What We Discuss with Dan Ariely:
- Why some of our family and friends we once considered rational have succumbed to “misbelief” — they doubt widely confirmed facts and wholeheartedly buy into bizarre conspiracy theories that wouldn’t pass muster in an elementary school science fair.
- Why misbelief has a universal appeal to human beings on both sides of the political divide, and how understanding the psychology behind it helps us diminish its impact.
- How misbelief campaigns are often ignited by people who operate in bad faith for power, fame, and money, but the majority of people who fall for their grift (and spread it) are victims who require empathy, not judgment, to break free.
- Dan shares the psychological toll of receiving death threats from conspiracy theorists who believe he’s part of some sinister global cabal intent on decimating the human population.
- How cultivating resilience works as a “vaccine” — appropriately enough — to misbelief in ourselves and others.
- And much more…
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It can be disheartening to discover that your best friend from high school — who went on to graduate from Harvard — sincerely believes that lizard people are trying to decimate Earth’s human population via sinister COVID-19 vaccine proliferation. Or that your cool Uncle Gary, who you used to fish with every summer, is certain that the current president lost the election and the former guy is somehow still in charge of things (in spite of not being responsible for any of the bad stuff). None of this makes any sense, but these are people you once looked up to and considered smart — so why are they committed to parroting this obvious nonsense with such conviction?
On this episode, we’re joined by Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and author of Misbelief: What Makes Rational People Believe Irrational Things. Here, we discuss what makes otherwise intelligent people fall down the funnel of “misbelief” to discard proven facts and wholeheartedly buy into bizarre conspiracy theories that wouldn’t pass muster in an elementary school science fair. We’ll discover that people of all political persuasions can fall prey to bad-faith actors who propagate conspiracy theories for personal gain, and why empathy is a better remedy to this kind of ailment than snap judgment. Dan will walk us through what it’s like to be the target of true misbelievers who have been led to believe he’s the enemy, and how we can cultivate resilience as a “vaccine” to inoculate us and our loved ones from getting sucked into the funnel of misbelief for good. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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Miss our conversation with Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of a Hamas co-founder who worked undercover to thwart terrorist plots? Catch up with episode 407: Mosab Hassan Yousef | The Green Prince of Hamas here!
Thanks, Dan Ariely!
If you enjoyed this session with Dan Ariely, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Misbelief: What Makes Rational People Believe Irrational Things by Dr. Dan Ariely | Amazon
- Dan Ariely | The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations | Jordan Harbinger
- Dan Ariely | Website
- Dan Ariely | Instagram
- Dan Ariely | Facebook
- Dan Ariely | Twitter
- How a Terrible Accident Inspired Dan Ariely’s Career Path | The Cut
- Painful Lessons by Dan Ariely | MIT
- Conspiracy Theories with Dan Ariely | Behavioral Design Podcast
- The True Story Behind Dan Ariely’s Beard | Distractify
- Why Conspiracy Theories Are Fun but Dangerous | Psychology Today
- A New Tool Can Help Us Determine Which Conspiracy Theories Are False and Which Might Be True | LSE
- Scarcity Mindset: Causes and How to Overcome It | Cleveland Clinic
- Confirmation Bias | The Decision Lab
- How Bill Gates Became the Voodoo Doll of COVID Conspiracies | BBC News
- From Bad to Worse: Avoidance Coping with Stress Increases Conspiracy Beliefs | British Journal of Social Psychology
- How to Use Occam’s Razor without Getting Cut | Farnam Street
- Debunking Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories | QI
- Hanlon’s Razor: Not Everyone is Out to Get You | Farnam Street Blog
- The World Economic Forum
- Conspiracy Theories and Violent Extremism Similarities, Differences, and the Implications | Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses
- There’s a Psychological ‘Vaccine’ against Misinformation | Scientific American
- “I Feel Your Pain”: The Effects of Observing Ostracism on the Ostracism Detection System | Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
- Shibboleth | Wikipedia
- The Best Religious Joke Ever Isn’t about Religion (And Why That Matters) | Randal Rauser
