You Are Not So Smart

By You Are Not So Smart

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You Are Not So Smart is a show about psychology that celebrates science and self delusion. In each episode, we explore what we've learned so far about reasoning, biases, judgments, and decision-making.

Episode Date
130 - The Half LIfe of Facts (rebroadcast)
00:30:39
In medical school they tell you half of what you are about to learn won't be true when you graduate - they just don't know which half. In every field of knowledge, half of what is true today will overturned, replaced, or refined at some point, and it turns out that we actually know when that will be for many things. In this episode, listen as author and scientist Sam Arbesman explains how understanding the half life of facts can lead to better lives, institutions, and, of course, better science. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS - • - Squarespace: www.squarespace.com || Code: sosmart - • - The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart - • - Zip Recruiter: www.ziprecruiter.com/notsosmart
Jun 18, 2018
129 - Desirability Bias (rebroadcast)
00:33:10
Confirmation bias is our tendency to seek evidence that supports our beliefs and confirms our assumptions when we could just as well seek disconfirmation of those beliefs and assumptions instead. This is such a prevalent feature of human cognition, that until recently a second bias has been hidden in plain sight. Our past beliefs and future desires usually match up. Desirability is often twisted into confirmation like a single psychological braid - but recent research suggests that something called desirability bias may be just as prevalent in our thinking. When future desires and past beliefs are incongruent, desire wins out. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart
Jun 04, 2018
128 - Happy Brain
01:28:17
What makes you happy? As in, what generates happiness inside the squishy bits that reside inside your skull? That's what author and neuroscientist Dean Burnett set out to answer in his new book, Happy Brain, which explores both the environmental and situational factors that lead to and away from happiness, and the neurological underpinnings of joy, bliss, comfort, love, and connection. In the episode you'll hear all that and more as we talk about what we know so far about the biological nature of happiness itself.
May 21, 2018
127 - Selfie
01:23:36
In this episode, we sit down with author Will Storr to talk about his new book -- Selfie: How We Became so Self-Obsessed, and What it is Doing to Us. The book explores what he calls “the age of perfectionism” -- our modern struggle to meet newly emerging ideals and standards that tell us we are falling short of the person we ought to be. As he says in the book, "Perfectionism is the idea that kills," and you’ll hear him explain what he means by that in the interview.
May 07, 2018
126 - Separate Spheres (rebroadcast)
00:35:05
Despite their relative invisibility, a norm, even a dying one, can sometimes be harnessed and wielded like a weapon by conjuring up old fears from a bygone era. It’s a great way to slow down social change if you fear that change. When a social change threatens your ideology, fear is the simplest, easiest way to keep more minds from changing. In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, we explore how the separate spheres ideology is still affecting us today, and how some people are using it to scare people into voting down anti-discrimination legislation.
Apr 22, 2018
125 - Status Quo Rationalization
00:45:10
When faced with an inescapable and unwanted situation, we often rationalize our predicament so as to make it seem less awful and more bearable, but what if that situation is a new law or a new administration? The latest research suggests that groups, nations, and cultures sometimes rationalize the new normal in much the same way, altering public opinion on a large scale.
Apr 09, 2018
124 - Belief Change Blindness
00:40:16
When was the last time you changed your mind? Are you sure? In this episode we explore new research that suggests for the majority of the mind change we experience, after we update our priors, we delete what we used to believe and then simply forget that we ever thought otherwise. In the show, psychologists Michael Wolfe and Todd Williams, take us though their new research which suggests that because brains so value consistency, and are so determined to avoid the threat of decoherence, we hide the evidence of our belief change. That way, the story we tell ourselves about who we are can remain more or less heroic, with a stable, steadfast protagonist whose convictions rarely waver -- or, at least, they don’t waver as much as those of shifty, flip-flopping politicians. This can lead to a skewed perception of the world, one that leads to the assumption that mind change is rare and difficult-to-come-by. And that can lead to our avoiding information that might expand our understanding of the world, because we assume it will have no impact. The truth, say Wolfe and Williams, is that mind change is so prevalent and constant, that the more you expose yourself to counterevidence, the more your worldview will erode, replaced by a better, more accurate one -- it's just that you probably won't realize it until you look back at old posts on social media and cringe.
Mar 26, 2018
123 - Active Information Avoidance (rebroadcast)
00:28:19
Little did the champions of the Enlightenment know that once we had access to all the facts…well, reason and rationality wouldn’t just immediately wash across the land in a giant wave of enlightenment thinking. While that may be happening in some ways, the new media ecosystem has also unshackled some of our deepest psychological tendencies, things that enlightenment thinkers didn’t know about, weren’t worried about, or couldn’t have predicted. Many of which we’ve discussed in previous episodes like confirmation bias, selective skepticism, filter bubbles and so on. These things have always been with us, but modern technology has provided them with the perfect environment to flourish. In this episode, we explore another such invasive psychological species called active information avoidance, the act of keeping our senses away from information that might be useful, that we know is out there, that would cost us nothing to obtain, but that we’d still rather not learn. From choosing not to open open bills, visit the doctor, check your bank account, or read the nutrition information on the back of that box of Girl Scout Cookies, we each choose to remain ignorant when we’d rather not feel the anguish of illumination, but that same tendency can also cause great harm both to individuals and whole cultures when it spreads through politics, science, markets, and medicine. In this show, you’ll learn how.
Mar 11, 2018
122 - Tribal Psychology
01:08:28
The evidence is clear that humans value being good members of their tribes much more than they value being correct. We will choose to be wrong if it keeps us in good standing with our peers. In this episode, we explore how that affects politics and science communication, and how it is driving our growing partisan divide.
Feb 26, 2018
121 - Progress (rebroadcast)
01:00:28
Do we have the power to change the outcome of history? Is progress inevitable? Is it natural? Are we headed somewhere definite, or is change just chaos that seems organized in hindsight? In this episode we explore these questions with University of Chicago historian Ada Palmer. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • Squarespace: www.squarespace.com - offer code SOSMART • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart
Feb 12, 2018
120 - The Backfire Effect - Part Four
01:15:30
Last year on this show, we did three episodes about the backfire effect, and by far, those episodes were the most popular we’ve ever done. In fact, the famous web comic The Oatmeal turned them into a sort of special feature, and that comic of those episodes was shared on Facebook a gazillion times, which lead to a stories about the comic in popular media, and then more people listened to the shows, on and on it went. You can go see it at The Oatmeal right now at the top of their page. It’s titled, you are not going to believe what I am about to tell you. The popularity of the backfire effect extends into academia. The original paper has been cited hundreds of times, and there have been more than 300 articles written about it since it first came out. The backfire effect has his special allure to it, because, on the surface, it seems to explain something we’ve all experienced -- when we argue with people who believe differently than us, who see the world through a different ideological lens -- they often resist our views, refuse to accept our way of seeing things, and it often seems like we do more harm than good, because they walk away seemingly more entrenched in their beliefs than before the argument began. But…since those shows last year, researchers have produced a series new studies into the backfire effect that complicate things. Yes, we are observing something here, and yes we are calling it the backfire effect, but everything is not exactly as it seems, and so I thought we should invite these new researchers on the show and add a fourth episode to the backfire effect series based on what they’ve found. And this is that episode. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: Free month at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: Use the offer code SOSMART at www.squarespace.com for 10 percent off your first purchase. • BeachBody on Demand: Get a free trial membership, access to the entire platform, when you text SMART to 303030.
Jan 29, 2018
119 - The Unpersuadables
00:43:54
Our guest for this episode, Will Storr, wrote a book called The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science. In that book, Storr spends time with Holocaust deniers, young Earth creationists, people who believe they’ve lived past lives as famous figures, people who believe they’ve been abducted by aliens, people who stake their lives on the power of homeopathy, and many more – people who believe things that most of us do not. Storr explains in the book that after spending so much time with these people it started to become clear to him that it all goes back to that model of reality we all are forced to generate and then interact with. We are all forced to believe what that model tells us, and it is no different for people who are convinced that dinosaurs and human beings used to live together, or that you can be cured of an illness by an incantation delivered over the telephone. For some people, that lines up with their models of reality in a way that’s good enough. It’s a best guess. Storr proposes you try this thought experiment. First, answer this question: Are you right about everything you believe? Now, if you are like most people, the answer is no. Of course not. As he says, that would mean you are a godlike and perfect human being. You’ve been wrong enough times to know it can’t be true. You are wrong about some things, maybe many things. That leads to a second question – what are you are wrong about? Storr says when he asked himself this second question, he started listing all the things he believed and checked them off one at a time as being true, he couldn’t think of anything about which he was wrong. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: Free month at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: Use the offer code SOSMART at www.squarespace.com for 10 percent off your first purchase.
Jan 15, 2018
118 - Connections (rebroadcast)
00:57:34
In this episode of the YANSS Podcast, we sit down with legendary science historian James Burke. For much of his career, Burke has been creating documentaries and writing books aimed at helping us to make better sense of the enormous amount of information that he predicted would one day be at our fingertips. In Connections, he offered an “alternate view of history” in which great insights took place because of anomalies and mistakes, because people were pursuing one thing, but it lead somewhere surprising or was combined with some other object or idea they could never have imagined by themselves. Innovation took place in the spaces between disciplines, when people outside of intellectual and professional silos, unrestrained by categorical and linear views, synthesized the work of people still trapped in those institutions, who, because of those institutions, had no idea what each other was up to and therefore couldn’t predict the trajectory of even their own disciplines, much less history itself. In The Day the Universe Changed, Burke explored the sequential impact of discovery, innovation, and invention on how people defined reality itself. “You are what we know,” he wrote “and when the body of knowledge changes, so do we.” In this view of change, knowledge is invented as much as it is discovered, and new ideas “nibble at the edges” of common knowledge until values considered permanent and fixed fade into antiquity just like any other obsolete tool. Burke said that our system of knowledge and discovery has never been able, until recently, to handle more than one or two ways of seeing things at a time. In response we have long demanded conformity with the dominant worldview or with similarly homogenous ideological binaries. My favorite line from the book has to do with imagining a group of scientists who live in a society that believes the universe is made of omelettes and goes about designing instruments to detect traces of interstellar egg residue. When they observe evidence of galaxies and black holes, to them it all just seems like noise. Their model of nature cannot yet accommodate what they are seeing, so they don’t see it. “All that can accurately be said about a man who thinks he is a poached egg,” joked Burke, “is that he is in the minority.” - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: Free month at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: Use the offer code SOSMART at www.squarespace.com for 10 percent off your first purchase.
