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In this episode we sit down with the director and producers of the documentary film, Behind the Curve, an exploration of motivated reasoning and conspiratorial thinking told through the lives of people who have formed a community around the belief that the Earth is flat.
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.
Offit has been fighting for years to educate the public, promote vaccines, and oppose the efforts of anti-vaxxers, and in his new book he offers advice for science consumers and communicators on how to deal with what he calls the opaque window of modern media which often gives equal time to non-experts when it comes to discussing vaccination and other medical issues.
In the book, Gelfand presents her research into norms, along with a fascinating new idea. It isn’t norms themselves that predict how cultures will react, evolve, innovate, and clash, but how different cultures value norms and sanction people who violate them. Through that lens, she categorizes all human cultures into two — kinds, tight and loose.
Psychology is working on the hardest problems in all of science. Physics, astronomy, geology — those are easy, by comparison. Understanding consciousness, willpower, ideology, social change — there’s a larger-than-Large-Hadron-Collider level of difficulty to each one of these, but since these are more relatable ideas than quarks and bosons and mass coronal ejections, it’s easier to create eye-catching headlines and make podcasts about them.
This is the problem. Because the system for distributing the findings of science is based on publication within journals, which themselves often depend on the interest of the general media. So all the biases that system, and media consumption in general, inflame are now causing the sciences that are most interesting to the public to get tainted by that interest.
We aren’t treating tribalism as a basic human drive, but that’s what it is. Fast food lowered the cost to satisfy a basic drive, and we grew fat. Social media lowered the cost to exhibit tribal behaviors, and we are growing apart.
In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, we spend time with political scientist Lilliana Mason and psychologist Dan Kahan, two researchers exploring how our tribal tendencies are scrambling public discourse and derailing so many of our best efforts at progress — from science communication, to elections, to our ability to converge on the facts and go about the grind of building a better democracy.