David McRaney: Mastering the Art of Thought and Conversation

by | Mar 5, 2024

David McRaney, a renowned author and psychology enthusiast, embarks on an insightful journey into the intricacies of human cognition and the art of conversation. In this episode of Culture Leaders Podcast, McRaney delves into the impact of our perceptions on our reality and the significance of intellectual humility in understanding ourselves and the world.

Join us as David McRaney shares his expertise on the interplay between cognition and emotion, and the transformative power of meaningful conversations. He highlights the importance of challenging our own opinions and the necessity of introspection for personal growth. McRaney’s narrative is a deep exploration of the human mind, emphasizing the complex and often overlooked aspects of our cognitive processes.


“My why is bringing people together to create impact, to have a good time, to improve the quality of life.” – David McRaney

“We are social primates doing messy social things and you can’t technologically subvert that.” – David McRaney

“You’re this unreliable narrator in the story of your life.” – David McRaney

“If you don’t do a good job of introspecting and understanding yourself, then you’ll be driven by those forces, but you’ll consider them a fate.” – David McRaney

“The fear of social death is greater than the fear of physical death.” – David McRaney




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Websites: https://www.davidmcraney.com/ | https://youarenotsosmart.com/ 



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Dr. Jessica Kriegel (00:21.942)
David, I can't even contain my excitement. I'm so jazzed to be talking to you today because I loved your book. I'm a huge fan of your work. I think you're so smart. I've already learned a lot following you and to be able to actually ask you questions in the flesh. I have all my little notes here of like, ooh, talk about this, talk about that. I'm so excited. So I wanna know what your why is, what moves you. Yeah.

David McRaney (00:46.021)
My why. It's weird, right? Sometimes you think you know what your why is, and then you get a little down the line, and you're like, oh, maybe it's actually this. And it can change, and it mutates, and it evolves. If you're pursuing things that are really cranking your tractor. For me, I'm from the deep south. You've got to get a lot of those. One of my favorite deep south expressions is, I don't think I'd have told that. It's a great way.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:03.646)
Cranking your tractor? I'm gonna use that! Okay.

David McRaney (01:15.929)
When somebody says something cringy and you're like, I don't think I'd have told that. It's like advice. It lets the other person off the hook. I have always been fascinated. I grew up as a only child in the deep south in a trailer in the woods, very isolated, latchkey. So I was just always deconstructing what does it mean to be a person. And I eventually found my way to words and read all my mom's romance novels as she kept

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:23.456)

David McRaney (01:44.817)
exchanging them for new ones, all my dad's old sci-fi. And that just made it even more of a mystery. And this kept going and going and going, but my dad was great about getting magazines, science magazines, because he was a big science fiction nerd. And we got Discover Magazine. I remember in the back of it, it would have these cartoon explanations for things. And one of them was about how peacocks evolved, sexual selection and stuff like that. And those are some of the inciting moments. I think it...

What keeps my big why that led me to everything I'm doing now is of all the things I've pursued, poetry and literature and journalism and everything else, psychology always had the questions that I wanted to answer as questions that they were still trying to answer. And it felt like getting in on the ground floor of anything going on in psychology delivered something. And

it's a young, young science and neuroscience even younger really, even though they're sort of evolving together. Because in the end of the day, it's like we're just little dollops of the ocean that got plopped out on the shore and now we're sad. And we're like, wait, what's going on? And I'm like, yeah, I agree. What's going on? And this was a great way to explore it. And when I would come up on things in psychology that

revealed aspects of our behavior or our cognition that showed just how much we're making it up as we go along. I felt some sort of charge from that. I always love how in the STEM world, there's this competition among academics, like physicists are like, look, we're studying how everything works. And then chemistry professors are like, we're studying how everything works, or just pure math.

And I've always enjoyed how if you follow the history of those people, like my great science communicator idol, James Burke, did connections, which was all about following the history of how everything was discovered and destroying the great man theory of history, that the idea that there were these geniuses that came along and just invented things. I love when you follow any famous scientist. They always come across as, oh yeah, they were a person. Like their private life was a big old mess. And I like the idea that

David McRaney (04:10.597)
physicists will say physics subsumes and they'll say all the other sciences, but psychologists, like there's a better phrase in there, psychology subsumes physicists. Like everything we're doing is running through all these systems that another science is trying to understand. So the way we study things, the way we understand things, the processes by which we try to figure out if exoplanets could possibly have life on them, those follow.

all of these other systems that are being studied by this other place. So it gets meta really quickly and you have this nice recursion of mirrors things happening and that just makes me bonkers. And so what I want to do to deliver to an audience is put all of this in terms that's easy to understand and make it fun and fascinating and help you feel what I feel, which is there is a why to everything. There's a why to why we behave.

There's a why to why something is delicious or beautiful or tragic. There's a reason for why we are the way we are. And I want to understand that as much as I think you would. And how about we put it into terms that are easier than what you might get from an Ivy Tower explanation. So that's my big humongous why. And I can't stop. I'm obsessed with this. I love it. I would do this if you... I would be reading this stuff without you, but I want to tell you about it. I can't stop.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (05:33.298)
So your why is to figure out why our why's our why. That's your why.

David McRaney (05:38.094)
That's such a better way than I put it. That's perfect, yes. Sure.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (05:41.266)
It's shorter, certainly. Okay, I believe that people who are fascinated with psychology are largely insane themselves. I mean, they either had trauma in their childhood or they're trying to figure out why their brain is the way that their brain is, because it doesn't feel like the way that other people's brain is. That's certainly why I'm fascinated with psychology. Is that why you're fascinated with psychology?

David McRaney (05:50.393)
probably true.

David McRaney (06:04.737)
I think intellectual humility is part of it, right? All of us have got something going on. All of us could use some therapy and all of us could use a whole lot of intellectual humility and better critical thinking skills. A lot of people I've met in the world of psychology, they are like the rest of us trying to figure all this out and feeling weird about it, but they had some moment where they got very meta and self-reflective and were like, why do I do that? And I'm like, I don't know.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (06:32.183)

David McRaney (06:33.573)
There's no real easy answer to that question. And I very often find that is the case. Like there's some entry point that some crack that lets in the light. And then you start going down whatever path in psychology you wanna explore the most. So there's a little truth to there for sure.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (06:50.174)
Okay, so here's the, if I could only ask you one question, this is the question I would ask you. Because I'm reading your book and I'm loving every word of it. And I'm noticing all the ways in which other people need this information. The idea of naive realism, I see it so much in others, right? The idea that I have unconscious bias is hard to...

David McRaney (07:14.83)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (07:16.354)
grapple with because I feel like I'm doing so much work on being self-aware. And I think a lot of people think that they do that. I can see where other people are not self-aware very clearly, it's very easy to pinpoint in other people. And yet I am likely doing it just as much as them, if not more than them. And I don't want to be. How do I become aware of my own biases, naive realism that shows up in...

David McRaney (07:20.089)

David McRaney (07:33.073)

David McRaney (07:41.614)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (07:43.55)
all sorts of places in my life that I don't think that it is showing up.

David McRaney (07:47.033)
Okay, there's a couple of good answers here. One of the things you have to understand as a foundational response to what you're asking is our best understanding, this falls under something called the interactionist model, is that we evolved two separate systems for communicating and making arguments and coming up with reasons. So whenever you are wondering why you have felt or done something, the full answer to your question is likely below.

your, the capabilities of your brain to investigate. They call that the introspection illusion. The actual reason for why you did something, the actual reason for why you want something, the actual reason for why you feel something, it's very easy to come up with an answer. It's very easy to come up with some sort of rationalization or explanation or justification. But those reasons are what we usually are satisfied with as reasoning.

when really what you're doing is just coming up with reasons for what you think, feel, and believe. And they're oftentimes not the actual reason. They're the thing that seems most plausible and defensible to another person, to someone in your most trusted peer group. And it's very likely that is an adaptive response. We evolved to communicate in that way because we expected to offload our reasons to groups, to others who would then tear it all apart.

and say, well, have you considered this? Or I don't know, I have a way of looking at it too. We just happen to be living in an era where that's less common and harder to do on our, especially with the platforms in which we interact with one another, they're not really set up for that kind of back and forth. There's this, they feel like you're almost doing that. And sometimes you can trick yourself into thinking you're doing that. But typically what you're doing is just piling a bunch of your arguments up somewhere and walking away from them.