Jan 01, 2018
117 - Idiot Brain (rebroadcast)
00:47:58
In this episode we interview Dean Burnett, author of "Idiot Brain: What Your Brain is Really Up To." Burnett's book is a guide to the neuroscience behind the things that our amazing brains do poorly. In the interview we discuss motion sickness, the pain of breakups, why criticisms are more powerful than compliments, the imposter syndrome, anti-intellectualism, irrational fears, and more. Burnett also explains how the brain is kinda sorta like a computer, but a really bad one that messes with your files, rewrites your documents, and edits your photos when you aren't around. Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist who lectures at Cardiff University and writes about brain stuff over at his blog, Brain Flapping hosted by The Guardian. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: Free month at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: Use the offer code SOSMART at www.squarespace.com for 10 percent off your first purchase.
Dec 18, 2017
116 - Reality (rebroadcast)
01:00:50
Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? For our guest in this episode, cognitive psychologist Donald Hoffman, that's his day job. Hoffman has developed a new theory of consciousness that, should it prove true, may rearrange our understanding of reality itself. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: Free month at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: Use the offer code SOSMART at www.squarespace.com for 10 percent off your first purchase.
Dec 04, 2017
115 - Machine Bias
00:54:03
We've transferred our biases to artificial intelligence, and now those machine minds are creating the futures they predict. But there's a way to stop it. In this episode we explore how machine learning is biased, sexist, racist, and prejudiced all around, and we meet the people who can explain why, and are going to try and fix it.
Nov 20, 2017
114 - Moral Arguments (rebroadcast)
00:52:49
In this divisive and polarized era how do you bridge the political divide between left and right? How do you persuade the people on the other side to see things your way? New research by sociologist Robb Willer and psychologist Matthew Feinberg suggests that the answer is in learning how to cross something they call the empathy gap. When we produce arguments, we do so from within our own moral framework and in the language of our moral values. Those values rest on top of a set of psychological tendencies influenced by our genetic predispositions and shaped by our cultural exposure that blind us to alternate viewpoints. Because of this, we find it very difficult to construct an argument with the same facts, but framed in a different morality. Willer’s work suggests that if we did that, we would find it a much more successful route to persuading people we usually think of as unreachable. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: Free month at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart * Squarespace: 10 percent off at www.squarespace.com with the offer code SOSMART
Nov 05, 2017
113 - Narrative Persuasion
00:36:49
One of the most effective ways to change people’s minds is to put your argument into a narrative format, a story, but not just any story. The most persuasive narratives are those that transport us. Once departed from normal reality into the imagined world of the story we become highly susceptible to belief and attitude change. In this episode, you’ll learn from psychologist Melanie C. Greene the four secrets to creating the most persuasive narratives possible. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: Free month at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Casper Mattresses: $50 off at www.Casper.com/SOSMART offer code: SOMART
Oct 23, 2017
112 - Change My View (rebroadcast)
01:11:19
For computer scientist Chenhao Tan and his team, the internet community called Change My View offered something amazing, a ready-made natural experiment that had been running for years. All they had to do was feed it into the programs they had designed to understand the back-and-forth between human beings and then analyze the patterns the emerged. When they did that, they discovered two things: what kind of arguments are most likely to change people’s minds, and what kinds of minds are most likely to be changed.
Oct 08, 2017
111 - Collective Intelligence
00:41:55
If you wanted to build a team in such a way that you maximized its overall intelligence, how would you do it? Would you stack it with high-IQ brainiacs? Would you populate it with natural leaders? Would you find experts on a wide range of topics? Well, those all sound like great ideas, but the latest research into collective intelligence suggests that none of them would work. To create a team that is collectively intelligent, you likely need to focus on three specific factors that psychologist Christopher Chabris and his colleagues recently identified in their research, and in this episode of the You Are Not So Smart podcast, he will tell you all about them and why they seem to matter more than anything else. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: Free month at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Bombfell: $25 off at www.bombfell.com/yanss
Sep 25, 2017
110 - Sleep Deprivation and Bias
00:32:50
If you could compare the person you were before you became sleep deprived to the person after, you’d find you’ve definitely become...lesser than. When it comes to sleep deprivation, you can’t trust yourself to know just how much it is affecting you. You feel fine, maybe a bit drowsy, but your body is stressed in ways that diminish your health and slow your mind. In this episode, we sit down with two researchers whose latest work suggests sleep deprivation also affects how you see other people. In tests of implicit bias, negative associations with certain religious and cultural categories emerged after people started falling behind on rest. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: Free month at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: 10 percent off with the code SOSMART
Sep 10, 2017
109 - The Search Effect (rebroadcast)
00:50:37
What effect does Google have on your brain? Here's an even weirder question: what effect does knowing that you have access to Google have on your brain? In this episode we explore what happens when a human mind becomes aware that it can instantly, on-command, at any time, search for the answer to any question, and then, most of time, find it. According to researcher Matthew Fisher, one of the strange side effects is an inflated sense of internal knowledge. In other words, as we use search engines, over time we grow to mistakenly believe we know more than we actually do even when we no longer have access to the internet. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: Free month at www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Casper: $50 off at www.casper.com/sosmart and use offer code sosmart
Aug 27, 2017
108 - Pandora's Lab
00:55:12
The facts don't speak for themselves. Someone always speaks for them. From the opioid crisis to the widespread use of lobotomies to quiet problem patients, celebrity scientists and charismatic doctors have made tremendous mistakes, but thanks to their fame, they escaped the corrective mechanisms of science itself. Science always corrects the problem, but before it does, many people can be harmed, and society can suffer. In this episode, we sit down with Dr. Paul Offit to discuss how we can get better at catching those mistakes before they happen and mitigating the harm once Pandora's Lab has been opened. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Blue Apron: www.blueapron.com/yanss
Aug 14, 2017
107 - Debate
00:56:38
In late 2014 and early 2015, the city of Starkville, Mississippi, passed an anti-discrimination measure that lead to a series of public debates about an issue that people there had never discussed openly. In this episode, we spend time in Starkville exploring the value of argumentation and debate in the process of change, progress, and understanding our basic humanity. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: www.squarespace.com/sosmart • ZipRecruiter: www.ziprecruiter.com/notsosmart
Jul 31, 2017
106 - The Climate Paradox (rebroadcast)
00:57:08
In this episode, psychologist Per Espen Stoknes discusses his book: What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming. Stoknes has developed a strategy for science communicators who find themselves confronted with climate change deniers who aren’t swayed by facts and charts. His book presents a series of psychology-based steps designed to painlessly change people’s minds and avoid the common mistakes scientists tend to make when explaining climate change to laypeople. Sponsors: -- The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart -- ||| Show Notes at YouAreNotSoSmart.com |||
Jul 16, 2017
105 - Optimism Bias
00:42:36
In this episode, Tali Sharot, a cognitive neuroscientist and psychologist at University College London, explains our' innate optimism bias. When the brain estimates the outcome of future events, it tends to reduce the probability of negative outcomes for itself, but not so much for other people. In other words, if you are a smoker, everyone else is going to get cancer. The odds of success for a new restaurant change depending on who starts that venture, you or someone else. Sharot explains why and details how we can use our knowledge of this mental quirk to our advantage both personally and institutionally. More about Tali Sharot and her book The Optimism Bias here: http://theoptimismbias.blogspot.com/ Sponsors: -- • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart -- -- • Dignity Health: www.dignityhealth.org/taketwomins -- -- • Blue Apron: www.blueapron.com/yanss -- ||| Show Notes at YouAreNotSoSmart.com |||
Jul 11, 2017
104 - Labels (rebroadcast)
00:43:37
We are each born labeled. In moments of ambiguity, those labels can change the way people make decisions about us. As a cognitive process, it is invisible, involuntary, and unconscious – and that’s why psychology is working so hard to understand it. Our guest for this episode is Adam Alter, a psychologist who studies marketing and communication, and his New York Times bestselling book is titled Drunk Tank Pink after the color used to paint the walls of police holding cells after research suggested it lessened the urge to fight. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Dignity Health: www.dignityhealth.org/taketwomins • ZipRecruiter: www.ziprecruiter.com/notsosmart
Jun 19, 2017
103 - Desirability Bias
00:34:33
Confirmation bias is our tendency to seek evidence that supports our beliefs and confirms our assumptions when we could just as well seek disconfirmation of those beliefs and assumptions instead. This is such a prevalent feature of human cognition, that until recently a second bias has been hidden in plain sight. Our past beliefs and future desires usually match up. Desirability is often twisted into confirmation like a single psychological braid - but recent research suggests that something called desirability bias may be just as prevalent in our thinking. When future desires and past beliefs are incongruent, desire wins out. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Dignity Health: www.dignityhealth.org/taketwomins • Blue Apron: www.blueapron.com/yanss
Jun 06, 2017
102 - WEIRD Science (rebroadcast)
00:30:42
Is psychology too WEIRD? That's what this episode's guest, psychologist Steven J. Heine suggested when he and his colleagues published a paper suggesting that psychology wasn't the study of the human mind, but the study of one kind of human mind, the sort generated by the kinds of brains that happen to be conveniently located near the places where research is usually conducted - North American college undergraduates. They called them the WEIRDest people in the world, short for Western, Education, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic - the kind of people who make up less than 15 percent of the world's population. In this episode, you'll learn why it took so long to figure out it was studying outliers, and what it means for the future of psychology. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: www.squarespace.com | Offer Code = sosmart
May 22, 2017
101 - Naive Realism (rebroadcast)
00:56:33
In psychology, they call it naive realism, the tendency to believe that the other side is wrong because they are misinformed, that if they knew what you knew, they would change their minds to match yours. According to Lee Ross, co-author of the new book, The Wisest One in the Room, this is the default position most humans take when processing a political opinion. When confronted with people who disagree, you tend to assume there must be a rational explanation. What we don't think, however, is maybe WE are the ones who are wrong. We never go into the debate hoping to be enlightened, only to crush our opponents. Listen in this episode as legendary psychologist Lee Ross explains how to identify, avoid, and combat this most pernicious of cognitive mistakes. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Casper www.casper.com/sosmart - offer code is SOSMART
May 09, 2017
100 - The Replication Crisis
00:49:52
"Science is wrong about everything, but you can trust it more than anything." That's the assertion of psychologist Brian Nosek, director of the Center for Open Science, who is working to correct what he sees as the temporarily wayward path of psychology. Currently, psychology is facing what some are calling a replication crisis. Much of the most headline-producing research in the last 20 years isn't standing up to attempts to reproduce its findings. Nosek wants to clean up the processes that have lead to this situation, and in this episode, you'll learn how. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: www.squarespace.com | Offer Code = sosmart
Apr 20, 2017
099 - The Half Life of Facts
00:30:04
