You Are Not So Smart

You Are Not So Smart Podcast

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.

154 - The Marshmallow Replication (rebroadcast)
The marshmallow test is one of the most well-known studies in all of psychology, but a new replication suggests we've been learning the wrong lesson from its findings for decades. -- Show Notes at: youarenotsosmart.com -- -- Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart -- SPONSORS • The Great Courses Plus: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: www.squarespace.com Offer code: SOSMART...

153 - Happy Brain (rebroadcast)
- Live Show Tickets: www.eventbrite.com/e/you-are-not-s…ets-58457802862 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...

152 - Status Quo Rationalization (rebroadcast)
- Live Show Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/you-are-not-so-smart-with-david-mcraney-tickets-58457802862 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. - Show notes at: www.youar...


151 - Behind the Curve
In this episode we sit down with the director and producers of the documentary film, Behind the Curve, an exploration of motivated reasoning and conspiratorial thinking told through the lives of people who have formed a community around the belief that the Earth is flat. - Live Show Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/you-are-not-so-smart-with-david-mcraney-tickets-58457802862 - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses:...

150 - Belief Change Blindness (rebroadcast)
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 evidenc...

149 - Bad Advice
In this episode, we sit down with vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit to discuss his new book, Bad Advice or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren't Your Best Source of Health Information. Offit has been fighting for years to promote vaccines, educate the public, and oppose the efforts of anti-vaxxers, and in his new book he offers advice for science consumers and communicators on how to deal with what he calls the opaque window of modern media which gives equal time to non-experts when it comes to di...


148 - Rule Makers, Rule Breakers
In this episode, we sit down with psychologist Michele Gelfand and discuss her new book: Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World. In the book, Gelfand presents her research into norms, and a fascinating new idea. It isn’t norms themselves that predict how cultures will react, evolve, innovate, and clash -- but how different cultures value those and sanction people who violate them. She categorizes all human cultures into two -- kinds, tight and loose -- and argues that all h...

147 - The Replication Crisis (rebroadcast)
"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 ...

146 - Tribal Psychology (rebroadcast)
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. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart SPONSORS • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: www.squar...


145 - Team Human
In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast we sit down with one of the original cyberpunks, the famed journalist, documentarian, media theorist, all-around technology superstar and weirdo, Douglas Rushkoff. MIT considers Rushkoff one of the "world's ten most influential thinkers," and in the episode we talk about his latest (and 20th) book, Team Human.  The book is a bit of a manifesto in which he imagines a new counterculture that would revolt against the algorithms that are slowly altering our ...

144 - The Backfire Effect - Part Four (rebroadcast)
In 2017, YANSS did three episodes about the backfire effect, and by far, those episodes were the most popular that year. Then, in 2018, part four was the most popular. 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 ...

143 - How to Talk to People About Things
In this episode, we sit down with negotiation expert Misha Glouberman who explains how to talk to people about things -- that is, how to avoid the pitfalls associated with debate when two or more people attempt to come to an agreement that will be mutually beneficial. - 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...


142 - Debate (rebroadcast)
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.thegr...

141 - Not A Scientist
Our guest in this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is Dave Levitan, a science journalist with a new book titled: Not a Scientist: how politicians mistake, misrepresent, and utterly mangle science. In the book, Levitan takes us through 12 repeating patterns that politicians fall into when they mistake, misrepresent, and mangle science. Some are nefarious and intentional, some are based on ignorance, and some are just part of the normal business of politicians managing their public image or trying...

140 - Machine Bias (rebroadcast)
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. --- • Show Notes: www.youarenotsosmart.com -- • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart -- • Squarespace: www.squarespace.com CODE: SOSMART -- • ZipRecruiter: www...


139 - The Friendship Cure
On this episode, we welcome journalist Kate Leaver to talk about her new book The Friendship Cure in which she explores the crippling, damaging, life-threatening impact of loneliness and the severe mental health impacts of living a life disconnected from a support network of close contacts. But...there is a cure...learning how to connect with others and curate better friendships. In the interview we talk about loneliness, how to make friends, the difference between male and female friendship, platonic frie...