And if somebody does come along, the only kind of real response they have is not to yes and you or work it out. It's just to smash you with their opinion and then walk away also or argue over whether or not you're just a bad person in general. It's not the way we usually hang out in bars or at dinner tables or after watching a movie or at a campfire, that kind of stuff. So to come back to this, you...

David McRaney (10:08.729)
There's an introspection illusion in which it's very difficult for you to find the actual reason for why you're doing what you're doing. What you often do is create some sort of justification or rationalization, and then you will live by that. You're this unreliable narrator in the story of your life. And some of the ways out of that are if you're by yourself, it's going to be difficult. The best way to come at this is spend time with people who might challenge your opinions.

are willing to give you the raw truth of things, spend time with people who see the world differently. This is going to help you a whole lot. Even if you defend yourself, you'll walk away from it going, hmm, but still, you know, like this happened to me. Like I think you watch a movie with someone and the whole time you're watching it, you're thinking, I cannot wait to tell them how much I love this movie. This is one of the best movies I've ever seen. And then...

you get outside and the first thing out of their mouth, they might even light up a cigarette, it's like, man, that was a piece of shit. I think that's the first thing they say. And you're like, oh, wait, what? And you're like, I loved it. And they're like, you loved it. And then, yeah, and then you start, they start telling you ways they didn't love it. You start telling them ways you did, and they move a little over to your side. Like, I can see that, sure. You move a little over their side, and all of a sudden you've both found some sort of Vin way of seeing the world. That's...

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (11:16.857)
And then you're like, wait, did I love it?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (11:28.92)

David McRaney (11:33.945)
largely absent from our day-to-day life in a lot of ways because we find ourselves in like-minded enclaves online and we don't really have those kind of conversations. So that's one thing. By yourself, one of the ways to get around this is a wonderful exercise that the great author Will Storr gave me, which is, and I ask this of everyone listening, just take a second and just do this exercise. It's very simple. I'm going to ask you one question and then follow it up. First question.

Do you think that you are currently right about everything? And I mean, in all versions of the word right, like morally, politically, factually, and we can get very specific. You think all of your opinions about chocolate cake are right. All of your opinions about Raiders of the Lost Ark are right. All your opinions about whatever political thing is in the news right now. And basically, am I asking you, have you ever been wrong? And...

If you're being honest with yourself, hopefully you'll say, if I say, are you currently right about everything? You'll say, well, no. If you say yes, then please do pursue a career in politics. It is ready. But the next, so the follow-up is, okay, we've just admitted that you're not right about everything. So what are you wrong about? And that should make you feel weird because you can't answer the question. So how important is that to you? Like

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (12:37.463)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (12:41.678)
Ha ha

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (12:54.13)
Yeah. Right.

David McRaney (12:59.969)
How would you go about figuring out the ways that you're wrong? What ways are you pursuing it right now? And hopefully there are things in your life that are very important to you that you would like to not be wrong about. So have you even considered how you would sort yourself out now? That is sort of the big introduction to intellectual humility. So this third person effect you're describing where, oh, it seems like everybody, it's that whole thing where somebody cuts you off in traffic and you're like, oh, this person's a maniac.

But if you cut somebody off in traffic, you have good reason. You're like, sorry, I've got this thing. Everybody's got their thing, and it's very difficult to see it from that third person. It all has to do with how the brain operates. We have one system for producing arguments and one for evaluating them. And by ourselves, we don't do a whole lot of evaluating unless we're prompted to. So individually, you need some sort of system. And then the best way, though, is to spend more time actually putting your hot takes out there amongst your peers and seeing how they feel about it in person.

with people in real rooms together. Not necessarily your family at Thanksgiving, but the people you like hanging out with who have similar musical tastes perhaps would be the first place to start.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (14:08.782)
It's funny because I'm in recovery and there's a system within recovery for that. It's called having a sponsor and your sponsor is someone that is not your friend. Intentionally so because friends are people that you can call and vent to and they say, Oh, yeah, I totally agree with you sometimes. Right. But sponsors are people who are going to call you out on your twisted thinking because

David McRaney (14:27.043)

David McRaney (14:32.648)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (14:33.27)
when you're in recovery, you have a history of a lot of twisted thinking. And so you call your sponsor to say, should I buy this house? Should I date this guy? And then they give you their thinking around that. And a lot of the times their thinking is so surprising. I call my sponsor all the time, knowing she's gonna say yes, you know? And then she shocks me by saying no. And I realized my thinking was completely upside down and she gets me back on track. So I see how that's powerful, having someone who will push back

have a different opinion. But when I'm sitting here by myself and trying to figure out what I'm wrong about, that's where I get paralyzed. Because ultimately it could be everything. And the things that are really important to me, I mean, when it comes to God, for example, I was a lifelong atheist, I had a spiritual experience, I then believed in God. And I mean, there's the moment in the book when someone is doing street epistemology with someone else about their belief in God. And then there's this moment where it's like, are you interested?

David McRaney (15:11.409)

David McRaney (15:24.89)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (15:32.402)
in me moving forward and the answer was no and you stop going forward. I mean, I desperately want to know what the next question was. You know, how, yeah, like how do you

David McRaney (15:41.995)
Oh, yeah. I should have told you this ahead of time. I promised that person that I would never reveal that in an interview or anywhere else. Sorry.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (15:48.662)
That's powerful. I mean, so, but talk about straight epistemology for those of the people that are listening that don't know what it is, maybe as an intro to the next question.

David McRaney (15:58.993)
Um, in writing this book, I, one of the things I was surprised to learn was that there were several different organizations across the world who were interested in having better conversations about difficult topics. Um, they had identified the same sort of polarization and weird argumentation thing we were all going through in this new information ecosystem. And they also had noticed that crisis of identity that had made it very difficult to talk to your family. And.

get-togethers in a new way. And there are these different groups, the Deep Canvassers, Treat Epistemology, there are many of them. Even in psychology, there's pockets and enclaves like motivational interviewing and things. I was very surprised to learn about how all these groups had come at the exact same problem and were different motivations, but it all landed on almost the exact same way of having a good conversation with someone, these rhetorical techniques.

And then I was even more astonished to find out that there were scientists who were studying this, who had categorized this way of communicating with people. They call it a technique rebuttal as opposed to topic rebuttal. Topic rebuttal is like two people behind lecterns debating. And you can also kind of talk to someone that way online or in person. It's like, here's all the facts. Oh yeah, well, here's all my facts. And then you're like having this thing. Well, those are all facts. How can we be disagreeing? That kind of thing.

And then eventually it's like, you're stupid or you're crazy. That only works when you're playing by the same argumentative rule set. And so academia, law, there are all sorts of places you're playing by a certain rule set. You meet a stranger or a family member, you're probably not playing by the same rule set. So they have something called technique rebuttal. And technique rebuttal is when I'm going to help you explore, I'm going to hold space to help you explore.

the reasoning process that got you here. And let's explore how are you getting here and could there be something kind of clogged up in there? And what are your motivations here? What are your actual goals? Most people are familiar with the Socratic method. That's one of the things that falls under Techniquibon. So as I was going around the world, spending time with these different groups, the one of them that I found with these people who do something called street epistemology, they started out of...

