You Are Not So Smart podcast 022: how to combat "survivorship bias"

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You are Not So Smart is hosted by David McRaney, a journalist and self-described psychology nerd. In each episode, David explores cognitive biases and delusions, and is often joined by a guest expert.

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The problem with sorting out failures and successes is that failures are often muted, destroyed, or somehow removed from sight while successes are left behind, weighting your decisions and perceptions, tilting your view of the world. That means to be successful you must learn how to seek out what is missing. You must learn what not to do. Unfortunately, survivorship bias stands between you and the epiphanies you seek.

To learn how to combat this pernicious bias, we explore the story of Abraham Wald and the Department of War Math founded during World War II, and then we interview Wald’s modern-day counterpart, Megan Price, statistician and director of research at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group who explains how she uses math and statistics to save lives and improve conditions in areas of the world suffering from the effects of war.

After the interview, I discuss a news story about how very old violins twist the beliefs of expert musicians.

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 Ken Rose who submitted a recipe for a classic Italian biscotto. Send your own recipes to david {at}