Psychological resiliency, defined

string-480558_960_720

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

2343649298_f04a240c01_o

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

1000words

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.

DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

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

tumblr_niqngeUn2K1u55xnmo2_500

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.

Read the rest

Income inequality makes the 1% sad, too

wpid-screenshot_2014-03-04-08-14-24-11.png

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

1044179_1ade38daac78f69d638f4851989a1232_wm

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

blurbull

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?

DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

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!

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 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

Fan edits "Inside Out: Outside Edition," excising all internal scenes

animation (2)

Pixar's "Inside Out" alternates between short scenes of the life of a girl called Riley, with increasingly longer, action-packed scenes from inside her psyche (as one Internet wag has it, Pixar movies follow the "_____ have feelings" template, starting with toys, cars and bugs, and they've arrived at the logical conclusion: "feelings have feelings"). Read the rest

The pigeons that could discriminate between a Monet and a Picasso

164we01

In The Guardian, psychologist Tom "Mind Hacks" Stafford outlines five classic scientific studies that underpin much of today's thinking about how we learn things. One of Stafford's favorites is BF Skinner's 1930s claims that "with the right practice conditions – meaning that correct behaviour is appropriately rewarded – any task can be learned using simple associations." In 1995, Keio University researchers took Skinner's efforts further by training pigeons to discriminate between paintings by Monet and Picasso.

Like (Skinner), they believed that we underestimate the power of practice and reward in shaping behaviour. After just a few weeks’ training, their pigeons could not only tell a Picasso from a Monet – indicated by pecks on a designated button – but could generalise their learning to discriminate cubist from impressionist works in general.

For a behaviourist, the moral is that even complex learning is supported by fundamental principles of association, practice and reward. It also shows that you can train a pigeon to tell a Renoir from a Matisse, but that doesn’t mean it knows a lot about art.

"The science of learning: five classic studies" (The Guardian)

And here's a PDF of the 1995 paper: "Pigeons' Discrimination of Paintings by Monet and Picasso" Read the rest

Photos of watchful eyes discourage litterbugs

eyes-littering-antisocial-behavior

Researchers at Newcastle University handed out two different leaflets to pedestrians on a university campus. One leaflet had a photo of watching eyes. The other did not. They observed that "4.7% of people dropped the leaflet with eyes compared to 15.6% of the control leaflets."

A second experiment found that the effect was only present when there were no other people in the immediate vicinity as when other people are present you are less likely to behave in an anti-social manner.

Professor Bateson added: “In the fight against anti-social littering, this study could be a real help. Fast food retailers might want to think about using it on packaging to discourage people discarding the wrappers. The flip side is, for those handing out leaflets, it could help people take in the messages are they are less likely to throw away a flyer with eyes on.”

Read the rest

How search engines make us feel smarter than we really are

1509851_10151965594172739_1451801489_n

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.

DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

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 we enjoy stroking animals and popping bubblewrap

pals

In Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, one of the central characters is Lennie, a man with some form of mental development disability who enjoys petting mice and puppies. Only he enjoys it so much he can’t stop and often ends up squashing them literally to death.

The thing is, evidence suggests that the mice and puppies were probably enjoying the petting before Lennie’s fat fingers squashed them. In 2013 researchers from the California Institute of Technology published the results of a study done on mice that showed there is a specific type of sensory cell in skin that responds to careful stroking. The lead researcher on the study suggested we could one day have a skin lotion that makes us feel better.

It’s all very well that mice enjoy being stroked, but why did Lennie -- and why do many other people -- derive pleasure from stroking soft animals? Numerous research studies suggest that during stroking, receptors in the skin send signals to various parts of the brain. This can be measured using MRI scans of the brain during stroking that show increased neuronal activity associated with increased blood flow. The affected areas of the brain light up even when the person involved is unconscious.

I think Lennie should have been given a stress ball or something to occupy him, although I’ve no idea if it would have been a sufficient alternative to petting mice. Sometimes such toys are not always what they seem:

As we know, there are plenty of materials that are lovely to touch. Read the rest

What is reputation?

4-out-of-5-stars1

On the Web, reputation is a critical currency. But reputation is tricky. The way it's measured changes from platform to platform, network to network. And the way we evaluate the reputation of people, products, companies, information, and even the reputation systems, is affected by our own biases. Big time. Gloria Origgi literally wrote the book on reputation, titled La Reputation. A researcher at the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, Origgi is a philosopher, cognitive scientist, novelist, and journalist. Over at my friend John Brockman's essential site EDGE, Origgi tackles the big question of "What is reputation?" From her interview:

Take, for example, the reputation of doctors. This is one of the most interesting examples that I like to cite. Everybody, and I don't know if it's the same in the United States, but it is surely a fact in France and in Italy that if you ask someone about his or her doctor, he will reply that this is the best doctor in town. Everybody has the best doctor, which is clearly paradoxical because we can't all have the best doctor. The way in which we select doctors is very mysterious, because you don't have explicit ratings of doctors. You have websites now that rate the doctors, but health is a very sensitive issue, and you give trust to someone for many, many different reasons. But in the end, everybody ends up being convinced they have the best doctor.

I try to understand why. What are the good things?

Read the rest

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

screen-shot-2015-11-09-at-2-34-06-pm1

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.

DownloadiTunesStitcherRSSSoundcloud

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

The complicated psychology and behavioral economics of a beautiful, $700 coffee-dripper

056c026d-1c66-4d42-9fae-a8e96df290c5-1020x825

At $700, the beautiful Iikone single-cup coffee brewer is quite an extravagance, albeit one made of precision-milled, polished surgical steel. The coffee it produces will doubtless be delicious, because, assuming you start with good beans and carefully measure your water temperature and ingredients quantities, this is a very good coffee-production method. Read the rest

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

brainstatic

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

Does making fun of yourself make you look good or bad?

RodneyDangerfield

Is it a wise social strategy to make self-deprecating comments? Hopes and Fears asked this question to a psychologist, two personal-brand consultants, a motivational speaker, and a women's life coach. They all pretty much agreed that it's smart for high-status people to self-deprecate and not smart for low-status people to do so.

Lindsay Han, life coach focusing on women:

I would think one of two things of the high status person. "Wow, despite you being tough on yourself, you still are looked at as a success. You must be pretty fab to reach that level despite your critical self-talk because that hinders so many people." Or, "He/she is just like me! They have their critical thoughts, but it looks as if they've been able to use them in a way that doesn't hinder their success."

For the low-status person I would think, "That's why you're stuck. You haven't moved past your critical self-talk. Consequently, you haven't achieved what you want because of it."

Read the rest

More posts