David McRaney (18:23.621)
Texas and they've been, now they're all over the place. So they, this technique is best used for fact-based claims. It can be used for anything, but it's best for like, is the earth round or flat, that kind of thing. Do vaccines work or do they not? Is horse-paced a good thing to take when you're in a pandemic or is it not? These are good, like fact-based claims. So if it's attitude or opinion-based things or value-based things, you need some nuance in here.

So the way it works is you, all of these, one of the most important things, would you like to hear how it works or do you want to get in there? Okay, sure. Oh, we can do it right here. Do you want to do it together? This is fun. To let the audience hit on something here, I think of this as how like, if you show a child the picture of the Wright Brothers aircraft and ask them what is this, they'll say, that's an airplane.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (18:59.774)
Yeah, can you demonstrate how it works? Can we do it? Yeah, let's do it. Yeah.

David McRaney (19:22.217)
That's because airplanes look like airplanes, no matter which one you're looking at. Why is that? Because if you want to build something that flies on this planet, you have to overcome some challenges. Gravity, air resistance, weight, mechanical things, all sorts of stuff. Physics itself on this planet. So to get over those challenges, things have to be built a certain way and eventually airplanes have a forum to them and it's recognizable.

When it comes to having a conversation with someone about a difficult topic or just trying to get in there and hold space, what you're trying to avoid are things like reactants or defending your identity or signaling things or tribal psychology. There's dozens of things you're trying to avoid that will absolutely derail the conversation. And if you're working to figure that out, you eventually come up on this form of a conversation that works with human brains in a dynamic or a dyad.

and it has a certain shape to it. And they all seem to look the same way and have a similar layouts and that's why. So, okay, the easiest way to do this is pick something that's neutral. We're not gonna get into this thing weird and we can do it very quickly. So, Jessica, here's the easy way. First of all, let me get, I need buy in here. I need, it's like, are you, you've already said you're totally okay with this, right? All right. The easiest way to go is like, what is the last movie that you remember watching?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (20:40.247)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (20:48.738)
The Muppet Show. The one with Jason Seagal, not the original. I watched it last night.

David McRaney (20:50.057)
Oh my God, the Muppet Show.

David McRaney (20:58.509)
How did this become a thing that you watched last night?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (21:02.131)
My daughter wanted to watch The Muppet Show and so I said okay.

David McRaney (21:05.745)
Okay, that's great. Did you watch it from beginning to end? Okay. Well, like for, let's imagine you work at Netflix and you have to write the little box that people look at when they're browsing around and decide they want to watch it. What would you put in the box for the Muppet Show?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (21:08.727)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (21:25.351)
A hilarious movie for people who hate movies about the Muppets making their return to showbiz.

David McRaney (21:32.081)
Wow, that was really well done. You should do this for a living. That's really good. That was really, if I was browsing, I'd be like, oh, well, let's give this a go. Well, the easy follow-up here is, did you like it? You did, okay, great. Well, let's dig a little deeper. If, let's say you were a movie reviewer, like a professional blogger, movie reviewer person, and you had a scale from one to 10.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (21:35.499)
Thank you! I do like to talk.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (21:46.995)
I did.

David McRaney (22:01.005)
And one is like reserved for everyone who made this movie should go to federal prison and, uh, 10 is, uh, everyone involved in this movie should have their feet kissed by the entire population of Rhode Island on live television. It was amazing. So like between one and 10, where would you put this movie?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (22:21.294)
Probably a six and a half.

David McRaney (22:23.521)
Okay, see, this is already very fascinating because you gave me a very, very good description and I see the joy in your face discussing it and you said, yeah, I liked it in a very exuberant way. And then the number score is six and a half. And for me, like six and a half is like, I don't know if I would say, oh yeah, I liked it. Like six and a half is more of a, hmm, hmm. If you got nothing else better to do. So.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (22:51.726)

David McRaney (22:51.769)
That's fascinating to me already. And I'm wondering.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (22:55.618)
I mean, I would give Barbie a nine. The Muppet Show is a six and a half. It was good. I mean, you know.

David McRaney (23:01.493)
Okay, well, let me ask this as a first follow up from the numbers. What does Barbie have that gets it up to nine that the Muppet movie you watched doesn't?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (23:15.97)
Barbie is challenging the status quo, the system of capitalism, the system of gender equity. It is challenging us to tell a new story of value. And it's also very well done, hilarious, has super sexy people in it. And so it's entertaining at the same time.

David McRaney (23:38.182)
Yeah. Let's think it's a nine. Let's just go close to this. Let's kiss some feet over this.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (23:43.202)
Barbie is my favorite movie of all time. Yeah.

David McRaney (23:45.865)
Oh wow, okay, so that's good. It's good to know. Have you watched any other of the Muppet movies? Okay, and let's see, I'm thinking about the six and a half score and the first question about, in the other direction is, what keeps it from being a five or a four for you?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (23:52.104)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (24:07.382)
What keeps it from being a five? So why is it good?

David McRaney (24:11.237)
Yeah, why does it not bump down at least one point? Something is keeping it from... It's not going up to nine.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (24:17.542)
I like how they break the fourth wall in ironic jokes by saying, for example, something about a contract that's being signed and then they say, wow, if that's not relevant to a later plot point, then that was a completely boring waste of script time. I mean, that's an interesting way of engaging with the audience that you don't see in a typical movie.

David McRaney (24:31.968)
Oh, nice.

David McRaney (24:37.785)
Does the Barbie movie break the fourth wall like that? Okay. And can you think of any movies that break the fourth wall other than the Barbie that goes above a six?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (24:40.481)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (24:52.386)
Hmm. I can think of a Broadway show, but not a movie.

David McRaney (24:56.801)
Let's hear it. I want to hear that. And we'll settle in here.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (25:00.507)
The producers I saw on Broadway with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, the real producers, and they literally broke the fourth wall. I saw it three times and they broke the fourth wall every time, so I think it was something that they, it was an intentional choice to be with the audience in real time for a moment in every performance.

David McRaney (25:21.549)
What number score would you give the producers?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (25:25.726)
I would give that a nine too. It was really good. Yeah.

David McRaney (25:28.549)
Wow. And so what does that movie, what does that production do that the Muppet film did not do to get it up there above six and up into the nine range?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (25:39.718)
It plays to an adult audience. As an adult, the Muppet Show is, you know, cute. It's really, it's trying to play to both adults and children and so with the producers and Barbie, it's an adult movie and I'm an adult, so I think it speaks more to me.

David McRaney (25:47.182)

David McRaney (25:57.201)
This is great. So I don't want to take up all of our time doing this. Usually these take about 21 minutes, but I want you to see some of the things that's already happening here. I would follow up here and I would ask things like, how does, what methods would you identify you're using to come up with these numbers? And then we're gonna go from there. But you could probably see right away already, I was helping you see, first of all, I'm holding space. I haven't told you how I feel about these movies. This is about you getting a better understanding.

This is guided metacognition. This is introspection. And we're already identifying all sorts of values that you bring to the table, that probably you bring to all tables. The...

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (26:33.318)
and that I didn't even know about until this conversation.