In medical school they tell you half of what you are about to learn won't be true when you graduate - they just don't know which half. In every field of knowledge, half of what is true today will overturned, replaced, or refined at some point, and it turns out that we actually know when that will be for many things. In this episode, listen as author and scientist Sam Arbesman explains how understanding the half life of facts can lead to better lives, institutions, and, of course, better science. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS - • - The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart - • - Zip Recruiter: www.ziprecruiter.com/notsosmart
Apr 10, 2017
098 - Active Information Avoidance
00:39:16
The cyberpunks, the Founding Fathers, 19th Century philosophers, and the Enlightenment thinkers - they all looked forward to the world in which we now live, a multimedia psychedelic freakout in which information is free, decentralized, democratized, and easy to access. What they didn't count on though, was that we would choose to keep a whole lot of it out of our heads. In this episode, we explore a psychological phenomenon called active information avoidance, the act of keeping our senses away from information that might be useful, and that we know is out there, but that we'd rather not learn. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: www.squarespace.com | Offer Code = sosmart
Mar 27, 2017
097 - Scams (rebroadcast)
01:01:57
Before we had names for them or a science to study them, the people who could claim the most expertise on biases, fallacies, heuristics and all the other quirks of human reasoning and perception were scam artists, con artists, and magicians. On this episode, magician and scam expert Brian Brushwood explains why people fall for scams of all sizes, how to avoid them, and why most magicians can spot a fraudster a mile away. Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Blue Apron: www.casper.com/sosmart - offer code is SOSMART
Mar 11, 2017
096 - Progress
01:05:55
Do we have the power to change the outcome of history? Is progress inevitable? Is it natural? Are we headed somewhere definite, or is change just chaos that seems organized in hindsight? In this episode we explore these questions with University of Chicago historian Ada Palmer. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • Playing with Science: www.startalkradio.net/show/welcome-playing-science • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Blue Apron: www.blueapron.com/yanss
Feb 25, 2017
095 - The Backfire Effect - Part Three
01:05:49
If dumping evidence into people’s laps often just makes their beliefs stronger, would we just be better off trying some other tactic, or does the truth ever win? Do people ever come around, or are we causing more harm than good by leaning on facts instead of some other technique? In this episode we learn from two scientists how to combat the backfire effect. One used an ingenious research method to identify the breaking point at which people stop resisting and begin accepting the fact that they might be wrong. The other literally wrote the instruction manual for avoiding the backfire effect and debunking myths using the latest psychological research into effective persuasive techniques. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: www.squarespace.com | Offer Code = sosmart
Feb 11, 2017
094 - The Backfire Effect - Part Two
00:51:02
If you try to correct someone who you know is wrong, you run the risk of alarming their brains to a sort-of existential, epistemic threat, and if you do that, when that person expends effortful thinking to escape, that effort can strengthen their beliefs instead of weakening them. In this episode you'll hear from three experts who explain why trying to correct misinformation can end up causing more harm than good. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: www.squarespace.com | Offer Code = sosmart
Jan 29, 2017
093 - The Backfire Effect - Part One
00:44:17
We don’t treat all of our beliefs the same. The research shows that when a strong-yet-erroneous, belief is challenged, yes, you might experience some temporary weakening of your convictions, some softening of your certainty, but most people rebound from that and not only reassert their original belief at its original strength, but go beyond that and dig in their heels, deepening their resolve over the long run. Psychologists call this the backfire effect, and this episode is the first of three shows exploring this well-documented and much-studied psychological phenomenon, one that you’ve likely encountered quite a bit lately. In this episode, we explore its neurological underpinning as two neuroscientists at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute explain how their latest research sheds new light on how the brain reacts when its deepest beliefs are challenged. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Casper Mattresses: www.casper.com/sosmart | Offer Code = sosmart
Jan 13, 2017
091 - Learned Helplessness (rebroadcast)
00:47:03
Even when the prison doors are left wide open, we sometimes refuse to attempt escape. Why is that? In this rebroadcast of one of our most popular episodes we learn all about the strange phenomenon of learned helplessness and how it keeps people in bad jobs, poor health, terrible relationships, and awful circumstances despite how easy it might be to escape any one of those scenarios with just one more effort. You'll learn how to defeat this psychological trap with advice from psychologists Jennifer Welbourne, who studies attributional styles in the workplace, and Kym Bennett who studies the effects of pessimism on health. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • Exo Protein: exoprotein.com/sosmart • The Great Courses Plus: thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: squarespace.com/ Offer Code = sosmart
Dec 15, 2016
090 - Reality - Donald Hoffman
01:06:11
Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? For our guest in this episode, cognitive psychologist Donald Hoffman, that's his day job. Hoffman has developed a new theory of consciousness that, should it prove true, may rearrange our understanding of reality itself. Listen as Hoffman talks about the bicameral mind, the umwelt, and the hard problem of consciousness in this mindbending episode about how we make sense of our world, our existence, and ourselves. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com SPONSORS • Exo Protein: exoprotein.com/sosmart • The Great Courses Plus: thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: squarespace.com/ Offer Code = sosmart
Dec 02, 2016
089 - Connections - James Burke
01:10:45
Legendary science historian James Burke returns to explain his newest project, a Connections app that will allow anyone to "think connectively" about the webs of knowledge available on Wikipedia. Burke predicted back in 1978 that we’d one day need better tools than just search alone if we were to avoid the pitfalls of siloed information and confirmation bias, and this month he launched a Kickstarter campaign to help create just such a tool - an app that searches connectivity and produces something Google and social media often don’t - surprises, anomalies, unexpected results, and connections, in the same style as his documentary series, books, and other projects. In the interview, Burke shares his latest insights on change, technology, the future, social media, models of reality, and more. To support the Kickstarter campaign for the Connections app, here are some links: • http://jbconnectionsapp.com • http://knowledgediscoveries.com • http://kck.st/2eIg21R - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com SPONSORS • Exo Protein: http://exoprotein.com/sosmart • The Great Courses Plus: http://thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: http://squarespace.com/ Offer Code = sosmart
Nov 17, 2016
088 - Moral Arguments
00:56:14
In this divisive and polarized era how do you bridge the political divide between left and right? You do you persuade the people on the other side to see things your way? New research by sociologist Robb Willer and psychologist Matthew Feinberg suggests that the answer is in learning how to cross something they call the empathy gap. When we produce arguments, we do so from within our own moral framework and in the language of our moral values. Those values rest on top of a set of psychological tendencies influenced by our genetic predispositions and shaped by our cultural exposure that blind us to alternate viewpoints. Because of this, we find it very difficult to construct an argument with the same facts, but framed in a different morality. Willer's work suggests that if we did that, we would find it a much more successful route to persuading people we usually think of as unreachable. Show Notes: www.youarenotsosmart.com SPONSORS • Casper Mattresses - http://casper.com/sosmart • The Great Courses - http://thegreatcoursesplus.com/sosmart • Secrets, Crimes & Audiotape - http://smarturl.it/SCA
Nov 04, 2016
087 - Paranoia
00:31:01
Jesse Walker is the author of The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory, a book that explores the history of American conspiracy theories going all the way back to the first colonies. Walker argues that conspiratorial thinking is not a feature of the fringe, but a fundamental way of looking at the world that is very much mainstream. Listen as Walker explains why we love conspiracy theories, how they flourish, how they harm, and what they say about a culture. Show notes at: http://youarenotsosmart.com SPONSORS: • The Great Courses - http://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/sosmart • EXO Protein - http://exoprotein.com/sosmart
Oct 20, 2016
086 - Change My View
01:16:25
For computer scientist Chenhao Tan and his team, the internet community called Change My View offered something amazing, a ready-made natural experiment that had been running for years. All they had to do was feed it into the programs they had designed to understand the back-and-forth between human beings and then analyze the patterns the emerged. When they did that, they discovered two things: what kind of arguments are most likely to change people’s minds, and what kinds of minds are most likely to be changed. In this episode you’ll hear from the co-founder of Reddit, the moderators of Change My View, and the scientists studying how people argue on the internet as we explore what it takes to change people’s perspective and whether the future of our online lives is thicker filter bubbles or the whittling away of bad ideas. SPONSORS • The Great Courses Plus - http://thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace - use the offer code SOSMART at http://squarespace.com SHOW NOTES at http://youarenotsosmart.com
Oct 09, 2016
085 - Misremembering - Julia Shaw (rebroadcast)
00:41:10
Julia Shaw's research demonstrates the fact that there is no reason to believe a memory is more accurate just because it is vivid or detailed. Actually, that’s a potentially dangerous belief. Shaw used techniques similar to police interrogations, and over the course of three conversations she and her team were able to convince a group of college students that those students had committed a felony crime. In this episode, you’ll hear her explain how easy it is to implant the kind of false memories that cause people just like you to believe they deserve to go to jail for crimes that never happened and what she suggests police departments should do to avoid such distortions of the truth. • Show Notes: http://youarenotsosmart.com SPONSORS • Stoicon '16 - http://howtobeastoic.org/stoicon • Blue Apron - http://blueapron.com/yanss • The Great Courses - http://TheGreatCoursesPlus.com/SMART
Sep 21, 2016
084 - Getting Gamers - Jamie Madigan
00:56:44
Why do people cheat? Why are our online worlds often so toxic? What motivates us to "catch 'em all" in Pokemon, grinding away for hours to hatch eggs? In this episode, psychologist Jamie Madigan, author of Getting Gamers, explains how by exploring the way people interact with video games we can better understand how brains interact with everything else. SPONSORS: • The Great Courses Plus: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: www.squarespace.com - offer code: SOSMART Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com
Sep 08, 2016
083 - Idiot Brain - Dean Burnett
00:53:01
In this episode we interview Dean Burnett, author of "Idiot Brain: What Your Brain is Really Up To." Burnett's book is a guide to the neuroscience behind the things that our amazing brains do poorly. In the interview we discuss motion sickness, the pain of breakups, why criticisms are more powerful than compliments, the imposter syndrome, anti-intellectualism, irrational fears, and more. Burnett also explains how the brain is kinda sorta like a computer, but a really bad one that messes with your files, rewrites your documents, and edits your photos when you aren't around. Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist who lectures at Cardiff University and writes about brain stuff over at his blog, Brain Flapping hosted by The Guardian. SPONSORS: • The Great Courses Plus: http://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Blue Apron: http://www.blueapron.com/yanss Show notes at: http://www.youarenotsosmart.com
Aug 25, 2016
082 - Crowds (rebroadcast)
00:50:53
This episode’s guest, Michael Bond, is the author of The Power of Others, and reading his book I was surprised to learn that despite several decades of research into crowd psychology, the answers to most questions concerning crowds can still be traced back to a book printed in 1895. Gustave’s Le Bon’s book, “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind,” explains that humans in large groups are dangerous, that people spontaneously de-evolve into subhuman beasts who are easily swayed and prone to violence. That viewpoint has informed the policies and tactics of governments and police forces for more than a century, and like many prescientific musings, much of it is wrong. Listen in this episode as Bond explains that the more research the social sciences conduct, the less the idea of a mindless, animalistic mob seems to be true. He also explains what police forces and governments should be doing instead of launching tear gas canisters from behind riot shields which actually creates the situation they are trying to prevent. Also, we touch on the psychology of suicide bombers, which is just as surprising as what he learned researching crowds.