- Social Isolation and Community Disconnection are Not Spurring Conspiracy Theories | The Survey Center on American Life
- COVID-19 Vaccine: Does the ‘Magnet Challenge’ Work? | The Observers
- Jesus Camp | Prime Video
- Leon Festinger: Cognitive Dissonance, Social Psychology, Theory | Britannica
- The Illusion of Explanatory Depth | The Decision Lab
- Try These Five Techniques to Make Your Next Political Argument Fruitful | Scientific American Blog Network
- Do Your Own Research | RationalWiki
- Alien Abduction? Science Calls It Sleep Paralysis | The New York Times
- A Bat and a Ball Cost $1.10 Riddle: Solution Explained | Simply Logical
- Detailing Extremist Violence on Both Sides of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Senior Official Tells Security Council Political Horizon Must Be Re-Established | UN Press
- The Paradox of Persuasion: How Persuasive Communication Works | by Alejandro Betancourt | Medium
903: Dan Ariely | Why Rational People Believe Irrational Things
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] Dan Ariely: We are becoming more politicized, more identity driven, more separatist. It feels like the things that divide us are becoming larger than the things that unite us. And the moment we have these feelings of intolerance, we are just chasing those people away from our lives.
[00:00:24] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. Our mission is to help you become a better informed, more critical thinker through long-form conversations with a variety of amazing folks from spies to CEOs, athletes, authors, thinkers, performers, even the occasional former cult member, arms dealer, drug trafficker, astronaut, or music mogul.
[00:00:51] And if you're new to the show or you want to tell your friends about the show — and thank you for doing that — I suggest our episode starter packs as a place to begin. These are collections of our favorite episodes on persuasion, negotiations, psychology, geopolitics, disinformation, cyber warfare, crime and cults, and more. It'll help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:15] Today on the show, Dan Ariely. This is a really fascinating episode, a deep dive into the science of misbelief. Why do people believe things that are just unreasonable? What are the factors that get people to be more susceptible to conspiracy theories? How come that person that seemed so reasonable just a few months ago now thinks that 5G towers cause COVID or that COVID is a hoax entirely? Why do people come up with crazy convoluted explanations for why something might happen, rather than the very simple explanation that scientists agree is the actual explanation? There's a lot in this episode today about the science of belief. What makes some people more susceptible to misbelief than others, and what we can do to help ourselves and others get out of cycles of misbelief before we fall too far down the rabbit hole?
[00:02:01] Now, here we go with Dan Ariely.
[00:02:05] I read the whole book and I really liked it and it was one of those where I was like, oh, I'm so glad somebody's doing a book about this because while a lot of people write about conspiracy theories, they don't really get into the science of it. They just say, "Hey, there's a lot of these and there's too many. And now, there's more and here are some of them." But it's better to know the reasons and why our brains do this. In my opinion, one, you can explain to yourself why you might believe something. Or, you can explain to yourself why one of your loved ones believes something, and it's not because they are mentally ill, it's because of another set of reasons, because it looks that way sometimes.
[00:02:43] And to clarify, we're here today because you're part of the Illuminati global conspiracy to either, depending on your level of kookiness, depopulate the earth, make everyone sterile, monitor us via microchips in our body. Or something Jewish reptile people living in the center of a hollow and/or flat earth. Did I get that right?
[00:03:01] Dan Ariely: Uh, that's absolutely correct.
[00:03:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Okay. So tell us actually how you got interested in this because last time we talked, I think it was about economic behavior or something. And this is a little bit of a departure from your normal fare.
[00:03:13] Dan Ariely: That's right. And it's the departure of the normal fare, both in terms of topic and also in the method of investigation.
[00:03:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:03:21] Dan Ariely: You probably remember that when we talked last time we talked about what got me interested in behavioral economics and it was my injury.