David McRaney (26:35.569)
Yes, exactly. But it's in you. I didn't copy paste anything. You spoke from in here and you're starting to evoke these things that you are articulating that have never been articulated in this particular way. Clearly, you love breaking forth wall stuff, right? But that's just like every car has got to have tires. That's just a thing that you like in movies. What else have you got going on? Well, Barbie movie is trying to change the world. It's trying to make an impact.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (26:42.033)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (26:52.64)

David McRaney (27:03.425)
and is doing so in a way that's slipping under the radar. That's really cool. And then you've got the producers who, this is for adults, this is for an adult audience. So it's competent in a certain way that the Muppets can get away with something for kids. But the sort of core stuff is in there in the Muppet stuff. And so it's gonna get maybe as high as a six, but it can't go any higher without the... So we're really starting to find some things about who you are as a person. And this probably would apply to, if we were gonna talk about

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (27:29.663)

David McRaney (27:32.985)
gun control or something, it would be very similar. Like I'd say like, how do you feel about gun control? I'm against it. Okay, or I'm for it. And then, well, let's go one to 10 here. Well, first of all, I'll ask you to define it, which is gonna be fun. And I'm gonna use your words, but then we go to one and 10. One would be like everybody in America gets an assault rifle in the mail once a month, regardless of their criminal history. And then 10 would be something like, if you say gun out loud and a police officer hears it, just the word, you go to jail for the rest of your life.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (27:54.37)

David McRaney (28:01.965)
Where would you put yourself on that scale? And then we start digging in from there. Like people will have a number and that number keeps us from thinking in binary. Yes, no, black, white, forward against it. We get into these places and then we start to, why not higher, why not lower? What methods are you using? And all of a sudden the person who's receiving these questions and delivering this feels themselves, oh, I'm developing my first actual honest opinion about this. And most of the time people feel themselves moving. And if you have a certain agenda in mind, you can.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (28:05.461)

David McRaney (28:30.453)
ask questions in a direction that will push a person one way or the other. But at the end of the day, what happens is you start to understand the issue better, they understand the issue better, and we're having an actual conversation about it that isn't me trying to bludgeon you with, you're a fool. We're actually discussing this and trying to understand why do we hold these positions? Because at the end of the day, the mystery is, if I disagree with you, why do I disagree with you? Would you like to join me in a...

investigation of why it is that we disagree, which is different than me trying to say, I'm right, you're wrong. You want to figure out how come that's the case? Like, how come, why are you so wrong about this? Very different framing. And that's the power of these methods.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (29:11.582)
And when you use those methods, then you're able to see there's multiple examples in your book how minds change, quite literally. I mean, that is how minds change. It's when you have a deeper level of conversation, you go into the why. I mean, we started this whole conversation with you saying, my why is to understand why our whys are our why. And that's where we've ended up again. It's why is that the why? Why is that the why that is your why right now?

David McRaney (29:20.602)

David McRaney (29:40.173)
Yeah. The bottom answer of how do minds change, there's all sorts of stuff. I could go into it if you want to, but we can go from neurons all the way up. There's a process called assimilation accommodation. There's something that involves the temporal junction and the default mode network and dopaminergic systems. But at the end of the day, it's you...

When we come upon some information that's novel or ambiguous, we try to disambiguate it through our prior experiences. And if we accomplish that, we can assimilate it and we can say, oh yeah, I've seen this before. I understand this. All my opinions are exactly where they should be. But there's a breaking point where you have to admit to yourself, hmm, I need to accommodate in some way here.

of people when they do change their minds through a dynamic, it's when you reach that point and there are all sorts of ways to bring a person to that point.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (30:43.626)
Okay, so help me apply this to the workplace, which is where I operate. Workplace culture transformation is my jam. And that's the lens through which I was reading your book and trying to understand, okay, how do I get people to give a shit in the workplace? I wanna change people's minds.

David McRaney (31:01.335)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (31:06.786)
to caring about the work that we're doing here as the leader of a business, as a consultant to CEO who has a perception that nobody gives a shit anymore. I wanna help transform cultures at scale. I got to also interview Greg Sattel who I learned of through your book. And so he has a whole other philosophy on how to cascade change obviously. But what I heard in your book was there's these in-group and out-group dynamics. And interestingly, we just released a state of culture report.

David McRaney (31:09.871)

David McRaney (31:23.377)
Oh yeah.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (31:36.206)
that found that political polarization is now infiltrating the workplace at a level that it hasn't in the past. And it's creating workplace conflict and strife at heightened levels now. You've got more conversation about woke ideology in the workplace. And I use that phrase because it is a term that kept coming up in our research that I've never seen before. So you've got...

David McRaney (31:40.049)

David McRaney (31:52.261)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (32:01.546)
All sorts of in-groups and out-groups in the workplace. You've got the political in-groups and out-groups. You've got marketing versus sales. You've got executives versus frontline workers. You have this team versus that team. You have corporate versus field. I mean, there's all sorts of different ins and out-groups. And it felt like the key to creating a cohesive culture that moves together is to have the in-group be the company as a whole and the out-group be.

outside of the company and to remove those divisions internally. But how you do that is, you know, that's the big mystery. How do you do that? So how have you seen your research applied in the workplace to create sustainable and impactful change?

David McRaney (32:46.033)
Yeah, tricky, tricky business here. But I have done some consulting in this way. And I'm often astonished that the solution to almost everything is people are not having the conversation they ought to be having. It's almost always no one feels safe to say the quiet part out loud in the workplace. And there are all sorts of reasons why that could be, but that tends to come down to it. Right.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (32:58.869)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (33:05.198)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (33:08.426)
because it isn't safe a lot of the time to have those, say the quiet part out loud.

David McRaney (33:15.717)
there's a suspicion that it isn't. And no one's doing anything in either regard. Because there's a meta-fear of like, if I approach this problem, that's even more dangerous than the problem. So the approaching of the problem. So you have to wonder, how did you get there? You know you're at that place if you're having meetings, like big meetings, like board meetings, and then afterwards you have the smaller conversations that we actually discuss what you ought to be doing.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (33:17.835)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (33:27.254)

David McRaney (33:45.421)
If you're having the real conversations after the meeting, then you're likely in a state where things are getting clogged up and need to be fixed. The one thing you talked about, the in-group, out-group thing, that's...

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (33:56.738)
Can you repeat that? I think, sorry, that's really important for our listeners to hear. There's a telltale sign, right? That's what you're saying.

David McRaney (34:00.697)
Sure. If you are having... Telltale sign. This, I promise you this, that if you are having meetings that are scheduled and they're on your calendar and people are sitting down and they have paperwork with them and you have your nice discussion and then you leave that meeting and you have the real discussion outside of that meeting, that's the problem. That you've got the problem. You are infected. That is the, you just got a positive on your little doodad. You've got...

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (34:23.615)
Red flag.

David McRaney (34:29.957)
You've got the sickness. So now you might need outside help for this, but you can certainly say, well, why am I having that conversation here and not there? There's a reason for it. Something's taken place where people feel like they can't have that conversation there, or they feel like they get more out of having the outside conversation. So whoever is able to leverage and has responsibility and power in this world,

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (34:30.915)
You've got it. Yeah.

David McRaney (34:59.681)
has to move those conversations back to the formal meeting somehow, or make it okay for whatever is said in those outside meetings to have a pipeline into everybody else's conversations. Otherwise, what you're ending up with is this Game of Thrones thing, where you have these pockets, these subcultures, these enclaves, where people feel beholden to these trusted peers, but not to these trusted peers. And you're in it with this very potentially stagnant

social network in which things can change here, but they don't reach this place over here and, uh, so tell is a wonderful expert in this. And I've, uh, we've worked on things together. He's, he's, I've got an episode coming up with him on my show, the cascade effect that is a real thing. And as a company, you have to, if you're waiting for that to happen naturally, you could wait a long time. And that change when it does take place might create a different future for you and your cohort than you had intended.

You're sort of letting the wind blow you wherever it blows you. And then the other thing about it is if you're trying to instigate that cascade, there's ways of creating a network where it flows in a way that would be more closer to your intended consequences than if you just let it go however it would go right now with your messed up, clogged up network that you've built. So just know you've got the sickness. That's one thing.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (36:23.689)
No, you've got the sickness.

