You Are Not So Smart

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.

Show Notes: www.youarenotsosmart.com

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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.

Show notes at: youarenotsosmart.com

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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.

• Show Notes: youarenotsosmart.com

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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

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 viewpoint has informed the policies and tactics of governments and police forces for more than a century, and like many prescientific musings, much of it is wrong.

Listen in this episode as Bond explains that the more research the social sciences conduct, the less the idea of a mindless, animalistic mob seems to be true. He also explains what police forces and governments should be doing instead of launching tear gas canisters from behind riot shields which actually creates the situation they are trying to prevent. Also, we touch on the psychology of suicide bombers, which is just as surprising as what he learned researching crowds.

Direct download: 082_-_Crowds_rebroadcast.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 3:45pm EDT

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.

Direct download: 081_-_Climate_Paradox.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 12:16am EDT

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 reputation was threatened by a researcher who, in studying their persuasion technique, committed scientific fraud and forced the retraction of his paper. That research and the retraction got a lot of media attention in 2015, but the story didn't end there.

In the show, you will meet the scientists who uncovered that researcher's fraud and then decided to go ahead and start over, do the research themselves, and see if the technique actually worked.

Show notes at youarenotsosmart.com

Direct download: 080_-_Deep_Canvassing.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 8:21pm EDT

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 separate spheres, the concept that men and women should only cross paths at breakfast and dinner, then as we approached the 20th century, this created a lot of anxiety for you.

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 scare people into voting down anti-discrimination legislation.

Show notes at: www.youarenotsosmart.com

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Direct download: 079_-_Separate_Spheres.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 7:19pm EDT