You Are Not So Smart is a one-person operation.

With no staff, the support of patrons allows me, David McRaney, to devote long hours to producing new content. In short, you keep the lights on, buy the coffee, and make the show possible.

One day, I’d love to hire a producer and a reporter to help the show grow and cover new ground by traveling and making episodes on-location, and with your support, I know we can make that happen.

Head to this link at Patreon.com to pitch in. Any level of support will give you exclusive access to an ad-free version of the show, and at the higher levels you’ll get extra episodes, t-shirts, signed books, posters, and more.

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In this episode, we sit down with neuroscientist David Eagleman to learn how brains turn noise into signal, chaos into order, electrical spikes into meaning, and how new technology can expand subjective reality in ways never before possible.

In his new book, Livewired, Eagleman explores how brains come into the world “half baked” so they can create reality out of the inputs and experiences available. Thanks to that plug-and-play plasticity, not only can we return senses to those who’ve lost them, but add to anyone new senses that we have yet to imagine.

Stuck in a bad situation, even when the prison doors are left wide open, we sometimes refuse to attempt escape.

In psychology, learned helplessness is a state of mind that can develop if you try and fail, and then try and fail again. After a few rounds of learning in this way you start to believe that it’s not the situation, or the problem, or some kind of unfair disadvantage, or a bad roll of the dice that caused you to fail – but that it had something to do with you as a person, something that indicates you’d likely continue to fail again and again and again, so why bother? Once that pattern is established, you mistakenly stop trying, and even though success it right there, easy, yours for the taking, you don’t even make the attempt. Your brain has changed, you’ve learned a new routine, you’ve learned to be act as through you are helpless regardless of whether you really are.

Learned helplessness is one of darker aspects of human nature. Among all the ways we delude ourselves, it’s easily one of the most damaging and most invisible. In this episode, we explore this strange mental phenomena by speaking to three experts, each exploring a different way it harms us. You’ll learn how it keeps people in bad jobs, poor health, terrible relationships, and awful circumstances despite how easy it might be to escape any one of those scenarios.

The good news is that learned helplessness can be unlearned, and each expert in the show offers a different tactic for removing it from our lives and the lives of others.

In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, we sit down with four experts on vaccines, epidemiology, psychology, and science communication to try and understand how we created so much confusion about COVID-19, and how we can avoid doing so again when a vaccine is ready for widespread, public distribution.

Also in the show, you will also hear from Dr. Paul Offit about exactly what it will take to make that vaccine and when it will likely arrive.

In this episode we welcome Yale psychologist Laurie Santos who discusses her new podcast — The Happiness Lab — which explores how wrong and misguided we can be when we pursue those things that we think will make us happy (or avoid those things that we think will make us sad).

Based on the psychology course she teaches at Yale — “Psychology and the Good Life,” the most popular class in the university’s 300-year history — The Happiness Lab is a scientific tour of the latest research into what does and does not make us happy, and sad, and miserable, and content, and depressed, and joyous, and fulfilled.


In this sprawling, strange, and mind-bending episode, Dr. Jud Brewer, a neuroscientist and addiction psychiatrist, discusses the biological origins of our bad habits and how we can change them using new techniques derived from his lab’s research.

Well, he tries to talk about that, but I keep interrupting him to try and solve the great mysteries of consciousness and the self. For instance, if you want to hear a neuroscientist quote Einstein — “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.” — then go from talking about worms and cigarettes to warning you to be careful with your brain or “you can go over the event horizon of the black hole of anxiety,” and the only way out is to add more information to the system to it can propel itself away from the worry black hole — this is the episode for you.


In Lori Gottlieb‘s new book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, she opens with a quote from James Baldwin that reads, “Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch.”

It’s a book about therapy, what is is, what it isn’t, and how people do and do not change their behaviors. It’s intimate and human, gut-wrenching and inspiring, and full of science and drama and an honesty and candor that you rarely find in books like this.