David McRaney (36:25.817)
Let admit you have a problem is a big part of the process. You have to have these three pillars in any organization. One is intellectual humility, as we've already discussed. We might all be wrong in different ways. We might both be wrong in these conversations we're having. How would we figure out how we're wrong about something? I spent some time with the Navy SEALs recently, the SEAL Team Six.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (36:28.798)
Step one, hey, I know all about that.

David McRaney (36:52.993)
And when they go into a mission, they have a checklist of every way they might be wrong, which blows my mind. Like everything that they might, that they do, they have a checklist of what would be an indication that we may, are going to make a mistake here. You know, it's incredible. Like, it's safe to say we probably are, it's very likely we're wrong about this. What are ways we could be wrong? So the intellectual humility is huge. Critical thinking, sort of.

dynamics have to be put into place in any organization. And the third thing, this is big currently, I would say is it has to be safe to be wrong. It has to be safe to change your mind. It has to be safe to be completely, I really messed this up and I'm off base and I was not making the right choices here. It has to be safe to admit this in your organization. And you have to signal that is the case.

The closer you do that to the top, the better. And hopefully your organization is set up so that the people who are closest to the client or the people who are closest to the problem you're trying to solve or the thing you're trying to create, the people who are touching the world, that there has to be a flow of decisions that come up from there to the top, instead of the person at the top saying, y'all ought to be doing this, y'all ought to be doing this. It needs to be coming up from there because these people are actually making the choices that are touching the world.

that the whole corporation is attempting to change. I've seen this done really well in places that do things like drilling and scientific endeavors, where you're getting your reports from the people who are touching the world, and they're saying, here's my issue right now that I need solved. The person above them is like, okay, let me help. And then it eventually goes up. I know this is an old piece of advice, but if you don't have a good system for bottom-up decision-making,

problems emerge where people start forming these enclaves where they know how to get things done without having to send it up here where nothing ever gets done. So that's another thing that.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (38:55.858)
And why is that so hard to see? You just said that's an old piece of advice. And I just had an interview with John Frase at Anchor Consulting, works with all sorts of organization on their labor strategies. And I said, what's one thing that you would do differently if you were CEO of a Fortune 100 company that most CEOs out there aren't doing? And he said, listen more to the frontline worker. You're saying it, everyone says it. And yet it's not getting done at the level that it needs to be done. Why is that?

David McRaney (39:21.001)
Yeah, because we're social primates and we're worried about our status and reputation more than anything. And you let it in... Okay. The great sociologist, Brooke Harrington, told me that there was an equals MC square of social science. The big thing we've figured out over the last 70 years of really hitting it hard, it's that the fear of social death...

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (39:28.919)
because of fear.

David McRaney (39:49.694)
is greater than the fear of physical death.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (39:51.478)
That was one of the biggest things I took away from your book that I realized. Absolutely. That's what drives the CEO. Yeah.

David McRaney (39:56.409)
This is enormous. So you are gonna be, everybody thinks that they are able to just flip a switch and now I am a fact-based reasoning, I am going into the bowels. This is absolutely impossible. You might as well like grow another arm out of your forehead to sign paperwork or finish your emails. This is not possible as a human being. We are social primates who evolved to the level of being able to have conversations over streaming services like.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (40:07.742)
Logic machine, yeah.

David McRaney (40:26.233)
doing right now. But we are built on that platform. And it's all still in us. And in fact, a whole lot of what motivates our behavior is I would like to improve my status, I would like to maintain my reputation, I want to be considered trustworthy among my peers. This is a huge driver so much so we would rather die than lose our status and reputation. And we saw this we've seen this all throughout different things in human history, including the pandemic most recently.

introduce those drivers and levers and motivators into your organization. And they're already there, but if you don't attend to them, they will be the things that most drive all the behavior within your organization. And you will pretend like you're all logic machines and you're above it and you'll just be driven by it. There's plenty of psychological, like philosophical psychological insights that point to this. If you don't

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (41:14.023)

David McRaney (41:24.377)
do a good job of introspecting and understanding yourself, then you'll be driven by those forces, but you'll consider them a fate. These are sorts of things that some of the great psychologists have identified. This is true at the institutional level, because it's just a bunch of people talking to each other at the end of the day. It's not like we made an organism out of this. It's just you, a bunch of people talking about it and making decisions and saying, is that okay? If you've created a structure like that, where at the top you feel most

likely to be obliterated by your peers for making poor choices. And so therefore you hide a lot of your behavior and a lot of your decision-making from them, then you'll start generating this top down dynamic. It seems strange, but that's how it forms because the people down here don't feel like they're being heard because the person up here doesn't feel like if I communicate poorly or I make a decision, but if I'm not making decisions that seem like I know everything and I am the

good choice picking me as your leader, then I'm out of here. If they feel that fear all around them that you discussed, they will cease to actually communicate. And it ends up being like a bad relationship where nobody's telling each other what they're actually feeling and what they want or how they're being affected or what their boundaries are, what's making them wonder, listen to what they need. They stop talking in the way that humans are supposed to talk to each other. And they start trying to just flip switches and run everything like an algorithm. And the...

It gets all clogged up so that people say, well, I trust this group and I trust this group, and that's who's getting stuff done. And maybe every once in a while we'll get something over here. And so, yeah, there are ways to like attack this, but the, the fear that comes in, in all sorts of different ways. I would urge people when they're coming at this to do, as you said, we need to pull back. It's not necessarily that you have to create an in-group that's the company versus the world, but it's more like.

What are we here for? Like, what are we up to? Why are we here? And some people are here because they need a paycheck. Okay, rad, don't force that person to say, I'm here because I believe in whatever. Like, let's be honest. This person over here is here because they're good at what they do and they wanna make a decent paycheck doing that. Let that be why they're there. Don't force that person to say, I'm here because I believe in the power of the banana or whatever.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (43:32.234)
the impact our customers are making, whatever.

David McRaney (43:48.621)
doing because you're a banana distributor, like, that's fine. The, the, then there's, but everyone is also going to come in. Everyone is coming to you with a installed set of values and motivations, things they care about in the world, in life in general. And when your organization comes far enough out of line with, with those sorts of values and motivations, that's when that person considers, yeah, I'm only here to get a paycheck and it will be very easy for you, for me to

to take this much frustration for me to be working actively against this organization to the point that I'm going to leave. And know that when you give these reports, when you ask your... This is a very important thing companies should know. When you ask everybody, all your employees, about their job satisfaction, you're going to get these super biased responses because everybody that hates that place, they left. So...

David McRaney (44:47.765)
So you're not getting their responses. And then everybody else who's thinking about leaving is going to be like, yeah, I love it. It's great.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (44:47.926)
That's a great point!

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (44:59.746)
I mean, there's so many people that don't believe that those surveys are actually anonymous too. I mean, that's just another bias. But ultimately when you compare every company's engagement scores, you are comparing apples to apples because everyone who left your company that hates it left is true for everyone, right?

David McRaney (45:14.789)
Yeah, yeah. It's like when people say all the people who are really good at committing crimes aren't in prison. So it's difficult to get... You can't really judge the criminal mind from a survey of current prison population. This is called survivorship bias. It's the whole thing. I know I'm giving you tons of different advice from a bunch of different angles, but it does all boil down to seeing human beings as social primates. We are social creatures and we are motivated by those things. And those are our prime motivations.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (45:23.243)

David McRaney (45:43.213)
And if you start to pretend like we're not that kind of thing, it introduces all sorts of problems within an organization. We're seeing it right now. Like while we're recording this, the open AI people are going through a real shake up and I love it in a weird way because AI did not prevent them from being messy human beings. We are messy social primates doing messy social things and you can't technologically subvert that. What technology does, Clive Thompson said this.

