Julia Galef (born 4 July 1983) is an American author and podcaster. She is the co-founder and former president of the Center for Applied Rationality, the host of the Rationally Speaking podcast, and the author of The Scout Mindset.


Galef studied statistics at Columbia University. After completing her studies, she worked as a freelance journalist for various publications.[1] In 2012, she co-founded the Center for Applied Rationality,[2] and served as that organization's president until 2016.[3]

Rationally Speaking

In 2010, Galef and her co-host Massimo Pigliucci launched Rationally Speaking, a podcast about rationality, skepticism, and other topics. In 2015, Pigliucci left, and Galef became the podcast's sole host and producer.[4]

Past guests of the show include Bryan Caplan,[5][6][7] Tyler Cowen,[8] Robin Hanson,[9] Holden Karnofsky,[10] William MacAskill,[11] Dylan Matthews,[12][13] Toby Ord,[14] Kelsey Piper,[15][16] Anders Sandberg,[17] Peter Singer,[18] and Philip Tetlock.[19]

The Scout Mindset

In 2021, Galef published her first book, The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t .

The book's title refers to a trait, common among people with good judgment, which Galef defines as "the motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish they were."[20] Galef contrasts this scout mindset to a soldier mindset. Unlike scouts, who seek out evidence that improves the accuracy of their beliefs and treat being wrong as an opportunity to revise their model of the world, soldiers seek out evidence that confirms their existing beliefs and treat being wrong as a humiliating defeat.[21]

The Scout Mindset has received praise from Philip Tetlock,[22] Scott Alexander,[23] and Dylan Matthews,[24] among others.

The organization 80,000 Hours has cited Galef as an example of a highly successful career in advocacy for improved institutional decision-making.[25]

Further reading

Bensinger, Rob (2021) Outline of Galef’s ‘Scout Mindset’, Effective Altruism Forum, August 9.

Matthews, Dylan (2021) The book that changed how I think about thinking: A conversation with writer Julia Galef on how to think less like a soldier and more like a scout, Vox, May 3.

Wiblin, Robert (2017) Julia Galef on making humanity more rational, what EA does wrong, and why Twitter isn’t all bad, 80,000 Hours, September 13.

Julia Galef. Official website.

Rationally Speaking. Official website.

Center for Applied Rationality | rationality community

  1. ^

    Galef, Julia (2015) My story, Julia Galef’s Website.

  2. ^

    "CFAR is a 501(c)(3) non-profit operating out of Berkeley, California, originally founded in 2012 by Anna Salamon, Julia Galef, Valentine Smith, and Andrew Critch." (Center for Applied Rationality (2022) Mission, Center for Applied Rationality)

  3. ^

    Galef, Julia (2017) I’m overdue for a career update!, Facebook, February 28.

  4. ^

    Galef, Julia (2021) About the podcast, Rationally Speaking.

  5. ^

    Galef, Julia (2015) Does parenting matter? (Bryan Caplan), Rationally Speaking, October 4.

  6. ^

    Galef, Julia (2018) The case against education (Bryan Caplan), Rationally Speaking, February 18.

  7. ^

    Galef, Julia (2019) The case for open borders (Bryan Caplan), Rationally Speaking, November 11.

  8. ^

    Galef, Julia (2019) Defending big business against its critics (Tyler Cowen), Rationally Speaking, April 29.

  9. ^

    Galef, Julia (2015) Most human behavior is signaling (Robin Hanson), Rationally Speaking, May 31.

  10. ^

    Galef, Julia & Massimo Pigliucci (2011) Evidence-based philanthropy (Holden Karnofsky), Rationally Speaking, July 3.

  11. ^

    Galef, Julia (2017) Moral uncertainty (Will MacAskill), Rationally Speaking, April 2.

  12. ^

    Galef, Julia (2017) The science and ethics of kidney donation (Dylan Matthews), Rationally Speaking, February 5.

  13. ^
  14. ^

    Galef, Julia (2021) Humanity on the precipice (Toby Ord), Rationally Speaking, December 10.

  15. ^
  16. ^

    Galef, Julia (2021) How to reason about COVID, and other hard things (Kelsey Piper), Rationally Speaking, September 13.

  17. ^

    Galef, Julia (2018) The long-term future of humanity (Anders Sandberg), Rationally Speaking, August 19.

  18. ^

    Galef, Julia (2013) Being a utilitarian in the real world (Peter Singer), Rationally Speaking, November 24.

  19. ^

    Galef, Julia (2015) Superforecasting: The art and science of prediction (Philip Tetlock), Rationally Speaking, October 20.

  20. ^

    Galef, Julia (2021) The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t, New York: Portfolio, p. ix.

  21. ^

    Galef, The Scout Mindset, p. 14.

  22. ^
  23. ^

    Alexander, Scott (2021) Book Review: The Scout Mindset, Astral Codex Ten, September 29.

  24. ^
  25. ^

    Whittlestone, Jess (2017) Improving institutional decision-making, 80,000 Hours, September.