Anthony Morgan is an award-winning science communicator. He’s also a PhD researcher and startup founder who’s hosted dozens of TV shows, including the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet and CBC’s The Nature of Things with Sarika Cullis-Suzuki.

He’s the mastermind behind Freestyle Socials, a live, hilarious game designed to “undivide” people by blurring the lines we draw between one another.

On this episode of REAL TIME, Anthony shares science-based insight to help REALTORS® become better problem solvers in the face of a disagreement.

Watch the experiment Anthony describes as a “magic trick”– Daniel Simons’ selective attention test:


Erin Davis: Working together to undivide us, what does it mean, and how can it help you in business and beyond? Anthony Morgan, a science communicator, and co-host of CBC’s The Nature of Things, has made it his mission. I personally want to thank Anthony for inspiring my approach to a recent lost luggage situation. We’ll get to that a little later on. I’m Erin Davis, and welcome to REAL TIME, the podcast for REALTORS®, brought to you by the Canadian Real Estate Association. Welcome, Anthony.

Anthony Morgan: Thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.

Erin: We’re excited too. For that matter, though, I could say welcome back because, at CREA PAC Days 2023, you led REALTORS® through a fascinating game called Freestyle Socials. For those of us not lucky enough to have seen it in person, can you explain the concept and just why this kind of exercise is so important?

Anthony: Sure. A Freestyle Social is a game. It’s sort of a live social experiment. Its goal is to find ways to rethink disagreements so that we can have them more productively. It’s supposed to be a game where disagreements make us laugh instead of losing faith in humanity.

Erin: Okay, I get that. This is something that sort of developed while you were getting your master’s, right? Tell us how this all came to be.

Anthony: Yes, that’s right. I was doing my master’s in science communication up in Sudbury, and they had these events that they called science cafes. There were these amazing events. We would show up at a pub and they would ask these questions at the intersection of science and society. Things like, I don’t know, should we bring back the woolly mammoth, which is technically possible, by the way. Side note, really cool.

They would convene this panel of experts at the front of the room to talk about it, to dissect it, and figure out the pros and cons for the benefit of an audience who was watching. They were really fascinating. I noticed as I was sitting and watching these things that I really wanted to be able to chime in and throw a thought in or two myself and the people around me. At that point in my career, I’d been working at the Ontario Science Centre here in Toronto for probably 8, 10 years, something like that. If you work at a place like that, the bread and butter of organizations like that is interactive. How do you make these experiences as interactive and fun as you possibly can?

That’s what I spent my time thinking about. How can I make this a more interactive experience? We thought, “Well, we’ll give it a shot.” We showed up at a pub in Toronto. We put tape down the middle of the floor to divide the room. Then we would ask these questions. I call them spark questions, questions at the intersection of society. Should we erase bad memories? Should we design our kids’ DNA? Should we pee in the shower?

There was a real range as far as the seriousness of them goes. We wanted some of it to be playful and fun. Then we would tell our audience, “Listen, you’ve got 10 seconds. What does your gut tell you? You’ve got to pick a side.” Everyone’s always like, “Oh, what do I do?” They’re always surprised at what side their friends pick. “Oh, you pee in the shower, what’s wrong with you?” That kind of thing. Then we would put a microphone in the middle of the floor. Each half of the room gets to explain to the other half why– what are you doing on that side of the room? You should come over here with us.

The only rule of the game is that if you hear an idea from the other side that surprises you or makes you laugh, you should switch sides. That’s because we’re really trying to help society rethink how we do these disagreements. At the moment, we’re having these debates that are really unproductive. We’re just talking past each other. It turns into shedding matches. We’ve all been at that holiday event with our family where that uncle says that thing that makes everybody really tense in the room.

We’re trying to help that. The problem with those kinds of disagreements is that your goal, you treat them like a debate, where your goal is to have your side sort of win. In this game, the goal is to hear as many surprising, hilarious, new perspectives as we possibly can.

Erin: To undivide us, then, ultimately.

Anthony: Exactly, yes. We know from part of my research that we are increasingly divided, what researchers call sorted. It means that if I know how you feel about, let’s say, climate change or gun control, then it’s increasingly the case that I know how you feel about many other issues. They’re being sorted into left and right. I’m trying to help us remember that the lines that we’ve drawn between ourselves, those lines are a lot blurrier than we realize.