Technology lowers the cost to exhibit behavior. It doesn't introduce behavior. It lowers the cost to exhibit behavior that's likely millions of years old. And that's going to be part of your organization. And the less you understand it or admit to that, the more likely you'll have a difficult time communicating with one another. And my second bottom line takeaway there is, we all come to all of our institutions with values that we already hold, and we tend to stick with organizations who are open about how my values align with your values.

I don't necessarily have to say I'm here for this, but I can say I'm here instead of being over there because you more closely align with my value structure. And have you identified that? Do you have a way of identifying that with the organization? Because it's possible. It's a doable thing.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (47:01.002)
So study after study for decades now shows that companies who invest in culture have performance-driven cultures make more money. And guru after guru publishes the book about humanity and being a people and purpose driven culture and leaders that focus on people over profits, win in the end. And I mean, it's just the endless monologues about the importance of people.

David McRaney (47:26.769)
Sure. It's like dieting advice. Look, I can't make you respect me. I can't make a boss suddenly respect their employees. That's why diet books are so easy to write. Hey, eat less, exercise more. Enjoy, and now it's all on you. I write a guru book that's like, you need a culture where people listen to each other.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (47:30.45)
Right, and yet people aren't doing it. How do I get people to do it, David? Ha!

David McRaney (47:55.193)
didn't respect each other and values are aligned. No, it's all on you. And then you were like, okay, I read this book. I now respect you. That's not how it works. You can't just read a book and then suddenly change who you are as a person. How would I go about interacting with my coworkers and peers in which if I do truly respect them, that will then emerge from the process. What do you do to create that?

But don't fake it. What if we don't actually respect each other? What if I don't actually feel like you are in line with what I want to do here? Are you OK with shaking up your organization that way? I would suspect most organizations aren't. And after reading a book like that, they're like, well, that's great advice. But if I actually did it, this place would fall apart. That's like, uh.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (48:44.193)

Or they're like, that sounds great, but right now we need to execute. I mean, right.

David McRaney (48:51.457)
Precisely, like precisely. So I'm sorry to give you this advice, but how does everyone come to a place where we can be honest with each other? How far away is your organization from the place where everybody could be honest with each other? How much roadblock have you put in the way between me actually telling you how I truly feel about this thing that we are doing? How much...

has the person who's closest to the problem, how much they feel like how they feel, what they see in their opinions in the matter, how much they feel like that actually matters to the entire organization that they contribute to. And how much does the person who is at the top feel like they're allowed to admit their ignorance, their misunderstanding, their mistakes, and their issues and their fears and their anxieties without being looked upon as, oh, we shouldn't have hired that person. Like, how much have you created this?

anxiety within your institution. And you can see places that continually operate well are places where they've allowed themselves to have that kind of dynamic with one another. So if they do read the guru book, they'll be like, I didn't even need this. So I can tell you, this is a thing that comes down to how are you communicating? It really comes at it. How do you deliver?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (50:15.042)
having the right conversations.

David McRaney (50:16.889)
How do you communicate within your organization? It always comes down to it. I'm always astonished because I think about all these things, all these psychological principles, and then it always comes down to, you've made it really frightening to have a conversation that you need to be having. And that almost always comes down to that.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (50:30.285)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (50:33.778)
Okay, let's go to callers because I have a thousand more questions, but I feel like I need to share you with other people that have questions for you. So stand by.

David McRaney (50:38.461)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (51:16.307)
Awesome. Thank you, George. What's the question?

David McRaney (51:23.482)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (51:37.547)

David McRaney (52:06.637)
Oh, yeah. I would communicate. We're going to teach your kid a lot of facts here, but what we're going to teach them more than that is how to approach information. Like, this is a place where we're going to discuss how to make sense of things in a world where that's becoming very difficult. It's a how to think, not what to think kind of situation. And the better you can communicate that within the context of your culture and the context of the organization you're trying to present, that's what I would put forth.

David McRaney (52:38.338)
We all get to be part of this like four to five generation spread, like Gen Alpha, Gen Z, young millennial, older millennial, Gen X, boomer. This spread, we really got to live in a weird period of time. I'm very optimistic we're going to get through it, but we live in a state of epistemic chaos where the old trustworthy sources are...

And whether or not they even are questionable, we're questioning them. It's just information overload. It is more important than ever that a person entering into this world, being taught how to be a person, how to approach the world, is taught media literacy, critical thinking, intellectual humility. And those skill sets will give you an opportunity to parse information in a way that is more important than ever. And I would communicate that as strongly to...

any parent or anyone who's thinking about, oh wow, this is a school that really cares about that sort of thing. And that would be my major advice in there.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (53:40.718)
Okay, we have another caller, but I just have a quick side question. You keep saying intellectual humility. Where does emotions play in the study of psychology?

David McRaney (53:50.389)
Oh, it's great, right? So Antonio de Mazio and people like that researcher, they did this great work where you'd have people who had certain kind of brain injury or a certain kind of medical condition where the parts of the brain that are responsible for the volume knob of emotion had been turned way down. And so we actually got to spend time with people who were like SPOC or data, you know, people who were...

purely logical beings as close as a person could get. And if you give that person, say, you give them a questionnaire and you give them a blue pen and a black pen, and you say, pick which pen you'd like to use, that becomes a 35 minute decision. Because it turns out, if I don't have the emotions to feel about that, I can't tie break the gigantic decision tree that just formed in my mind. Well, blue pen could be good, I'll focus could be good.

Well, maybe why'd they ask that question? There's a thousand little things that are going on there that you're not aware of. You ask that same person to go to the cereal aisle and pick a cereal, that's it. They'll never get to the decision. These people who've had these kinds of injuries and they haven't sought help, usually their lives become chaotic and they make very poor choices and it obliterates them. So this concept that we are

rational, logical, separate from being emotional beings is absolutely disproved by the very science we've been discussing. Emotion is cognition. So, I'm sorry, go ahead, good.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (55:20.718)
You know.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (55:24.958)
No, I mean, you're just connected a bunch of dots for me because one of the challenges I have with any scientific research is that it is all driven by white males and their thinking and their world bias is what we praise. I mean, name a researcher in history that transformed the world. They were a white man. And so that is very informing the research that they're doing, the questions that they're asking, the ways they're interpreting the outcomes and all of that.

David McRaney (55:41.335)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (55:55.046)
is clouding our worldview in a way that we don't even know. And then what you just said about the emotional, that it is unsafe for men to be emotional in society. And so therefore we have all these logic-driven execution-focused CEOs because most of them are white men.

David McRaney (55:58.609)
for sure.

David McRaney (56:10.705)
That's right. I have so much. .................................................................................................................................................................................................................

David McRaney (56:18.037)
Yes. Let's say this is such... I want to start the whole thing over and talk about this for two hours. Look, here's... If you will permit me three minutes. Okay, look. Yes. I think the selection bias stuff that we do where all these scientists tend to be white men. It must be because white men are great at science. Or... Or, you know...

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (56:25.838)
Okay, yes please.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (56:30.54)
Yeah, go.

David McRaney (56:45.497)
more crimes are committed when ice cream sales are really high. So is that because ice cream is causing crimes? No, it's hot outside. So people are outside doing stuff. Little thing called correlation and causation here. All these cultural things that led to white dudes doing stuff led to all the same reasons. And man, you go back into like 1880 to 1930 science. It's gross, man. The kind of private lives these dudes were living.

And it doesn't get much better. It's pretty bad still today. Yeah, so you're right. And we live in a culture, I'm from the deep south, it's even worse. So 20th, 21st century men in Western, very individualistic, very status driven cultures. One of the things I was definitely raised was like, you fall and scrape your knee, you better not cry. So the only thing...