Aug 11, 2016
081 - The Climate Paradox
00:57:17
In this episode, psychologist Per Espen Stoknes discusses his book: What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming. Stoknes has developed a strategy for science communicators who find themselves confronted with climate change deniers who aren't swayed by facts and charts. His book presents a series of psychology-based steps designed to painlessly change people’s minds and avoid the common mistakes scientists tend to make when explaining climate change to laypeople.
Jul 28, 2016
080 - Deep Canvassing
00:58:46
Oddly enough, we don’t actually know very much about how to change people’s minds, not scientifically, that's why the work of the a group of LGBT activists in Los Angeles is offering something valuable to psychology and political science - uncharted scientific territory. The Leadership Lab has been developing a technique for the last eight years that can change a person’s mind about a contentious social issue after a 20-minute conversation. This episode is about that group's redemption after their reputation was threatened by a researcher who, in studying their persuasion technique, committed scientific fraud and forced the retraction of his paper. That research and the retraction got a lot of media attention in 2015, but the story didn't end there. In the show, you will meet the scientists who uncovered that researcher's fraud and then decided to go ahead and start over, do the research themselves, and see if the technique actually worked. Show notes at http://youarenotsosmart.com
Jul 13, 2016
079 - Separate Spheres
00:42:03
Common sense used to dictate that men and women should only come together for breakfast and dinner. According to Victorian historian Kaythrn Hughes, people in the early 19th Century thought the outside world was dangerous and unclean and morally dubious and thus no place for a virtuous, fragile woman. The home was a paradise, while men went out into the world and got their hands dirty. By the mid 1800s, women were leaving home to work in factories and much more, and if you believed in preserving the separate spheres, the concept that men and women should only cross paths at breakfast and dinner, then as we approached the 20th century, this created a lot of anxiety for you. In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, we explore how the separate spheres ideology is still affecting us today, and how some people are using it to scare people into voting down anti-discrimination legislation. Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com • Patreon: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart • Donate Directly through PayPal: www.paypal.me/DavidMcRaney SPONSORS • Blue Apron: www.blueapron.com/YANSS • The Great Courses Plus: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart
Jun 29, 2016
078 - The Existential Fallacy
00:34:33
Hypothetical situations involving dragons, robots, spaceships, and vampires have all been used to prove and disprove arguments. Statements about things that do not exist can still be true, and can be useful thinking tools for exploring philosophical, logical, sociological, and scientific concepts. The problem is that sometimes those same arguments accidentally require those fictional concepts to be real in order to support their conclusions, and that’s when you commit the existential fallacy. In this episode we explore the most logical logical fallacy of them all, the existential fallacy. No need to get out your pens and paper, we will do that for you, as we make sense of one the most break-breaking thinking mistakes we’ve ever discovered. Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com • Patreon: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart • Donate Directly through PayPal: www.paypal.me/DavidMcRaney SPONSORS • Bombas: www.Bombas.com/SOSMART • Casper: www.casper.com/sosmart • The Great Courses Plus: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart
Jun 16, 2016
077 - The Conjunction Fallacy
00:34:00
Here is a logic puzzle created by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Linda is single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with the issue of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in demonstrations. Which of the following is more probable: Linda is a bank teller or Linda is a bank teller AND is active in the feminist movement? In studies, when asked this question, more than 80 percent of people chose number two. Most people said it was more probably that Linda is a bank teller AND active in the feminist movement, but that's wrong. Can you tell why? This thinking mistake is an example of the subject of this episode - the conjunction fallacy. Listen as three experts in logic and reasoning explain why people get this question wrong, why it is wrong, and how you can avoid committing the conjunction fallacy in other situations.
Jun 02, 2016
076 - The Genetic Fallacy
00:39:12
We often overestimate and overstate just how much we can learn about a claim based on where that claim originated, and that's the crux of the genetic fallacy, according to the experts in this episode. The genetic fallacy appears when people trace things back to their sources, and if you traced back to their shared source the ad hominem attack (insulting the source instead of attacking its argument) and the argument from authority (praising the source instead of supporting its argument), you would find the genetic fallacy is the mother of both kinds of faulty reasoning. You might be in danger of serially committing the genetic fallacy if your first instinct is to ask where attitude-inconsistent comes from once you feel the twinge of fear that appears after a belief is threatened. In this episode, listen as three experts in logic and rationality when we should and when we should not take the source of a statement into account when deciding if something is true or false. • Show Notes: http://bit.ly/1XCvCdr • Patreon: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart • Donate Directly through PayPal: www.paypal.me/DavidMcRaney SPONSORS • Bombas: Bombas.com/SOSMART • Exo Protein: exoprotein.com/sosmart • The Great Courses Plus: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart
May 19, 2016
075 - Special Pleading / Moving the Goalposts
00:38:01
Sometimes you apply a double standard to the things you love, the things you believe, and the things crucial to your identity, and often you do so without realizing it. Special pleading is all about searching for exemptions and excuses for why a standard, or a rule, or a description, or a definition does not apply to something that you hold dear. It's also used to explain away how something extraordinary fails to stand up to scrutiny, or why there is a lack of evidence for a difficult-to-believe claim. In this episode, listen as three experts in logic and reasoning dive deep into the odd thinking behind the special pleading fallacy. • Show Notes: http://bit.ly/208Sv6V • Patreon: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart • Donate Directly through PayPal: www.paypal.me/DavidMcRaney SPONSORS • SquareSpace: www.squarespace.com - Offer Code SoSmart • The Great Courses Plus: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • MIT Press: mitpress.mit.edu/smart
May 05, 2016
074 - Begging The Question
00:35:14
If you believe something is bad because it is...bad, or that something is good because, well, it's good, you probably wouldn't use that kind of reasoning in an argument, yet, sometimes, without realizing it, that's exactly what you do. In this episode three experts in logic and rationality explain how circular reasoning leads us to "beg the question" when producing arguments and defending our ideas, beliefs, and behaviors. • Show Notes: http://bit.ly/1MNKhQu • Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart • Donate Directly through PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/DavidMcRaney SPONSORS • SquareSpace: http://www.squarespace.com - Offer Code SoSmart • The Great Courses Plus: https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • MIT Press: https://mitpress.mit.edu/smart
Apr 21, 2016
073 - Bayes' Theorem
01:30:34
We don’t treat all of our beliefs equally. For some, we see them as either true or false, correct or incorrect. For others, we see them as probabilities, chances, odds. In one world, certainty, in the other, uncertainty. In this episode you will learn from two experts in reasoning how to apply a rule from the 1700s that makes it possible to see all of your beliefs as being in “grayscale,” as neither black nor white, neither 0 nor 100 percent, but always somewhere in between, as a shade of gray reflecting your confidence in just how wrong you might be...given the evidence at hand. • Show notes: http://bit.ly/1Nfby8T • Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart • Donate Directly through PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/DavidMcRaney SPONSORS • MIT Press: https://mitpress.mit.edu/smart • Casper Mattresses: https://casper.com/sosmart • The Great Courses Plus: https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart
Apr 08, 2016
072 - The Dunning-Kruger Effect (Rebroadcast)
01:05:21
In this episode, we explore why we are unaware that we lack the skill to tell how unskilled and unaware we are. The evidence gathered so far by psychologists and neuroscientists seems to suggest that each one of us has a relationship with our own ignorance, a dishonest, complicated relationship, and that dishonesty keeps us sane, happy, and willing to get out of bed in the morning. Part of that ignorance is a blind spot we each possess that obscures both our competence and incompetence called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It's a psychological phenomenon that arises sometimes in your life because you are generally very bad at self-assessment. If you have ever been confronted with the fact that you were in over your head, or that you had no idea what you were doing, or that you thought you were more skilled at something than you actually were – then you may have experienced this effect. It is very easy to be both unskilled and unaware of it, and in this episode we explore why that is with professor David Dunning, one of the researchers who coined the term and a scientist who continues to add to our understanding of the phenomenon. • Show Notes: http://bit.ly/1NfbAhf • Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart • Donate Directly through PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/DavidMcRaney SPONSORS • The Great Courses Plus: https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart
Mar 24, 2016
071 - The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy
00:44:13
When you desire meaning, when you want things to line up, when looking for something specific, you tend to notice patterns everywhere, which leads you to ask the question, “What are the odds?” Usually, the odds are actually pretty good. For instance: Does the Bermuda Triangle seem quite as mysterious once you know that just about any triangle of that size drawn over the globe just about anywhere planes and ships frequently travel will contain as many, if not more, missing planes and ships? Drawing circles (or triangles) around the spots where randomness clusters together seemingly chance events is called The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy, and it is one of the easiest mistakes to make when trying to understand big, complex sets of data. Though some things in life seem too amazing to be coincidence, too odd to be random, too similar to be chance, given enough time (and enough events) randomness will begin to clump up in places. Since you are born looking for those spots where chance events have built up like sand into dunes, picking out clusters of coincidence is a predicable malfunction of a normal human mind, and it can easily lead to the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy. Listen as three experts in reasoning and logic explain why it is so easy to find what you are looking for when you go anomaly hunting in a large set of data. This episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is the fifth in a full season of episodes exploring logical fallacies. The first episode is here. • Show Notes: http://bit.ly/1Nokeze • Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart • Donate Directly through PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/DavidMcRaney SPONSORS • Mac Weldon: https://www.mackweldon.com/ • The Great Courses Plus: https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • SquareSpace: http://www.squarespace.com - Offer Code SoSmart
Mar 09, 2016
070 - The No True Scotsman Fallacy
00:35:38
When your identity becomes intertwined with your definitions, you can easily fall victim to something called The No true Scotsman Fallacy. It often appears during a dilemma: What do you do when a member of a group to which you belong acts in a way that you feel is in opposition to your values? Do you denounce the group, or do you redefine the boundaries of membership for everyone? In this episode, you will learn from three experts in logic and argumentation how to identify, defend against, and avoid deploying this strange thinking quirk that leads to schisms and stasis in groups both big and small. • Show Notes: http://bit.ly/1NokrTa • Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart • Donate Directly through PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/DavidMcRaney SPONSORS • Trunk Club: http://bit.ly/1Sp2wZj • The Great Courses Plus: https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart
Feb 25, 2016
069 - The Black And White Fallacy
00:29:50
Obviously, the world isn't black and white, so why do we try to drain it of color when backed into a rhetorical corner? Why do we have such a hard time realizing that we've suggested the world is devoid of nuance when we are in the heat of an argument? In this episode we explore the black and white fallacy and the false dichotomies it generates. You'll learn how to spot this fallacy, what to do when someone uses it against you, and how to avoid committing it yourself. • Show Notes: http://bit.ly/1XNlc8S • Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart • Donate Directly through PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/DavidMcRaney SPONSORS • Trunk Club: http://bit.ly/1Sp2wZj • The Great Courses Plus: http://bit.ly/26kDXpU • SquareSpace: http://www.squarespace.com - Offer Code SoSmart
Feb 11, 2016
068 - The Strawman Fallacy
00:28:35
When confronted with dogma-threatening, worldview-menacing ideas, your knee-jerk response is usually to lash out and try to bat them away, but thanks to a nearly unavoidable mistake in reasoning, you often end up doing battle with arguments of your own creation. Your lazy brain is always trying to make sense of the world on ever-simpler terms. Just as you wouldn’t use a topographical map to navigate your way to Wendy’s, you tend to navigate reality using a sort of Google Maps interpretation of events and ideas. It’s less accurate, sure, but much easier to understand when details aren’t a priority. But thanks to this heuristical habit, you sometimes create mental men of straw that stand in for the propositions put forth by people who see the world a bit differently than you. In addition to being easy to grasp, they are easy to knock down and hack apart, which wouldn’t be a problem if only you noticed the switcheroo. This is the essence of the straw man fallacy, probably the most common of all logical fallacies. Setting up and knocking down straw men is so easy to do while arguing that you might not even notice that you are doing it. In this episode, you’ll learn from three experts in logic and arguing why human brains tend not to realize they are constructing artificial versions of the arguments they wish to defeat. Once you’ve wrapped your mind around that idea, you’ll then learn how to spot the straw man fallacy, how to avoid committing it, and how to defend against it. • Show Notes: http://bit.ly/1VN5PPP • Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart • Donate Directly through PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/DavidMcRaney SPONSORS • Trunk Club: http://bit.ly/1Sp2wZj • The Great Courses Plus: http://bit.ly/26kDXpU • SquareSpace: http://www.squarespace.com - Offer Code SoSmart
Jan 28, 2016
067 - The Fallacy Fallacy
00:41:17
If you have ever been in an argument, you've likely committed a logical fallacy, and if you know how logical fallacies work, you've likely committed the fallacy fallacy. Listen as three experts in logic and arguing explain just what a formal argument really is, and how to spot, avoid, and defend against the one logical fallacy that is most likely to turn you into an internet blowhard. • Show Notes: http://bit.ly/1nfOgcu • Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart • Donate Directly through PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/DavidMcRaney SPONSORS • Trunk Club: http://bit.ly/1Sp2wZj • The Great Courses Plus: http://bit.ly/26kDXpU • Casper Mattresses: https://casper.com/sosmart
Jan 14, 2016
065 - Survivorship Bias (rebroadcast)
00:31:07
The problem with sorting out failures and successes is that failures are often muted, destroyed, or somehow removed from sight while successes are left behind, weighting your decisions and perceptions, tilting your view of the world. That means to be successful you must learn how to seek out what is missing. You must learn what not to do. Unfortunately, survivorship bias stands between you and the epiphanies you seek. To learn how to combat this pernicious bias, we explore the story of Abraham Wald and the Department of War Math founded during World War II.
