clinicians, Levey says.

“We are uniquely poised at Emory to bridge this gap given the large and growing number of patients we see with brain diseases, our outstanding research programs with leading biomarker discovery, technology advances, major institutional investments in AI and data sciences, and tremendous community support,” he says.

Eventually, Levey believes the center will be able to identify individuals at risk of developing the most devastating of brain diseases — many years in advance — and apply timely interventions to prevent the diseases from ever causing symptoms.

[Levey’s commentary is adapted from an interview he did for 2O36: The Podcast. Listen to the full interview and insight from other Emory experts here: 2036.emory.edu/the-podcast.]



Trend: Major platforms — from Facebook to TikTok — face potential legal and political reckonings.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments involving the Communication Decency Act. That’s the legal shield that protects internet and social media platforms like Google (specifically in this case), Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok from liability for their users’ posts and for how these companies moderate content. While the court is unlikely to overturn this legal shield, it could narrow its protection — marking just one of many challenges social media platforms face in the near future, says Jasmine Johnson 16L, an entertainment media counsel for Warner Bros. Discovery and an adjunct professor for Emory School of Law, where she teaches a popular class in social media law.

“In this case, Google was saying it shouldn’t be held responsible for people posting ISIS recruiting videos,” Johnson says. “But perhaps a more important issue is how their algorithms serve up this content into our feeds.” These algorithms spark ethical questions about how social media is impacting the mental health of teenagers, especially when it starts doom spirals of content linked to body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts.

Social media privacy issues also remain a huge concern. “These platforms capture a lot of data on us—from what restaurants we like to where we travel on vacation — and they share it with advertisers,” she says. “It’s pretty intrusive and many feel much stronger protections are needed.” Which brings the conversation to TikTok. The popular China-based platform has found itself in the crosshairs of U.S. politicians because of current geopolitical tensions. “TikTok has already been banned on government devices in certain states, and there have been calls to ban it completely in the U.S.,” Johnson says.



Trend: Universities are focusing more efforts than ever on fostering student well-being and community. 

The fear and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the toxic aspects of social media, and the increased pressure to do well academically, among many other factors, have all led to a mental health crisis in teenagers, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So, what are universities like Emory doing to help?

“Nationally, we have seen a rise in students and young people experiencing anxiety, depression, and stress,” says Enku Gelaye, senior vice president and dean of campus life. “In competitive environments, those feelings can often be heightened. At Emory the work of supporting student well-being encompasses all the dimensions of student flourishing. Students need community to know they belong, to spark their growth, and to discover their purpose.”

The university and the division of Campus Life has been prioritizing efforts to elevate the student experience around belonging, community, and well-being, Gelaye says. In recent years, that’s meant launching Dooley After Dark to provide a wide array of activities outside of classes, expanding pre-orientation programs for first-year students, and working with student leaders to expand club involvement.

“Embracing an Emory degree means an education of the whole person,” adds James Raper, Emory’s new associate vice president for Health, Well-Being, Access, and Prevention. “We strive to provide our students with the opportunities to deepen their ability to reflect, be creative, and deeply connect with each other and their communities.”



Trend: Black women are making strides in politics but must overcome racially polarized voting patterns.

Pearl Dowe, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Political Science in Oxford College and Emory College, studies African American political behavior, gender and politics, and African American political leadership. Most recently, she has focused on political ambition and public leadership in African American women. 

“A needed point of discussion moving forward is the challenge that Black women face in running for office,” Dowe says. “Black women’s voting strength and their ability to mobilize voters have been lauded, but these same women as candidates are often not supported or viewed as viable candidates.”

“Black women’s voting strength and their ability to mobilize voters have been lauded, but these same women as candidates are often not supported or viewed as viable candidates.”
Pearl Dowe, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Political Science

She notes that in the past election cycle in Georgia and in other states, Black women candidates checked the boxes in the areas that are necessary for statewide success: they raised record-breaking amounts of campaign funds, had name recognition, and previous leadership experience.

“But these factors still did not transcend to victory. In reviewing exit poll data, there still exists stark racialized voting,” Dowe says. “Unfortunately, Black women candidates are not viewed as an option by many White voters. For Black women voters and politicians, this fact will likely influence when and how Black women use their political strength in the future.”