[00:03:28] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:29] Dan Ariely: So lots of things start with personal experience. This one is no different. Go back in your mind to the beginning of 2020, COVID starts, and I try to help as many governments as I can.
[00:03:40] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:40] Dan Ariely: And there's lots of interesting topics of social science. What do you do against the rise of domestic violence, and how do you give money to people, and distant education? Anyway, July, few months into it, and I get this email that says, "Dan, how have you changed?" It's an email from somebody I met once. I respond to her and I say, "How have I changed?" And I get back a list of links and I'll just describe one of them.
[00:04:06] That link described how I got injured. I was badly burned in about 70 percent of my body. And the video described in 90 seconds, I got burned very badly. I started hating healthy people. I joined the cabal Bill Gates illuminati trying to kill as many healthy people as possible.
[00:04:26] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting.
[00:04:27] Dan Ariely: Now, there were other videos. That one gives you the basic idea and I spend the next month trying to convince people. I talked to people. I invited people to come to my house. I joined Telegram groups and WhatsApp groups and Facebook, all kinds of things. And how successful do you think I was in convincing people?
[00:04:46] Jordan Harbinger: I'm surprised that you do that because for people who don't know, part of what you really study is why people do things in persuasion. So the idea of you going into a Telegram group full of people that think you hate healthy people because you were burned when you were younger. It's the equivalent of going, "I know what I'll do. I'll run my head against this wall a few dozen times and that should change everybody's mind." But you still tried, which is great. I assume you had pretty much zero success doing that.
[00:05:10] Dan Ariely: Almost zero success. One big success I can tell you. But not only that, I think it made things worse. By the way, all the experts told me, but how could people doubt me anyway? Miserable month, lots of nightmares, very difficult. And then, I sat back and I said, okay, this is something big and I need to understand it. For my own sanity and understanding, I need to go deeper into it. And that's what I did for a lot of the next two years. I basically spend lots of hours in some of the darkest corners of the Internet. I talked to about 20 misbelievers who really hated me, but were willing to talk to me.
[00:05:46] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:05:46] Dan Ariely: And I tried to understand the psychology. Now, as you said in the beginning, we all have people that we know that five years ago we felt were similar to us.
[00:05:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:05:56] Dan Ariely: And over the last five years, they've changed in some deep ways. What is the process? How did this happen? So I'm not interested in counting how many people believe X, Y, and Z. I'm interested in understanding this machinery that changes, a little bit like a cookie. A cookie attacks our taste. Sugar, fat, salt, like optimal combination to get us to want them. Misbelief attacks more of our personality. It attacks more of our cognitive system. And I'm interested in all the ways in which it, basically gets us down the funnel of misbelief.
[00:06:27] When I started the book and I wrote the table of content that I had in mind, I had the chapter there said solutions. The deeper I got into it, the more I realized there's no solutions. And I now have sections in the book called Hopefully Helpful.
[00:06:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yikes. Yeah.
[00:06:41] Dan Ariely: But the solution is going to be tough and it's not going to be one, it needs to be many. But if people are reading this and say, "Okay, there'll be an answer." No, you'll just think that it's more complex as you get deeper into it.
[00:06:53] Jordan Harbinger: But I want to tell people not to give up hope here because one, I think what used to be called solutions are quite helpful. And also even if the people in your life who think that there's a secret cabal of whatever for whatever purpose, even if those people would never touch this book, this is for the loved ones the friends the people who want to understand why you see people on social media just who you thought were totally normal professing something that seems like their account got hacked because it's so ridiculous.
[00:07:23] Dan Ariely: I think you're absolutely right I think the book is really about understanding this mechanism, the funnel of misbelief that I think most people who would read this book, it would happen to others. But it's also very useful in terms of understanding our own beliefs.
[00:07:37] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:37] Dan Ariely: Maybe we're not misbelievers, but where's the nature of our belief? Where is it coming from? And then it also has this notion of where society is heading. What is the role of trust?
[00:07:45] Jordan Harbinger: By the way, speaking of drastic changes, I dig the half beard, by the way. Is that recent? You didn't have that last time, but it's been a while.
[00:07:52] Dan Ariely: So I was badly burned, of course. So this side of my face has no hair. It's all scars. But why am I growing the half a beard? About six years ago, I went on a month-long hike, and for that month, I didn't shave, and I came out looking a little bit like this, a little bit less white, but I looked like this, and I looked at the mirror for the first time, and I didn't like how I looked. It's a very odd look. It was very odd for me, and I said, okay, I'll shave it, but maybe I'll shave it in two or three weeks, just to keep the little memory of the hike.
[00:08:19] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:08:20] Dan Ariely: And two interesting things happened. The first one was that I started getting notes from people on social media who thanked me for the half the beard.
[00:08:27] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:08:27] Dan Ariely: These were not people who liked it aesthetically. These were people who were struggling their own injuries. These were people that were feeling that in their own lives, they were hiding something and they thought I was doing this on purpose to basically say, look how much I don't care. But I said, okay, if some people are getting extra strength and so on to deal with their own injuries, I'll keep this for a while, like a public service announcement.
[00:08:48] But the really interesting thing happened about four months down the line. So I've been carrying these scars and formalities and so on, many years and four months down the line with this half beard, I suddenly realized that I have changed my relationship with these scars. I didn't think them about me versus them. I started thinking the more is the story of my life.
[00:09:10] Now, I still prefer not to get injured. I still have lots of pain, but I realized that my relationship with my injury has changed. And I started thinking, why now? It's been more than 30 years. Why now am I feeling differently? And here is what I think. Imagine somebody like me shave. When I wake up in the morning, there's no stubble here and there's stubble here. And the act of shaving is also an act of making me less non symmetrical. I'm still not symmetrical, but less non-symmetrical. In other words, the act of half shaving is also an act of hiding my injury. And I think that it's a very unhelpful process for my own psychology.
[00:09:47] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:09:47] Dan Ariely: And basically saying, this is me. I'm non-symmetrical, and I'm not ashamed of it, and I'm not hiding it, and I'm not Practicing every day, hiding it, was incredibly releasing. And here's the final point. I'm a social scientist, relatively good social scientist. And if you ask me, how would it feel like to be with a half a beard, I could certainly predict day one. And I would say it will not be fun. People would ask questions, kids would laugh, people would point, not fun. If you ask me what would be the cumulative effect four months down the line, I wouldn't be able to tell you. There's nothing about my intuition. that can tell you what would happen. And I think this is really the goal of social science, is to take those things we have no intuition about, help us understand them, and give us some better rules for life.
[00:10:33] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. I think it's a cool trademark. It's like an eyepatch except you can drive without running into something. I think it's cool. I don't think I could get away with it because people would say, why are you shaving half your face? Only whereas you're just not shaving which that's the benefit, but I do wonder speaking of people's perception of you How did it feel at that time in the beginning when people were like Dan Ariely is part of the global cabal something? To be villainized by so many people especially largely in bad faith, right, because you were like, "Hey, look, I don't hate healthy people at all, I'm willing to sit down with you," and then they're like, "Aha! You being willing to sit down with me makes you more guilty." And wait, how does that work? So literally nothing I can do is right. When you write about it in the book, it's just really clear that these people had made up their mind based on little or no evidence, and nothing you could do would ever change their mind, which, that is like the definition of an intellectually dishonest or bad faith argument.
[00:11:26] Dan Ariely: So there's a couple of things. So first of all, being hated is a very unpleasant feeling and of course it's the most intense with death threats. So I got death threats almost every day for about two years and I didn't think people are going to actually come and kill me. But there is something very aggressive in saying there is a perception of me that is so negative that somebody on the other side think that the world will be a better place without me. And at least they're saying that they're willing to jeopardize life in prison for doing that.
