YANSS 039 – Unconscious learning, knowing without knowing, blind insight and other cognitive wonders with guest Ryan Scott

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The Topic: Blind Insight

The Guest: Ryan Scott

The Episode: DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

celeb jeopardy

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What is the capital of Bulgaria? If you don’t know, just take a guess. Seriously, any answer will be fine. Even Bolgonia – I won’t know, just say something so we can move on.

Ok, now, what is the capital of Italy? Are you sure about that?

Now take a moment and think about your own thinking. How confident are you right now that your guesses are correct? Very confident? What about being wrong? Can you feel an intuition about your own wrongness? If so, can you also feel the strength of that intuition? Maybe you don’t feel like one of your answers is a guess at all (especially if you live near Bulgaria). Maybe you feel that way about both answers. If you feel that way, how confident are you that you aren’t guessing and that you know for sure you know what you know and that you know what you know is a fact?

The guess, as a concept, is the fruit fly of cognitive science. Research into what goes on in your head when you guess has opened many doors, launched many explorations into how the brain works. It’s a perfect, simple, easy to produce metacognition. If you want to learn more about thinking about thinking, make people guess.

For instance, in studies where subjects are shown a photograph of two people and asked which person they find more attractive, people will reliably choose one photo over the other. The experimenter will then perform some sleight of hand and remove the photo the person picked and pretend that the photo left behind, the one the subject didn’t pick, is actually the one she said she preferred. Most people don’t notice, and if you then ask a subject why she picked that photo (again, she didn’t), she will begin describing all the ways that person is more attractive than the person in the photo that was removed. In situations like this, you are unaware that you are guessing and just making things up. You assume you know why you feel the way you feel and think the things you think, but this sort of research suggests it’s often just a guess – and you often don’t know you are guessing.

Another way brain and mind scientists play around with guesses is through a system called artificial grammar learning. In studies that use this system, subjects are asked to memorize strings of letters that seem nonsensical and random. Those same subjects then learn that the strings of letters weren’t gobbledygook. They actually adhered to rules of grammar invented by the scientists. Their task is then to look at new strings and say whether or not those letter combinations are grammatically correct. Even though the people in such studies don’t consciously know the rules at play, they are still able to pick out the strings of letters that obey the alien grammar at a rate much better than chance. When asked how confident they feel about those guesses, their confidence ratings usually line up with their correct guesses. Consciously, they have no idea how they are accomplishing this task, nor can they pinpoint the source of their confidence.

You felt this earlier. The capital of the Republic of Bulgaria? It’s Sofia. The capital of Italy is Rome. If you knew these things, ask yourself how you knew them. Notice the invisibility of the process vs. the clarity of its output. If you guessed, right or wrong, ask yourself about your metacognitions – what inside you was whispering to the conscious part of your mind, creating feelings of confidence or notions of doubt?

Ryan ScottOur guest in this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is Ryan Scott, a cognitive psychologist who is adding to a growing body of evidence revealing that our guesses and our confidence in those guesses don’t come from the same place in our minds, and separate still is our conscious awareness of these loops of thought feeding forward and back upon each other.

Scott and his colleagues recently uncovered a psychological phenomenon called blind insight, so named because they felt it was similar to neurological phenomenon known as blindsight. A person suffering from blindsight is unable to consciously see, but her eyes still transmit signals to her brain. Sufferers respond to smiles, turning up the corner of their lips and narrowing their eyes, but they aren’t consciously aware of why they are are doing so. The part of the brain that can still see is unable to speak, unable to communicate with the portion that can, but it still communicates with itself in other ways and with the body, and the portion of the brain that is conscious shares that body and notices the changes. If you ask a person with blindsight to navigate an obstacle course, she might tell you it’s impossible even though she can. She might later report a lack of confidence in her abilities even after successfully walking from one side of a room to the other and changing her path many times to avoid tripping. The portion of the brain that reports confidence is cut off from the knowledge that might alter her opinion.

In the podcast you will hear how Scott discovered something similar when he returned to the research using the alien grammar created by scientists. His team pulled aside people who seemed like peculiar outliers – they were terrible at picking out the new strings that adhered to the rules, but their confidence ratings were accurate. In other words, when they got it wrong, they seemed to know they got it wrong, but their intuition did them no favors while guessing. Something inside them seemed to know the answers, but that didn’t make them better at the task. How can that be? Scott explains in the interview. You’ll also hear why you should always guess if you don’t know the answers on a multiple choice test, and when you should go with your gut instead of your head.

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 one of my books, and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Linda van Kerkhof who submitted a recipe for chocolate ginger crinkle cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

Chocolate Ginger Crinkle Cookies

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Links and Sources

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Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

Ryan Scott

Blind Insight: Metacognitive
Discrimination Despite Chance Task
Performance

Political Extremists May Be Less Susceptible to Common Cognitive Bias

David Eagleman: The human brain runs on conflict

Slim Goodbody

Lubbadubba

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YANSS 038 – How the Halo Effect Turns Uncertainty into False Certainty

The Topic: The Halo Effect

The Episode: DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

halo

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This episode is also brought to you by Harry’s. Get $5 off the perfect holiday gift. Just go to Harrys.com and type in my coupon code SOSMART with your first purchase of quality shaving products.

It’s difficult to be certain of much in life.

Not only are you mostly uncertain of what will happen tomorrow, or next year, or in five years, but you often can’t be certain of the correct course of action, the best place for dinner, what kind of person you should be, or whether or not you should quit your job or move to a new city. At best, you are only truly certain of a handful of things at any given time, and aside from mathematical proofs – two apples plus two apples equals four apples (and even that, in some circles, can be debated) – you’ve become accustomed to living a life in a fog of maybes.

Most of what we now know about the world replaced something that we thought we knew about the world, but it turned out we had no idea what we were talking about. This is especially true in science, our best tool for getting to the truth. It’s a constantly churning sea of uncertainty. Maybe this, maybe that – but definitely not this, unless… Nothing raises a scientist’s brow more than a pocket of certainty because it’s usually a sign that someone is very wrong.

Being certain is a metacognition, a thought concerning another thought, and the way we often bungle that process is not exclusively human. When an octopus reaches out for a scallop, she does so because somewhere in the chaos of her nervous system a level of certainty crossed some sort of threshold, a threshold that the rock next to the scallop did not. Thanks to that certainty threshold, most of the time she bites into food instead of gravel. We too take the world into our brains through our senses, and in that brain we too are mostly successful at determining the difference between things that are food and things that are not food, but not always. There’s even a Japanese game show where people compete to determine whether household objects are real or are facsimiles made of chocolate. Seriously, check out the YouTube video of a man gleefully biting off a hunk of edible door handle. Right up until he smiles, he’s just rolling the dice, uncertain.

chocolate doorknob

Thanks to the sciences of the mind and brain we now know of several frames in which we might make judgments about the world. Of course, we already knew about this sort of thing in the days of our prescientific stupor. You don’t need a caliper and some Bayesian analysis to know that the same person might choose a different path when angry than she would when calm or that a person in love is likely to make decisions she may regret once released from that spell. You have a decently accurate intuition about those states of mind thanks to your exposure to many examples over the years, but behavioral sciences have dug much deeper. There are frames of mind your brain works to mask from the conscious portions of the self. One such frame of mind is uncertainty.

In psychology, uncertainty was made famous by the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. In their 1982 collection of research, “Judgments under Uncertainty,” the psychologists explained that when you don’t have enough information to make a clear judgment, or when you are making a decision concerning something too complex to fully grasp, instead of backing off and admitting your ignorance, you tend to instead push forward with confidence. The stasis of uncertainty never slows you down because human brains come equipped with anti-uncertainty mechanisms called heuristics.

In their original research they described how, while driving in a literal fog, it becomes difficult to judge the distance between your car and the other cars on the road. Landmarks, especially those deep in the mists, become more hazardous because they seem farther away than they actually are. This, they wrote, is because for your whole life you’ve noticed that things that are very far away appear a bit blurrier than things that are near. A lifetime of dealing with distance has reinforced a simple rule in your head: the closer an object the greater its clarity. This blurriness heuristic is almost always true, except underwater or on a foggy morning or on an especially clear day when it becomes incorrect in the other direction causing objects that are far away to seem much closer than normal.

Kahneman and Tversky originally identified three heuristics: representativeness, availability, and anchoring. Each one seems to help you solve the likelihood of something being true or the odds that one choice is better than another, without actually doing the work required to truly solve those problems. Here is an example of representativeness from their research. Imagine I tell you that a group of 30 engineers and 70 lawyers have applied for a job. I show you a single application that reveals a person who is great at math and bad with people, a person who loves Star Wars and hates public speaking, and then I ask whether it is more likely that this person is an engineer or a lawyer. What is your initial, gut reaction? What seems like the right answer? Statistically speaking, it is more likely the applicant is a lawyer. But if you are like most people in their research, you ignored the odds when checking your gut. You tossed the numbers out the window. So what if there is a 70 percent chance this person is a lawyer? That doesn’t feel like the right answer.

That’s what a heuristic is, a simple rule that in the currency of mental processes trades accuracy for speed. A heuristic can lead to a bias, and your biases, though often correct and harmless, can be dangerous when in error, resulting in a wide variety of bad outcomes from foggy morning car crashes to unconscious prejudices in job interviews.

For me, the most fascinating aspect of all of this is how it renders invisible the uncertainty that leads to the application of the heuristic. You don’t say to yourself, “Hmm, I’m not quite sure whether I am right or wrong, so let’s go with lawyer.” or, “Hmm, I don’t know how far away that car is, so let’s wait a second to hit the brake.” You just react, decide, judge, choose, etc. and move on, sometimes right, sometimes wrong, unaware – unconsciously crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

These processes lead to a wonderful panoply of psychological phenomena. In this episode of the podcast we explore the halo effect, one of the ways this masking of uncertainty can really get you in trouble. When faced with a set of complex information, you tend to turn the volume down on the things that are difficult to quantify and evaluate and instead focus on the few things (sometimes the one thing) that is most tangible and concrete. You then use the way you feel about what is more-salient to determine how you feel about the things that are less-salient, even if the other traits are unrelated.

Here’s an example. In a study headed by psychologist Barry Staw in 1974, 60 business school students gathered together into three-person groups. Each group received the financial reports of a mid-sized company full of hard data for five years and a letter from the company’s president describing its prospects. The report was from 1969, the task for each group was to estimate the sales and earnings per share for that company in 1970. Since they had 1970’s data on hand, it would be a good exercise to see how much the students had learned in business school. The scientists told the business students that they had already run this experiment once on groups of five people, and that they wanted to see how smaller groups would perform on the same task. Of course, most of this wasn’t true. No matter what the students turned in, the scientists tossed it all out. Instead, each group received a randomly assigned grade. Some were told they did extremely well, and others were told they did very, very poorly.

What Staw discovered was that when the students were told they performed in the top 20 percent of all subjects, the people in the groups attributed that success to things like great communication, overall cohesiveness, openness to change, competence, a lack of conflict, and so on. In groups told that they performed in the bottom 20 percent, the story was just the opposite. They said they performed poorly because of a lack of communication, differences in ability, close-mindedness, sparks of conflict, and a variety of other confounding variables. They believed they had gained knowledge about the hazy characteristics of the group, but in reality they were simply using a measure of performance as a guide for creating attributions from thin air

In his book, “The Halo Effect,” Phil Rosenzweig described the Staw study like this, “…it’s hard to know in objective terms exactly what constitutes good communication or optimal cohesion…so people tend to make attributions based on other data that they believe are reliable.” That’s how the halo effect works – things like communication skills are weird, nebulous, abstract, and nuanced concepts that don’t translate well into quantifiable, concrete, and measurable aspects of reality. When you make a judgment under uncertainty your brain uses a heuristic and then covers up the evidence so that you never notice that you had no idea what you were doing. When asked to rate their communication skills, a not-so-salient trait, they looked for something more salient to go on. In this case it was the randomly assigned rating. That rating then became a halo whose light altered the way the students saw all the less-salient aspects of their experiences. The only problem was that the rating was a lie, and thus, so was each assessment.

Research into the halo effect suggests this sort of thing happens all the time. In one study a professor had a thick, Belgian accent. If that professor pretended to be mean and strict, American students said his accent was grating and horrendous. If he pretended to be nice and laid-back, similar students said his accent was beautiful and pleasant. In another study scientists wrote an essay and attached one of two photos to it, pretending that the photos were of the person who wrote the work. If the photo was of an attractive woman, people tended to rate the essay as being well-written and deep. If the photo was that of (according to the scientists) an unattractive woman, the essay received poorer scores and people tended to rate as being less insightful. In studies where teachers were told that a student had a learning disability they rated that student’s performance as weaker than did other teachers who were told nothing at all about the student before the assessment began. In each example, people didn’t realize they were using a small, chewable bite of reality to make assumptions about a smorgasbord they couldn’t fully digest.

As an anti-uncertainty mechanism, the halo effect doesn’t just render invisible your lack of insight, but it encourages you to go a step further. It turns uncertainty into false certainty. And, sure, philosophically speaking, just about all certainty is false certainty, but research into the halo effect suggests that whether or not you accept this, as a concept, as a truth – you rarely notice it in the moment when it actually matters.

Fire up the latest episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast to learn more about the halo effect, and as an added bonus you’ll hear an additional two-and-a-half hours of excerpts from my book, You Are Now Less Dumb, which is now available in paperback.

Links and Sources

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Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

Business School Study

Judgment Under Uncertainty

You Are Now Less Dumb

The Halo Effect

The Halo Effect – Book

YANSS Podcast 036 – Why We Are Unaware that We Lack the Skill to Tell How Unskilled and Unaware We Are

The Topic: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Guest: David Dunning

The Episode: DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

A scene from NBC's "The Office"

A scene from NBC’s “The Office”

This episode is brought to you by Stamps.com – where is the fun in living in the future if you still have to go to the post office? Click on the microphone and enter “smart” for a $110 special offer.

This episode is also brought to you by Lynda, an easy and affordable way to help individuals and organizations learn. Try Lynda free for 7 days.

Here’s a fun word to add to your vocabulary: nescience. I ran across it a few months back and kind of fell in love with it.

It’s related to the word prescience, which is a kind of knowing. Prescience is a state of mind, an awareness, that grants you knowledge of the future – about something that has yet to happen or is not yet in existence. It’s a strange idea isn’t it, that knowledge is a thing, a possession, that it stands alone and in proxy for something else out there in reality that has yet to actually…be? Then, the time comes, and the knowledge is no longer alone. Foreknowledge becomes knowledge and now corresponds to a real thing that is true. It is no longer pre-science but just science.

I first learned the word nescience from the book Ignorance and Surprise by Matthias Gross. That book revealed to me that, philosophically speaking, ignorance is a complicated matter. You can describe it in many ways. In that book Gross talks about the difficulties of translating a sociologist named Georg Simmel who often used the word “nichtwissen” in his writing. Gross says that some translations changed that word to nescience and some just replaced it with “not knowing.” It’s a difficult term to translate, he explains, because it can mean a few different things. If you stick to the Latin ins and outs of the word, nescience means non-knowledge, or what we would probably just call ignorance. But Gross writes that in some circles it has a special meaning. He says it can mean something you can’t know in advance, or an unknown unknown, or something that no human being can ever hope to know, something a theologian might express as a thought in the mind of God. For some people, as Gross points out, everything is in the mind of God, so therefore nothing is actually knowable. To those people nescience is the natural state of all creatures and nothing can ever truly be known, not for sure. Like I said, ignorance is a complex concept.

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YANSS Podcast 035 – Sunk Costs and the Pain of Vain

The Topic: The Sunk Cost Fallacy

The Episode: DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

BD

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Every once in a while you will ask yourself, “I wonder if I should quit?”

Should you quit your job? Should you end your relationship? Should you abandon your degree? Should you shut down this project?

These are difficult questions to answer. If you are like me, every time you’ve heard one of those questions emerge in your mind, it lingered. It began to echo right as you woke up and just as pulled the covers over your shoulders. In the shower, waiting in line, in all your quiet moments – a question like that will appear behind your eyes, pulsating like a giant neon billboard until you can work out your decision.

Oddly enough, as a human being, that decision is often not made any easier when quitting is the most logical course of action. Even if it is obvious that it is no longer worth your time to keep going, your desire to plod on and your reluctance to quit are both muddled by an argumentative loop inside which you and many others easily get stuck.

The same psychological hooks that cost companies millions of dollars to produce products obviously destined to fail can also keep troops in harm’s way long past the point when the whole war effort should be brought to an end. It’s a universal human tendency, the same one that influences you to keep watching a bad movie instead of walking out of the theater in time to catch another or that keeps you planted in your seat at a restaurant after you’ve been waiting thirty minutes for your drinks. If you reach the end of the quest, you think, then you haven’t truly lost anything, and that is sometimes a motivation so strong it prolongs horrific, bloody wars and enormously expensive projects well past the point when most people involved in efforts like those have felt a strong intuition that no matter the outcome, at this point, total losses will exceed any potential gains.

In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, we explore the sunk cost fallacy, a strangely twisted bit of logic that seems to pop into the human mind once a person has experienced the pain of loss or the ickiness of waste on his or her way toward a concrete goal. It’s illogical, irrational, unreasonable – and as a perfectly normal human being, you act under its influence all the time.

LINKS

DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

Liberal or conservative? Brain responses to disgusting images help reveal political leanings

The Genetic Fallacy

More on The Genetic Fallacy

SOURCES

  • Ariely, D. (2009). Predictably irrational, revised and expanded edition: The hidden forces that shape our decisions. Harper. (Amazon link)
  • Arkes, Hal R., and Peter Ayton. “The Sunk Cost and Concorde Effects: Are Humans Less Rational than Lower Animals?” Psychological Bulletin 125.5 (1999): 591-600. Print. (pdf)
  • Burthold, G. R. (2008). Psychology of decision making in legal, health care and science settings. Gardners Books. (Google Books link)
  • Busch, Jack. “Travel Zen: How to Avoid Making Your Vacation Seem Like Work.” Primer Magazine. Primer Magazine, Jan. 2009. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Gaming Can Make a Better World. By Jane McGonigal. TED Talks. TED Conferences, LLC, Feb. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Godin, Seth. “Ignore Sunk Costs.” Seth’s Blog. Typepad, Inc., 12 May 2009. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Höffler, Felix. “Why Humans Care About Sunk Costs While (Lower) Animals Don’t.” The Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, 31 Mar. 2008. Web. Mar. 2011. (pdf)
  • Indvik, Lauren. “FarmVille” Interruption Cited in Baby’s Murder.” Mashable. Mashable Inc., 28 Oct. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (Amazon link)
  • Kushner, David. “Games: Why Zynga’s Success Makes Game Designers Gloomy.” Wired. Conde Nast Digital, 27 Sept. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Lehrer, Jonah. “Loss Aversion.” ScienceBlogs. ScienceBlogs LLC, 10 Feb. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Schwartz, Barry. “The Sunk-Cost Fallacy Bush Falls Victim to a Bad New Argument for the Iraq War.” Slate. The Slate Group, 09 Sept. 2005. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Shambora, Jessica. “‘FarmVille’ Gamemaker Zynga Sees Dollar Signs.” CNN Money. Cable News Network, 26 Oct. 2009. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Vidyarthi, Neil. “City Council Member Booted For Playing Farmville.” SocialTimes. Web Media Brands Inc., 30 Mar. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Walker, Tim. “Welcome to FarmVille: Population 80 Million.” Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 22 Feb. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011.
  • “Why Zynga’s Success Makes Game Designers Gloomy | Discussion at Hacker News.” Hacker News. Y Combinator, 7 Oct. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011 (link)
  • Wittmershaus, Eric. “Facebook Game’s Cautionary Tale.” GameWit. Press Democrat Media Co., 04 Aug. 2010. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)
  • Yang, Sizhao Zao. “How Did FarmVille Take over FarmTown, When It Was Just a Exact Duplicate of FarmTown and FarmTown Was Released Much Earlier?” Quora. Quora, Inc., 01 Jan. 2011. Web. Mar. 2011. (link)

YANSS Podcast 034 – After This, Therefore Because of This: Your Weird Relationship with Cause and Effect

The Topic: The Post Hoc Fallacy

The Episode: DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 3.02.37 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 3.02.37 PM

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And by Lynda, an easy and affordable way to help individuals and organizations learn. Try Lynda free for 7 days.

When I was a boy, I spent my summers with my grandparents. They, like many Southerners, had a farm populated with animals to eat and animals to help. It was everywhere alive with edible plants – fields of corn and cucumbers and peas and butterbeans and peanuts, and throngs of mysterious life from stumps claimed by beds of ants to mushroom fairy rings, living things tending to business without our influence.

Remembering it now, I can see the symmetry of the rows, and the order of the barns, the arrangement of tools, the stockpiles of feed. I remember the care my grandmother took with tomatoes, nudging them along from the soil to the Ball jars she boiled, sealing up the red, seedy swirls under lids surrounded by brass-colored shrink bands. I remember my grandfather erecting dried and gutted gourds on polls so Martins would come and create families above us and we wouldn’t suffer as many mosquito bites when shelling peas under the giant pecan tree we all used for shade.

For me, the wonder of that life, even then, was in how so much was understood about cause and effect, about what was to come if you prepared, took care, made a particular kind of effort. It was as if they borrowed the momentum of the natural world instead of trying to force it one way or the other, like grabbing a passing trolley and hoisting yourself on the back.

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YANSS Podcast 26 – Maslow’s Hammer

The Topic: Maslow’s Hammer

The Episode: DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

Photo by Michael Jastremski – Original here: http://bit.ly/1iqqkjs

Take the YANSS Podcast survey, win a $100 Amazon Gift Card: http://www.podsurvey.com/yanss

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

You’ve heard the expression before. You’ve may have, like myself, smugly used it a few times to feel like you made an intelligent point in an office conversation. It’s one of those great comebacks that we’ve decided is ok to use in professional settings like congressional debates and televised political arguments about everything from gun control to foreign policy. But, it might surprise you to learn who wrote it, how young the above quote is, and why it was written in the first place.

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YANSS Podcast 018 – How Benjamin Franklin dealt with haters

The Topic: The Benjamin Franklin Effect

The Episode: Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Benjamin

Benjamin Franklin knew how to deal with haters, and in this episode we learn how he turned his haters into fans with what is now called The Benjamin Franklin Effect (read more about the effect here).

Listen as David McRaney reads an excerpt from his book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” explaining the psychology behind the effect and how the act of spreading harm forms the attitude of hate, and the act of spreading kindness generates the attitude of camaraderie.

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YANSS Podcast 015 – I read an excerpt from You Are Now Less Dumb

The Topic: Narrative Bias

The Episode: Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

The Ypsilanti State Hospital - Photo Courtesy of Opacity.Us

The Ypsilanti State Hospital – Photo Courtesy of Opacity.Us

In this inbetweenisode I read an excerpt from my book, You Are Now Less Dumb, about a strange experiment in Michigan that tested the bounds of the self by throwing three very unusual men into a situation that won’t likely be repeated ever again by science.

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YANSS Podcast 014 – Melanie C. Green and how stories can change beliefs and behaviors

The Topic: Narratives

The Guest: Melanie C. Green

The Episode: DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

Falcor the Luck Dragon from the Universal Pictures film, The Neverending Story

Falcor the Luck Dragon from the Universal Pictures film, The Neverending Story

In this episode we discuss the power narratives have to affect our beliefs and behaviors with Melanie C. Green, a psychologist who studies the persuasive power of fiction.

According to 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.

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YANSS Podcast – Episode Ten – Perv: The Sexual Deviant In All of Us

The Topic: Perversion

The Guest: Jesse Bering

The Episode: Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

A book, a real book, about making love with dinosaurs

A book, a real book, about making love with dinosaurs

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 BeringJesse 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 professor at the University of Arkansas and 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.

After the interview, as in every episode, I read a bit of self delusion news and 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 Celeste Lindell who submitted a recipe for cinnamon cardamom snickerdoodles. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

Snickerdoodle

Links and Sources

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Cookie Recipe

Boing Boing Podcasts

Jesse Bering

Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

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