Trend: Studying animal locomotion could help inform the design of robots and other technologies.

Scientists have long looked at animals and insects to understand how they move — especially when it’s so different than what we humans do. Jennifer Rieser, assistant professor of physics, has performed fascinating research with snakes and lizards, including venomous sidewinders — from relative safety at the Atlanta Zoo — who bend their bodies into S-shapes to slink sideways across sandy deserts. She believes that what’s being learned about such unique locomotion could be translated into human technologies.

“Closely studying snakes and other animals can give us unique insights into how robots could mimic or model their systems of motion,” says Rieser, whose research is specialized in the physics of soft matter — flowable surfaces like sand — and animal biology. Her lab has since moved on to study other limbless lizards and snakes, including ones that can climb trees they can’t wrap around. “We're in the process of building a snake climbing wall to give them different features they can grip onto and trying to understand how they do it,” Rieser says.

In addition to potential practical applications like robotics, the research presents an illuminating look at evolutionary biology. “When we find snakes or other animals that have developed similar behaviors — like sidewinding or climbing — we see a convergence in evolution that points to nature developing good solutions for problems they face.”



Trend: Patients have more weapons to fight cancer than ever — and their outcomes continue to improve.

We are at a transformational period when it comes to cancer research and cancer care, says Suresh Ramalingam, a medical oncologist and the executive director of Winship Cancer Institute. “What was not possible a few years ago in terms of improving patient outcomes, is now possible,” Ramalingam says. “We now can say with confidence that long-term survival, if not a cure, is possible even for patients with advanced forms of many cancers.”

Ramalingam specializes in lung and thoracic cancers and is actively involved in the development of new therapies that have potential to transform care. “We have many ways to help patients — immunotherapy, targeted agents, multidisciplinary approaches, the latest technology brought into patient care,” he says. All of these are helping patients fight cancer better than ever.

Winship is fortunate to be part of the Emory community, Ramalingam says. “This particular connection makes us stronger because we have top-notch experts, not just in cancer, but in infectious diseases, in nursing, in public health that provide their expertise and bring their best knowledge.”

[Ramalingam’s commentary comes from 2O36: The Podcast. Listen to the full interview and insight from other Emory experts here: 2036.emory.edu/the-podcast.]



Trend: Environmental, social, and governance practices are gaining steam in the U.S. but must withstand political pressure.

The number of companies that have committed to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices has grown considerably in recent years, responding to increasing pressure from customers who want to do business with those who authentically support sustainability and diversity issues. However, those same companies are now coming under fire in states where ESG has become heavily politicized, says Wes Longhofer, associate professor of organization and management at Goizueta Business School and executive academic director of the school’s Business & Society Institute.

“Top politicians in these states have gone after businesses — Disney in Florida, for example — who have taken public stances on hot-button issues ranging from climate change to social justice,” Longhofer says. “It’s a tough spot for them to be in. Companies want to stay out of political fights — and the resulting news headlines — but at the same time they know it’s both socially responsible and smart business to support ESG efforts.” Longhofer believes that though corporations will try to de-escalate such conflicts when they arise, they’ll still keep pushing for new ESG goals such as net-zero decarbonization and the promotion of more women and Black professionals into top leadership positions.

One ambitious target that forward-thinking companies are beginning to embrace is double materiality — an accounting principal that adds up the potential impact an organization’s activities may have on the environment and society and calculates their real-dollar cost. “It’s a very different way of thinking about material responsibility,” Longhofer says. “Some of this started in the European Union and is catching on in the U.S.”



Trend: The rise of chatbots and other AI innovations pose immediate opportunities — and challenges.

Emory faculty members with deep expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) across a wide swath of disciplines — from English and business to health and computer science — have identified a number of burgeoning trends in the field, most notably the rise of ChatGPT and other chatbots (13), targeted creativity (14), one-shot learning (15), and precision and predictive medicine (16).

Read about these AI trends here.



Trend: New generations are driving greater openness about mental health — but disparities persist.

For what seems like forever, talking about mental health issues has been a taboo topic. But a recent openness — especially among younger generations — has changed the conversation. “I think mental health is becoming more and more understood,” says Briana Woods-Jaeger, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at Rollins School of Public Health. “There are [definitely] generational issues with mental health and there’s [still] stigma, but I do feel like we're at a place now where people are really wanting to dive in and define it for themselves.”

