Listen: thought experiments about who or what has a mind

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Rick Kleffel sends us his latest podcast (MP3), "A conversation with one of the authors of a wonderful and strange book; science-fiction thought experiments ('robot versus baby') informed by social psychology experiments of fascinating design, part ethics, philosophy, neuroscience, the minds of god and the dead and machines... authentically mind-boggling. And Fun!" Read the rest

How to: apologize

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In An Exploration of the Structure of Effective Apologies , written by business school academics from Ohio State and Eastern Kentucky U and published in Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, the authors report on two studies that trace the reactions of 755 subjects to apologies based and report on the six factors most likely to assuage a wounded party. Read the rest

People who feel out of control of their lives are more likely to believe in conspiracies

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Like you, I know some people who are really hampered by an irrational belief that the people around them are judging them; I've long thought that these beliefs were linked to a sense that their lives were out of their control, and that this turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy -- the more paranoid compulsions they expressed, the more their lives were made worse. Read the rest

After we make peace with robots doing all the work, will our lives have meaning?

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Philosopher John Danaher's new paper "Will life be worth living in a world without work? Technological Unemployment and the Meaning of Life" assumes that after the robots take all our jobs, and after the economic justice of figuring out how to share the productivity games can be equitably shared among the robot-owning investor class and the robot-displaced 99%, there will still be a burning question: what will give our life meaning? Read the rest

Heatmaps of the human body in varying emotional states

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Disappointingly, these heatmaps of human bodies whose owners are experiencing various emotional states were not produced with infrared cameras, but rather with self-reporting by subjects being asked to say where they were experiencing more and less sensation while watching videos and seeing words intended to trigger those emotions. Read the rest

The truth about writer's block

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Studies have found writer's block to be a simpler problem—unhappiness—than the legends around it suggest. But there are different kinds of unhappiness, and it's the blockee's job to be honest about which one they're suffering from.

The first, more anxious group felt unmotivated because of excessive self-criticism—nothing they produced was good enough—even though their imaginative capacity remained relatively unimpaired. (That’s not to say that their imaginations were unaffected: although they could still generate images, they tended to ruminate, replaying scenes over and over, unable to move on to something new.) The second, more socially hostile group was unmotivated because they didn’t want their work compared to the work of others. (Not everyone was afraid of criticism; some writers said that they didn’t want to be “object[s] of envy.”) Although their daydreaming capacity was largely intact, they tended to use it to imagine future interactions with others. The third, apathetic group seemed the most creatively blocked. They couldn’t daydream; they lacked originality; and they felt that the “rules” they were subjected to were too constrictive. Their motivation was also all but nonexistent. Finally, the fourth, angry and disappointed group tended to look for external motivation; they were driven by the need for attention and extrinsic reward. They were, Barrios and Singer found, more narcissistic—and that narcissism shaped their work as writers. They didn’t want to share their mental imagery, preferring that it stay private.

I bet group 1 (self-critics) account for most, though. Turn off your inner editor—and if necessary, move to a medium (longhand, typewriter) that deprives you of editorial tools Read the rest

Study: people who believe in innate intelligence overestimate their own

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In Understanding overconfidence: Theories of intelligence, preferential attention, and distorted self-assessment, an open access paper published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, psych researchers from Washington State U, Florida State U and Stanford report on their ingenious experiments to investigate how subjects' beliefs about intelligence affect their own intelligence. Read the rest

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

Hear the world's most prolific sleep-talker on record

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Dion McGregor (1922-1994) was a songwriter who penned a hit for Barbra Streisand but he has cult (and now scientific) fame as a prolific sleep-talker, or rather sleep-storyteller. While asleep, McGregor would narrate his strange, creepy, and sometimes risque dreams in great detail. Have a listen below! In 1964, Decca Records released an album of recordings of McGregor's sleep-talking, The Dream World of Dion Mcgregor - He Talks in His Sleep, with cover art by Edward Gorey. A book of transcripts, also illustrated by Gorey, was also published that year with the same title, The Dream World of Dion McGregor. Numerous CDs have followed and the entire body of work has become a great source of data for sleep researchers at Harvard Medical School. They're published a new paper about McGregor in the journal Imagination Cognition and Personality. From the British Psychological Society:

