Maria Konnikova

Better decisions and clearer thinking start with the most basic building block: your own mind.

Science Blogger for The New Yorker | New York Times Bestselling Author of The Confidence Game and Mastermind

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Maria Konnikova | Science Blogger for The New Yorker | New York Times Bestselling Author of The Confidence Game and Mastermind
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Mindfulness. Decision-making. Creativity. Attention. Resilience. When it comes to the mind, Maria Konnikova is a brilliant Swiss Army knife. A New Yorker writer and the bestselling author of Mastermind and The Confidence Game, she offers spellbinding talks on how work and life are both enriched by a deeper understanding of psychology. Simply—she gets us to think differently about how we think.

“One of the truly gifted social science writers of our time.”

— Adam Grant

In today’s lightning-quick, smart-screen world, most of us are walking around as if our eyes were closed. Unthinking. Asleep. Lost in routine. But today, leading neuroscientists, psychologists, and social scientists are mapping how the brain actually works—its strengths, weaknesses, biases and quirks. Maria Konnikova is translating insights from the frontiers of the mind into imminently readable, perspective-changing prose—both in her New Yorker blog and in her New York Times bestsellers (translated, so far, into 19 languages). With page-turning clarity, she brings modern life into crystal focus, helping even the brightest, sharpest minds snap awake—to make better decisions and get to know themselves a lot better.

 

Her latest book, The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It … Every Time, is a compelling investigation into the minds, motives, and methods of con artists. It’s a careful, nuanced study of the art of persuasion—and deception—and her second New York Times bestseller. But at its root, Konnikova argues, mastering the “con” is about listening to people to understand what makes them tick. “A lot of the same skills that make a good con artist also make a good leader, a good business person, a good lawyer, a good writer,” she says, meaning The Confidence Game is essential reading for anyone hoping to lead, convince, inspire, or sell to other people. Called “entertaining, insightful” (Boston Globe), “fascinating” (The Economist), “unnerving” (Washington Post), and a “page turner” (Psychology Today), it also received the Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

 

“A delightful tour of the science of memory, creativity, and reasoning, illustrated with the help of history’s most famous reasoner, Sherlock Holmes himself. Maria Konnikova is an engaging and insightful guide to this fascinating material, which will help you master your own mind.”

— Steven Pinker

In her breakout New York Times bestseller and first book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, Konnikova explores the famous detective’s signature methods of observation, logical deduction, and mindfulness, showing us how to apply his techniques in everyday situations. In other words, it shows readers how to “engage mindfully with yourself and your world as a matter of course,” she writes. To Scientific American, it lights the way for readers “to sharpen the ways they observe the world, store and retrieve memories, and make decisions.” The New York Post calls it “a treatise on how the Watsons of the world can smarten up … culled from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original works and cutting-edge psych research.” 

 

Konnikova’s third book, set to arrive in 2019, is The Biggest Bluff: her deep-dive into the world of high-stakes poker, and her own journey, under excellent tutelage, from a novice to pro player. At heart, though, it isn’t a book about poker at all. Rather, it’s about understanding how luck can shape our lives, how to perform well under pressure—against seemingly unbeatable odds—and how to play the hands we’re dealt to the best of our ability.

 

Konnikova previously wrote the weekly “Literally Psyched” column for Scientific American as well as the “Artful Choice” blog for Big Think. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Paris Review, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American MIND, and Scientific American, among others. Born in Moscow, Konnikova came to the United States when she was four years old. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, where she studied psychology, creative writing, and government. A former producer on the Charlie Rose show on PBS, and host of the longform storytelling podcast The Grift, she received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Columbia.

Speech Topics

Psychology
Confidence Games Why We Fall for Them...Every Time

Would you know if you were being conned?

Join New York Times bestselling author Maria Konnikova as she explores and explains the psychological principles that make swindling us so easy. From suspicious-looking emails to seductively-structured investment programs, tricksters and grifters use everything at their disposal to persuade us to part with our money. In a world in which the internet makes it easier than ever to access information and adopt new identities, even the savviest of individuals can be tricked. Could you be?

In this entertaining and insightful talk, Konnikova will tell the fascinating stories about some of the most seductive imposters in history, taking us into the world of the con to examine not only why we believe in confidence artists, but how our sense of truth can be manipulated by those around us.

 
Psychology
How We Can Learn to Become More Resilient

Personal resilience is often a key factor in overcoming obstacles. But what is it? How do some people succeed, and even excel, despite incredibly difficult circumstances? Can this ability change over time? And, most importantly, can it be learned?
 
In this talk, Maria Konnikova explores the psychological underpinnings of the quality that allows some people to flourish even in the face of adversity—hurdles like socioeconomic stress, turbulent upbringings, and traumatic events. She shows how, in certain individuals, adversity can actually enable adaptability, and unpacks the internal (dispositional) and external (environmental) elements that make these individuals successful. She then takes audiences through the steps of applying these qualities of resilience to different contexts, from educational settings to home and to the workplace. Ultimately, much of resilience is about having a certain mindset—and cultivating the right cognitive skills to strengthen it can mean the crucial difference between succumbing to, and surmounting, life’s greatest challenges.

 
Creativity
How to Be Bored The Value of Boredom in the Age of Distraction

Modern technology has opened the door to infinite possibilities—but it’s also given us endless opportunities for distraction. We check our phones compulsively, spend uncounted hours online, and find less and less time to attend to what matters most. But when these distractions are gone, we’re suddenly plunged into anxiety. Why is being alone with our thoughts so uncomfortable? Why do we flee moments of silence and downtime? And is it possible to channel feelings of boredom into something more productive?

In this keynote, Maria Konnikova explores how boredom is actually rooted in distraction—or, more precisely, a conflict of attention. She then explains how staying attentive to tasks and obligations isn’t entirely dependent upon external forces: by strengthening our inner focus, we can work to control, direct, and even alleviate boredom. If we can recapture our ability to thrive without distraction—to work, or focus, in contemplation—we can recharge our energy, engage in fruitful, abstract thinking, and marry disparate ideas in ways we never thought possible. In fact, the state we call ‘boredom’ may actually be the lifeblood of inspiration, deep thinking, and creativity. Join Konnikova in this decidedly non-boring talk on the uncommon value of boredom—and how, once we learn how to be bored, we can find ourselves again.

 
Psychology
How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
No fictional character is more renowned for his powers of thought and observation than Sherlock Holmes. But is his extraordinary intellect merely a gift of fiction, or can we learn to cultivate these abilities ourselves, to improve our lives at work and at home? We can, says psychologist and journalist Maria Konnikova, and in this talk, she shows us how. Beginning with the “brain attic”—Holmes’s metaphor for how we store information and organize knowledge—Konnikova unpacks the mental strategies that lead to clearer thinking and deeper insights. Drawing on neuroscience and psychology, she explores Holmes’s unique methods of ever-present mindfulness, astute observation, and logical deduction. In doing so, she teaches how anyone, with some self-awareness and a little practice, can employ these same methods to sharpen their perceptions, solve difficult problems, and enhance our creative powers.