Woods-Jaeger leads the THRIVE Research Lab, which examines social and structural factors that influence the experience of child trauma and adversity, as well as mental health disparities. She works to partner with communities to prevent adverse childhood experiences by tapping into the strengths of those communities. “The communities are the heart of [our effort],” Woods-Jaeger says. “We have a lot of great treatments out there for mental health and great prevention programs in schools. Really thinking about [mental health] as a more collective issue takes some of the stigma off.”

However, mental health disparities in underserved communities and underrepresented populations remain a major challenge. “We have these persistent disparities,” she says. “Unfortunately, many communities are exposed to high levels of trauma and stress without the resources or support that are needed.” Traumatic stress is often misdiagnosed in children and the resulting behaviors are often punished rather than treated with support, Woods-Jaeger says.

When it comes to mental health, she takes comfort in the youth she works with so closely. “They recognize the issues,” she says. “Actually mental health literacy in that generation is really pretty impressive. They don’t see [the challenges] as impossible.”

[Woods-Jaeger’s commentary comes from 2O36: The Podcast. Listen to the full interview and insight from other Emory experts here: 2036.emory.edu/the-podcast.]



Trend: Companies are racing to make fusion and other sci-fi tech a reality.

In December 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it had achieved nuclear fusion ignition at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory — the first controlled fusion experiment to produce more fusion energy than the laser energy to drive it. But governments aren’t the only ones working on the technology. Emory alumnus Greg Hodgin 98Ox 00C is the CEO of Atlanta-based startup company ZC Institute that’s approaching the problem from a very different angle.

“The DOE’s breakthrough was great, but it’s going to take a long time to commercialize the process and produce something that’s usable in the global energy market,” he says. “The ZC Institute and our network of scientists are working on a quantum hack that allows us to distort spacetime at the subatomic level, and we plan to patent and license this technology in the near future.”

The goal is to create a micro-fusion reactor — about the size of two fists put together, Hodgin says — which can produce about a terawatt of power. “Think the arc reactor Tony Stark built for the Iron Man suit in the Marvel movies,” he adds. “And we don’t need deuterium or tritium or any other kind of crazy fuels — we can make this work with just water.”

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory reached out to partner with the ZC Institute recently, and Hodgin says he has five other labs collaborating on the effort. “Once we definitively show proof of concept, we can solve the world’s energy crisis and arrest climate change all at once,” he believes. And once that’s successful, Hodgin wants to tackle another sci-fi technology: the warp drive.



Trend: Teams are deploying analytics and AI to predict and prevent shorter-term injuries.

Zach Binney, assistant professor of quantitative theory and methods at Oxford College, is an expert on the intersection of sports and public health. He’s consulted with sports organizations (including the NFL, MLB, NBA, and the NCAA), as well as pharmaceutical and media companies. “The ‘holy grail’ of injury research in athletics has always been to be able to predict which athletes will get hurt years down the line,” Binney says. “But that process is full of so much randomness it's functionally impossible. What hasn't received as much public attention is shorter-term injury prediction.”

For example, baseball teams have begun studying pitch-by-pitch tracking data during games to identify when a pitcher starts losing his normal command, and whether that indicates typical fatigue or presages an imminent injury, like a UCL tear, he says. Binney also notes that organizations have begun to use artificial intelligence — specifically neural networks and other deep learning methods — to do a better job at predicting injuries.

“Most attempts at predicting injuries fail because it's an incredibly complicated process to model,” he says. “With the large volumes of biometric and player tracking data we already have and will continue to collect, AI is being increasingly used to help and maybe it will yield better results than the very poor ones we've gotten so far from simpler analyses.”



Trend: Medicinal plants can be used to help treat major diseases ranging from COVID-19 to depression.

Ethnobotany is a science of survival. “It’s the use of plants for food, for shelter, for clothing, for tools, but also for medicine,” says Cassandra Quave, a medical ethnobotanist and associate professor of dermatology and human health. “In my research group, we study medicinal plants specifically in the search for new therapies to treat deadly infectious disease. There are 33,000 species of plants on Earth that have been documented as being used in some form of medicine. That’s 9% of all plants on Earth, so there’s a tremendous amount of knowledge that’s been founded in this domain.”