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (57:24.255)

David McRaney (57:42.977)
many men are familiar with the only emotions we're really allowed to display without some sort of sanction. It's just anger and frustration. Those are safe. Everything else, you don't tamp them down. And then very often these, you'll, if you're a cishet man, you'll eventually have a woman in your life who, oh, this person can do a shitload of emotional labor for me. And then now that's

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (57:52.034)

David McRaney (58:12.325)
bizarro toxic dynamics. And there is this fetishization that has arrived of logic rationality, logic rationality as a separate thing promotion as if that's our animal cells or our lizard cell for something. But all the research has very definitely shown that a person who is, who tamps down their emotions when it comes to a decision-making process ends up making worse decisions.

than a person who is over-emotional. So like all these things that I've written about forever, like bias and anxiety and fear and all these things that really do mess up our decision-making processes, they don't mess up our decision-making processes at the level of a person who cannot express or has no emotional intelligence whatsoever. Because the purpose of all these emotional systems are to very quickly identify things and...

You can think of them as advisors. You have this whole series of advisors all around you who are saying, consider this, consider this, you feel this. They're telling, they're showing you all sorts of ways that you can make a decision. They're here, they're here, your mystical analysis and your higher executive functions at some point go, thank you for all of your advice. Here's what we're gonna do. But if you have like limited yourself from experiencing that as cognition, which it is a part of cognition. It's not separate from cognition, it is cognition. Then...

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (59:26.572)

David McRaney (59:37.453)
you're making decisions minus a huge slew of advisors who could have been helping that decision-making process. And you're supposed to say, okay, I get this one, but maybe not this. You're mushing it all together and making a decision that's more informed than another person who disregarded all those things. And so I'm basically saying, I very much agree with you. And here are the reasons why I agree with you. But you nailed it on the head, yes. That is something we need to culturally evolve beyond.

We are emotional beings who think. We are emotional beings that can think. To deny this other side of us is to render ourselves inhuman. And I don't necessarily want to try to make it to the stars as an inhuman entity. I want to write poetry about what I'm experiencing. This seems odd to me that we would even entertain it.

And I totally agree. There are many institutions and corporations and businesses that are operating from a, we are logically approaching things, and then they do things.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:00:47.254)
Data-driven. Data-driven is the, I'm so sick of the word data-driven, and I'm a data scientist, so I like data. I think it's interesting, but data-driven is such a crutch to go away from people and to not have to have honest, vulnerable, authentic conversations with the people that we're working with every single day.

David McRaney (01:00:55.985)

David McRaney (01:01:11.009)
I just want to raise my hands and say praise be. That is the... Yes, I agree. Let me just sum up.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:01:23.574)
David, will you be my friend?

David McRaney (01:01:26.636)
Already done, already done, we're there.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:01:28.29)
Okay, good, thank you. Okay, we have one more caller and we do have to wrap it up unfortunately, but let's take one more caller before I ask you the last question.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:02:17.679)
Fascinating. I might, I, Brigham, what is your question?

David McRaney (01:02:18.105)
Wow, I am very familiar with you, Brigham.

David McRaney (01:03:07.097)
Oh, wow. Thank you very much. Also, I am familiar with Brigham. I follow Brigham out there and see what he's up to, so that's really cool. I am honored to get a question. And yes, as I've been saying this whole interview, we are social privates. But we live in different cultures, do different things. Many of us are in these very individualistic cultures.

Westerners are like this in different pockets of the Western world or even more so United States Western culture, deep Southwestern culture, Midwest Western United States culture, extremely individualistic. But that's a cultural concept that is really frictional with our, the millions of years old adaptive properties of the human brain. We are social programs. We care a whole lot what other people think and feel and do.

We care a whole lot about our status and our reputation amongst others. We want to be trustworthy and be seen as a, you know, almost all of our reasoning is reasoning for the sake of generating reasons that we think that others would find reasonable, plausible, justifiable, rational, even when we're alone. That's what we're doing. When you're in the shower considering, Hmm, what am I going to, you're thinking in terms of how others would approach the process that you're going to demonstrate as some sort of argument to be taken, to be evaluated by your group.

And it's just how we are by default, even when we're alone. The internet, it would seem, and all the smart devices we have and the ability we have to connect with one another, it really, at first, seemed like, well, wow, this is going to be it, right? We're going to be less fragmented as a society. And I'll actually get to know my neighbor and get to know what's going on in my local community. And we're all going to connect up in this vast network of information exchange.

That seemed like what was going to happen. But for many different reasons, commercialization of things and the early platforms having their own sort of incentive structures and just the chaos of how things sort themselves out as we're figuring out what we're doing, we aren't taking advantage of all that the way we could. We are really at our best. We're having a dinner party or a

David McRaney (01:05:28.401)
campfire conversation. People oftentimes remark on some of the best conversations they've ever had or those kinds of conversations. And you would think we could do that at scale on the internet. I would look toward researchers like Hugo Mercier, Dan Sperber, and others who are working on this problem.

Tom Stafford, especially at a Sheffield. I'll remark on something he said and paraphrase what he said, which I think really addresses what Brigham's talking about. Tom told me when I was writing How Minds Change, we were talking, I was asking him, how come if all this is true about human beings and our social abilities and everything and the interactionist model of producing and evaluating arguments and all these problems we've solved throughout history by arguing it out amongst one another.

If all that's true, how come social media is like soul poison? And he said, I asked Tom this and he said, because we're not actually being social, it's totally an illusion. It's taking on some properties of it and making us feel like we're doing it, but we're not really doing it. Yeah, sure.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:06:28.194)
He asked with a question mark. Soul poison?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:06:47.806)
Well, can I jump in here? The Atlantic just published an article that was titled, Why the past 10 years of American life have been uniquely stupid. And it talks about a rich is great article. The author is Jonathan Haight. And he's saying essentially the beginning of social media was an internet version of local community information sharing and the feed on Facebook used to be

David McRaney (01:06:58.021)
That's great.

David McRaney (01:07:04.125)
Oh yeah!

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:07:15.202)
People in your networks, most recent posts on top, the later posts below and you scroll through and it was a lot of information. But then Twitter and Facebook came up with the like and share buttons and that is when everything turned because it stopped being about sharing information and it started being about getting other people to like it and to share it in their networks and now it becomes performative. And what will people like?

What can I show off as opposed to what's going on in my life? And that's when everything went downhill.

David McRaney (01:07:48.926)
Mm-hmm. I agree with many of those points. I mean, like, every like is a conversation that you didn't get to have. And most shares are shares based off the headline, which is shared on how that made me feel, especially if it made me feel angry.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:07:53.57)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:08:02.666)
People, yeah, he said that most people are more likely to share something if it makes them angry.