[00:11:58] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:11:58] Dan Ariely: And during the day, I was able to chase those thoughts and focus on work, but at night, it would just come. I had lots of sleepless nights. I started having a recurring dream in which I traveled the world looking for a better place, to be a place without hate. There's another concept that became very clear to me. There's something in psychology called scarcity mindset.
[00:12:19] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:12:19] Dan Ariely: And it's usually used with poverty. The usual argument is that people who are poverty level, part of their mind is always occupied with how we're going to manage today.
[00:12:31] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:12:31] Dan Ariely: Will I get coffee or will I get bus? Will I be able to pay my bill? And they don't have the same cognitive capacity because some of it is dedicated to these other tasks. And I felt that no matter what I was doing, part of my brain was focusing on those things. Part of my brain was thinking, what's happening? Where's the hate? Where's the next one coming from? When is the next death threat? At least in the beginning, I felt I lost intelligence.
[00:12:57] By the way, the research on scarcity mindset shows that people can lose 25 percent of their intelligence with these words. It doesn't have to be financial. It could be health. It could be what I had and so on. So that was an initially tough period, more manageable during the day, much worse at night. And then it does create some long term effects. I used to think that email and WhatsApp and Telegram are all busy, but I didn't expect hate. Now, there's some words in the subject heading that I read and I pause, like some kind of fear response is—
[00:13:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:13:32] Dan Ariely: —evoked.
[00:13:32] Jordan Harbinger: It's interesting. You mentioned that a long time ago I had a terrible business partner and when you would see the email pop up and you could just tell he'd had a bad day and he was going to ruin your day by throwing something on your plate, you get that anxiety reaction. You have that at work if you work for a boss who throws tantrums. Email 6:30 a.m. What is this? Okay, I have to open that and I got to be ready for what is in there. And it could be like, "Thanks for the chocolates, we're enjoying them right now." But usually it's not. Usually it's like a copy of your work that says, "This is trash. Why did I hire you?" And you're like, "Why do I work here? How do I get out of this?" So that's probably a similar reaction, except for that your email has a video of you cut together. You talking on the Ted stage, ominous music behind it, and then aliens or something. And it's what the hell? And you're just like, is this person going to try and stab me when I walk out of my apartment or are they on the other side of the world and they're just bored? I don't know. That's like something you don't want to waste your time with.
[00:14:25] Dan Ariely: No, there's something else to realize. I basically had to realize that there are some people that I can't convince. That's a very tough step to make. Okay, here's some people that have a really negative opinion about me. I will never be able to convince them. And now I just need to accept that and move on. For example, there was one guy who said he wanted to be my executioner.
[00:14:47] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh.
[00:14:49] Dan Ariely: They thought they're going to have Nuremberg 2.0 trials, in which they're going to judge people for their crimes against humanity, and they'll judge me, and this guy wanted to be responsible, and At that level, I realized I'm not going to change his opinion, but I thought I really need to understand his perspective. Where is this amazing thing is happening? So I said, okay, I'll never change him. That's it. That's a person that hates me forever and I need to give up on that fight. And now the only thing I really need to focus on, can I learn something from him? Can he help me understand?
[00:15:21] It's not just me. I think lots of people are going to experience just that as the discussion on social media is becoming more extreme, as people are more quick to judge, as things become more identity related and signaling related. There's going to be more polarization in everything we do, not just in politics.
[00:15:39] Jordan Harbinger: This guy, if memory serves from the book, the guy who wanted to be your executioner. So he didn't believe COVID existed, but he got COVID later. And then he was like, "The police have poisoned me. That's why I'm sick," right? This is that guy.
[00:15:51] Dan Ariely: It's a different guy, that guy, one of the things, the book really does three things. There's a little bit of my story. There's a description of this machine that takes people and changes them. The funnel of misbelief and it has four components. And then, the last part of it is about trust, is saying, okay, so if we have people who are going through this machinery of the funnel of misbelief, the bigger consequences is that once you adopt the perspective of this deep trust, not saying, oh, you know what? I think that broccoli is not as healthy as people's .
