YANSS 155 – What we can learn about why we dangerously disagree on the truth from The Dress, Yanny, and bloie, presented live in New York at The Bell House

You Are Not So Smart in New York

For the 155th episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, David McRaney, four experts, and a bunch of YANSS fans got together for a deep dive into how we turn perception into reality, how that reality can differ from brain to brain, and what happens when we dangerously disagree on the truth.

The Dress

At The Bell House in Brooklyn, David was joined on stage by NYU psychologists Moira Dillon, Jay Van Bavel, and Pascal Wallisch.

Moira DillonMoira Dillon studies how “the physical world in which we live shapes the abstract world in which we think,” at the Lab for the Developing Mind at NYU.  She and her colleagues study how humans make sense of their surroundings through spatial perception and how they attempt to communicate those surroundings through art, geometry, and mathematics.

Jay Van BavelFrom “neurons to social networks,” Jay Van Bavel studies how collective concerns like morals, group identity, and political beliefs affect human brains. His team at the Social Evaluation and Perception Lab studies these issues using social neuroscience, and approach that uses neuroimaging, lesion patients, and linguistic analysis of social media to examine how humans in groups affect the beliefs and perceptions of other humans in groups.

Pascal Wallisch“How do people construct the subjective reality they inhabit?” That’s the question at the center of the work of Pascal Wallisch, who studies how human beings differ in the their interpretations of the objective truth. As part of that work, he has been the go-to scientist when it comes to making sense of The Dress, the Yanny/Laurel illusion, and several other viral phenomena on the internet. He even produced a study explaining exactly why some people saw the dress as one color, and others saw it as another.

Brian ReillyBrian J. Reilly is the author of Getting the Blues: Vision and Cognition in the Middle Ages,  an interdisciplinary study of how people in the medieval era thought, wrote, spoke about and experienced color. In the show, he explains how people in previous eras and other cultures developed color terms when they needed. Even though they experienced the same world as us at the level of perceptions, at the level of categorization and communication, they experienced something else entirely.

The dress is bloie!

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Great Courses PlusThis episode is sponsored by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with The Psychology of Human Behavior taught by David W. Martin. Learn about how your mind makes sense of the world and what motivates us to think, feel, and behave differently from one another. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

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Illustrations used in the show (this is for podcast listeners):


Links and Sources

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – PatreonSoundcloudYouTube

Moira Dillon Twitter

Jay Van Bavel Twitter

Pascal Wallisch Website

Pascal Wallisch Twitter

Brian J. Reilly Twitter

The Bell House

The Dress Study

We’re Only Beginning to Truly Understand Laurel vs. Yanny

Is Yanny/Laurel debate a sign of a coming civil war?

The Partisan Brain: An Identity-Based Model of Political Belief

Jay Van Bavel’s Ted Talk