David McRaney

David McRaney is a journalist and self-described psychology nerd. He's the author of the books You Are Not So Smart and You Are Now Less Dumb. He has written for several publications, including The Atlantic and Psychology Today. He lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Why did we blow on Nintendo game cartridges?

And what are the ramifications of rubbing a beard with an infected chicken before conducting lab work? Tune in to the latest episode of You Are Not So Smart to find out!

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Monitoring a computer transistor to understand why a YouTube video is funny

Even though we are learning more and more about what is “under the hood” of human consciousness, it might not tell us what we most want to know about ourselves. It could be like monitoring a transistor in a computer to better understand why a YouTube video was funny. David McRaney explores the dangers of reductionism in the You Are Not So Smart podcast.

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How the clothes you wear change your perceptions

When you work from home, do you produce better results in pajamas or professional attire? Do casual Fridays damage productivity? Does a jeans-and-T-shirt startup have an edge over its business-casual competitor? Researchers are just now getting to the bottom of questions like these. David McRaney of the You Are Not So Smart podcast explores the strange phenomenon known as “enclothed cognition.”

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How psychology can improve your sleep life [YANSS 24]

William Dement, former dean of sleep studies at Stanford, a man with 50 years of research behind him, once told a reporter for National Geographic – “As far as I know, the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is because we get sleepy.”

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You Are Not So Smart 023: Learning from warring tribes of children

Brought to you by Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create your own professional website or online portfolio. For a free trial and 10% off, go to squarespace.com and use offer code LESSDUMB.

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

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.

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You Are Not So Smart podcast 021: how to use science as a tool to understand human nature

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.

This episode of You Are Not So Smart is brought to you by Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create you own professional website or online portfolio. For a free trial and ten percent off go to Squarespace.com and use the offer code LESSDUMB.

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In 1998, The Journal of the American Medical Association published research that debunked therapeutic touch and moved the well-meaning mystical practice out of the kingdom of medicine and into the abandoned strip mall of quackery.

At the time, touch was enjoying a surge in popularity in hospitals and clinics. Practitioners claimed that they could manipulate mysterious energy fields and bring about healing by placing their hands above the body of the sick. The people doing this kind of work thought they were doing something wonderful, something good, but it was wishful thinking that had somehow bypassed the checks and balances of medical science.

The research that revealed therapeutic touch was bunk was based on a 9-year-old girl’s fourth-grade science fair project. Emily Rosa had already conducted several sound experiments based on her skepticism, and with the help of some career academics, her work was expanded. She is now part of history, the youngest person to publish research in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

One of the central themes of You Are Not So Smart is you are so bad at thinking, judging, and deciding that your species had to invent a tool to help you work on the sort of problems you, as a human, are terrible at solving. For example, “Can I heal someone with my hands and empathy alone?” or “Should I pay someone to wave his hands above my dying mother?” or “Should health insurance plans cover healing touch?” or “Should our university offer nurses classes in manipulating energy?” These are not easy questions to answer correctly. Without science, you’ll probably get them wrong.

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You Are Not So Smart podcast 020: The Future - James Burke and Matt Novak

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.

If you love educational entertainment - programs about science, nature, history, technology and everything in between - it is a safe bet that the creators of those shows were heavily influenced by the founding fathers of science communication: Carl Sagan, David Attenborough, and James Burke.

In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast we sit down with James Burke and discuss the past, the present, and where he sees us heading when we arrive in a future where scarcity is rare and home manufacturing can produce just about anything you desire.

James Burke is a legendary science historian who created the landmark BBC series Connections which provided an alternative view of history and change by replacing the traditional “Great Man” timeline with an interconnected web in which all people influence one another to blindly direct the flow of progress. Burke is currently writing a new book about the coming age of abundance, and he continues to work on his Knowledge Web project.

This episode of You Are Not So Smart is brought to you by Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create you own professional website or online portfolio. For a free trial and ten percent off go to Squarespace.com and use the offer code DUMDUM.

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You Are Not So Smart podcast 019: Placebo sleep and other new discoveries in placebo research

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.

How powerful is the placebo effect? After a good night’s sleep could a scientist convince you that you had tossed and turned, and if so, how would that affect your perceptions and behavior? What if a doctor told you that you had slept like a baby when in reality you had barely slept at all? Would hearing those words improve your performance on a difficult test?

In this episode we learn the answers to these questions and more as we explore how research continues to unravel the mysteries behind the placebo effect and how it can drastically alter our bodies and minds.

This episode of You Are Not So Smart is brought to you by:

Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create you own professional website or online portfolio. For a free trial and ten percent off go to Squarespace.com and use the offer code DUMDUM.

Warby Parker. Try out 5 pairs of prescription eyeglasses for free and get three-day shipping with the offer code SOSMART.

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You Are Not So Smart podcast 018: How Benjamin Franklin dealt with haters

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.

Benjamin Franklin knew how to deal with haters, and in this episode we learn how he turned his haters into fans with what is now called The Benjamin Franklin Effect.

Listen as David McRaney reads and excerpt from his book, You Are Now Less Dumb explaining the psychology behind the effect and how the act of spreading harm forms the attitude of hate, and the act of spreading kindness generates the attitude of camaraderie.

This episode of You Are Not So Smart is brought to you by:

Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create you own professional website or online portfolio. For a free trial and ten percent off go to Squarespace.com and use the offer code DUMDUM.

Audible, which is offering a free audiobook of your choice and a free 30-day trial membership. Go to audiblepodcast.com/notsosmart and choose from over 150,000 titles.

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You Are Not So Smart podcast 017: Alternative Medicine - Tim Farley

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. David concludes each episode by eating a delicious cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener.

Where is the line between medicine and alternative medicine? Are Eastern medicine and Western medicine truly at odds, and if so, who is right and who is wrong? What harm is there in using complementary or integrative treatments in an effort to improve wellness?

In this episode we discuss alternative medicine with Tim Farley, creator and curator of What's The Harm, a website that tracks the harmful effects that result from seeking out alternative treatments and cures before or instead of seeking out science-based medicine. Tim also created the website Skeptical Software Tools, and he tweets at @krelnik.

This episode of You Are Not So Smart is brought to you by Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create you own professional website or online portfolio. For a free trial and ten percent off go to Squarespace.com and use the offer code PIPE.

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You Are Not So Smart podcast 016: Conspiracy Theories

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. David concludes each episode by eating a delicious cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener.

This episode of You Are Not So Smart is brought to you by Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create you own professional website or online portfolio. For a free trial and ten percent off go to Squarespace.com and use the offer code PIPE.

Who is pulling the strings? Who is behind the coverup? Who holds the real power, and what do they want? How deep does the conspiracy to control your mind go?

In this episode we discuss the history, social impact, neuroscience, and psychology behind conspiracy theories and paranoid thinking.

Our guests are Steven Novella and Jesse Walker. Listen as they explain why we love conspiracy theories, how they flourish, how they harm, and what they say about a culture.

Steven Novella is a leader in the skeptic community, host of The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, and an academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine. He blogs at Neurologica, Skepticblog, and Science-Based Medicine.

Jesse Walker is the book editor for Reason Magazine and author of the new book, The United States of Paranoia, a Conspiracy Theory. Walker's articles can be seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and many others. He blogs at The Perpetual Three Dot Column.

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You Are Not So Smart podcast 015: You Are Now Less Dumb

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

In this inbetweenisode David reads an excerpt from his book, You Are Now Less Dumb, about a strange experiment in Michigan that tested the bounds of the self by throwing three very unusual men into a situation that won’t likely be repeated ever again by science. (The photo is of the Ypsilanti state hospital and it comes courtesy of Opacity.us. )

In the next episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, neurologist Steven Novella and author Jesse Walker explain why we love conspiracy theories, how they flourish, and what they say about a culture.

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You Are Not So Smart podcast 014: How stories can change beliefs and behaviors

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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. David concludes each episode by eating a delicious cookie. Enjoy! -- Mark

In this episode we discuss the power that narratives have on our beliefs and behaviors with Melanie C. Green, a psychologist who studies the persuasive power of fiction.

According to Nielsen, the TV ratings company, the average person in the United States watches about 34 hours of television a week. That’s 73 days a year. Over the course of a lifetime, the average American can expect to spend a full decade lost in the trance spell that only powerful narratives can cast over the human mind.

What is the power of all the stories we consume through television? What about movies and books and comics and video games and everything else? How does it affect our beliefs and behaviors?

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You Are Not So Smart podcast 013: Clive Thompson and How Technology Affects Our Minds


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The very fact that you are reading this sentence, contemplating whether you want to listen to this podcast, means that you are living out a fantasy from a previous generation's cyberpunk novel.

However you made it here, however you got these words into your brain, you did so by diving through data streams first cooked up by delirious engineers downing late-night coffees, wandering deep within rows of data tape unspooling from jerky, spinning platters.

We've been dreaming of this life for a long time, since before the vacuum tubes and punchcards of the '40s, and now that we are here, some people are worried that the tech will, at best, make us lazy, and at worst make us stupid.

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