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.


106 - The Climate Paradox (rebroadcast)  

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: -- ||| Show Notes at |||

105 - Optimism Bias  

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: Sponsors: -- • The Great Courses: -- -- • Dignity Health: -- -- • Blue Apron: -- ||| Show Notes at |||

104 - Labels (rebroadcast)  

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: - Become a patron at: SPONSORS • The Great Courses: • Dignity Health: • ZipRecruiter:

103 - Desirability Bias  

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: - Become a patron at: SPONSORS • The Great Courses: • Dignity Health: • Blue Apron:

102 - WEIRD Science (rebroadcast)  

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

101 - Naive Realism (rebroadcast)  

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

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 -

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