Dec 17, 2015
064 - Monkey Marketplace - Laurie Santos (rebroadcast)
00:48:30
Our guest in this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is psychologist Laurie Santos who heads the Comparative Cognition Laboratory at Yale University. In that lab, she and her colleagues are exploring the fact that when two species share a relative on the evolutionary family tree, not only do they share similar physical features, but they also share similar behaviors. Psychologists and other scientists have used animals to study humans for a very long time, but Santos and her colleagues have taken it a step further by choosing to focus on a closer relation, the capuchin monkey; that way they could investigate subtler, more complex aspects of human decision making – like cognitive biases. One of her most fascinating lines of research has come from training monkeys how to use money. That by itself is worthy of a jaw drop or two. Yes, monkeys can be taught how to trade tokens for food, and for years, Santos has observed capuchin monkeys attempting to solve the same sort of financial problems humans have attempted in prior experiments, and what Santos and others have discovered is pretty amazing. Monkeys and humans seem to be prone to the same biases, and when it comes to money, they make the same kinds of mistakes.
Dec 03, 2015
063 - The Search Effect - Matthew Fisher
00:56:13
What effect does Google have on your brain? Here's an even weirder question: what effect does knowing that you have access to Google have on your brain? In this episode we explore what happens when a human mind becomes aware that it can instantly, on-command, at any time, search for the answer to any question, and then, most of time, find it. According to researcher Matthew Fisher, one of the strange side effects is an inflated sense of internal knowledge. In other words, as we use search engines, over time we grow to mistakenly believe we know more than we actually do even when we no longer have access to the internet.
Nov 19, 2015
062 - Naive Realism - Lee Ross
01:04:45
In psychology, they call it naive realism, the tendency to believe that the other side is wrong simply because they are misinformed. According to Lee Ross, co-author of the new book, The Wisest One in the Room, naive realism has three tenets. One, you tend to believe that you arrived at your political opinions after careful, rational analysis through unmediated thoughts and perceptions. Two, since you are extremely careful and devoted to sticking to the facts and thus free from bias and impervious to persuasion, anyone else who has read the things you have read or seen the things you have seen will naturally see things your way, given that they’ve pondered the matter as thoughtfully as you have. And three, if anyone does disagree with your political opinions it must be because they simply don’t have all the facts yet. Since this is the default position most humans take when processing a political opinion, when confronted with people who disagree, you tend to assume there must be a rational explanation. Usually, that explanation is that the other side is either lazy or stupid or corrupted by some nefarious information-scrambling entity like cable news, a blowhard pundit, a charming pastor or a lack thereof. Ross and Ward concluded that naive realism leads people to approach political arguments with the confidence that “rational open-minded discourse” will naturally lead to a rapid narrowing of disagreement, but that confidence usually short lived. Instead, they say our “repeated attempts at dialogue with those on the ‘other side’ of a contentious issue make us aware that they rarely yield to our attempts at enlightenment; nor do they yield to the efforts of articulate, fair-minded spokespersons who share our views.” In other words, it’s naive to think evidence presented from the sources you trust will sway your opponents because when they do the same, it never sways you. Listen in this episode as legendary psychologist Lee Ross explains how to identify, avoid, and combat this most pernicious of cognitive mistakes.
Nov 05, 2015
061 - Mindfulness - Michael Taft
01:22:25
You have the power to wield neuroplasticity to your advantage. Just as you can change your body at the atomic level by lifting weights, you can willfully alter your brain by...thinking in a certain way. In this episode we explore using your brain to change your brain at the level of neurons and synapses beyond what is possible through other methods like learning a new language or earning a degree in chemistry. With mindfulness meditation, the evidence seems to suggest that one can achieve a level of change that would be impossible otherwise. The more you attempt to focus, the better you get at focusing on command, and so a real change begins taking place - you slowly become able to think differently, to hold thoughts differently and to dismiss thoughts that before led to attention difficulties or what feels like unwanted thoughts or clutter - and that’s not magical or the result of shaking hands with a deity, it’s biological. Listen as author and meditation teacher Michael Taft explains the benefits of secular, scientific practice of modern mindfulness meditation
Oct 22, 2015
060 - Reframing - Robert R. Morris
01:10:05
Reframing is one of those psychological tools that just plain works. It’s practical, simple, and with practice and repetition it often leads to real change in people with a variety of thinking problems. It works because we rarely question our own interpretations, the meanings we construct when examining a set of facts, or our own introspections of internal emotional states. So much of the things the anxiety and fear we feel when anticipating the future is just the result of plucking from a grab bag of best guesses and assumptions, shaky models of reality that may or may not be accurate and will likely pan out much differently than we predict. In this episode, we meet Tom Bunn, a former commercial pilot who uses reframing to cure people of their fears of flying and Robert Morris, a startup CEO who is developing a social network to crowdsource mental health in which users reframe others people's fears and anxious thoughts and in the process learn to reframe their own fruitless cognitive loops in their daily lives. After the interview, I discuss a news story about how humanizing slot machines can encourage people to empty their pockets at casinos. In every episode, after I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Marion Low who submitted a recipe for Hertzoggies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.
Oct 07, 2015
059 - The Illusion Of Control - Michael And Sarah Bennett
01:05:17
In the show, you'll hear Michael elaborate on why that is. In this episode, our guests are Harvard-trained psychiatrist Michael I. Bennett and his comedy writer daughter Sarah Bennett whose new book, Fuck Feelings, makes the case for accepting the illusion of control as a guiding principle for living a better life. Time and again, study after study, psychologists have found that in situations in which the outcomes are clearly, undoubtable random or otherwise outside the realm of control, people tend to latch onto any shred of evidence that could be interpreted otherwise. It's a habit that can lead to self-loathing, ineffectual strategies for change, and lives filled with missed opportunities and squandered productivity. As the Bennetts explain in the book, most people seek a therapist in an effort to actively deny that they don't have any control over their emotions. Stuck in a neurotic, fruitless loop, people begin to wonder why they can't achieve perpetual happiness or erase their proclivity to procrastinate. If they could just fix the things they see as broken, they could then become the people they've always wanted to be and finally begin their lives. But just how much control do you really have over your feelings or your essential nature? According to the Bennetts, much less than you would like to believe. Your efforts are better spent elsewhere. In this episode, listen as Michael and Sarah explain what you should be doing instead, and why they say - "Fuck feelings." After the interview, I discuss a news story about how people can be fooled into believing a meal is delicious when told a master chef cooked the meal. In every episode, after I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Tiffany R Carrell who submitted a recipe for buttermilk cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.
Sep 23, 2015
058 - Technology - Clive Thompson (Rebroadcast)
01:10:31
Is all this new technology improving our thinking or dampening it? Are all these new communication tools turning us into navel-gazing human/brand hybrids, or are we developing a new set of senses that allow us to benefit from never severing contact with the people most important to us? That's the topic of this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, and to answer these questions we welcome this episode's guest, Clive Thompson, who is the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better. As the title suggests, he disagrees with the naysayers, and his book is an impressive investigation into why they are probably (thankfully) wrong.
Sep 10, 2015
057 - PTSD - Robert D. Laird
01:07:38
10 years after Katrina the residents of New Orleans and portions of Mississippi are still experiencing PTSD. In this episode we explore what causes this disorder, why it happens, what triggers the symptoms, and how to combat the effects with University of New Orlean psychologist Robert D. Laird.
Aug 27, 2015
056 - Magicians And Scams - Brian Brushwood
01:11:48
Before we had names for them or a science to study them, the people who could claim the most expertise on biases, fallacies, heuristics and all the other quirks of human reasoning and perception were scam artists, con artists, and magicians. On this episode, magician and scam expert Brian Brushwood explains why people fall for scams of all sizes, how to avoid them, and why most magicians can spot a fraudster a mile away.
