In this episode we welcome back author Will Storr whose new book, The Status Game, feels like required reading for anyone confused, curious, or worried about how politics, cults, conspiracy theories communities, social media, religious fundamentalism, polarization, and extremism are affecting us – everywhere, on and offline, across cultures, and across the world.

What is The Status Game? It’s our primate propensity to perpetually pursue points that will provide a higher level of regard among the people who can (if we provoked such a response) take those points away. And deeper still, it’s the propensity to, once we find a group of people who regularly give us those points, care about what they think more than just about anything else.

In the interview, we discuss our inescapable obsession with reputation and why we are deeply motivated to avoid losing this game through the fear of shame, ostracism, embarrassment, and humiliation while also deeply motivated to win this game by earning what will provide pride, fame, adoration, respect, and status.

Sedona Chinn, a researcher who studies how people make sense of competing scientific, environmental, and health-related claims, joins us to discuss her latest research into doing your own research. In her latest paper she found that the more a person values the concept of doing your own research, the less likely that person is to actually do their own research. In the episode we explore the origin of the concept, what that phrase really means, and the implications of her study on everything from politics to vaccines to conspiratorial thinking.

We sit down with Brian Brushwood to discuss how he put together this most recent season of The World’s Greatest Con, his podcast about incredible scams. This season is all about how two boys pulled off an incredible hoax called Project Alpha, a con job and a publicity stunt meant to improve scientific rigor and methodology when it comes to studying the possibility of the existence of psychic phenomena.

In this episode we sit down with Jennifer Shahade, a two-time U.S. Women’s Chess Champion, author, speaker, and professional poker player whose new book, Chess Queens, is the true story of the greatest female players of all time interwoven with her own experiences as a chess champion.

In an era in which we have more information available to us than ever before, when claims of “fake news” might themselves be, in fact, fake news, Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris, authors of The Invisible Gorilla, are back to offer us a vital tool to not only inoculate ourselves against getting infected by misinformation but prevent us from spreading it to others, a new book titled Nobody’s Fool. 

Deliberation. Debate. Conversation. Though it can feel like that’s what we are doing online as we trade arguments back and forth, most of the places where we currently gather make it much easier to produce arguments in isolation rather than evaluate them together in groups. The latest research suggests we will need much more of the latter if we hope to create a new, modern, functioning marketplace of ideas. In this episode, psychologist Tom Stafford takes us through his research into how to do just that.