Shai Davidai is an Assistant Professor of Management at Columbia Business School. Trained as a Social Psychologist, his research examines people’s everyday judgments of themselves, other people, and society as a whole. Among other topics, his research has examined lay perceptions of economic inequality and mobility, zero-sum beliefs about the world, and social comparison processes (website:

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Night Owl

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?

I fall under the category of “no pets, but stops to pet every random puppy on the street.” Does that count?

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?


5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?

I assume other than English? (is that the default?). If so, then Hebrew, French, and a tiny bit of Romanian.

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

Switch to a random profession, then switch back again just to remind myself how great my job is.

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Probably sociology. That or history.

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Home, to Israel.

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Reading minds, but only when I choose to do so.

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Currently working my way through Karl Ove Knaussgard’s 6-volume series “My Struggle”. Basically, I’d recommend that you read translated works of fiction. There’s an incredible world outside of the United States, and translated fiction is your cheapest door to it.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Read a book in the park then hangout with my son and wife.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

Someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.

15 What beverage gives you life?

Not sure about that one, but I do know that I’m basically a zombie without coffee

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

An author. Still waiting to grow up – just need to move the goal posts a bit.

18 What drives you and keeps you going?


19 What got you excited in science?

The ability to come up with (and hopefully resolve) questions to which no one knows the answer.

20 What excites you about science now?

It’s potential to inform how we should run society to make it better and more equitable for everyone.

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Probably watching The Office re-runs, and 90s grunge.

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

It wouldn’t be a secret if I revealed it, would it?

23 What is your favorite game?

Right now, Code Names.

24 What is the last book you read?

Currently reading Maxim Lustkoff’s Ruthie Fear, Rob Sheffield’s Turn Around Bright Eyes, and Josh Korda’s Unsubscribe.

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

Research is like running a store. You may be losing money 10 and a half months out of the year, but you have to keep it open in order to be successful during the high season.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

I find it incredible that nothings comes to mind…

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

Man, you have no idea how things will turn out. Probably in 20 years, I’d give my present-day self the same advice.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

meditation and physical exercise do it for me.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

My son running around the house.

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

I try not to carry around weird stuff.

31 What is your favorite animal?

Dogs, wolves, and foxes.

32 What is your favorite book?

There must be tens of favorite books, and on the off chance that books can become sentient, I wouldn’t want to upset any of them

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Do tacos count?

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

When we stop the daytime savings nonsense and the days become longer

35 What is your favorite plant?

Sunflowers are cool!

36 What is your favorite science fact?

I find it incredible that there’s an absolute lowest temperature but not absolute highest temperature.

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

Grass after it has rained is a really great one that comes to mind

39 What is your favorite sound?

Waterfalls. That, and my son cracking up.

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

The people in my life.

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

I love the guttural catharsis that follows some curse words.

42 What is your proudest moment?

I’m sure that I’ve had several such moments, but it’s so hard to think of one.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

I live in New York City. We don’t know types of trees.

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

It’s close to everything, include an airport if you want to be far from everything.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I’m married to an incredible write and translator – Yardenne Greenspan. Check her out!

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Jessica Gaby and Michelle Tong (Professor_Tong)