Many people have the misconception that ethnobotany is only about cannabis and psilocybin, Quave says. “But ethnobotany is about much more than psychedelics,” she says. Quave’s lab has made breakthroughs in understanding how plant-based medicines work to treat diseases and is pushing those discoveries forward.

One urgent push is to solve antimicrobial resistance. “We’re making headway in the search for new compounds that can either restore the activity of existing lines of antibiotics and other compounds that work by blocking virulence or the ability of bacteria to cause harm,” Quave says.

Another is fighting COVID-19. Her lab recently led a study that identified two plant extracts — the flowers of tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima) and the rhizomes of the eagle fern (Pteridium aquilinum) — that inhibit COVID-19 from entering human cells.

[Quave’s commentary comes from 2O36: The Podcast. Listen to the full interview and insight from other Emory experts here: 2036.emory.edu/the-podcast.]



Trend: ‘Smart home’ technologies are erasing boundries of the home.

The idea of a “smart home” comprised of machines that handle the household chores is nothing new. Think about those old ads from the 1950s and 1960s heralding the “home of tomorrow.” Kristin Williams, assistant professor of computer science at Emory College, studies how families use technology to manage daily life at home, and she says that the Internet of Things (IoT) and portable devices are transforming the way we think about home, itself.

“We used to think about the smart home as the computer technology embedded in the physical house,” says Williams. “But the IoT encompasses a lot of things, and we can take our home with us virtually via portable, wearable technology.”

Through the ease of their phones, smart watches, and many other devices, people are starting to use smart home capabilities while they are on the go, Williams says. And they are leveraging mobile apps to answer their doorbells, check in on pets, adjust thermostats, control lighting, turn on appliances, monitor security cameras, and much more — all while they’re away from home.




Trend: The recovering economy continues to be a driving force in policy and politics.

President Biden’s state of the union speech in January 2023 highlighted what Vivian Yue, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Economics, believes has been a strong national labor market performance during his administration. “The unemployment rate of 3.4% is at a 54-year low,” Yue says. “The economy has created 12 million jobs, including more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs across the country in the past two years.” 

However, the economy and the stock market did take a hit in 2022 due inflation and the soaring prices of consumer goods and services. Fixing those economic problems became a major focus of the Biden administration this past year — as well as something of a political hot potato as political opponents have said the president’s efforts have been too little, too late.

“Inflation has fallen as the Federal Reserve has raised the interest rates eight times in 2022,” Yue says. “The strong job market provides the economy a chance of a soft landing.” However, she admits the economy is still at risk of a recession until inflation returns to a more normal level. The economy’s current influence over public policy doesn’t stop at the Fed.

“Another issue to keep an eye on is the national debt ceiling negotiation,” says Yue, referencing the threat of a partisan fight between Democrats and Republicans in U.S. Congress. It’s unlikely that the U.S. will risk its credibility and financial standing by not raising the debt ceiling, Yue notes, but the coming negotiations in Congress will determine if and where cuts to federal spending will be made as concessions.



Trend: Getting a better understanding of our psychological behaviors—like thrill seeking.

Despite the fact that he freely admits that he’s frightened of almost everything, Emory’s Kenneth Carter is fascinated by thrill seekers. He even designed and teaches a course about the psychology behind daredevil behaviors. “I study what’s different about people who love that thrilling environment — bungee jumpers, race car drivers — and what makes their personalities different,” says Carter, interim dean of Oxford College, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology, and a clinical psychologist. One of the things he's discovered is that most people are seeking some sense of awe in life, “some kind of eye-opening sensory experience,” he says.

In his book Buzz!, Carter explores the psychology and neuroscience of adrenaline junkies and how this compulsion has a role in our culture. He has found two thrill-seeking factors that give clues into how much trouble you could get yourself into, Carter says. One of them is disinhibition, the ability to look before you leap, and the other one is boredom susceptibility, your likelihood to get bored and irritable.

What does this research really teach us? “It helps teach us that a person’s behavior is not their whole personality,” Carter says, “but at the same time their personality is underneath driving those decisions.” And, what’s more, he says, such forays into psychology help us understand each other — and ourselves — a little bit better.

[Carter’s commentary comes from 2O36: The Podcast. Listen to the full interview and insight from other Emory experts here: 2036.emory.edu/the-podcast.]

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