Aug 12, 2015
055 - WEIRD People - Steven J. Heine
00:48:14
Is psychology too WEIRD? That's what this episode's guest, psychologist Steven J. Heine suggested when he and his colleagues published a paper suggesting that psychology wasn't the study of the human mind, but the study of one kind of human mind, the sort generated by the kinds of brains that happen to be conveniently located near the places where research is usually conducted - North American college undergraduates. They called them the WEIRDest people in the world, short for Western, Education, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic - the kind of people who make up less than 15 percent of the world's population. In this episode, you'll learn why it took so long to figure out it was studying outliers, and what it means for the future of psychology.
Aug 01, 2015
054 - The Self - Bruce Hood (rebroadcast)
00:51:29
Is the person you believe to be the protagonist of your life story real or a fictional character? In other words, is your very self real or is it an illusion? According to psychologist Bruce Hood, the person at the center of your life isn't really there; it's all neurological smoke and mirrors. Sure, you have the sensation that you have a self, and that sensation is real, but the beliefs and ideas that spring from it are not. Learn all about it in this episode in which you'll hear some new material mixed with a rebroadcast of episode four's interview with the author of The Self Illusion, Bruce Hood.
Jul 16, 2015
053 - Adaptive Learning - Ulrik Christensen
00:48:59
Can new computer programs rid us of the cognitive errors that lead to learned helplessness in the classroom? In this episode Ulrik Christensen, senior fellow of digital learning at McGraw-Hill Education, explains how adaptive learning tools are changing the way teachers approach students, empowering educators to provide the kind of attention required to pass along mastery in areas where traditional approaches don't seem to work.
Jul 02, 2015
052 - Learned Helplessness
00:45:45
Stuck in a bad situation, even when the prison doors are left wide open, we sometimes refuse to attempt escape. Why is that? In this episode learn all about the strange phenomenon of learned helplessness and how it keeps people in bad jobs, poor health, terrible relationships, and awful circumstances despite how easy it might be to escape any one of those scenarios with just one more effort. In the episode, you'll learn how to defeat this psychological trap with advice from psychologists Jennifer Welbourne, who studies attributional styles in the workplace, and Kym Bennett who studies the effects of pessimism on health.
Jun 23, 2015
051 - Work - Laszlo Bock
01:10:46
Work often sucks, but it doesn't have to. In this episode we interview Lazlo Bock, head of People Operations at Google, who helped his company make work suck less, way less, by introducing new policies and procedures based on knowledge gained by psychology and neuroscience concerning biases, fallacies, and other weird human behavior quirks. In addition, Google has advanced our knowledge of such phenomena by conducting its own internal experiments and collecting mountains of data. The result has been a workplace where people are happier, more productive, and better able to pursue that which fulfills their ambitions. Learn all about Google's approach as Lazlo describes his new book, Work Rules, a collection of insights from Google's evidence-based, data-driven human relations juggernaut.
Jun 05, 2015
050 - Happy Money - Elizabeth Dunn (rebroadcast)
00:45:12
It’s peculiar, your inability to predict what will make you happy, and that inability leads you to do stupid things with your money. Once you get a decent job that allows you to buy new shoes on a whim, you start accumulating stuff, and the psychological research into happiness says that stuff is a crappy source of lasting joy. In this rebroadcast, listen as psychologist Elizabeth Dunn explains how to get more happiness out of your money...with science!
May 22, 2015
049 - Rejection - Jia Jiang
00:54:10
What if you could give yourself a superpower? That's what Jia Jiang wondered when he began a quest to remove the fear of rejection from his brain and become the risk-taking, adventurous person he always wanted to be. Hear how he forced himself to feel the pain of rejection 100 times in 100 days in an effort to desensitize himself, and how he recorded every moment on his way to making himself a better person.
May 08, 2015
048 - Contact
01:01:41
Can you change a person's mind on a divisive social issue? The latest science says...yes. But it will require two things: contact and disclosure. In this episode you'll travel to Mississippi to see how professional mind changers are working to shift attitudes on LGBT rights, and you'll learn how a man in Los Angeles conducted 12,000 conversations until he was able to perfect the most powerful version of contact possible. In one 22-minute chat, Dave Fleischer can change people's minds on issues they've felt strongly about for decades, and change them forever.
Apr 25, 2015
047 - Public Shaming - Jon Ronson
00:58:51
Public shaming is back. Once done in town squares, the subjects of our ridicule locked in pillories and unable to avoid the rotten fruit and insults we hurled at them, now the shaming takes place on the internet. No longer our neighbors, the new targets are strangers and celebrities, and instead of courts meting out justice, it is the aggregate outrage of well-meaning people on Twitter just like you. Listen as author Jon Ronson describes his new book, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” in which he spends time with people who have had their lives ruined by modern, web-based public shamings in an attempt to reveal to each of us what can happen when, alone but together, we obliterate people for unpopular opinions, off-color jokes, offensive language, and professional faux pas.
Apr 08, 2015
046 - Inbetweenisode 11 - Steven Novella
01:01:45
In this inbetweenisode you will hear an excerpt from a lecture I gave at DragonCon2014 and an interview with neurologist and host of The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe Steven Novella who discusses the psychology and neuroscience behind conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists.
Mar 26, 2015
045 - Doctors - Danielle Ofri
00:56:09
In this episode, we talk to Danielle Ofri, a physician and author of "What Doctors Feel" - a book about the emotional lives of doctors and how compassion fatigue, biases, and other mental phenomena affect their decisions, their motivations, and their relationships with patients. You'll also hear Ofri discuss emotional epidemiology, the viral-like spread of fear and other emotions that can lead to panics like those we've seen surrounding Ebola, the Swine Flu, SARS, and other illnesses.
Mar 12, 2015
044 - Inbetweenisode - James Burke And Matt Novak (Rebroadcast)
00:43:41
This episode is a rebroadcast of two interviews from episode 20 all about how we are very, very bad at predicting the future both in our personal lives and as as a species. The first interview is with Matt Novak who writes for Paleofuture, a blog at Gizmodo that explores how people from the past imagined, often very incorrectly, what the future might be like in the decades to come. The second is with James Burke, the legendary science communicator and historian who created Connections and The Day the Universe Changed.
Feb 25, 2015
043 - Misremembering - Julia Shaw and Dan Simons
01:09:05
Did Brian Williams lie, exaggerate, or misremember? How certain are you that your most vivid memories are real? How easily could someone implant a false memory into your mind? In this episode you'll learn why psychologists say that your memory is mostly fiction as psychologist Daniel Simons explains how Brian Williams could have easily believed in a detailed war coverage memory that wasn't real, and you'll hear psychologist Julia Shaw explain how she was recently able to easily implant memories into college so that those students would admit to felony crimes that they did not commit.
Feb 11, 2015
042 - Bodily Resonance - Lara Maister
00:50:15
Scientists are using rubber hands and virtual reality to transfer people's minds into avatars designed to look like members of groups and subcultures to which the subjects do not belong, and the results have been - well, trippy. Can changing your body, even just for a few minutes, change your mind. Can a psychological body transfer melt away long-held opinions and unconscious prejudices? Learn what cognitive neuroscientist Lara Maister has discovered in her unconventional experiments.
Jan 28, 2015
041 - Inbetweenisode - The Game/Ceiling Crasher
00:32:45
In this episode, two stories, one about a football game that split reality in two for the people who witnessed it, and another about what happened when a naked man literally appeared out of thin air inside a couple's apartment while they were getting ready for work.
Jan 15, 2015
040 - Monkey Marketplace - Laurie Santos
01:09:02
How far back can we trace our irrational behaviors and cognitive biases? Evolutionarily speaking, why do we even do these things? Can we blame our faulty logic on our cultures and institutions, or should we blame it on our biology and our genetic inheritance? Our guest on this episode is psychologist Laurie Santos who has created a novel approach to solving these questions - a marketplace where monkeys learn how to use money just like humans, and where they tend to make the same kind of mistakes as well.
Jan 06, 2015
039 - Blind Insight - Ryan Scott
01:07:58
Is it possible to for different parts of your mind to learn how the world works at different rates? Is it possible that the unconscious part of you can know something long before the conscious you realizes it? Learn more about the weirdness of the unconscious mind as we interview Ryan Scott, a cognitive psychologist who has discovered a new phenomenon that suggests you can have unconscious knowledge about something and fail to realize it until it is too late - something he calls blind insight.
Dec 17, 2014
038 - Inbetweenisode - The Halo Effect
02:43:43
One salient trait can cause you to misjudge every other trait when evaluating a new hire, a love interest, a colleague, or even a potential purchase. Learn more about the power of the halo effect in this episode, and as a bonus, hear all the previous excerpts from You Are Now Less Dumb in this special extended episode lasting 2 hours and 43 minutes!
Dec 09, 2014
037 - Motivation - Daniel Pink
01:14:14
What motivates you to keep going, to reach for your dreams, to persist and endure? Psychology has, over the last 40 years, learned a great deal about human motivation and drive. In this episode we ask Daniel Pink, author of Drive, how we can better put that knowledge to use in our lives, and in our workplaces and institutions.
Nov 23, 2014
036 - The Dunning-Kruger Effect
01:31:23
Have you ever been confronted with the fact that you were in over your head, or that you had no idea what you were doing, or that you thought you were more skilled at something than you actually were? At its most extreme, this is called the Dunning-Kruger effect - the fact that it is very easy to be both unskilled and unaware, and in this episode we explore how it works and where you might expect to see it your own life.
Nov 10, 2014
035 - Inbetweenisode - The Sunk Cost Fallacy
00:40:50
Are you throwing good money after bad? Are you stuck in a job, a relationship, a degree, or some other situation that you know you should abandon but fear you'll have wasted years of time and effort? Are you in pain because of your fear of having done something in vain? This episode, learn all about the sunk cost fallacy and how you sometimes get stuck in a wasteful loop of behavior because of your fear of loss.
Nov 02, 2014
034 - The Post Hoc Fallacy
00:40:15
Do you believe in magical amulets? Apparently, in 2011, enough people did to allow one company to earn $34 million making and selling them to professional athletes, celebrities, and even a former president...all thanks to the post hoc fallacy. In this episode you'll learn more about how this fallacy led to the rise and fall of the Power Balance bracelet, and whether or not you might believe in a little magic yourself.
Oct 14, 2014
033 - Belief - Will Storr
01:38:32
Do you think that everything you believe is true? If not, then what are you wrong about? It is a difficult question to answer, and it leads to many others. Where do our beliefs come from, and how do we know where we should place our doubt? Why don't facts seem to work on people? In this episode we explore the psychology of belief through interviews with Margaret Maitland, an Egyptologist, Jim Alcock, a psychologist who studies belief, and Will Storr, a journalist who wrote about his adventures with people who believe in things most people don't in his book, The Unpersuadables.
