You Are Not So Smart

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 or was combined with some other object or idea they could never have imagined by themselves. Innovation took place in the spaces between disciplines, when people outside of intellectual and professional silos, unrestrained by categorical and linear views, synthesized the work of people still trapped in those institutions, who, because of those institutions, had no idea what each other was up to and therefore couldn’t predict the trajectory of even their own disciplines, much less history itself.

In The Day the Universe Changed, Burke explored the sequential impact of discovery, innovation, and invention on how people defined reality itself. “You are what we know,” he wrote “and when the body of knowledge changes, so do we.” In this view of change, knowledge is invented as much as it is discovered, and new ideas “nibble at the edges” of common knowledge until values considered permanent and fixed fade into antiquity just like any other obsolete tool. Burke said that our system of knowledge and discovery has never been able, until recently, to handle more than one or two ways of seeing things at a time. In response we have long demanded conformity with the dominant worldview or with similarly homogenous ideological binaries.

My favorite line from the book has to do with imagining a group of scientists who live in a society that believes the universe is made of omelettes and goes about designing instruments to detect traces of interstellar egg residue. When they observe evidence of galaxies and black holes, to them it all just seems like noise. Their model of nature cannot yet accommodate what they are seeing, so they don’t see it. “All that can accurately be said about a man who thinks he is a poached egg,” joked Burke, “is that he is in the minority.”

Direct download: 118_-_Connections_rebroadcast.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 11:51am EST

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: 117_-_Idiot_Brain_rebroadcast.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 8:11am EST

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.

Direct download: 116_-_Reality_rebroadcast.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:04am EST

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.

Direct download: 115_-_Machine_Bias_v2.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 7:45am EST

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 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.

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

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Direct download: 114_-_Moral_Arguments_rebroadcast.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 7:37am EST

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

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Direct download: 113_-_Narrative_Persuasion.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 12:26pm EST

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.

Direct download: 112_-_Change_My_View_rebroadcast.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 12:24pm EST

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 Chabris and his colleagues recently identified in their research, and in this episode of the You Are Not So Smart podcast, he will tell you all about them and why they seem to matter more than anything else.

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

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Direct download: Collective_Intelligence_v3.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 4:04pm EST

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 of implicit bias, negative associations with certain religious and cultural categories emerged after people started falling behind on rest.

- 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: 10 percent off with the code SOSMART

Direct download: 110_-_Sleep_and_Bias.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 1:42pm EST

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 time we grow to mistakenly believe we know more than we actually do even when we no longer have access to the internet.

- 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
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Direct download: 109_-_The_Search_Effect_rebroadcast.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 6:40pm EST