You Are Not So Smart

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?

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Direct download: 092_-_Bullshit_rebroadcast.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 10:58am EDT

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.

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Direct download: 091_-_Learned_Helplessness_rebroadcast.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 10:12pm EDT

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.

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Direct download: 090_-_Reality_-_Donald_Hoffman.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 7:26pm EDT

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:

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Direct download: 089_-_Connections_-_James_Burke.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 5:23pm EDT

In this divisive and polarized era how do you bridge the political divide between left and right? You do you persuade the people on the other side to see things your way?

New research by sociologist Robb Willer and psychologist Matthew Feinberg suggests that the answer is in learning how to cross something they call the empathy gap.

When we produce arguments, we do so from within our own moral framework and in the language of our moral values. Those values rest on top of a set of psychological tendencies influenced by our genetic predispositions and shaped by our cultural exposure that blind us to alternate viewpoints.

Because of this, we find it very difficult to construct an argument with the same facts, but framed in a different morality. Willer's work suggests that if we did that, we would find it a much more successful route to persuading people we usually think of as unreachable.

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Direct download: 088_-_Moral_Arguments.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 2:41pm EDT

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.

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Direct download: 087_-_Paranoia.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 9:33pm EDT

For computer scientist Chenhao Tan and his team, the internet community called Change My View offered something amazing, a ready-made natural experiment that had been running for years.

All they had to do was feed it into the programs they had designed to understand the back-and-forth between human beings and then analyze the patterns the emerged. When they did that, they discovered two things: what kind of arguments are most likely to change people’s minds, and what kinds of minds are most likely to be changed.

In this episode you’ll hear from the co-founder of Reddit, the moderators of Change My View, and the scientists studying how people argue on the internet as we explore what it takes to change people’s perspective and whether the future of our online lives is thicker filter bubbles or the whittling away of bad ideas.


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Direct download: 086_-_Change_My_View.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 1:56am EDT

Julia Shaw's research demonstrates the fact that there is no reason to believe a memory is more accurate just because it is vivid or detailed. Actually, that’s a potentially dangerous belief.

Shaw used techniques similar to police interrogations, and over the course of three conversations she and her team were able to convince a group of college students that those students had committed a felony crime.

In this episode, you’ll hear her explain how easy it is to implant the kind of false memories that cause people just like you to believe they deserve to go to jail for crimes that never happened and what she suggests police departments should do to avoid such distortions of the truth.

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Direct download: 085_-_Misremembering_-_Julia_Shaw_rebroadcast.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 7:55pm EDT

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.

Direct download: 084_-_Getting_Gamers_-_Jamie_Madigan.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 11:36am EDT

In this episode we interview Dean Burnett, author of "Idiot Brain: What Your Brain is Really Up To." Burnett's book is a guide to the neuroscience behind the things that our amazing brains do poorly.

In the interview we discuss motion sickness, the pain of breakups, why criticisms are more powerful than compliments, the imposter syndrome, anti-intellectualism, irrational fears, and more. Burnett also explains how the brain is kinda sorta like a computer, but a really bad one that messes with your files, rewrites your documents, and edits your photos when you aren't around.

Dean Burnett is a neuroscientist who lectures at Cardiff University and writes about brain stuff over at his blog, Brain Flapping hosted by The Guardian.

Direct download: 083_-_Idiot_Brain_-_Dean_Burnett.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 11:03pm EDT