You Are Not So Smart

The marshmallow test is one of the most well-known studies in all of psychology, but a new replication suggests we've been learning the wrong lesson from its findings for decades.

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Direct download: 131_-_The_Marshmallow_Replication_v2.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 6:23pm EDT

In medical school they tell you half of what you are about to learn won't be true when you graduate - they just don't know which half. In every field of knowledge, half of what is true today will overturned, replaced, or refined at some point, and it turns out that we actually know when that will be for many things. In this episode, listen as author and scientist Sam Arbesman explains how understanding the half life of facts can lead to better lives, institutions, and, of course, better science.

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Direct download: 130_-_The_Half_LIfe_of_Facts_rebroadcast.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 6:18pm EDT

Confirmation bias is our tendency to seek evidence that supports our beliefs and confirms our assumptions when we could just as well seek disconfirmation of those beliefs and assumptions instead.

This is such a prevalent feature of human cognition, that until recently a second bias has been hidden in plain sight. Our past beliefs and future desires usually match up. Desirability is often twisted into confirmation like a single psychological braid - but recent research suggests that something called desirability bias may be just as prevalent in our thinking. When future desires and past beliefs are incongruent, desire wins out.

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Direct download: 129_-_Desirability_Bias_rebroadcast.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 6:16pm EDT

What makes you happy? As in, what generates happiness inside the squishy bits that reside inside your skull? That's what author and neuroscientist Dean Burnett set out to answer in his new book, Happy Brain, which explores both the environmental and situational factors that lead to and away from happiness, and the neurological underpinnings of joy, bliss, comfort, love, and connection. In the episode you'll hear all that and more as we talk about what we know so far about the biological nature of happiness itself.

Direct download: 128_-_Happy_Brain.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 6:14pm EDT

In this episode, we sit down with author Will Storr to talk about his new book -- Selfie: How We Became so Self-Obsessed, and What it is Doing to Us.

The book explores what he calls “the age of perfectionism” -- our modern struggle to meet newly emerging ideals and standards that tell us we are falling short of the person we ought to be. As he says in the book, "Perfectionism is the idea that kills," and you’ll hear him explain what he means by that in the interview.

Direct download: 127_-_Selfie.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 6:08pm EDT

Despite their relative invisibility, a norm, even a dying one, can sometimes be harnessed and wielded like a weapon by conjuring up old fears from a bygone era. It’s a great way to slow down social change if you fear that change. When a social change threatens your ideology, fear is the simplest, easiest way to keep more minds from changing.

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.

Direct download: 126_-_Seperate_Spheres_rebroadcast.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 5:54pm EDT

When faced with an inescapable and unwanted situation, we often rationalize our predicament so as to make it seem less awful and more bearable, but what if that situation is a new law or a new administration? The latest research suggests that groups, nations, and cultures sometimes rationalize the new normal in much the same way, altering public opinion on a large scale.

Direct download: 125-_Status_Quo_Rationalization_V2.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 5:50pm EDT

When was the last time you changed your mind? Are you sure?

In this episode we explore new research that suggests for the majority of the mind change we experience, after we update our priors, we delete what we used to believe and then simply forget that we ever thought otherwise.

In the show, psychologists Michael Wolfe and Todd Williams, take us though their new research which suggests that because brains so value consistency, and are so determined to avoid the threat of decoherence, we hide the evidence of our belief change. That way, the story we tell ourselves about who we are can remain more or less heroic, with a stable, steadfast protagonist whose convictions rarely waver -- or, at least, they don’t waver as much as those of shifty, flip-flopping politicians.

This can lead to a skewed perception of the world, one that leads to the assumption that mind change is rare and difficult-to-come-by. And that can lead to our avoiding information that might expand our understanding of the world, because we assume it will have no impact.

The truth, say Wolfe and Williams, is that mind change is so prevalent and constant, that the more you expose yourself to counterevidence, the more your worldview will erode, replaced by a better, more accurate one -- it's just that you probably won't realize it until you look back at old posts on social media and cringe.

Direct download: 124_-_Belief_Change_Blindness_2.mp3
Category:psychology -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT