YANSS Podcast 021 – Christina Draganich explains how anyone can use science as a tool to understand nature, human and otherwise

The Topic(s): Placebo Sleep and Science

The Guest: Christina Draganich

The Episode: Download iTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

Photo by Matteo Ianeselli, via Wikimedia Commons,  http://bit.ly/1fAKROj

Photo by Matteo Ianeselli, via Wikimedia Commons, http://bit.ly/1fAKROj

In 1998, The Journal of the American Medical Association published research that debunked therapeutic touch and moved the well-meaning mystical practice out of the kingdom of medicine and into the abandoned strip mall of quackery.

At the time, touch was enjoying a surge in popularity in hospitals and clinics. Practitioners claimed that they could manipulate mysterious energy fields and bring about healing by placing their hands above the bodies of the sick. The people doing this kind of work thought they were doing something wonderful, something good, but it was wishful thinking that had somehow bypassed the checks and balances of medical science.

The research that revealed therapeutic touch was bunk was based on a 9-year-old girl’s fourth-grade science fair project. Emily Rosa had already conducted several sound experiments based on her skepticism, and with the help of some career academics, her work was expanded. She is now part of history, the youngest person to publish research in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

One of the central themes of You Are Not So Smart is you are so bad at thinking, judging, and deciding that your species had to invent a tool to help you work on the sort of problems you, as a human, are terrible at solving. For example, “Can I heal someone with my hands and empathy alone?” or “Should I pay someone to wave his hands above my dying mother?” or “Should health insurance plans cover healing touch?” or “Should our university offer nurses classes in manipulating energy?” These are not easy questions to answer correctly. Without science, you’ll probably get them wrong.

Hundreds of people over the centuries have slowly perfected a method, an invention, that continues to help humans leave the warmth of false certainty, embrace ignorance, and trade the fires of the stake for the fires that sent golf balls to the moon. If you are unacquainted with the basics of science, you will stumble around in the dark, flailing your hands, stumbling over cognitive biases, logical fallacies, weird heuristics, and so on. With science, with the tools and the tutelage of great teachers, a 9-year-old can drive through roadblocks of ignorance like the Dukes of Hazzard and make the entire species a percentage point smarter.

Christina Draganich

In this inbetweenisode, Christina Draganich explains how, as 21-year-old undergraduate, she came up with the idea to research placebo sleep, which led to a new scientific discovery, and she tells us how anyone with the right guidance can use science to expand our understanding of the natural world.

We also learn about new research that has identified a “continuity field” generated by the human brain to keep us from going mad.

Links and Sources

The Power of Positive Sleeping (story about the study)

Scientists pinpoint how we miss subtle visual changes, and why it keeps us sane

The JAMA Study

Emily Rosa and Therapeutic Touch

Emily Rosa in Time

 

 

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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.

Links:

Time Magazine: 1 in 4 Americans Apparently Unaware the Earth Orbits the Sun

Banjopocalypse

Sources:

  • Batson, C. Daniel, Diane Kobrynowicz, Jessica L. Dinnerstein, Hannah C. Kampf, et al. “In a Very Different Voice: Unmasking Moral Hypocrisy.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 72, no. 6 (1997): 1335–348.
  • Cacioppo, John T., Joseph R. Priester, and Gary G. Berntson. “Rudimentary Determinants of Attitudes: II. Arm Flexion and Extension Have Differential Effects on Attitudes.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65, no. 1 (1993): 5–17.
  • Festinger, Leon, and James M. Carlsmith.“Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 58, no. 2 (1959): 203–10.
  • Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Ed. Frank Woodworth Pine. Garden City, NY: Garden City Pub., 1916.
  • Jecker, Jon, and David Landy. “Liking a Person as a Function of Doing Him a Favour.” Human Relations 22, no. 4 (1969): 371–78.
  • Myers, D. G. Social Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005. Schopler, John, and John S. Compere. “Effects of Being Kind or Harsh to Another on Liking.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 20, no. 2 (1971): 155–59.
  • Tavris, Carol, and Elliot Aronson. Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2007.
  • Wicker, Allan W. “Attitudes Versus Actions: The Relationship of Verbal and Overt Behavioral Responses to Attitude Objects.” Journal of Social Issues 25, no. 4 (1969): 41–78.

YANSS Podcast 017 – Tim Farley explains the potential harm in using alternative medicine

The Topic: Alternative Medicine

The Guest: Tim Farley

The Episode: DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

Dr. Terminus, the snake oil salesman from Disney's "Pete's Dragon"

Dr. Terminus, the snake oil salesman from Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon”

Where is the line between regular medicine and alternative medicine? Are Eastern medicine and Western medicine truly at odds, and if so, who is right and who is wrong? What harm is there in using complementary or integrative treatments in an effort to improve wellness?

Tim FarleyIn this episode we discuss alternative medicine with Tim Farley, creator and curator of What’s The Harm, a website that tracks the harmful effects that result from seeking out alternative treatments and cures before, or instead of, seeking out science-based medicine. Tim is a software engineer and research fellow at the James Randi Foundation. He also created the website Skeptical Software Tools, and he tweets at @krelnik.

After the interview, I discuss a news story about morality within virtual reality.

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 Robin Sanchez who submitted a recipe for raspberry sandwiches. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

Raspberry Sandwiches

Links and Sources

What’s The Harm?

The Truth About Alternative Medicine (panel from TAM 2012)

Tim Minchin’s “Storm”

An Underground Education

Say Say Say

Pete’s Dragon

The National Science Foundation on Alternative Medicine

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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.

In the next episode (posting next week) of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, neurologist Steven Novella and author Jesse Walker explain why we love conspiracy theories, how they flourish, and what they say about a culture.

Links and Sources

McRaney, David. You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and Allthe Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself. Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Rokeach, Milton. The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. New York: New York Review Books, 2011.

Eagleman, D. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. New York: Pantheon, 2011.

Whinnery, James E., and Angela M. Whinnery. “Acceleration-Induced Loss of Consciousness: A Review of 500 Episodes.” Archives of Neurology 47, no. 7 (1990): 764– 76.

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.

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 all affect our beliefs and behaviors?

Melanie C. GreenWe 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. You can find her on Twitter using the handle @NarrProf or her website.

After the interview, I discuss a news story about research into how photographs can either enhance or dampen your memory depending on how you use them.

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 Elliot Jones who submitted a recipe for chocolate orange cherry cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

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Links/Sources:

Boing Boing Podcasts

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

Cookie Recipes at Pinterest

Melanie C. Green’s Website

Joseph Campbell on YouTube

Nielsen Stats for Television

Television Stats from California State

Article About Photos and Memory

Funkmaster V Discusses Lost

A Furious Lost Review

Lost Explained in Three Minutes

New York City’s Placebo Buttons and The Post Hoc Fallacy

I’m so excited to reveal the latest book trailer for my new book, You Are Now Less Dumb. Here is a link to learn more about the book.

Once again, the fantastic production crew at Plus3 Video created this wonderful video. You can learn more about them at this link.

You can see all the videos we’ve made together right here on the YANSS Youtube Channel: link to videos.

The video is inspired by a chapter in the book which mentions placebo buttons, a topic covered here on YANSS a few years back which you can read about at this link.

YANSS Podcast 013 – Clive Thompson and How Technology Affects Our Minds

Time Cyberpunk

The Topic: Technology

The Guest: Clive Thompson

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

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?

Clive ThompsonThat’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.

Rosemary Sugar Cookies

Links and Sources:

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Clive Thompson’s Website

How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet

Hyperland

Douglas Adams Interview

How to Operate Your Brain

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Nicholas Carr Interview

Why The Web Won’t Be Nirvana

The Argument From Antiquity at Neurologica

How the way we walk can increase risk of being mugged

YANSS Podcast 12 – David Buss and the Dangerous Passion of Jealousy

Lisa Nowak shampooing in space. Image: NASA

Lisa Nowak shampooing in space. Image: NASA

The Topic: Jealousy

The Guest: David Buss

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

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 BussDavid 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 Mating, Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is As Necessary As Love and Sex, The 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.

Cookie 12

Links/Sources:

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Where Women Are More Competitive Than Men

The Website of David Buss

Lisa Nowak Apology

Colleen Shipman in Court Describing Attack

ABC News: Lisa Nowak Late Night Comedy

The Daily Show Segment about Lisa Nowak

Lisa Nowak’s NASA Bio

YANSS Podcast 11 – Hazel Markus and The Influence of Where You Live on How You Think

The Topic: Culture

The Guest: Hazel Rose Markus

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

Tombstone Honor Latin

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 MarkusHazel 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.” You can learn more about her at her website here.

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.

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 Tamar Levanoni who submitted a recipe for cinnamon chocolate cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

Nov6Cookies

Links and Sources:

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

Boing Boing Podcasts

The Website of Hazel Markus

Clash! Eight Cultural Conflicts that Make Us Who We Are

Tombstone Latin

The Southern Hallway Bump Study

The Good Books and Empathy Study

YANSS Podcast – Episode Nine – Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory

The Topic: Arguing

The Guest(s): Hugo Mercier and Jeremy Sherman

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

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 8.50.37 PM

In 2008, renowned programmer and essayist Paul Graham wrote a guide for citizens of cyberspace titled “How to Disagree.”

Ten years had passed since the invention of the comment section. Twitter was two years old. The world had spent nine months with the iPhone. To Graham it had become apparent that the Internet had permanently changed the paradigm of the written word, which was as he put it, “writers wrote and readers read.” Instead, he predicted the call and response model of the web was here to stay. People would add their perspectives to everything. Content had become and would forever be a conversation, he predicted, and that meant everyone would need to learn how to argue more efficiently because exposure to rampant bickering would soon become a big part of daily life.

The reason, explained Graham, was that when you agree with something you usually don’t have much to add, so most people tend only to respond in paragraph form when they disagree. Naturally then, more disagreements than agreements would soon begin to spawn, and they would reproduce at a much higher rate. The result would be an Internet that looked and seemed angry and polarized, which might then become a weird sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. He warned: “…there’s a danger that the increase in disagreement will make people angrier. Particularly online, where it’s easy to say things you’d never say face to face.”

A year after Graham wrote his essay, Facebook lowered the already low cost of agreeing to a single click of a “like” button. The disagreements he predicted began to stack upon each other and grow long enough to benefit from spell checking.

Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement – Source: Wikimedia Commons

Today, everywhere you click online you can witness the roiling boil of response just as Graham divined, and you can see why he suggested we ought to learn how to disagree like civilized adults. Just bounce over to the Huffington Post and check out the comments under any story focused on politics. You’ll find an opinionated, angry human centipede snaking its way down the page. On YouTube, minutes-old comments float around underneath videos posted years ago, each one a fragment of an ongoing argument populated with thousands of participants eagerly punching keyboards in an attempt to prove his or her beliefs are sound. The discourse there has encouraged 13,000 people to download a browser extension that turns all comments into variations of the phrase, “Herp derp.”

So, here in the online world Graham warned us about, human beings seem to be getting into and spectating upon more arguments than ever before. Our beliefs are getting challenged every day. Our ideologies and political camps are regularly being raided. According to many experts, this is not a bad thing, just a new one. Will it change us? Sure. But it will probably change us for the better.

Our increased exposure to arguing also means increased exposure to the mental foibles and errors of logic and reasoning that so often appear when people square off in rhetorical combat. Arguing with ourselves and others has become a fascination. We are suddenly eager to buy books about irrationality because we see so much more of it in our daily lives than just a decade ago. There seems to be so much more motivated reasoning and self delusion in the world than ever before too, thanks to the natural imbalance of communication Paul Graham told us to expect. We all want to understand what is making all of us so unreasonable. That yearning has helped bring the wisdom of the skeptical movement closer to the mainstream and place books about the psychology of bias on bestseller lists.

A question we never really considered asking is now making our brains itch. Why do we argue? What purpose does it serve? Is all this bickering online helping or hurting us?

Science thankfully has something to say about these questions, and what it has to say may even help explain reason itself. That’s the subject we explore in this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast.

My guests are:

JeremyShermanJeremy Sherman, an evolutionary epistemologist, which means he researches how humans evolved to make generalizations and 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.

Hugo-MercierHugo 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” (PDF) 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.

After the long 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 Jaimie-Leigh Jonker of New Zealand who submitted a recipe for orange coconut chocolate chip cookies. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 8.55.19 PM

Links:

• Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud

• Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipe

• Hugo Mercier’s Paper: “Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory”

• Hugo Mercier’s Website

• Jeremy Sherman’s Blog

• Paul Graham: “How to Disagree”

YouTube Herp Derper

NYT article on the history of Internet commenting