Maria Konnikova

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Maria Konnikova
Born1984 (age 34–35)
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
OccupationAuthor (non-fiction)
Notable worksMastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
The Confidence Game[1]

Maria Konnikova is a Russian-American writer and psychologist. She has a B.A. in psychology and creative writing from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University. She has worked as a television producer, written for several magazines and online publications, and authored two New York Times best selling books. She primarily writes about psychology and its application to real life situations.

Early life[edit]

Maria Konnikova was born in Moscow, Russia in 1984 to Jewish parents.[2] Konnikova was 4 years old when her family migrated to the United States after the Soviet Union opened its borders to allow Jews to move to Israel. The Konnikovs chose to settle in the state of Massachusetts, outside Boston.[3] Affected by the propaganda experienced in the Soviet Union, Konnikova's parents decided to live without a television.[4]


Maria Konnikova attended Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Massachusetts.[5][better source needed]

After graduating from high school Konnikova attended Harvard University where she graduated magna cum laude with an A.B. in psychology and creative writing. While studying at Harvard, Konnikova was mentored by psychologist and popular author Steven Pinker.[6] Konnikova earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University in 2013.[3][7] She chose Columbia University so that she could work with psychologist Walter Mischel;[3] her student profile stated she was interested in...

...the effects of hot and cool emotional states on self-control ability and decision making, especially under risk and uncertainty. How do individual differences play into decision making processes? How are normal decision processes disrupted under hot conditions, and how can a better understanding of these disruptions allow us to make better decisions? She is also interested in the impact of individual and group identity on decision making.[8]


Konnikova at IdeaFestival 2013

Following her graduation from Harvard, she worked as a producer for the Charlie Rose show where she helped set up the segment "Brain Series".[3][9] Konnikova also wrote the "Literally Psyched" column for Scientific American[10] and the psychology blog "Artful Choice" for Big Think,[11] both of which she is no longer involved with. Her writing has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, The Paris Review and The New Republic.[12] In April 2013 she had an article published in The New Yorker for the first time,[13] and continues to contribute regularly with articles about psychology and science.[14][15]

Konnikova's first book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, was published by Viking Press/Penguin Group in January 2013, was a New York Times bestseller and was translated into 17 languages.[16][14] Konnikova explained that she was first introduced to the character of Sherlock Holmes at a young age, when her father read Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories to her.[17] She later read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories at an age that she calls "very impressionable" and states that "they certainly did change my life."[12] Following the publication of the book, Konnikova explained her opinion on the importance of fiction in relation to psychology:

I tell this to everyone ... I think you lead an impoverished life if you only read nonfiction ... I think the best psychologists are actually fiction writers. Their understanding of the human mind is so far beyond where we've been able to get with psychology as a science ... You need the careful experimentation, but you also need to take a step back and realize that fiction writers are seeing a broader vista and are capable of providing you with insights or even ideas for studies.[3]

Konnikova's second book The Confidence Game, published by Viking Press/Penguin Group, made the New York Times best seller list for February 2016 in the crime and punishment category,[18] and the Canadian Best Sellers List for non fiction for the weeks ending 26 January[19] and 2 February[20]

Konnikova makes regular appearances on The Gist podcast in her own segment called "Is that bullshit?";[21] and In early 2017, released her own 10 part podcast about con-artists and the lives they ruin, called The Grift.[22]

Konnikova has spoken at events including the IdeaFestival,[23] TEDx,[2] SXSW,[24] and CSICon in 2016 [25] and in 2017.[26]

Konnikova has identified J.D. Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Vladimir Nabokov, Mikhail Bulgakov and W.H. Auden as her favorite authors.[12]

Poker career[edit]

Konnikova became interested in poker after reading John von Neumann’s work on game theory. She described it as a way to examine the mind’s responses to conditions that involve both skill and chance. Her upcoming book will explore " as a metaphor for life in general."[27] To research this book, Konnikova made contact with Erik Seidel, who allowed her to observe him competing at an event for high-stakes players. Other players also agreed to let her watch them play. Konnikova noted "It was a beautiful learning experience that really accelerated my ability to learn the game."[27] After starting with $20 and $40 tournaments, she began playing in higher stakes tournaments.[27] Konnikova has taken up professional poker playing full-time, and is an Ambassador of Poker League of Nations, the world's largest women's poker organization. The Poker Stars tournament 2017 in Monte Carlo was her first major tournament.[28][29] The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure No-Limit Hold'em Championship, where she placed 42nd of 582 players, was a personal turning point for her. Konnikova said of her performance "PCA was the moment where everything kind of came together...I'm learning and it's sticking and I'm playing well. It's a really wonderful feeling when you're studying and working to have that validated."[27]