On any given issue, you might have a difference of opinion with somebody, but what we try to do with these games is we don’t just ask one question. It’s not just Kansas City Chiefs or 49ers. We ask many. You start to recognize that across many games, I might disagree with you on the Chiefs-49ers, but I agree with you about Taylor Swift should have won the Grammy. Maybe I like cake, and you like pie. You start to see that we’re really more alike than we are different.

Erin: Okay, all right. We have to go back to a question that you raised there. I will give you a hint. It’s not the woolly mammoth. It’s not the DNA for your children. You know what the question is because you say you’ve asked this question more in your life than, how are you?

Anthony: That’s right. Yes, I’ve asked it an absurd number of times. Should we pee in the shower? It’s maybe my favorite question of all time because it’s really great for this game. It’s the kind of question that you cannot answer while taking yourself seriously. I just love that because in a lot of these discussions, they don’t go well precisely because we do take ourselves far too seriously.

We believe that we are the same thing as the answer that we give. That answer is our identity. People, when they’re answering a question like, should we pee in the shower, they don’t feel that way. They don’t feel like this is who I am, what I do in the shower. For the record, if you have roommates or friends or to any of your listeners, if you have somebody else who lives in your home and they say that they do not pee in the shower, I’ve asked this question well over 6,000, 8,000 times at this point. I’d say 80% of people say, yes, we should pee in the shower. If you think you have a roommate who doesn’t pee in the shower, you probably have a roommate who thinks we should pee in the shower.

Erin: First off, thank you for that thought-provoking question and ensuring that we all think of Anthony Morgan in the shower tomorrow. Okay, that didn’t sound right, but you know what I mean. Anthony, how does it work on a scientific level?

Anthony: Yes, well, as I say, we are increasingly sorted. We know that we’re more and more divided into left and right, black or white. Those kinds of thinking can be really dangerous because when you align more and more of your identities into this one– we call them mega identities, then it becomes easier and easier to see people on the other side as completely different from me, maybe even bad, maybe even evil, maybe even worthy of my disgust and my disdain and my, in some cases, aggression.

That’s a really dark pathway that we really want to avoid heading down. I think a lot of people sense that it’s the pathway we’re heading on, but we’re not really sure how we can claw ourselves back from that. This game is designed to help because it helps us to recognize that, well, even though people might be aligned on a few of these beliefs, then on a whole bunch of other ones, they’re not aligned. They see things the way that I see them.

One principle that you really have to understand, this is maybe the most important thing I’ve learned in my 20 years as a science communicator, is that before people care what you believe, they have to believe that you care. I’ll say it again because it’s really important. Before people care what you believe, they have to believe that you care. We know that from the research, that if people dismiss something that I perceive as a real threat to myself, my community, anybody that I care about, if I feel like you’re dismissing that threat, then I’m very likely to what’s called morally condemn you, to see you as just a bad person, and then I’m likely to dehumanize you.

We know that from really surprising studies where, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Ascent of Man, that very famous depiction of evolution that goes from chimpanzee to slightly more evolved and then all the way it’s upright. You can present people with a picture like that and then ask them how they think about people who reject threats that you perceive as real. They consistently put them as slightly less than human. The more important the threat is, the more we perceive them as less than human. That’s a really surprising and scary outcome. The goal really is to start to rehumanize each other and remember that we really are all in the same boat together. We really are all in this together.

Erin: Yes.

Anthony: It’s very easy to try to cast people who are on the other side of the issue, whatever side of the issue you’re on, as, again, completely different from you. Because they’re not perceiving the threat that you are, it’s easy to morally condemn them. We really are all on the same team in this.

We humans, I am an optimist about humanity because we are the most cooperative species in the history of evolution, as far as we know. We are able to cooperate in ways that have never– we got to the moon. We’ve done some amazing things. I want to make sure that we strengthen that superpower as much as we possibly can. To me, the key is to just recognize that we’re more alike than we’re dis-alike.

Erin: Yes, you mentioned the moon. Then there are some people who think it didn’t really happen. Yet you maintain your optimism. I think that that’s really admirable, Anthony.