138 - Evil
In this episode, we sit down with psychologist Julia Shaw, an expert in memory and criminal psychology, to discuss her new book - Evil. In the book, she makes a case for something she calls "evil empathy," seeing people who do heinous things as fellow human beings instead of as monsters. According to Shaw, othering criminals by categorizing them as a separate kind of human allows us to put them out of our minds and disappear them to institutions or prisons. The result is we become less-able to prevent the s...

137 - Narrative Persuasion (rebroadcast)
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 - B...


136 - Prevalence Induced Concept Change
In this episode we explore prevalence induced concept change. In a nutshell, when we set out to change the world by reducing examples of something we have deemed problematic, and we succeed, a host of psychological phenomena can mask our progress and make those problems seem intractable -- as if we are only treading water when, in fact, we’ve created the change we set out to make. Sponsors: -- • The Great Courses: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart -- • Squarespace: www.squarespace.com CODE: SOSMART -- • ...

135 - Optimism Bias (rebroadcast)
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 ...

134 - The Elaboration Likelihood Model
In this episode we sit down with psychology legend Richard Petty to discuss the Elaboration Likelihood Model, a theory he developed with psychologist John Cacioppo in the 1980s that unified the study of attitude change and persuasion and has since become one of the most robust models for explaining how and why some messages change people’s minds, some don’t, and what makes some stick and others fade in influence over time. - Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youa...


133 - Uncivil Agreement
In this episode, we welcome Lilliana Mason on the program to discuss her new book, Uncivil Agreement, which focuses on the idea: “Our conflicts are over who we think we are, rather than reasoned differences of opinion.” Personally, I feel like this is just about the most important thing the social sciences are studying right now, and I think Mason is one of the its most brilliant scientists - I promise, the insights you are about to hear will change the way you think about politics, tweeting, elections, an...

132 - Practice (rebroadcast)
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. -- Show Notes at: youarenotsosmart.com -- -- This episode's notes: goo.gl/hDjTVJ -- -- Become a pat...

131 - The Marshmallow Replication
The marshmallow test is one of the most well-known studies in all of psychology, but a new replication suggests we've been learning the wrong lesson from its findings for decades. -- Show Notes at: http://youarenotsosmart.com -- -- This episode's notes: https://goo.gl/hDjTVJ -- -- Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsosmart -- SPONSORS • The Great Courses Plus: https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: https://www.squarespace.com Offer code: SOSMART • Lightstream: http://lights...


130 - The Half LIfe of Facts (rebroadcast)
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 not...

129 - Desirability Bias (rebroadcast)
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 desirab...

128 - Happy Brain
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 ...


127 - Selfie
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....

126 - Separate Spheres (rebroadcast)
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 scar...

125 - Status Quo Rationalization
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....


124 - Belief Change Blindness
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 evidenc...

123 - Active Information Avoidance (rebroadcast)
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 confirma...

122 - Tribal Psychology
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....


121 - Progress (rebroadcast)
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...

120 - The Backfire Effect - Part Four
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 ...

119 - The Unpersuadables
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 the...


118 - Connections (rebroadcast)
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 ...

117 - Idiot Brain (rebroadcast)
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, re...

116 - Reality (rebroadcast)
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.squarespac...


115 - Machine Bias
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....

114 - Moral Arguments (rebroadcast)
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 ...

113 - Narrative Persuasion
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 - B...


112 - Change My View (rebroadcast)
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 ch...

111 - Collective Intelligence
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 ...

110 - Sleep Deprivation and Bias
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 ...


109 - The Search Effect (rebroadcast)
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 ti...

108 - Pandora's Lab
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...

107 - Debate
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.thegr...


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 Gre...

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...

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 lesse...


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 desira...

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...

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 ...


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...

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 not...

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 inform...


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: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youaren...

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: 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/...

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 ...


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: www.youarenotsosmart.com - Become a patron at: www.patreon.com/youarenotsos...

093 - The Backfire Effect - Part One
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 expl...

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 Welbo...


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: www.youarenotsosmart.c...

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 a...

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 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 ...


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: http://youarenotsosma...

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 c...

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 ca...


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: www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/smart • Squarespace: www.squarespace.com - offer code: SOSMART Show notes at: www.youare...

