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Jeremy E. Sherman Ph.D.


Jeremy Sherman, Ph.D., MPP, is a life coach and life/social science researcher with a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Decision Theory and a Masters in Public Policy.

Sherman has two blogs on Psychology Today:

Ambigamy: Insights for the deeply romantic and deeply wary addresses the practical challenges of dealing with life’s tough judgment calls.

Jerkology: What makes some people tick like timebombs addresses the problems of dealing with absolutists who pretend that they are right about everything.

Sherman is currently available for local and remote coaching on practical doubt, anxiety, and decision management, on getting unstuck, and on strategic approaches for interacting with difficult people.

For 26 years, he has collaborated closely with Harvard/Berkeley neuroscientist/biological anthropologist Terrence Deacon. Together, they study how organisms struggling for existence emerged from chemistry, something not explained by natural selection or DNA.
Deacon and Sherman’s approach seeks an explanation for the terms that many simply assume on faith, for example, Darwin’s assumed “struggle for existence,” spirituality’s “souls,” and the social science’s “motivations.” Sherman presents their approach in his book Neither Ghost Nor Machine: The Emergence and Nature of Selves (Columbia University Press, 2017).

Unlike most social scientists, Sherman attempts to understand human experience and behavior from the ground up, from the chemical origins of life, through the evolution of feelings and through human language, concepts. He argues that this is a more rigorous approach to understanding motivation than the kind of abstract modeling that is prevalent in the social sciences. Sherman describes this work as cradle to grave: From the origins of life to our grave situation, and attributes the challenges of human sustainability to how language enables us to dissociate from reality in ways other organisms can’t.

Psychology Today’s editor-in-chief, Kaja Perina, describes Sherman’s work as “mind candy for people who are not afraid to think.” He loves wordplay and has coined over 2,000 terms for phenomena previously unnamed. He was a founding blogger and a contributing inspiration for Psychology Today’s blogging site. Before his work with PT, his blog was called Mindreading Dictionary: Terms for reading between the lines with greater comprehension.

His general approach is rigorously ironic: Irony grounded in the sense that life’s tough judgment calls face us with inescapable dilemmas that are best managed through serious play and self-effacing irony. Life is iffy. There is no absolute formula for success though we would want one. Ironic situations — effort resulting in the opposite of what was intended — are inevitable and inescapable. Sherman sees irony (actually “Dirony”: Dire irony in the face of the tragicomic human condition) as the antidote to absolutism and the adaptive way to live.

Sherman’s first career was environmental activism. Though he has written academically, he prioritizes making advanced ideas easy and intuitive for curious general readers.

He has been a consultant on critical thinking to the U.S. Army, a consultant on drug discovery to one of the big-5 pharma companies, the head of public affairs for a large multi-national, the founder of a 75-chapter grassroots environmental lobbying organization, a water engineer in Guatemala, and an elected elder on the world’s largest hippie commune. He writes a lot of deep-light, bumper-sticker-size posts on Facebook as “Jeremy Unsure Sherman” and makes videos for his YouTube channel “Understanding Us.”

Sherman has three adult children. He plays bass and sings in jazz and world music bands.

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