Anthony: I really am optimistic because what we’ve seen across time, across history, is that we have found more and more ways to cooperate across time at bigger and bigger scales to the collective good of everybody. It’s easy right now to remember that there are some wars on. Those are very dispiriting. There are some conflicts. I don’t want to take away from the weight of those realities. I don’t want it to overshadow, at the same time, the greater reality, that is, the UN set a bunch of these millennium goals.

They said, “By 2025, we want to cut poverty in half.” They blew those goals out of the water. We achieved that in way faster a time frame than we ever anticipated we would. Those kinds of trends are true across a whole host of dimensions that we measure to capture what human well-being– how we’re doing as far as promoting human well-being goes. I’m not an optimist. I’m a scientist. The science says we should be optimistic.

Erin: I love that. Thank you. I feel better already. I hope everyone watching and listening does, too, Anthony. Now, a lot of your work aims to help people to have better conversation around polarizing issues. What are some effective strategies for fostering meaningful conversations when people are divided?

Anthony: Yes, well, I would say the number one thing to do is to lean into curiosity. That’s going to be a tough thing for us to do, but it’s really an important thing for us to do. There’s an experiment that taught me this. It’s my favorite experiment of all time. It was something that I experienced when I was in first-year university, and I was taking a psychology class. It was this video that my prof put on, and he said, “Hey, I know something about how you see the world better than you do.” Everybody in the classroom, our eyebrows go up.

He’s just meeting us. How can he know anything about how we see the world? He said, “Well, I’m going to prove it with this video.” It was a video by a researcher called Daniel Simons. I really want to encourage your viewers, you can find it on YouTube. It’s amazing. It fundamentally changed the way that I see the world. It’s almost like watching a magic trick.

You watch this video, and there are two teams of people, one wearing a bunch of white T-shirts, and then the other team is wearing black T-shirts, and they’re passing this basketball between themselves. Your only job in that video is to count the number of times the players in white pass the ball between themselves. Now, I don’t want to spoil the end of that video because, again, it’s really cool. It’s like one of those M. Night Shyamalan movies. If I tell you the ending, you’re not going to be surprised. I want you to experience it.

What I learned from that video was that we all have blind spots in our thinking that are, by definition, invisible to us. We don’t know that they’re there. The best way to find your blind spots is by talking to people who see things differently than you. Those blind spots, they exist because– your brain is a really wonderful thing. When you set a goal, you say, “I want to achieve this thing,” your brain says, “Great, I’m going to help you out. I’m going to ignore all the other stuff that’s not important for your goal.”

That means that you miss really big chunks of reality. Because we all have these different goals, your goal produces blind spots for you. My goals produce blind spots for me. By talking to each other, we can help each other spot them. If you want to have better disagreements, if you come across somebody who believes we didn’t land on the moon or that the Earth is flat, it’s counterintuitive, but the way in is curiosity, to ask them questions about how they see the world because it’s a really good way to help other people find the blind spots in their thinking as well.

Erin: Okay. How might these strategies, and you’ve given some excellent examples here, how might they translate into a business setting? When you’re in the thick of a disagreement with someone, how to acknowledge their perspective, even if you don’t agree or have you just given us, the big hint is to get curious about it?

Anthony: I would say that the thing that it really does is related to this big fancy model that psychologists have. It’s called the biopsychosocial model. Scientists are really amazing, but they are terrible at naming things. They make really complicated names for everything. I’m going to give you a simple version of it. We’ll start by imagining that you’re you. You with me so far?

Erin: I am.

Anthony: Great. Imagine that you’re pursuing a goal, all right? Maybe you want to lock down a deal with a client. Maybe you want to buy a new car. Maybe you want to improve your relationship. Whatever your goal is, you’re moving towards it, and then you encounter an obstacle to that goal. Maybe you found out that your partner doesn’t love the same kind of movies you do. Maybe you found out that your client has an asking price that’s much higher than you were comfortable with.

Now the question is, how do you respond? The answer is, it turns out, it depends on two variables. The first is your perception of the size of that obstacle. Let’s say I want to join the NBA, but I’m only 5’2″. My perception of the size of that obstacle is, well, I’m only 5’2″. You probably need to be a fair bit taller than that to join the NBA. It’s unlikely for me to be a reality. That’s the first variable. What’s the perception of the size of the obstacle?