David McRaney (01:08:07.077)
Right. So we're losing, as Brigham was talking about, that's denying an aspect of our collective intelligence that we could be employing. That being said, there are many things I disagree with in Jonathan Haidt's world, especially those damn kids' takes that he has.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:08:13.9)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:08:23.94)
I wrote a whole book about how much I hate the people who think those damn kids

David McRaney (01:08:27.857)
This is so, but that's OK, right? I'm advocating for it. That's awesome. There are things I agree with and disagree with, and I would love to have a conversation about it, because let's see how we're both wrong and maybe both right. Great. Regarding this question, Tom Stafford said, so,

David McRaney (01:08:49.889)
There are all these, okay, this is a really great, like all of my world, a lot of people, Jonathan and myself, many of the people, Malcolm Gladwell, all these people who, like myself, who wrote these books about pop psychology. In the early 2000s and the mid 2000s, there was this big surge. We were all pulling from literature that had made the incorrect assumption about how people work based off of the way the science was being conducted.

which is directly applicable to this thing about collective intelligence. So if you take a lot of the things, whether it's confirmation bias or the sunk cost fallacy, you take something like that and you get a bunch of people in a room and you ask lots of people through surveys how they would solve this problem. They often will.

things like the cognitive reflection task, like the ball and bat problem that became so famous through Daniel Kahneman's thinking fast and slow. You give those people those questions in isolation and they often will get them wrong. And they get them wrong at a level where you could, the takeaway would be, wow, we're very illogical. Wow, we're very nonsensical when it comes to probabilities. We are a very flawed and irrational being. And wow, I really did proselytize that for a long time. And then...

in writing How Minds Change. Like, this is one of the things that blew me away. If you take those exact same studies that were the bread and butter of that side of social psychology, and you give them to people as collectives, and you allow them to cross-talk and evaluate each other's answers, then usually what happens is someone has the correct answer, or through the discussion, they realize where they're getting it wrong. And then when the right answer starts to emerge, everybody goes, oh, wait, yeah, totally, I get it, that does make sense.

and that will propagate through the collective. And you go from this two different ways of looking at a situation where working individually, if I gather everyone's answers together and produce it to you, it says, well, people are flawed and irrational. But if I allow people to talk to each other and gather the answers and hand it over, you go from a group that's 80% incorrect to a group that's 100% correct. And that's simply from allowing the cross talk. And so Tom Stafford has taken platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

David McRaney (01:11:09.429)
and tweak their knobs in such a way so that people can do a more natural, more like the way we evolved to communicate sort of crosstalk. And has discovered these platforms work a whole lot better. And he'll take like some of these old psychology problems and dump them into traditional 10 year ago social platforms that we're still using today. And you get that kind of weird individualistic approach where everybody's getting the wrong answer, but they're not, it looks like it's a group based collective thing, but it's not.

versus the other way of doing it, where people are actually producing these collective approaches. So it's very nuanced, very complicated. But the way Tom boiled it down to me is he said that, and this is paraphrasing, he said germs have always been a problem for human beings in groups. And then you get cities and civilizations based around cities, and it becomes an existential problem for human beings that almost ended us.

So what do we do? We came up with a solution at the macro and the micro level. Like we have for the city-wide level, we had to have sanitation. And for the individual level, we had to have best practices like washing your hands and boiling your water. Well, misinformation has always been a problem for human beings in groups. But when we got the internet and then social media and then smart devices that connect all of that together, it became an existential problem.

And we're in the middle of that right now, but there's a way out of it. We have, we'll solve this the way we have solved everything. And it is what Brigham was discussing. It is by actually bringing our collective intelligence skills back in line with the platforms in which we're being collectives. So as large groups, we'll have to create the modern intellectual technological equivalent of sanitation. And as the individual level in that same environment.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:12:49.251)

David McRaney (01:13:04.457)
this epistemic chaos we found ourselves within in this technological new environment, we'll have to develop best practices like washing our hands and boiling water, but it'll be the information equivalent of it. And I'm very optimistic that we're going to do that because there are thousands and thousands of people working on this on every level, especially at the academic level, trying to understand what is and what is not the right way to create these platforms. Turns out platforming is supposed to share pictures of tacos and babies, not a great way to talk about politics.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:13:14.016)

David McRaney (01:13:31.649)
Not a great way for politicians to get their message out. And we'll evolve through it. We'll figure it out. I'm pretty confident of that.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:13:38.93)
Well, I'm not going to ask you this question. We're going to have to save this for the next conversation that we have. But how does academia compete with money? Because money runs the world right now. And I mean, that is my fear with generative AI. And it's money versus philosophy. And I think philosophy is going to get crushed.

David McRaney (01:13:59.473)
for a minute, yeah. It's going to not, yeah, we're living through the weird times. And I know this is a sour answer, and it's not going to make us want to high five. But it's going to clog things up to the point where we can't take it anymore. And then we're going to have to solve the problem, because we will come back into line with what we actually care about.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:14:01.654)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:14:05.762)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:14:22.454)
Well, and I think that's going to happen with capitalism too. I think that there is going to be a revolution. And we're seeing the beginning of it right now.

David McRaney (01:14:27.981)
You know, everything that can be broken is getting broken right in front of us right now. And we're going to want to fix it. And I know it would be great if we could be all, bump ourselves ahead 20, 40, 50 years, but we are living through the weird times. That being said, hey, everybody, everybody listening, guess what? You get to be part of the, do I get to say, can I say the F word on this? Yeah, you can be part of the fucking solution to this terrible problem.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:14:32.607)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:14:51.67)
Yeah, go for it.

David McRaney (01:14:56.409)
Like, so please, let's work on this. It's gonna take all of us figuring it out together. Do recognize that the institutions that, many of these are like 19th and 18th century institutions we're trying to live in the 21st century, being driven by, working for, working amongst, it's time to evolve them. They're breaking because they can't work in this world that we've created. So let's make new stuff together.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:15:21.398)
Yeah, let's make new stuff together. That sounds really great. So David, let's end with this last question, which is what is something that you haven't been asked in these interviews that you wish more people would ask you?

David McRaney (01:15:32.653)
Oh man, I love this. There's another podcaster that, why can't I think of his name? It'll come to me as soon as the show's over. But what's the hardest you've ever laughed? I love that question. It's one of my favorite things to ask someone to really get to know them. And so that's something I never get asked. Shall I answer that question?

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:15:45.078)

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:15:56.234)
Yeah, what's the hardest you've ever laughed? Oh, I thought you were still talking about the podcaster having great questions. I didn't realize that was your answer to my question. Okay, yeah, what is the hardest you've ever been laughed? Sorry, I was thinking about my hardest time I ever laughed. I had to make it about me in my head.

David McRaney (01:15:57.406)
OK, cool.

David McRaney (01:16:10.872)
No. I would love to hear yours as well. If we have time, I'd like to hear yours too. You can answer this as like some media thing that made you laugh, but I prefer it to be a way you laugh with another person. For me, and this is going to be like any other thing like this is going to be weird to share this, but I remember—

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:16:24.628)

David McRaney (01:16:32.217)
one of my good friends, Bert Edwards, he got a ham for Christmas from his employer as like a bonus, and he pulled up at a Christmas party for friends in his truck, and he had the ham strapped in the passenger seat with the seatbelt across it. And I came out to say hey to him, and we just stared at it together for a minute. And he hadn't really considered how dumb it looked and how...

amazing it was that it was this little passenger, this little ham. And we laughed and then we looked at each other and laughed. And then the absurdity of existence itself came crashing down on both of us. And we laughed so hard and we could not communicate it to everybody else why that was so funny. In fact, I don't know if we knew why it was so funny, but we laughed for maybe eight minutes and when we'd look up, we'd get more insane about it. It was like taking some sort of

super powerful psychedelic that showed you how ridiculous it is to be a person all at once by this ham strapped in as a little passenger in his truck that was a gift from his boss. I laugh endlessly at that. It still makes me laugh. That is the hardest I've ever laughed in person with another human being. Yes.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:17:47.394)
That's an existential laugh right there. Well, thank you so much for this conversation. I feel so grateful to have had it with you and to have read your book and to be able to engage with the author of a fascinating book and dig deeper into the questions that arose for me is just such a privilege and a gift. And I'm so, so grateful for your time.

David McRaney (01:17:57.668)

David McRaney (01:18:10.837)
I could not, I agree completely. I feel all these same feelings. We are now best friends. And if you ever need anything from me, just say so. If you're in a forest, Jessica, surrounded by ninjas, you have all my information. Contact me, I will repel in and we'll take care of that shit. No, seriously, this has been a great conversation. I really appreciate all your time.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:18:16.857)
I'm sorry.

Dr. Jessica Kriegel (01:18:32.994)
Thank you, David.



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