You Are Not So Smart

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 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 the power of all the stories we consume through television? What about movies and books and comics and video games and everything else? How does it affect our beliefs and behaviors? 

We discuss all of that and more with Melanie C. Green who is a social psychologist who developed the transportation into a narrative worlds theory that helps explain total story immersion and how it translates into influence over our real-world behaviors. Green is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 

After the interview I eat some chocolate orange cherry cookies sent in by Elliot Jones and then discuss how photographs can either enhance or dampen your memory depending on how you use them.

Direct download: 014_-_Narratives_-_Melanie_C._Green.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 10:02pm EDT

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, since before the vacuum tubes and punchcards of the '40s, and now that we are here, some people are worried that the tech will, at best, make us lazy, and at worst make us stupid.

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 Minds for the Better. As the title suggests, he disagrees with the naysayers, and his book is an impressive investigation into why they are probably (thankfully) wrong. Thompson is a journalist whose work can be found published in Wired, The Washington Post, and the New York Times Magazine. You can learn more about him at his website.

After the interview, I discuss a news story about research into how the way you walk can encourage or discourage criminals to attack you.

In every episode, before I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Joye Swan who submitted a recipe for chewy rosemary sugar cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

Direct download: Technology__Clive_Thompson_.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 9:15am EDT

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. Moderate jealousy, he says, is healthy and signals commitment, but there is a dark and corrosive side as well that follows a clear, predictable pattern before it destroys lives.

David Buss is a professor of psychology who studies human mating at The University of Texas at Austin. He his the author of The Evolution Of Desire: Strategies Of Human MatingDangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is As Necessary As Love and SexThe Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill, and Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge. You can learn more about him and his work at DavidBuss.com

After the interview I discuss a news story about research into societies in which women are more competitive than men.

In every episode, before I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Fernando Cordeiro who submitted a recipe for chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

Direct download: Jealousy__David_Buss.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 3:04am EDT

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 cognition and the psychological effects of the region you call home on the brain you call yours.

My guest this week:

Hazel Rose Markus is a social psychologist at Stanford University who studies the effects of culture, class, ethnicity, region, society, and gender on the concept of self and human psychology in general. She is the author of Clash! Eight Cultural Conflicts that Make Us Who We Are (Link: http://www.amazon.com/Clash-Cultural-Conflicts-That-Make/dp/1594630984). You can learn more about her at her website here (Link: http://www.stanford.edu/~hazelm/cgi-bin/wordpress/).

After the interview I try out a cinnamon chocolate cookie and read a bit of psychology news about how reading good books can make you more adept at reading faces.

Direct download: Culture__Hazel_Rose_Markus.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:20am EDT

If a world archery champion fell madly in love with the Eiffel Tower, who she considered to be a female, married the monument, and then went on to consummate her union with it, would you consider her a crazy person? How about perverted? Insane? What about a person who can only reach sexual climax by falling down stairs? What about a person who masturbates to wheelchairs or to a recently worn hearing aid?
Well, those people exist. But should we consider those people mentally ill whose sexual desires deviate from the norm? Given what science is telling us about sexuality, how should we adjust our thinking about perversion? That's the topic we explore in this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast. My guest is:
Jesse Bering's new book is "Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us." In it, he explores what is and is not normal, what is and is not perverted, and whether or not we should care about those things from a legal or moral standpoint. A former psychology professor at the University of Arkansas as well as former director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen’s University Belfast, Bering has written for Scientific American, Slate, New York Magazine, The Guardian, The New Republic, and Discover. His other books are "Why is the Penis Shaped Like That" and "The Belief Instinct." You can learn more about Jesse at his website.
Also, at the end, we eat a cinnamon cardamom snickerdoodle and discuss popcorn's effect on advertising.
Direct download: Perversion__Jesse_Bering.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 12:09am EDT

Why do human beings get into arguments? What does science have to say about argumentation? Is there an evolutionary explanation? Is arguing adaptive? Is all our bickering in comments, forums, social media and elsewhere a good or a bad thing? Those are some of the questions posed in this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast. We ask those questions of:


Jeremy Sherman is an evolutionary epistemologist. He says that means he researches how humans evolved to draw conclusions from inconclusive data. At 24, he was an elder in the world’s largest hippie commune, but now he lectures at the Expression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville California and is a chief researcher at Berkely’s Consortium for Emergent Dynamics where he and others research how minds emerge from matter. He is now working on a book, "Doubt: A Natural History; A User's Guide" and he blogs at Psychology Today. (link: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ambigamy)


Hugo Mercier is a researcher for the French National Center for Scientific Research who shook up both psychology and philosophy with a paper published in 2011 titled, “Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory” that proposed humans evolved reason to both produce and evaluate arguments. Respected and well-known names in psychology like Steven Pinker and Jonathan Haidt have both praised the paper as being one of the most important works in years on the science of rationality. You can find his website here. (link: https://sites.google.com/site/hugomercier/


Link to Hugo's paper:


Direct download: Arguing__Hugo_Mercier.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 12:34am EDT

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.     

Direct download: Video_Games_-_Jamie_Madigan.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 3:40pm EDT

In this episode, we discuss eyebeams and superseded scientific theories with Kevin Lyon, and at the end, we discuss vitamins while eating a fudgy oatmeal cookie.   

Direct download: Common_Sense___Kevin_Lyon.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 12:26pm EDT

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.

Direct download: Spending_Money__Elizabeth_Dunn.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 2:24am EDT

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