How to get the most out of realizing you are wrong by using Bayes’ Theorem to update your beliefs

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You don’t treat all of your beliefs equally.

For some, you see them as either true or false, correct or incorrect. For others, you see them as probabilities, chances – odds. In one world, you live in certainty, in the other, uncertainty.

In this episode we explore why you gladly update some beliefs yet refuse to update others.

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This episode is brought to you by the MIT Press, publishing Suzana Herculano-Houzel’s book The Human Advantage: A New Understanding of How Our Brain Became Remarkable. Read more about The Human Advantage and a few other new science, philosophy, language, and technology titles at mitpress.com/smart.

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If you love the show and want to support its continued production, become a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free as well as show extras and original content just for patrons. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

In this episode you will learn from two experts in reasoning how to apply a rule from the 1700s called Bayes’ Theorem not only to numbers you can plug into formulas, but also to the beliefs you carry around in order to make sense of the world. Read the rest

Why we are unaware of how unaware we are

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Each one of us has a relationship with our own ignorance, a dishonest, complicated relationship, and that dishonesty keeps us sane, happy, and willing to get out of bed in the morning.

Part of that ignorance is a blind spot we each possess that obscures both our competence and incompetence.

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This episode is also brought to you 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 Fundamentals of Photography filmed in partnership with The National Geographic and taught by professional photographer Joel Sartore. Click here for a FREE TRIAL.

If you love the show and want to support its continued production, become a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free as well as show extras and original content just for patrons. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

In the case of singing, you might get all the way to an audition on X-Factor on national television before someone finally provides you with an accurate appraisal. David Dunning says that the shock that some people feel when Simon Cowell cruelly explains to them that they suck is often the result of living for years in an environment filled with mediocrity enablers. Friends and family, peers and coworkers, they don’t want to be mean or impolite. They encourage you to keep going until you end up in front of millions reeling from your first experience with honest feedback. Read the rest

The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy

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When you desire meaning, when you want things to line up, when looking for something specific, you tend to notice patterns everywhere, which leads you to ask the question, “What are the odds?” Usually, the odds are actually pretty good.

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How to spot and avoid the "No True Scotsman" fallacy

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When your identity becomes intertwined with your definitions, you can easily fall victim to something called The No True Scotsman Fallacy.

It often appears during a dilemma: What do you do when a member of a group to which you belong acts in a way that you feel is in opposition to your values? Do you denounce the group, or do you redefine the boundaries of membership?

In this episode, you will learn from three experts in logic and argumentation how to identify, defend against, and avoid deploying this strange thinking quirk that leads to schisms and stasis in groups both big and small.

This episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is the third in a full season of episodes exploring logical fallacies. The first episode is here.

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This episode is brought to you by Trunk Club. Like Netflix for clothes, a professional stylist helps you define your new look, and then your new clothes arrive at your doorstep in a special trunk. Keep what you want, return the rest. Get started today and Trunk Club will style you for FREE. Plus FREE SHIPPING both ways! Click here for this special offer.

This episode is brought to you 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 Fundamentals of Photography filmed in partnership with The National Geographic and taught by professional photographer Joel Sartore. Read the rest

Why human brains are prone to the black and white fallacy

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Why do you try to drain the world of color when backed into a rhetorical corner?

Why do you have such a hard time realizing that you have suggested the world is devoid of nuance when you are in the heat of an argument, reducing all every wavelength to black and white, and all choices to A or B?

In this episode, you’ll learn from three experts in logic and arguing why human brains are prone to the black and white fallacy and the false dichotomies it generates. You’ll learn how to spot this fallacy, what to do when someone uses it against you, and how to avoid committing it yourself.

This episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is the third in a full season of episodes exploring logical fallacies. The first episode is here.

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This episode is brought to you by Trunk Club. Like Netflix for clothes, a professional stylist helps you define your new look, and then your new clothes arrive at your doorstep in a special trunk. Keep what you want, return the rest. Get started today and Trunk Club will style you for FREE. Plus FREE SHIPPING both ways! Click here for this special offer.

This episode is brought to you 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 Fundamentals of Photography filmed in partnership with The National Geographic and taught by professional photographer Joel Sartore. Read the rest

Why your brain creates straw men and doesn't realize it

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When confronted with dogma-threatening, worldview-menacing ideas, your knee-jerk response is usually to lash out and try to bat them away, but thanks to a nearly unavoidable mistake in reasoning, you often end up doing battle with arguments of your own creation.

Your lazy brain is always trying to make sense of the world on ever-simpler terms. Just as you wouldn’t use a topographical map to navigate your way to Wendy’s, you tend to navigate reality using a sort of Google Maps interpretation of events and ideas. It’s less accurate, sure, but much easier to understand when details aren’t a priority. But thanks to this heuristical habit, you sometimes create mental men of straw that stand in for the propositions put forth by people who see the world a bit differently than you. In addition to being easy to grasp, they are easy to knock down and hack apart, which wouldn’t be a problem if only you noticed the switcheroo.

This is the essence of the straw man fallacy, probably the most common of all logical fallacies. Setting up and knocking down straw men is so easy to do while arguing that you might not even notice that you are doing it.

In this episode, you’ll learn from three experts in logic and arguing why human brains tend not to realize they are constructing artificial versions of the arguments they wish to defeat. Once you’ve wrapped your mind around that idea, you’ll then learn how to spot the straw man fallacy, how to avoid committing it, and how to defend against it. Read the rest

The best logical fallacy of all: The Fallacy Fallacy

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If you have ever shared an opinion on the internet, you have probably been in an internet argument, and if you have been in enough internet arguments you have likely been called out for committing a logical fallacy, and if you’ve been called out on enough logical fallacies in enough internet arguments you may have spent some time learning how logical fallacies work, and if you have been in enough internet arguments after having learned how logical fallacies work then you have likely committed the fallacy fallacy.

This episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is the first in a full season of episodes exploring logical fallacies. In the first show of this series you will hear three experts in logic and debate explain how formal arguments are constructed, what logical fallacies are, and how to spot, avoid, and defend against the one logical fallacy that, after learning such things, is most likely to turn you into an internet blowhard.

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This episode is brought to you by Trunk Club. Like Netflix for clothes, a professional stylist helps you define your new look, and then your new clothes arrive at your doorstep in a special trunk. Keep what you want, return the rest. Get started today and Trunk Club will style you for FREE. Plus FREE SHIPPING both ways! Click here for this special offer.

This episode is brought to you by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Read the rest

How to become better at smelling and avoiding the many varieties of bullshit

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How strong is your bullshit detector? And what exactly IS the scientific definition of bullshit?

In this episode we explore both of those concepts as well as what makes a person susceptible to bullshit, how to identify and defend against it, and what kind of people are the most and least likely to be bowled over by bullshit artists and other merchants of feel-good woo.

You’ll hear how Gordon Pennycook and his team at the University of Waterloo set out to discover if there was a spectrum of receptivity for a certain kind of humbug they call pseudo-profound bullshit – the kind that sounds deep and meaningful at first glance, but upon closer inspection means nothing at all. They wondered, is there a “type” of person who is more susceptible to that kind of language, and if so, what other things about personalities and thinking styles correlate with that tolerance and lack of skepticism, and why?

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This episode is brought to you by The Great Courses. Get 80 percent off Behavioral Economics: When Psychology and Economics Collide presented by professor Scott Heutell along with many other fantastic lecture series by visiting this link and ordering today!

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In every episode, after I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. Read the rest

How search engines make us feel smarter than we really are

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You’ve likely wondered if the internet is having a negative effect on your brain. Perhaps you’ve thought this after realizing the world wide web now serves as a trusty resource when gaps in your knowledge appear, and over time it, you’ve thought, maybe it might be making you less knowledgeable overall because you habitually head to Google if you don’t know the answers to something, search, click, read a few lines, and then promptly forget the factoid until the next time you need it.

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This episode is brought to you by The Great Courses. Get 80 percent off Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior presented by Professor Mark Leary along with many other fantastic lecture series by visiting this link and ordering today!

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

Fearing that new technology will lead to lazy thinking is an old concern, one that goes back at least as far as Socrates who was certain that scrolls would make people dumb because they would grow to depend on “external written characters” instead of memorization. Just about every new technology and medium has been vilified at some point by that era’s luddites as finally being the end of deep thinking and the beginning of idiocracy. It never happens, of course, and I doubt it ever will.

The latest research suggest that though technology probably doesn’t make us stupid, it can, however, cause us to believe that we are smarter than we really are. Read the rest

Why you often believe people who see the world differently are wrong

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In psychology they call thinking that you see the world as it truly is, free from bias or the limitations of your senses, naive realism.

According to our guest in this episode, famed psychologist Lee Ross, naive realism also leads you to believe you arrived at your opinions, political or otherwise, after careful, rational analysis through unmediated thoughts and perceptions. In other words, you think you have been mainlining pure reality for years, and like Gandalf studying ancient texts, your intense study of the bare facts is what has naturally led to your conclusions.

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This episode is brought to you by The Great Courses. Get 80 percent off Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior presented by Professor Mark Leary along with many other fantastic lecture series by visiting this link and ordering today!

This episode of You Are Not So Smart is also 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 percent off, go to Squarespace.com and use the offer code SOSMART.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

As Ross points out in the interview, your personal reality isn’t the perception of what is “out there,” but an observation of what is going on inside your head. Bertrand Russell put it like this, “The observer, when he seems to himself to be observing a stone, is really, if physics is to be believed, observing the effects of the stone upon himself,” a point illustrated by this static, non-moving image (mobile readers click this for bigger version):

Your brain takes in the information from your senses, but your reality isn’t made up of the atoms of the “real world.” It’s made up of the atoms of your brain. Read the rest

How to willfully alter your brain’s ability to willfully alter your brain’s abilities

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In a way, you can simply will yourself into a new physical form – that is if you use your will to routinely move heavy things, run around, or eat fewer tacos.

Just as you can change your body at the atomic level by lifting weights, exercising, or eating differently, you can willfully alter your brain by performing another physical act: thinking in a certain way. Read the rest

How to turn your fears and anxieties into positivity and productivity with cognitive reframing

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Reframing is one of those psychological tools that just plain works. It’s practical, simple, and with practice and repetition it often leads to real change in people with a variety of thinking problems.

It works because we rarely question our own interpretations, the meanings we construct when examining a set of facts, or our own introspections of internal emotional states. So much of the things the anxiety and fear we feel when anticipating the future is just the result of plucking from a grab bag of best guesses and assumptions, shaky models of reality that may or may not be accurate and will likely pan out much differently than we predict.

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This episode is brought to you by The Great Courses. Get 80 percent off Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior presented by Professor Mark Leary along with many other fantastic lecture series by visiting this link and ordering today!

This episode is sponsored by Wealthfront, the automated investment service that makes it easy to invest your money the right way. Visit this link to to get your first $10,000 managed for free.

This episode of You Are Not So Smart is also 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 percent off, go to Squarespace.com and use the offer code SOSMART.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Read the rest

How the illusion of control leads you to perpetually wait for your life to begin

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Over the years, when most patients have first met psychiatrist Michael I. Bennett, they have tended to believe they would soon to get to know a trusted confidant who would sit quietly, listen intently, and eventually deliver something he says is scientifically impossible: a way to make all their bad feelings go away.

“I’d say, ‘Well, what’s your goal with this problem?’ explains Bennett. “And they would say, ‘Of course, it’s to feel better. It’s to improve it. It’s to solve it,’ and I’d be essentially saying, ‘Fuck that! That’s not going to happen.'”

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This episode is brought to you by The Great Courses. Get 80 percent off Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior presented by Professor Mark Leary along with many other fantastic lecture series by visiting this link and ordering today!

This episode is sponsored by Wealthfront, the automated investment service that makes it easy to invest your money the right way. Visit this link to to get your first $10,000 managed for free.

This episode of You Are Not So Smart is also 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 percent off, go to Squarespace.com and use the offer code SOSMART.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

In the show, you’ll hear Michael elaborate on why that is. Read the rest

What magicians, con-artists, and scammers can teach us about humility and humanity

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Before we had names for them or a science to study their impact, the people who could claim the most expertise on biases, fallacies, heuristics and all the other recently popularized quirks of human reasoning were scam artists, con artists, and magicians.

Psychology’s unhealthy obsession with the WEIRDest people in the world

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Psychology studies are almost always about WEIRD people: Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic – the kind of people who make up less than 15 percent of the world's population.

Curing kids of the notion that they suck at science

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Can a new computer-assisted teaching program rid us of the cognitive errors that lead to students believing they suck at math or just aren’t cut out to study science? According to Ulrik Christensen, senior fellow of digital learning at McGraw-Hill Education, yes it can.

How we learn to be helpless—and unlearn it

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Learned helplessness keeps people in bad jobs, poor health, terrible relationships, and awful circumstances despite how easy it may be to escape. Learn how to defeat this psychological trap, thanks to the work of Martin Seligman.

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