Sep 30, 2014
032 - Ego Depletion
00:54:14
Many see willpower as something you develop like a muscle, something you can strengthen through practice and mental exercise, but the latest research suggests willpower runs on an internal battery, one that can be drained after heavy use, but recharges after rest and reward. Once you've used it up, you much recharge it or else you'll be unable to keep your hand out of the cookie jar. Speaking of cookies...we also explore in this episode how psychologists have used cookies in novel ways to uncover the secrets of our minds.
Sep 13, 2014
031 - Extinction Burst
00:32:39
Why do you so often fail at removing bad habits from your life? You try to diet, to exercise, to stop smoking, to stop staying up until 2 a.m. stuck in a hamster wheel of internet diversions, and right when you seem to be doing well, right when it seems like your bad habit is dead, you lose control. It seems all too easy for one transgression, one tiny cheating bite of pizza or puff of smoke, and then it's all over. You binge, calm down, and the habit returns, reanimated and stronger than ever. You ask yourself, how is it possible I can be so good at so many things, so clever in so many ways, and still fail at outsmarting my own vice-ridden brain? The answer has to do with conditioning, classical like Pavlov and operant like Skinner, and a psychological phenomenon that's waiting in the future for every person who tries to twist shut the spigot of reward and pleasure - the extinction burst, and in this episode we explore how it works, why it happens, and how you can overcome it.
Aug 27, 2014
030 - Practice - David Epstein
01:06:20
Is it true that all it takes to be an expert is 10,000 hours of practice? What about professional athletes? Do different people get more out of practice than others, and if so, is it nature or nurture? In this episode we ask all these things of David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene, who explains how practice affects the brain and whether or not greatness comes naturally or after lots and lots of effort.
Aug 14, 2014
029 - Labels - Adam Alter
00:54:19
I did something this week that I’m sure many people secretly do every day. I stopped, talked to myself for a moment, and checked to see how much slack was in the leash I keep on my tongue. I was reminded that I need to do that from time to time, or at least I believe that I do, by a bit of news that was passed around for a few days this week. The reports said that one of the government’s most prestigious energy laboratories was working to eradicate the Southern accent – not from the planet, mind you, just from employees who had requested the service. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a place where Nobel laureates hang out. It’s a place where thousands of scientists work daily trying to solve some of the world’s most serious problems. It has, according to the website, a $1.46 billion annual budget. This week, NPR reported that the Tennessee laboratory swiftly canceled its plans to hold a six-week course aimed at reducing the Southern drawl among employees. They explained to reporters that the course was created at the request of employees, not the lab, and that it was also shot down by other employees who found the idea offensive. I learned through this reporting that there are professional twang assassins who go around to businesses and large organizations like this one helping people neutralize and flatten their native lilts and inflections. Not just the Southern accent either, if your organization is chugging along thanks to regional dialects weighted down with negative associations, professionals can help rid you of that baggage. I have to admit, it bothers me that brilliant scientists would be self-conscious about droppin’ the letter g, and leaving behind a trail of y’alls during lectures about spallation neutron sources and high flux isotope reactors. But, I get it. I feel for them. If I hadn’t spent so much time over the years working to flatten out my own Southern accent, and if I knew what a high flux isotope reactor was, I might consider taking that course. I don’t hate the Southern accent. I’m not ashamed of it. I share my motivations with Stephen Colbert who explained why he flattened out his tongue back in 2006 in an interview with 60 Minutes. When Morley Safer asked him why he didn’t sound like other people from South Carolina, Colbert said, “At a very young age, I decided I was not going have a southern accent. When I was a kid watching TV, if you wanted to use a shorthand that someone was stupid, you gave the character a Southern accent. Now that’s not true. Southern people aren’t stupid, but I didn’t want to seem stupid. I wanted to seem smart.” I want to seem smart too, or, at least, not dumb. That’s why I hide my accent and occasionally reel it back in when I notice it’s getting too frisky. The Southern accent tells people you are from the South, and being from the South labels you with an assortment of negative associations, and the associative architecture of memory causes people to involuntarily, unconsciously, invisibly change they way they think, feel, and behave once such a label worms its way into the brain. Consider these two phenomena – the Baker/baker paradox and the halo effect. The Baker/baker paradox describes how subjects in studies tend find it very difficult to remember last names like Farmer or Baker but find it very easy to remember that each person was a baker or a farmer. The last names are part of weak networks with few nodes while the professions are part of vast networks with constellations of nodes connected to ideas all over the mind. How many Farmers can you name? How many items can you name that you might find on a farm? The stronger the network, the easier it is to think about something, to remember it, and to feel whatever your culture and upbringing has primed you to feel about it. That’s why the halo effect is so powerful. In what is now known as The Hannah Study, subjects watched as a young girl answered a series of difficult questions correctly and a series of easy questions incorrectly. When asked to grade her performance as above or below average, the students were faced with ambiguity. They had to guess. Expecting this, scientists beforehand had shown half the students a video of Hannah playing in a posh, pristine playground, and the other half saw her playing in a fenced-in, overgrown schoolyard. The people who saw her in the nice neighborhood said she performed above average. The people who saw her playing in the bad neighborhood said she performed below average. The halos eliminated the ambiguity. We are each born labeled. In moments of ambiguity, those labels can become halos that change the way people make decisions about us. As a cognitive process, it is invisible, involuntary, and unconscious – and that’s why psychology is working so hard to understand it. Our guest for this episode is Adam Alter, a psychologist who studies marketing and communication, and his New York Times bestselling book is titled Drunk Tank Pink after the color used to paint the walls of police holding cells after research suggested it lessened the urge to fight. Alter’s book details the power of names, regions, accents, clothes, colors, skin tones, race and everything in between. Those things, he explains on the show, become symbols and labels, charged with meaning. Thanks to the networks they ping in our brains, labels and symbols, even colors, change the ways in which we think, feel and behave without us realizing it, he explains. After the interview, I discuss how the dating website OKCupid convinced people to begin conversations with incompatible mates. In every episode, before I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Karlie Bell who submitted a recipe for coconut chocolate chip cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.
Aug 01, 2014
028 - Crowds - Michael Bond
01:06:30
It is a human tendency that’s impossible not to notice during wars and revolutions – and a dangerous one to forget when resting between them. In psychology they call it deindividuation, losing yourself to the will of a crowd. In a mob, protest, riot, or even an audience, the presence of others redraws the borders of your normal persona. Simply put, you will think, feel and do things in a crowd that alone you would not. Psychology didn’t discover this, of course. The fact that being in a group recasts the character you usually play has been the subject of much reflection ever since people have had the time to reflect. No, today psychology is trying to chip away at the prevailing wisdom on what crowds do to your mind and why. This episode’s guest, Michael Bond, is the author of The Power of Others, and reading his book I was surprised to learn that despite several decades of research into crowd psychology, the answers to most questions concerning crowds can still be traced back to a book printed in 1895. Gustave’s Le Bon’s book, “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind,” explains that humans in large groups are dangerous, that people spontaneously de-evolve into subhuman beasts who are easily swayed and prone to violence. That viewpoint has informed the policies and tactics of governments and police forces for more than a century, and like many prescientific musings, much of it is wrong. Listen in this episode as Bond explains that the more research the social sciences conduct, the less the idea of a mindless, animalistic mob seems to be true. He also explains what police forces and governments should be doing instead of launching tear gas canisters from behind riot shields, which as he explains, actually creates the situation they are trying to prevent. Also, we touch on the psychology of suicide bombers, which is just as surprising as what he learned researching crowds. After the interview, I discuss new research into how hiring quotas work and don’t work in loose societies vs. tight societies. In every episode, before I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my book, and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Laura Lee Gooding who submitted a recipe for stained-glass window cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.
Jul 18, 2014
027 - Science Communication - Joe Hanson
01:09:54
I recently collaborated with Joe Hanson of the YouTube channel It’s Okay to be Smart and helped him write an episode about pattern recognition. I thought it would be great to bring him on the show and interview him in an episode all about the new science communicators. We learn what it is like to be part of the new wave of science communication, talk about science literacy, and discuss the ramifications of rubbing a beard with an infected chicken before conducting lab work. After the interview, I discuss a study about the difference between dogma and belief superiority, and how it helps explain why some politicians will never compromise.
Jul 09, 2014
026 - Maslow's Hammer
00:15:27
“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” You’ve heard the expression before. You’ve may have, like myself, smugly used it a few times to feel like you made an intelligent point in an office conversation. It’s one of those great comebacks that we’ve decided is ok to use in professional settings like congressional debates and televised political arguments about everything from gun control to foreign policy. But, it might surprise you to learn who wrote it, how young the above quote is, and why it was written in the first place.
Jun 20, 2014
025 - Enclothed Cognition - Hajo Adam
01:05:18
The clothes you wear have powers...over your mind. Your wardrobe doesn't just affect the way others see you, but it affects the way you see yourself. That results in changes in perception, attention, behavior, and more. Learn what researcher Hajo Adam has to say about the phenomenon he discovered, enclothed cognition, and how you can use it to your advantage.
Jun 06, 2014
024 - Sleep - Richard Wiseman
01:06:51
Why do we sleep and why do we dream? Despite the fact that every human being spends roughly 1/3 of his or her life asleep, science has yet to crack the mystery of the phenomenon. Why do we sleep and dream? The answer for now is...we don't know. To learn more, we interview psychologist Richard Wiseman who has written a new book on sleep and dreaming that promises to help you get the most out of both based on what science has learned so far.
May 24, 2014
023 - Inbetweenisode 4 - The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight
00:26:39
In the 1950s, in an effort to better understand group conflict, a team of psychologists nearly turned a summer camp into Lord of The Flies. The story of how and why it was so easy to turn normal boys into bloodthirsty, warring tribes (and how those tribes eventually reconciled and became peaceful) can teach you a lot about a common mental phenomenon known as the illusion of asymmetric insight - something that helps keep you loyal to certain groups and alters the way you see outsiders. Later experiments revealed that if you imagine people's inner lives as icebergs with some things showing above the surface and some things hidden from view, that you have a tendency to believe most of your iceberg is hidden, while everyone else's is mostly visible. Scaled up, you also believe this about the groups to which you belong - yours are nuanced and complicated, theirs are simple and transparent (and dumb). This asymmetry of insight colors your interactions and decisions big and small. That's what we explore in this inbetweenisode of the YANSS Podcast.
May 07, 2014
022 - Survivorship Bias - Megan Price
01:16:55
The problem with sorting out failures and successes is that failures are often muted, destroyed, or somehow removed from view while successes are left behind, weighting your decisions and perceptions, tilting your view of the world. That means to be successful you must learn how to seek out what is missing. You must learn what not to do. Unfortunately, survivorship bias stands between you and the epiphanies you seek. To learn how to combat this pernicious bias, we explore the story of Abraham Wald and the Department of War Math founded during World War II, and then we interview Wald's modern-day counterpart, Megan Price, statistician and director of research at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group who explains how she uses math and statistics to save lives and improve conditions in areas of the world suffering from the effects of war.