The second variable is your perception of the resources you have available to you to solve the problem. In other words, I want to join the NBA, I’m too short, but I’ve got Elon Musk levels of wealth, so I can invest in a surgery to grow the length of my legs. I’ve got enough resources to help make sure that I can make it into the NBA. The way we react depends on the gap between your perception of the size of the obstacle and your perception of the resources. If there’s a gap, then you fall into what’s called– I call it the danger zone, the threat zone, where you’re less creative, you’re less empathetic, you’re less open-minded. We’re the worst version of ourselves.

What do you do if you’re in that place? You can either change your perception of the size of the obstacle. You can do that by changing what your goal is. Maybe I’m not going to go for the NBA, maybe I’ll go for– I’ll play basketball in like a call-up league. I can play with some buddies. Or you can change your perception of your resources available to you. Maybe you’re going to have LeBron James train you to join the NBA. Those two things can shrink the gap between the obstacle and the resources and put you in what I call the challenge zone.

We love that feeling. We live for that feeling. It’s the feeling that you have when you’re in the zone or you’re in the pockets, or you can start to think more creatively, you’re more empathetic, you’re more open-minded. It’s when you’re in that flow state. You’re the best version of yourself. When you lean into curiosity with somebody who’s stuck in their way of thinking, it puts them into that challenge mindset. They don’t feel that their identity is threatened. They don’t feel like you’re trying to attack them. They feel like they get to be a teacher to you.

That puts them in this really calm mindset where they’re able to be more open to new ideas and more ironically receptive to ideas from you. Most of our intuition is if you hear somebody say the earth is flat, our intuition says I got to tell them all the reasons that the earth is not flat, but what we know from the research is if you lean into curiosity and say, “How did you come to that idea?” that really is the key to unlocking new ways of thinking about the world.

Erin: I love that. As for me, if I wanted to be in the NBA, your advice might be, “Okay, that’s not going to happen, but look over here, there’s the WNBA. Let’s look at that.” You can shift the focus too, rather than just pointing at one particular goal.

Anthony: Exactly. It comes back to what we were talking about before, that our goals shape the blind spots in our thinking, they create them. When you identify those blind spots, you can actually change what’s possible. If I’m trying to secure a deal with a client to make sure that we get a certain number for an asking price and they’re just not meeting it, then what I can do is start to think about, “Well, how can I rethink my goal? Maybe the goal isn’t to get this asking price. Maybe I’ll shift the goal to one that’s more collaborative.” I’m trying to figure out how I can get the best deal I can for me and my client.

They’ll feel that you care and they know that you need to– before they care what you believe, they have to believe what you care, and it puts them in that challenge mindset. Suddenly, a world of possibilities opens up and you’re likely to find a solution that you didn’t even know was there.

Erin: Okay. How much of a role does fear play when it comes to a collaboration, a conversation, or a negotiation, Anthony?

Anthony: I would say that really depends on how big a challenge you imagine, whatever your goal, the obstacle to your goal is. I guess for people in your community, like the kinds of problems you guys are generally engaged with is how do I make sure that you’re networking properly and building good relationships with our clients? Maybe you’ve heard that this particular client is very difficult to work with.

Those kinds of rumors can trigger fear in you, right? “Oh, well, this is going to be a real nightmare for me. Not only is this relationship going to be a difficult one, but they’re going to spread rumors about me as a real estate agent and that’s going to hurt my business and my bottom line.” Those kinds of fears, well, that’s when fears can be really stoked. Again, I would say that the solution in those cases is to just notice what’s happening in your body. Notice that you’re in fear and figure out how you can change your goal to shrink the size of the obstacle and increase your perception of the resources so that you’re like, “You know what? The goal I had in mind was kind of scary, but this new one is something I can do.” Then again, possibilities, they start opening up.

Erin: Pause, breathe, refocus.

Anthony: It’s a very novice day. It’s a little bit hippie-ish, but the science says that it actually works. The neuroscience is there to back it up.

Erin: How does body language play a role in all of this?

Anthony: Yes. I would say that your body language is important insofar as it lets you– Yes, I see you’re crossing your arms.

Erin: No good.

