Your Unlearning Report
For a skeptic, there is nothing more satisfying than discovering that some previously cherished truth has been overturned by new evidence. It is in that spirit that I offer the following Unlearning Report. Empathy Is Bad Everybody loves empathy. Former President Barack Obama often spoke about our “empathy deficit” and the need to “see the …
Can Anything Save Us from Unintended Consequences?
Better policy outcomes will be achieved only when decision-makers are motivated to use the best modes of thinking and deciding.
Your Unlearning Report: The Trouble with Empathy, Implicit Bias, and Believing in Luck
For a skeptic, there is nothing more satisfying than discovering that some previously cherished truth has been overturned by new evidence.
Consensus: Could Two Hundred Scientists Be Wrong?
In August of 2016, publication of a book about neuroscience’s most famous amnesia patient—known for decades only as H.M.—stirred up a controversy in the world of science. On August 3, the New York Times Magazine released an article adapted from Luke Dittrich’s book, Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets (Dittrich 2016a; 2016b). Two days later, …
The Parable of the Power Pose and How to Reverse It
Some things sound too good to be true, and on closer examination, they are—even in science.
Consensus: Could Two Hundred Scientists Be Wrong?
Scientists have a unique and important role in the public dialogue. They are trusted—or should be—to have special skills of analysis achieved after long study and practice. There are many important social issues to which scientists can and should contribute. Unfortunately, when it comes to evolution, climate change, and the benefits of vaccination, scientists are too often ignored.
Kitty Genovese: Revising the Parable of the Bad Samaritan
The Kitty Genovese case became a troubling symbol of bystander apathy in the United States. According to the Times report, thirty-seven people witnessed Genovese being stabbed to death in three separate attacks over a period of thirty minutes, and none of them called the police or attempted to intervene.
Fate: Inventing Reasons for the Things that Happen
You might guess there wouldn’t be much psychological research on belief in fate, destiny, or purpose, but you’d be wrong.
Syracuse, Apple, and Autism Pseudoscience
April is Autism Acceptance Month, and as it turns out it is the occasion for Apple Inc. to align itself with pseudoscience.
Good News for Grouches: Happiness is Overrated
The pursuit of happiness is one of the inalienable rights established in the Declaration of Independence, and in recent decades an enormous happiness industry has risen up to help you succeed in your personal pursuit.
Nudging People to Save the Planet
It is difficult enough to get people to cut back on French fries, floss their teeth, or stop smoking—all of which have more direct effects on their lives—and much harder still to convince people to take immediate action for the benefit of other people in the murky future.
Guns: Feeling Safe Does Not Equal Being Safe
Sadly, buying a gun does not make you safer. To the contrary, the evidence suggests that bringing a gun into your home increases the chances you will be killed.
Psychology’s CAM Controversy
Poor psychology. Times have been tough lately for both psychological science and for the profession of clinical psychology.
Welcome to the Season of Conspiracy Theories
The 2016 Presidential campaign is well underway, and perhaps because fear mongering is such a popular political strategy (see Donald Trump on immigration), conspiracy theories are back in season. Coincidently, several new studies have emerged to shed more light on why people endorse conspiracy theories.
Hanging Out at the Café: Cultures of Skepticism and Belief
Whereas Chris Mooney’s 2005 book detailed an organized conservative campaign against science, my California experience was something quite different—a fairly coherent culture that includes both pro- and anti-science viewpoints.
As the population ages, concerns about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have created a demand for anything that might stave off the course of mental decline. Brain training programs have a kind of simple plausibility. They sound scientific, and the analogy to physical exercise makes intuitive sense.
Has Science a Problem?
For science to stand as a shining alternative to the unending waves of irrationality, its reputation must be strong. Unfortunately, science’s reputation has taken a bewildering number of blows in recent years.
Facilitated Communication: The Fad that Will Not Die
Many readers will remember facilitated communication (FC). Back in the early 1990s, a new treatment came rushing onto the scene making promises that were enormously attractive to parents of children with autism.
Ideology Versus Public Health
Indiana has been in the news lately, and most of what we’re hearing isn’t good.
The Politics of Science and the Science of Politics
Or: What Do Bill Maher, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Rand Paul, and Chris Christie Have In Common?
Anti-Science Trends at Mid-Decade
What successes and failures have we encountered in the decade since Controversial Therapies first came out? It seems to me that the results have been decidedly mixed.
Happiness, Religion, and the Status Quo
The emotional benefits that accompany many superstitious, paranormal, and supernatural beliefs undoubtedly make them more difficult to discard.