Apr 24, 2014
021 - Inbetweenisode 3 - Christina Draganich
00:35:28
In this inbetweenisode, Christina Draganich explains how she came up with the idea to research placebo sleep, and she tells us how anyone with the right guidance can use science to expand our understanding of the natural world. We also learn about the continuity field generated by the human brain.
Apr 03, 2014
020 - The Future - James Burke and Matt Novak
01:14:48
If you love educational entertainment – programs about science, nature, history, technology and everything in between – it is a safe bet that the creators of those shows were heavily influenced by the founding fathers of science communication: Carl Sagan, David Attenborough, and James Burke. In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast we sit down with James Burke and discuss the past, the present, and where he sees us heading in the future. Burke says we must soon learn how to deal with a world in which scarcity is scarce, abundance is abundant, and home manufacturing can produce just about anything you desire. James Burke is a legendary science historian who created the landmark BBC series Connections which provided an alternative view of history and change by replacing the traditional “Great Man” timeline with an interconnected web in which all people influence one another to blindly direct the flow of progress. Burke is currently writing a new book about the coming age of abundance, and he continues to work on his Knowledge Web project. We also sit down with Matt Novak, creator and curator of Paleofuture, a blog that explores retro futurism, sifting through the many ways people in the past predicted how the future would turn out, sometimes correctly, mostly not. Together, Burke and Novak help us understand why we are to terrible at predicting the future and what we can learn about how history truly unfolds so we can better imagine who we will be in the decades to come. After the interview, I discuss a news story about how cigarettes affect the way your brain interprets cigarette advertising.
Mar 17, 2014
019 - The Placebo Effect - Kristi Erdal
01:10:07
How powerful is the placebo effect? After a good night’s sleep could a scientist convince you that you had tossed and turned, and if so, how would that affect your perceptions and behavior? What if a doctor told you that you had slept like a baby when in reality you had barely slept at all? Would hearing those words improve your performance on a difficult test? In this episode we learn the answers to these questions and more as we explore how research continues to unravel the mysteries behind the placebo effect and how it can drastically alter our bodies and minds. Our guest is Kristi Erdal, a psychologist at Colorado College who discovered placebo sleep along with one of her students, Christina Draganich. Draganich wondered if such a thing might exist after reading all the literature on placebos, and Erdal helped her create the research methods she used to test her hypothesis.
Mar 01, 2014
018 - Inbetweenisode - The Benjamin Franklin Effect
00:28:52
Benjamin Franklin knew how to deal with haters, and in this episode we learn how he turned his haters into fans with what is now called The Benjamin Franklin Effect. Listen as David McRaney reads an excerpt from his book, "You Are Now Less Dumb," explaining how the act of spreading harm forms the attitude of hate, and the act of spreading kindness generates the attitude of camaraderie.
Feb 19, 2014
016 - Conspiracy Theories - Steven Novella and Jesse Walker
00:58:55
Who is pulling the strings? Who is behind the coverup? Who holds the real power, and what do they want? How deep does the conspiracy to control your mind go? In this episode we discuss the history, social impact, neuroscience, and psychology behind conspiracy theories and paranoid thinking. Our guests are Steven Novella and Jesse Walker. Steven is a leader in the skeptic community, host of The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, and a neurologist at Yale University's School of Medicine. Walker is the books editor for Reason Magazine and author of the new book, The United States of Paranoia, a Conspiracy Theory. Listen as they explain why we love conspiracy theories, how they flourish, how they harm, and what they say about a culture.
Jan 16, 2014
015 - Inbetweenisode - Narrative Bias
00:17:41
In this inbetweenisode I read an excerpt from my book, You Are Now Less Dumb, about a strange experiment in Michigan that tested the bounds of the self by throwing three very unusual men into a situation that won't likely be repeated ever again by science.
Jan 08, 2014
014 - Narratives - Melanie C. Green
01:02:29
In this episode we discuss the power of narratives to affect our beliefs and behaviors with Melanie C. Green, a psychologist who studies the persuasive power of fiction. According to Nielsen, the TV ratings company, the average person in the United States watches about 34 hours of television a week. That’s 73 days a year. Over the course of a lifetime, the average American can expect to spend a full decade lost in the trance spell that only powerful narratives can cast over the human mind. What is the power of all the stories we consume through television? What about movies and books and comics and video games and everything else? How does it affect our beliefs and behaviors? We discuss all of that and more with Melanie C. Green who is a social psychologist who developed the transportation into a narrative worlds theory that helps explain total story immersion and how it translates into influence over our real-world behaviors. Green is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. You can find her on Twitter using the handle @NarrProf or her website. After the interview I eat some chocolate orange cherry cookies sent in by Elliot Jones and then discuss how photographs can either enhance or dampen your memory depending on how you use them.
Dec 24, 2013
013 - Technology - Clive Thompson
01:11:24
The very fact that you are reading this sentence, contemplating whether you want to listen to this podcast, means that you are living out a fantasy from a previous generation's cyberpunk novel. However you made it here, however you got these words into your brain, you did so by diving through data streams first cooked up by delirious engineers downing late-night coffees, wandering deep within rows of data tape unspooling from jerky, spinning platters. We've been dreaming of this life for a long time, since before the vacuum tubes and punchcards of the '40s, and now that we are here, some people are worried that the tech will, at best, make us lazy, and at worst make us stupid. Is all this new technology improving our thinking or dampening it? Are all these new communication tools turning us into navel-gazing human/brand hybrids, or are we developing a new set of senses that allow us to benefit from never severing contact with the people most important to us? That's the topic of this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, and to answer these questions we welcome this episode's guest, Clive Thompson, who is the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better. As the title suggests, he disagrees with the naysayers, and his book is an impressive investigation into why they are probably (thankfully) wrong. Thompson is a journalist whose work can be found published in Wired, The Washington Post, and the New York Times Magazine. You can learn more about him at his website, CollisionDetection.Net. After the interview, I discuss a news story about research into how the way you walk can encourage or discourage criminals to attack you. In every episode, before I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Joye Swan who submitted a recipe for chewy rosemary sugar cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.
Dec 04, 2013
012 - Jealousy
01:01:26
Why do human beings experience jealousy, what is its function, and what are the warning signs that signal this powerful emotion may lead to violence? Once reserved for the contemplation of poets and playwrights, jealousy is now the subject of intense scientific scrutiny. "Mate poachers abound," explains this week's guest, psychologist David Buss, who says that his research supports his hypothesis that human jealousy is an adaptation forged by evolutionary forces to deal with the problems of infidelity. Moderate jealousy, he says, is healthy and signals commitment, but there is a dark and corrosive side as well that follows a clear, predictable pattern before it destroys lives. David Buss is a professor of psychology who studies human mating at The University of Texas at Austin. He his the author of The Evolution Of Desire: Strategies Of Human Mating, Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is As Necessary As Love and Sex, The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill, and Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge. You can learn more about him and his work at DavidBuss.com. After the interview I discuss a news story about research into societies in which women are more competitive than men. In every episode, before I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Fernando Cordeiro who submitted a recipe for chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.
Nov 21, 2013
011 - Culture
00:31:28
Is your state of mind from one situation to the next drastically altered by the state in which you live? According to cultural psychologists, yes it is. Studies show that your thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and behaviors in response to a particular setting will reliably differ from those of others in that same setting depending on where you spent your childhood or even where you spent six years or more of your adult life. On this episode of the You Are Not So Smart podcast, we explore cultural cognition and the psychological effects of the region you call home on the brain you call yours. My guest this week: Hazel Rose Markus is a social psychologist at Stanford University who studies the effects of culture, class, ethnicity, region, society, and gender on the concept of self and human psychology in general. She is the author of Clash! Eight Cultural Conflicts that Make Us Who We Are (Link: http://www.amazon.com/Clash-Cultural-Conflicts-That-Make/dp/1594630984). You can learn more about her at her website here (Link: http://www.stanford.edu/~hazelm/cgi-bin/wordpress/). After the interview I try out a cinnamon chocolate cookie and read a bit of psychology news about how reading good books can make you more adept at reading faces.
Nov 06, 2013
010 - Perversion
00:55:42
In this episode we discuss sexual deviancy and perversion with Jesse Bering, author of "Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us." Also, at the end, we eat a cinnamon cardamom snickerdoodle and discuss popcorn's effect on advertising.
Oct 16, 2013
009 - Arguing
01:10:57
On this episode we discuss the psychology of arguing and interview both Jeremy Shermer and Hugo Mercier. Afterward, I eat an orange chocolate chip cookie and read a news story about reading your partner's mood in old age.
Sep 27, 2013
008 - Video Games
00:58:49
In this episode, we discuss the how video games can help us understand our delusions and speak with Jamie Madigan, the curator of psychologyofgames.com. Also, at the end, we eat a white chocolate oatmeal cookie and discuss a misconception about poverty.
Aug 30, 2013
007 - Common Sense
00:53:10
In this episode we discuss eyebeams and superseded scientific theories with Kevin Lyon, and at the end, we discuss vitamins and eat a fudgy oatmeal cookie.
Jul 22, 2013
004 - Money
00:43:55
In this episode we speak with Elizabeth Dunn about better spending money to increase happiness. Later, we eat an apple toffee cookie and explore novelty in old churches.
Jul 07, 2013
005 - Selling Out
00:57:39
In this episode, we discuss selling out, countercultures, and authenticity with Andrew Potter, the author of "The Authenticity Hoax." Afterward, I eat a Chewie Chewbacca Chocolate Chip vegan cookie and read a study about the sugar high and hyperactivity.
Oct 06, 2012
004 - The Self
00:50:50
In this episode we discuss the self and interview Bruce Hood, author of "The Self Illusion." Also, at the end, we eat a chewy chocolate chip cookie and discuss therapeutic touch.
Jul 01, 2012
003 - Confabulation
00:28:48
In this episode, we discuss confabulation with neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, and at the end of the episode we taste a cranberry chocolate chip cookie while contemplating positive affirmations.
May 28, 2012
002 - The Illusion of Knowledge
00:47:05
In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast we discuss the illusion of knowledge with Christopher Chabris, co-author of "The Invisible Gorilla." After that, we eat a triple-ginger molasses cookie while discussing non-believed false memories.
May 08, 2012
001 - Attention
00:40:18
In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast we discuss attention and interview co-author of "The Invisible Gorilla" Daniel Simons. Also, at the end, we eat an Oreo fudge cookie brownie and discuss the foreign language effect.
Apr 22, 2012