In 2018, Konnikova decided to delay work on her book to compete in more poker tournaments with higher stakes.[27] She is completing the tour at the Poker Stars tournament 2018 in Monte Carlo, being coached by Erik Seidel.[28][29] Despite the fact that she has earned more than US$200,000 at the poker table, she says she will not quit writing: "I’m never going to stop being a writer. Why can’t I do both? I love poker. Why would I stop?"[30]

Konnikova told the New York Times she had no background in poker when she began this journey: "When I started this, I didn’t know how many cards were in a deck. I hate casinos. I have zero interest in gambling."[30]


"Confidence Games" CSICon 2016


  • Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, Viking, 3 January 2013, ISBN 978-0670026579
  • The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time, Viking, 12 January 2016, ISBN 978-0525427414


  1. ^ a b "Maria Konnikova Wins Critical Thinking Prize from CSI for "The Confidence Game"". CSICOP.ORG. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b Konnikova, Maria (9 August 2014). Maria Konnikova:TEDxColumbiaCollege. TEDx. Event occurs at 0:00 to 1:30. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Joss Fong (10 January 2013). "It's Elementary". The Scientist. LabX Media Group. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  4. ^ Maria Konnikova (8 March 2014). "Don't Quote Me on This". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  5. ^ Maria Konnikova (7 January 2014). "The Open-Office Trap". The New Yorker. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  6. ^ Thompson, Nicholas (21 April 2014). "The New Yorker Out Loud(Podcast): Maria Konnikova on her approach to writing and the psychology of yawns". (Podcast). The New Yorker. Event occurs at 11:40 to 14:40. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  7. ^ Konnikova, Maria (2013). "The Limits of Self-Control: Self-Control, Illusory Control, and Risky Financial Decision Making". Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Center For Research on Environmental Decisions Maria Konnikova". Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  9. ^ Konnikova - Charlie Rose (video and transcript). 24 February 2016. Event occurs at 0:00 to 3:00. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  10. ^ "Stories by Maria Konnikova". Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  11. ^ "Maria Konnikova". Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  12. ^ a b c "Book Brahmin: Maria Konnikova". Shelf Awareness. Shelf Awareness. 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  13. ^ "Why we need answers". The New Yorker. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Harvardwood Heads To... SXSW: The Confidence Game - The Power (and Price) of Stories with Maria Konnikova AB '05". Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  15. ^ "Contributors, Maria Konnikova". Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  16. ^ Christian DuChateau (11 January 2013). "Become a 'Mastermind' with Sherlock Holmes' help". CNN. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  17. ^ Chitra Ramaswamy (12 January 2013). "Interview: Psychologist Maria Konnikova on how we can all learn to think like Sherlock Holmes". The Scotsman. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  18. ^ "Best Sellers, Crime and Punishment". Archived from the original on 31 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  19. ^ Bethune, Brian. "The MacLean's Best Seller list :week of Jan 26th". Retrieved 1 June 2017.
  20. ^ Bethune, Brian. "The MacLean's Best Seller list :week of Feb 2nd". Retrieved 1 June 2017.
  21. ^ "Maria Konnikova". Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  22. ^ "The Grift". Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  23. ^ "Maria Konnikova on "Psychologist as Novelist"". 13 January 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  24. ^ "The Confidence Game: The Power (and Price) of Stories". March 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  25. ^ "Confidence Games Featuring Maria Konnikova". 28 October 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  26. ^ Gerbic, Susan. "An Interview with CSICon Speaker Maria Konnikova". Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). CSICOP, a nonprofit educational organization. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  27. ^ a b c d e Nuwwarah, Mo. "Konnikova Changes Plans, Delays Book After Incredible Poker Success". PokerNews. Archived from the original on 1 July 2018. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  28. ^ a b "Maria Konnikova: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle". Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  29. ^ a b "The Psychology of Poker (Video)". Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  30. ^ a b "Maria Konnikova Shows Her Cards". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  31. ^ Jahren, Hope (3 October 2017). The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017. Mariner Books. ISBN 978-1-328-71551-7.
  32. ^ "The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on 7 October 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2017.

External links[edit]