Anthony: Those kinds of things can be indicators that you need to notice what your goals are. For each of us, we all have different kinds of fear triggers and different kinds of things that make us feel a little bit afraid. It’s really good, ideally, not necessarily in the moment when you’re negotiating with a client, but in your general life to think about how do I know when I am in fear or when I am worried about something. What are the indicators in my body that tell me that? Maybe your breathing increases or maybe your palms get a little bit sweaty, or maybe your armpits sweat a little bit. Maybe you’ve got a habit of playing with your hair or biting your lip when you’re nervous.

There’s all kinds of things. If you can start to notice those little indicators, then when you’re in those spaces, when you’re in those places where you’re a bit afraid, you can say, “Oh, I notice I’m a little bit afraid. Let me check in and figure out what my goals are right now. Can I shift those goals to bring me into that challenge mindset, to bring me to that place where I know there are some possibilities and opportunities here that I didn’t realize existed because of the way that I was looking at things?”

Erin: I see the guitar in your background. For those of you who are listening, it’s a beautiful six-string and it’s blue. I know you’re a guitarist and I also know you’re a Beatles fan because we do our research. Let’s talk about come together and the whole idea of you and me against the world and not being adversaries, but actually coming together against a common goal. I think this is one of the absolute gems of all of your wisdom, Anthony, if you want to expand and expound for us.

Anthony: Yes. No. As I said before, I really am an optimist. I believe that human beings are the most cooperative species that we’ve ever seen on the face of this planet and we evolve to be that. It’s really easy to believe that nice guys finish last and that it’s a really Machiavellian world out there where it’s shark eat shark, but humans are by nature, we’re really much, much more designed to cooperate with each other, to be interested in each other’s well-being. It’s when we feel our happiest, the most meaning in our lives at our best. I just got married, and– well, thank you. I’m very excited.

Erin: Congratulations.

Anthony: Thank you very much. We’re looking at starting a family and having kids. At one level, the idea of having kids is kind of a nightmare. Objectively, kids are really expensive. They break all your stuff. They never say thank you. They only think of themselves. If you had a roommate like that, you’re getting out of here. You cannot live here anymore. Yet, if you ask any parent, would you die for your kids? They say, “Oh, in a heartbeat,” because we think the things that would make us happy are having lots of money or fast cars, or whatever.

The things that make us really, truly, genuinely happy, the things that genuinely fill us with meaning are finding ways to serve others. That’s built into our DNA. I guess I’m an optimist because I know that that is true. Eventually, we all, not all of us, if we’re wise, we recognize that, and we move towards that. I know that seeing people do that is contagious. We start to replicate what we see others do, that brings a sense of meaning.

I’m just really optimistic about humans, and there’s a story maybe I could tell about why I know that compassion and leaning into that kind of stuff is really valuable. I was moving about a year and a half ago. I live in Toronto, so your listeners will know what the Toronto real estate market looks like. It’s not necessarily an easy one to navigate. It’s one where I had a short time to move. I had about a day and a half notice because I was moving from one apartment to another, and I had to rent a U-Haul.

I rented the U-Haul. I got there on the day to pick it up. I spoke to the lady at the counter, and I asked her, “Hey, is it possible, by any chance, that I could have the vehicle for longer than I reserved on the website? I have a limited time, and it’d just be helping me out.” She said, “No, and because you asked that, now I can’t rent you the vehicle.”

Erin: What? Why?

Anthony: Yes. I was floored. I thought I must have misheard. This can’t be true. I said, “I don’t understand. Is this some kind of U-Haul policy?” She said, “No, I don’t think you’ll bring it back.” I was shaking. I was so angry that this woman just saw my face, decided to judge me on nothing more superficial than what I was wearing, what I was– I don’t know what it was. I thought, “Before people care what you believe, they have to believe that you care.”

I tried to draw deep on what I know from neuroscience and social science, so I walked around outside– I was shaking. I knew I was angry. I walked around her side, I took a breath, and I thought about it and I tried to think about it from her perspective.

It was the end of the month, so it was probably a time for her where she was getting a lot of people coming in asking for vehicles. They were probably all very stressed. Probably not a lot of them treated her very well, or maybe there were people who didn’t return with the vehicle and then it’s on her. That’s the next day somebody doesn’t get theirs. She finished up with her next client.

