Contact: The power of disclosure to reduce prejudice, shift attitudes, and change minds forever

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The Topic: Contact

The Episode: Download – iTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud


This episode is sponsored by Wealthfront, the automated investment service that makes it easy to invest your money the right way. Visit this link to to get your first $10,000 managed for free.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

Can you change a person’s mind on a divisive social issue? For instance, let’s say you meet someone who is very opposed to same-sex marriage and has felt that way for years. In one conversation, could you flip his or her opinion in the other direction?

The latest science says…hold on to your socks…yes. But it will require two things: contact and disclosure.

In this episode you will about the contact hypothesis – a series of conditions required to reduce prejudice and change minds. Studied by sociologists, psychologists, and political scientists since the 1950s, the hypothesis has been incomplete – until now.

In the first half of the show you’ll travel to Mississippi to meet professional mind changers working to shift attitudes on LGBT rights. You’ll also visit the county where no one is gay and an anti-same sex marriage convention before hearing a former pastor explain how even Jesus once changed his mind.

Then, in the second half, you’ll meet a man in Los Angeles who conducted 12,000 conversations in a quest to perfect the most powerful version of contact possible. According to the scientists who’ve studied his methods, he may have finally advanced the contact hypothesis – because the evidence suggests that in one, 22-minute chat, Dave Fleischer can change people’s minds on issues they’ve felt strongly about for decades, and change them forever.


Download – iTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

Sources in Order of Appearance

Rob Hill

HRC Mississippi

All God’s Children Commercial

John Oliver on Same-Sex Marriage in Mississippi

NYT: Where The Closet is Still Common

CNN: The Country Where No One is Gay

The Nature of Prejudice by Gordon W. Allport

Betsy Levy Paluck

Gallup’s Poll About Religion in Mississippi

38th Avenue Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

The LGBT Center of Los Angeles

The Leadership Lab

Donald Green

Michael LaCour

The Research: When Contact Changes Minds

YANSS 047 – Jon Ronson, the history of public shaming, and our newfound power to ruin the lives of strangers with tweets

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The Topic: Public Shaming

The Guests: Jon Ronson and Courtney Luckhardt

The Episode: DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud


See Ex Machina in select theaters on April 10, worldwide soon after.

This episode is sponsored by Wealthfront, the automated investment
service that makes it easy to invest your money the right way. Visit this link to to get your first $10,000 managed for free.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

Public shaming is back, and Jon Ronson has written a book about it.

It’s not a pop-science book. It doesn’t attempt to outline the bio-psycho-social underpinning of our urge to shame. Instead, Ronson spends time with people who’ve been recently ruined, made to suffer by the newfound shaming powers of a web-savvy public.

JRHis goal, he says in the latest episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, was to show us the anguish we can cause when our tweets pile high enough to crush a real human being. “I just wanted to say, ‘Look, what we are doing is profoundly traumatizing.’ Our punishments are worse than we think they are. And, you know, at least, come to terms with that if you want to carry on doing it.”

In the interview, you’ll hear Ronson describe how in his new book, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” he brings the reader inside the lives of people who have had their lives ruined. From that viewpoint, he hopes, we can see what happens when we obliterate people for unpopular opinions, off-color jokes, offensive language, and professional faux pas.

CLIn this episode, you will also hear historian Courtney Luckhardt explain how the urge to shame and our motivations to do so are both largely unchanged from those of the people who lived during colonial and medieval periods. Human beings in groups have always used shame to police one another on many levels, she says, in an effort to better define the boundaries of what is and what is not acceptable behavior. Those notions of acceptability shift, sometimes slowly, sometimes over a decade or less, but the inclination to shame those who step outside social bounds seems set.

The modern complication explored in this episode is the power to shame people previously unknown to us, people who we will likely never meet or think about again after pressing whatever buttons required to share our opinions. Before town-square public shamings were outlawed in most countries, our targets were members of our communities. Everyone knew the guilty parties beforehand, knew the nature of their transgressions, and the people receiving the shamings were within shouting distance so we could see the consequences of our in-person ridicule. Today, a person can go from invisible to infamous in a day thanks to the aggregate outrage of well-meaning people on Twitter just like you.

After the interview, I discuss a news story about how Google can make you underestimate your internet-less ignorance.

Coo-KayIn every episode, after 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 Kevin Stafford who submitted a recipe for Pumpkin Apple Cider Oatmeal Creme Pies. Send your own recipes to david {at}

Links and Sources


Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

Jon Ronson’s Website

Courtney Luckhardt

Scene from A Knight’s Tale

How the Internet makes you think you’re smarter than you really are

Internet Searches Create Illusion of Personal Knowledge, Research Finds

Searching for Explanations: How the Internet Inflates Estimates of Internal Knowledge

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YANSS at TEDx: Missing What is Missing

The very nice people at TEDx Jackson invited me to speak in November, and the nice people at TED just posted the video.

The talk is all about survivorship bias and how it skews our perception in the direction of the living, the winners, and the successful. A lifetime of that kind of filtering leads to a very biased view of the world.

TED described the talk like so,”Success stories are often used as templates while the most valuable lessons hide in the history of endeavors that did not end well.”

The talk was based on this post where you can find links to all the sources: Survivorship Bias.

You can buy the poster designed for the article and the talk from the artist at this link.

Thanks to David Pharr and Nina Parikh who organized the event along with several other dedicated and amazing people. It was Mississippi’s first TED. More details about the event can be found here: TEDxJackson – Fertile Ground