The Ultimate Explanation of the Psychology Behind the Spread of Fake News

“Crazy fairy tales have become numbingly common,” Vox’s David Roberts recently observed. We are more apt to be wrong about basic facts than at any time in the recent past. I have often been left frustrated by someone who subscribes to absurd stuff — about evolution or immigrants or Obama’s birth certificate or you name it — and proceeded to shrugs off any appeal to facts or […]

Why Your Skepticism about Science and Journalism Is Dangerous

A lot of people, myself included, deep down feel there is such a thing as truth. And that it matters when it’s spoken, even if no one listens. When you see an expert, someone with access to the facts, what they say sounds like a lot of dark Balinese magic, perhaps. But we’re aware that’s […]

The Empowerment Paradox: Why Mastery Won’t Set Us Free

If I increase my ability to reach my goals, that’s a good thing, right? Not always. There’s a surprising way in which empowerment can come full circle and become powerlessness. How to achieve a goal Let’s see getting what you want as a two-step process: Discover what the cause-effect relationships that govern reality are Figure out how to set theright cause-effect […]

Science And The Myth Of Being Worthy

Traditional morality has it backwards. In a cruel way. It features this prevalent idea that happiness requires upfront payment. Both chronologically and morally, enjoyment comes after work. First toil, then fun. Suffer. Then laugh. Monks hitting themselves and locking themselves in rooms for days and not eating or even speaking for years on end to deserve bliss […]

Evolution And The Myth Of The Selfish Human

Why do people do good things? Answer: “Because they benefit, stupid!” It hardly seems an exaggeration to say that it’s a truism in Western culture that human beings are self-interested animals driven by a desire to maximize pleasure or wealth or reproductive advantage. Many people just accept that this is how humans are and that they can’t be otherwise. […]

So You Think Capitalism Is Evil

Everywhere I go, I’m within earshot of someone ranting about capitalism. How it’s to blame for all the issues in the world — and in the angry person’s life. Inevitably, others will join in and before I realize it I’m in the middle of a Capitalism-Fucked-The-World-Up support group. If you give the same reason for every issue — global […]

No, You Don’t Need To Be Confident All The Time — And Why You Shouldn’t Even Try

Many things lend themselves to quick fixes. People who deny that — “It justcan’t be that easy!” — are uninformed or afraid to take responsibility for their lives. Headspace helps us meditate, Runkeeper motivates us to exercise, QualityTimetracks our screen time and various food-track apps monitor our calorie intake. For productivity, start your day ‘unplugged’ with a cold shower and a glass of water, light breakfast, black coffee, […]

How Can Stories Be So Powerful?

A lot has been said recently about narratives. If you are at all interested in how humans understand reality, the term seems to show up everywhere Their omnipresence is well-deserved. Stories are unique devices for making sense of the world. It’s how our brains work. As cognitive scientist Mark Tuner has said: “Narrative imagining — story — is the fundamental instrument of thought. Rational capacities depend upon it. It is our chief […]

I Worry About Forgetting My Life

He always knows how to hit me where it hurts the most. “It was all for nothing.” According to one of the more annoying voices in my head, if I don’t remember something, it was wasted. Perhaps you know the feeling: you’ve lost your memory of an awesome event or an instructive book. You feel […]

Who Are You ‘Really’? Traits, Dispositions, And Vanishing Autonomy

Let’s get one thing straight. I am the most interesting thing in the universe. And so are you. So let’s think about who we are. I used to be doubtful about ‘who we are’ — about personality — as an overarching thing ‘over and above’ consistent regularities in behavior: “I am all these behavioral tendencies — to argue when I’m annoyed, drunk or tired and to […]