The researchers think there are two explanations for the differences between McGregor's somniloquies and typical dream content. One is that much sleep talking does not occur during dreams, and in fact people's brain waves during sleep talking are distinct from those usually seen during dreaming, featuring fewer waves in the alpha frequency range, which they explained could be a sign of more frontal brain activity. The researchers further describe this as "an unusual state midway between waking and sleeping" (backing this up, there is a McGregor interview in which he says a sleep researcher recorded his brain activity during sleep talking and found a mix of sleep and waking brain wave patterns).
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Man missing for 30 years realizes that he's someone else

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This is Edgar Latulip of southwestern Ontario. The developmentally disabled man has been missing since 1986 but was just found about 120 kilometers from his hometown. Or rather, he found himself. Latulip had lost his memory due to a head injury after he disappeared and had created a new identity. Last month, he realized he wasn't who he thought he was. From CBC:

On Jan. 7, Latulip met with a social worker and told her he thought he was somebody else, Gavin said. The social worker found his missing persons case file and police were then called in. Latulip volunteered to have a DNA test done and on Monday, the results came back indicating he was Latulip.

Gavin said it is an unusual, but happy resolution to the case.

"When someone goes missing for an extended period of time, they don't want to be found and they're off the grid and we don't find them," Gavin said. "Or the other option, sadly, is sometimes people are deceased. I've never heard of something like this where someone's memory has come back and their identity is recovered.

"It is absolutely a good news story," Gavin added. "I try not to only think about his mother's side, but also Mr. Latulip's side where for 30 years you've learned a certain way and someone tells you and confirms to you that's not who you are. That's a lot to take in, personally, right, so there's interesting pieces for him as well."

"Ontario man missing 30 years suddenly remembers own identity" (CBC) Read the rest

Psychological resiliency, defined

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Before resiliency was a buzzword, it was an area of serious psychological study. Read the rest

Hunger is a mood: the psychology of weight loss and self-control

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Michael Graziano, a psychologist, lost 50 lbs in 8 months by experimenting on himself to see how different dietary choices affected his feelings of hunger, reasoning that the major predictor of weight control isn't calories consumed versus calories burned -- but the extent to which your unconscious mind exerts pressure on you to eat more and exercise less. 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

The surprising perks of being easily embarrassed

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Why do people blush? Darwin studied the phenomenon of reddened cheeks and necks as a response to embarrassment and wrote, "Blushing is the most peculiar and most human of all expressions." And, unlike a smile or laughter, a blush can't be faked. David Robson wrote an article on BBC.com about new research that suggests that "feelings of excruciating embarrassment may be crucial for your wellbeing in the long term."

Psychologist Mark Leary at Duke University thinks blushes are “non-verbal apologies” that can clear up awkward moments. “Even if you are innocent, it may not hurt to convey discomfort at being accused – to say ‘I'm sorry that I have inadvertently given you a reason to suspect me’,” Leary said.

Matthew Feinberg did research at the University of California, Berkeley, and found that people who were more easily flustered were more likely to be altruistic and to play honestly in a game that involved cash rewards.

In a subsequent experiment, Feinberg showed participants pictures of people with embarrassed expressions, and asked them a series of questions, such as; “If this person were a fellow student, how likely is it that you would ask her to join a study group that you were a part of?” People who looked a little flustered were more likely to be included than those who looked cool and calm.

Amazingly, red-faced awkwardness may boost your sex appeal when faced with someone you fancy. “If they are looking for a long-term partner, it could show that you are prosocial, cooperative – someone who isn’t going to cheat,” says Feinberg, who is now at the University of Toronto.

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Income inequality makes the 1% sad, too

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A study from the notorious socialists at the Harvard Business Review analyzed data from the Gallup World Poll and the World Top Incomes Database and found that in countries with a large degree of wealth inequality, "levels of life satisfaction" go down, and "negative daily emotional experiences" go up, for all populations, including the richest. Read the rest

How imaginary friends went from a parental worry to a badge of honour

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For a long time, kids' imaginary friends were a cause for concern: Dr Spock recommended taking kids to "a child psychiatrist, child psychologist or other mental-health counsellor" to figure out what kids with imaginary friends were "lacking;" while Jean Piaget saw imaginary friends as a sign of failure, not of an active imagination, because "The child has no imagination, and what we ascribe to him as such is no more than a lack of coherence." 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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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

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