You Are Not So Smart

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September 2014
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Is willpower a skill? Is it something we develop like a muscle, or hone like a talent - is it something we can strengthen through practice and mental exercise? The latest research suggests willpower is more like a fuel, a resource, an internal battery, and once you've used it up, you much recharge it or else you'll be unable to keep your hand out of the cookie jar. Speaking of cookies...we also explore in this episode how psychologists have used cookies in novel ways to uncover the secrets of our minds.

Direct download: 32_-_Ego_Depletion.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 2:44 AM

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 to easy for one transgression, one tiny cheating bite of pizza or puff of smoke, and then it's all over. You binge, calm down, and the habit returns, reanimated and stronger than ever.

You ask yourself, how is it possible I can be so good at so many things, so clever in so many ways, and still fail at outsmarting my own vice-ridden brain? The answer has to do with conditioning, classical like Pavlov and operant like Skinner, and a psychological phenomenon that's waiting in the future for every person who tries to twist shut the spigot of reward and pleasure - the extinction burst, and in this episode we explore how it works, why it happens, and how you can overcome it.

Direct download: 31_-_Extinction_Burst.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 8:08 PM

Is it true that all it takes to be an expert is 10,000 hours of practice? What about a professional athlete? 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.

Direct download: 030_-_Practice_-_David_Epstein.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 3:49 AM

What are the subconscious, invisible, involuntary ways that labels affect the way we think, feel, and behave? Listen as Adam Alter, author of Drunk Tank Pink, explains how labels affect every way in which we interact as human beings.

Direct download: 029_-_Labels_-_Adam_Alter_1.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 4:32 AM

What causes people to riot? What gives a rousing speech its power over the masses? Could you be seduced by the presence of a mob to do things you wouldn't do otherwise? We ask these questions and more of Michael Bond, author of The Power of Others, as we examine the psychological power of crowds to alter our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

Direct download: 028_-_Crowds_-_Michael_Bond.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 5:19 PM

I recently collaborated with Joe Hanson of the YouTube channel It’s Okay to be Smart and helped him write an episode about pattern recognition. I thought it would be great to bring him on the show and interview him in an episode all about the new science communicators.

We learn what it is like to be part of the new wave of science communication, talk about science literacy, and discuss the ramifications of rubbing a beard with an infected chicken before conducting lab work.

After the interview, I discuss a study about the difference between dogma and belief superiority, and how it helps explain why some politicians will never compromise.

Direct download: 027_-_Science_Communication_-_Joe_Hanson.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 5:23 PM

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” You’ve heard the expression before. You’ve may have, like myself, smugly used it a few times to feel like you made an intelligent point in an office conversation. It’s one of those great comebacks that we’ve decided is ok to use in professional settings like congressional debates and televised political arguments about everything from gun control to foreign policy. But, it might surprise you to learn who wrote it, how young the above quote is, and why it was written in the first place.

Direct download: 026_-_Maslows_Hammer.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 10:42 PM

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 along with Adam Galinsky, enclothed cognition, and how you can use it to your advantage.

Direct download: 025_-_Enclothed_Cognition_-_Hajo_Adam.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 4:36 AM

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.

Direct download: Sleep.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 9:12 PM

In the 1950s, a group 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 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.

Direct download: 022_-_The_Illusion_of_Asymmetric_Insight.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 4:52 PM