She came out and talked to me and I said, “Listen, I know that you probably deal with a lot of people at this time of the month and that probably a lot of them are not very kind to you, and I want you to know that I don’t intend to be one of those people.” Immediately, her demeanor changed and she started thinking about what she could do to help me get the vehicle. I got the U-Haul that day.

I could’ve been self-righteous and angry, and looked at it and said, “She doesn’t deserve my forgiveness or my understanding, or my thoughtfulness or my compassion.” Then I have to think about, “Well, what outcome do I actually want? Do I want her to suffer or do I want my U-Haul?” It’s to me just the most vivid reminder of the idea that leaning into compassion, it really is, I think, the most powerful tool we have in our toolkit for navigating even the most frustrating disagreements.

Erin: Yes. How does that translate to what you say about, “You and I are going to be on the same side facing this problem together.”? Because you approached her not only on a human level and saw her humanity and put yourself into a place of empathy and compassion, but also how can we solve this problem together? Anthony, how did that work there?

Anthony: I really love that. I think a good approach when you’re trying to problem solve around really tough disagreements is to look at it not as you versus me as zero-sum. It’s not I’m going to win, or you are. It’s you and I against the problem.

Erin: Yes.

Anthony: That framing is just so much more effective for problem-solving because it takes you both out of that threat mindset, it puts you both in that challenge mindset where possibilities open up. Reminding the person you’re engaging with that that is your goal, explicitly. Say it out loud. I want to make it clear that I don’t want this to be something where I win, or you do. It’s you and me. This is the problem. We’re teaming up together to face that. How can we put our resources together to tackle it?

Erin: I love that. I love that lesson. Just as a quick diversion, I put it into use just last week after having spoken to you first. This is my way of doing things anyway, was landing at the airport here at home and my luggage wasn’t there. Now, it was at home, so I didn’t really need everything in it, but I walked up to the desk for the airline and I said, “Bradley, okay, my suitcase didn’t make it. How do we go about doing this?” I did it with a smile. My husband said he noticed as we approached, the guy had a face on him like he’d had a day because we know that they have to face all the angry travelers.

He said, “But when you were done with him–” and then I introduced the next people in line behind me, I turned to them and I said, “This is Bradley. He’s going to make your night a lot better.” The guy could hug me. That’s amazing. I got my bag the next day. Again, it’s compassion. It’s realizing that the person you’re speaking to is another human being and they’re having a day as well. I know.

Anthony: Exactly.

Erin: It sounds so Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood when you think about it, Anthony, but it really is true. There’s something else you’ve talked about, the power of critical thinking. Now we’re getting back into the less Rogers’ Neighborhood end of things here. Our guest on Episode 43, Peter Mansbridge, you may have heard that name. I like to drop it. Sure. He talked about that very thing. What’s your take? What’s the power in critical thinking and how can we train ourselves to think more critically, especially in business? We’ve talked about real life and this conversation is, I hope, as useful and helpful to people in real life, but let’s go back to business here for a moment.

Anthony: Sure. Yes. I love to talk and to think about critical thinking. It’s actually part of what I study for my research at my lab. Researchers have all kinds of really complicated theories and ideas about it, but I’ve distilled it down to what I think is a really digestible way of thinking about it in something I call the five C’s. They’re just really good habits of mind to engage in if you want to practice critical thinking.

The first of those is what I call curiosity. It’s the recognition, as I said earlier, that we all have blind spots in our thinking that are by definition invisible to us. We don’t know that they’re there. Those blind spots, they genuinely shape the reality that is possible. Maybe there’s something called a nine-dot problem. Maybe you can try this. Do you have a piece of pen and paper with you?

Erin: I do. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s a REALTOR®‘s pad. I get these.

Anthony: What are the odds? This is a problem that your listeners can do on their– if they’ve got a pen and paper handy, it’s really easy. You’re going to draw nine dots in a grid on your paper.

Erin: All right. Done.

Anthony: Your goal is to connect all nine of those dots using only four lines, yes, it looks just like that. That’s right. A grid pattern. Now connect all nine of those dots using only four lines and the trick is, the kicker is you cannot lift your pen off the page. All four lines have to be connected.

Erin: Okay.

Anthony: As you’re drawing this, I’ll let your listeners know that the success rate– that’s five lines, that’s very close. You only had four. It’s tricky.

Erin: How many lines?