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, re...

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 v...


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....

080 - Deep Canvassing
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 reputat...

079 - Separate Spheres
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 sep...


078 - The Existential Fallacy
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 ep...

077 - The Conjunction Fallacy
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 p...

076 - The Genetic Fallacy
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 ...


075 - Special Pleading / Moving the Goalposts
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. ...

074 - Begging The Question
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/youarenotso...

073 - Bayes' Theorem
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 ...


072 - The Dunning-Kruger Effect (Rebroadcast)
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-...

071 - The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy
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 circle...

070 - The No True Scotsman Fallacy
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 deplo...


069 - The Black And White Fallacy
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...

068 - The Strawman Fallacy
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 i...

067 - The Fallacy Fallacy
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 PayPa...


065 - Survivorship Bias (rebroadcast)
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 t...

064 - Monkey Marketplace - Laurie Santos (rebroadcast)
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 i...

063 - The Search Effect - Matthew Fisher
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 ti...


062 - Naive Realism - Lee Ross
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 persu...

061 - Mindfulness - Michael Taft
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...

060 - Reframing - Robert R. Morris
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...


059 - The Illusion Of Control - Michael And Sarah Bennett
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 lat...

058 - Technology - Clive Thompson (Rebroadcast)
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...

057 - PTSD - Robert D. Laird
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....


056 - Magicians And Scams - Brian Brushwood
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....

055 - WEIRD People - Steven J. Heine
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...

054 - The Self - Bruce Hood (rebroadcast)
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 wi...


053 - Adaptive Learning - Ulrik Christensen
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....

052 - Learned Helplessness
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,...

051 - Work - Laszlo Bock
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 workp...


050 - Happy Money - Elizabeth Dunn (rebroadcast)
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!...

049 - Rejection - Jia Jiang
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....

048 - Contact
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 ...


047 - Public Shaming - Jon Ronson
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 tim...

046 - Inbetweenisode 11 - Steven Novella
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....

045 - Doctors - Danielle Ofri
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....


044 - Inbetweenisode - James Burke And Matt Novak (Rebroadcast)
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 Univ...

043 - Misremembering - Julia Shaw and Dan Simons
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...

042 - Bodily Resonance - Lara Maister
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....


041 - Inbetweenisode - The Game/Ceiling Crasher
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....

040 - Monkey Marketplace - Laurie Santos
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....

039 - Blind Insight - Ryan Scott
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....


038 - Inbetweenisode - The Halo Effect
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!...

037 - Motivation - Daniel Pink
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....

036 - The Dunning-Kruger Effect
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....


035 - Inbetweenisode - The Sunk Cost Fallacy
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....

034 - The Post Hoc Fallacy
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....

033 - Belief - Will Storr
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 w...


032 - Ego Depletion
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 secret...

031 - Extinction Burst
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 y...

030 - Practice - David Epstein
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....


029 - Labels - Adam Alter
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, jus...

028 - Crowds - Michael Bond
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 ...

027 - Science Communication - Joe Hanson
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 disc...


026 - Maslow's Hammer
“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...

025 - Enclothed Cognition - Hajo Adam
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....

024 - Sleep - Richard Wiseman
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....


023 - Inbetweenisode 4 - The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight
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 experiment...

022 - Survivorship Bias - Megan Price
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 ...

021 - Inbetweenisode 3 - Christina Draganich
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....


020 - The Future - James Burke and Matt Novak
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 i...

019 - The Placebo Effect - Kristi Erdal
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...

018 - Inbetweenisode - The Benjamin Franklin Effect
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....


016 - Conspiracy Theories - Steven Novella and Jesse Walker
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 boo...

015 - Inbetweenisode - Narrative Bias
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....

014 - Narratives - Melanie C. Green
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 t...


013 - Technology - Clive Thompson
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, ...

012 - Jealousy
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. M...

011 - Culture
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 cogni...


010 - Perversion
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....

009 - Arguing
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....

008 - Video Games
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....


007 - Common Sense
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....

004 - Money
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....

005 - Selling Out
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....


004 - The Self
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....

003 - Confabulation
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....

002 - The Illusion of Knowledge
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....


001 - Attention
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....