You Are Not So Smart

You Are Not So Smart


You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of self delusion that explores topics related to cognitive biases, heuristics, and logical fallacies. David McRaney interviews scientists about their research into how the mind works, and then he eats a cookie.


100 - The Replication Crisis  

"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: - Become a patron at: SPONSORS • The Great Courses: • Squarespace: | Offer Code = sosmart

099 - The Half Life of Facts  

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: - Become a patron at: SPONSORS - • - The Great Courses: - • - Zip Recruiter:

098 - Active Information Avoidance  

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: - Become a patron at: SPONSORS • The Great Courses: • Squarespace: | Offer Code = sosmart

097 - Scams (rebroadcast)  

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: - Become a patron at: SPONSORS • The Great Courses: • Blue Apron: - offer code is SOSMART

096 - Progress  

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: - Become a patron at: SPONSORS • Playing with Science: • The Great Courses: • Blue Apron:

095 - The Backfire Effect - Part Three  

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: - Become a patron at: SPONSORS • The Great Courses: • Squarespace: | Offer Code = sosmart

094 - The Backfire Effect - Part Two  

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: - Become a patron at: SPONSORS • The Great Courses: • Squarespace: | Offer Code = sosmart

093 - The Backfire Effect - Part One  

We don’t treat all of our beliefs the same. Some, we give up readily, replacing them when better information comes along to correct our misconceptions. For others, what we consider our cherished beliefs and protected values, when faced with challenging evidence or compelling counterarguments, we resist changing our minds. Sometimes, we not only defend our preconceived notions, we enhance them. This episode is the first of three shows about something called The Backfire Effect - a well-documented and much-studied psychological phenomenon that you’ve likely encountered quite a bit lately. Simply put, when your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs tend to get stronger, not weaker. The research shows that when your strongest beliefs are 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. Listen as two neuroscientists at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute explain how their research sheds new light on how the brain reacts when its deepest beliefs are challenged. - Show notes at: - Become a patron at: SPONSORS • The Great Courses: • Casper Mattresses: | Offer Code = sosmart

092 - Bullshit (rebroadcast)  

Gordon Pennycook and his team at the University of Waterloo set out to discover if there was a spectrum of receptivity for a certain kind of humbug they call pseudo-profound bullshit – the kind that sounds deep and meaningful at first glance, but upon closer inspection means nothing at all. They wondered, is there a “type” of person who is more susceptible to that kind of language, and if so, what other things about personalities and thinking styles correlate with that tolerance and lack of skepticism, and why? - Show notes at: - Become a patron at: SPONSORS • Squarespace: Offer Code = sosmart

091 - Learned Helplessness (rebroadcast)  

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: - Become a patron at: SPONSORS • Exo Protein: • The Great Courses Plus: • Squarespace: Offer Code = sosmart

090 - Reality - Donald Hoffman  

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: SPONSORS • Exo Protein: • The Great Courses Plus: • Squarespace: Offer Code = sosmart

089 - Connections - James Burke  

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: • • • - Show notes at: SPONSORS • Exo Protein: • The Great Courses Plus: • Squarespace: Offer Code = sosmart

088 - Moral Arguments  

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 crossing something they call the empathy gap. In this episode learn what that is and how to deal with it based on the latest finding in moral psychology research. Show Notes: SPONSORS • Casper Mattresses - • The Great Courses - • Secrets, Crimes & Audiotape -

087 - Paranoia  

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: SPONSORS: • The Great Courses - • EXO Protein -

086 - Change My View  

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 - • Squarespace - use the offer code SOSMART at SHOW NOTES at

085 - Misremembering - Julia Shaw (rebroadcast)  

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: SPONSORS • Stoicon '16 - • Blue Apron - • The Great Courses -

084 - Getting Gamers - Jamie Madigan  

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: • Squarespace: - offer code: SOSMART Show notes at:

083 - Idiot Brain - Dean Burnett  

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: • Blue Apron: Show notes at:

082 - Crowds (rebroadcast)  

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.

081 - The Climate Paradox  

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.

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