Anthony: Four lines. The success rate for this is something like 0%, it’s called an insight problem, and that is exactly the way that I reacted when I first encountered this problem as well, but I’m going to try to show you how to solve it. I’m going to see, actually, if I’ve got a piece of paper handy. We’ve got these nine dots here. Most people will unconsciously imagine a box that they have to stay within, but the solution lies outside, literally outside the box. You start with one line; you draw up and outside of that imaginary box. Two, three, and four.

Erin: Okay. Well, I didn’t know we were allowed to draw outside the box. Anthony, I want to do over. No, I’m kidding.

Anthony: That’s fair enough. I mean, the first time I experienced this, I saw it at the science center. One of my colleagues showed it to another visitor who was there, and I would say I cried for around two hours, somewhere around two hours. It was really frustrating, but it was really fun and cool to dive into because the thing about this puzzle is at no point did I ever mention the word box or say that there was a box that you had to stay within, that was an idea that you brought to it yourself.

There was this box, that was an assumption that you made about the world, and that unconscious assumption, that blind spot limited what was possible about reality for you. Only once you could identify that blind spot, once you could identify that assumption is the solution to this puzzle possible.

We all have these blind spots, and playing with those blind spots is the key to being innovative and creative, but the problem is, they’re by definition, blind spots. You don’t know they’re there. How do you find them? The answer is, collaboration, is to talk to people who see things differently than you. The first 3Cs of critical thinking are curiosity, so asking for help, finding your blind spots, and playing around with them.

Curiosity, creativity, and collaboration. Now, the trouble is these things can often make us a little bit nervous to do, so you have to lean into calm and courage. You’ve got to be willing to notice what your goals are, what your unconscious assumptions are, and be willing to accept comfort over courage to be willing to be taught by people who maybe you don’t agree with or maybe don’t even like that much and let them teach you something about how you might see the world. I think as long as you practice curiosity, creativity, collaboration, calm, and courage, you are practicing good critical thinking.

Erin: Wonderful. Can we end on the Wikipedia note please, as just-

Anthony: Sure.

Erin: -the perfect example of collaboration, Anthony? I love this.

Anthony: Where to start with this? I love Wikipedia because there are lots of places on the internet where we disagree. It feels like most of the internet is people just yelling matches. It’s just a big dumpster fire. There is one place on the internet where disagreements not only don’t make people polarized, they actually un-polarize people. That is the most successful encyclopedia of all time, Wikipedia.

If you get all of the smartest people, the most well-respected, the most highly accredited people together and get them to try to write an encyclopedia, which by the way happened, you got the Encyclopedia Britannica, it is nowhere near as popular. It costs a lot more, and it is less accurate overall than Wikipedia; this place where people just get together to share their knowledge and try to tell the world what they know.

Erin: And timely too because you’re constantly updating it, right?

Anthony: It’s constantly updated. It’s the place where people genuinely become less polarized because they have a shared goal. It’s not you versus me, it’s you and I versus the problem. We’re trying to accurately describe the world. That means that I have to describe it in a way that even somebody who disagrees with me would agree and vice versa. We’ve done studies on it; it actually makes people less polarized. It’s just the most amazing example of how this kind of radical collaboration can genuinely be a huge net benefit for the world and can transform the world.

Erin: Well, thank you. Thank you for collaborating with us here today, and we so appreciate your insight and wisdom. Anthony, it’s been a pleasure.

Anthony: It’s been a genuine pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Erin: Fantastic. What a great conversation with Anthony. Now, as a REALTOR®, you know your relationships fuel your business. Doesn’t it always come back to compassion and collaboration, even if you disagree with someone? I mean, the science doesn’t lie. If you wanna learn more about Anthony’s fascinating work, including his hilarious game, Freestyle Socials, it’s all on his website, Or if you want to try that attention test that Anthony mentioned, just Google Daniel Simon’s selective attention test, or you can find the link in our show notes. It’s all right there.

REAL TIME is brought to you by the Canadian Real Estate Association, CREA, and is a production of Alphabet® Creative with tech support from Rob Whitehead. For more real estate resources, tools, and insights, visit us anytime at If you liked this episode of REAL TIME, check out our other episodes and please do rate and review our show. We always appreciate it. I’m Erin Davis, thanks for being here, and we’ll talk to you again soon on REAL TIME.

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