[00:16:22] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:16:22] Dan Ariely: No, once you adopt something and it's a central tenant in your life and it's a part of your identity, then, you basically open your eyes every day and you think about the world from this perspective. You basically say to yourself, "Let me look for signals of people being after me."
[00:16:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:16:40] Dan Ariely: People are really with bad intentions. And now, it's across all domains because no matter what you started with believing that pharma or whatever, the UN, no matter what you started believing, the moment you adopt this misbelieving perspective where you distrust everything and you just look for signals for bad things that are happening, you can find them.
[00:17:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, of course. Confirmation bias as well. I know that it seems like there's a lot more conspiracy believers now since COVID, and I used to think these people were ignorant or really dumb. If somebody would tell me the earth is flat or that COVID's a hoax and not real, and some of them are, some of these people are just not that educated, but a huge number of them are smart enough and educated enough that I'm actually very surprised when they profess to believe the things that they say they believe.
[00:17:26] This person that you thought was completely normal that you had lunch with a couple of years ago. is now like there are microchips in the vaccine and Bill Gates wants to depopulate the earth and you're like, "You don't think that. You're joking, right? Because other people think that?" And they're like, "No, you got to wake up, Jordan." And you're just thinking, "Holy crap, you're a helicopter pilot that I've known for 10 years. How did you get here?"
[00:17:46] Dan Ariely: We shouldn't discount those people. They're not dumb and they're not incapable and so on. And it's dangerous to do so because then you say, I could never be like that.
[00:17:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:17:55] Dan Ariely: But no, we should not discount them and we should not discount misbelief. We should not say, ah, this is just nonsense. No, they actually fulfill a very important psychological function.
[00:18:05] Jordan Harbinger: Should we define misbelief?
[00:18:08] Dan Ariely: For me, misbelief has two components. It has a component about the outside world says, okay, I hold the belief that is against all or most experts and common wisdom. That's one part of it. By the way, at some point we might discover it's true, but right now it's against all common wisdom by experts and people.
[00:18:29] And the second thing is the internal state. And that's very important. It's not just that I hold that belief. I hold it as a central tendency of my Identity, right? Again, it's not just about broccoli. It's about something that is becoming incredibly important to me. And the reason that's when you so important is because the moment it becomes so important to me personally it becomes a lens to see everything. I start searching for information, I look for information, I expand my notion, and so on. So that's misbelief for me.
[00:19:00] So now if we're saying that these are just people, how do they get there? If you say, oh, these are just people who have whatever tendency, then you say, oh, it's not me. But if we say just like us, then you have to say, what are the conditions that got us to believe one thing and they to believe something else? And the breeding grounds for misbelief is stress.
[00:19:21] Jordan Harbinger: That was a big eye opener for me because, again, I'm looking for the condition. Why is it that a guy I went to law school with, who's smarter than me, better than me in all the classes, suddenly believes these things? Why is that? Okay, what happened to him during the pandemic? He lost his job. His wife and him were getting a divorce. His kids, one of them got sick with something or was having some sort of issues in school. They were also then remote schooling their other kids. So here's this lawyer who's 40 trying to teach fractions. I can't do that. I don't know about you. I don't even remember those things.
[00:19:50] And so his level of stress is off the charts, like that profound level of stress, marriage falling apart, children not doing well. And I'm sitting here like, I guess I'll just do what I've done for the last 10 years, which is work from home and create a podcast, and maybe my ad rates will go down, but I'll be fine. It's the magic ingredient. When you taste a dish—
[00:20:07] Dan Ariely: That's right.
[00:20:07] Jordan Harbinger: —it doesn't taste right, and it's because they forgot the salt, you notice right away. Stress is the yeast that makes the conspiracy bread rise.
[00:20:15] Dan Ariely: That's right. And it's important to recognize that it's not the stress of saying, "Oh my goodness, I'm busy. Look at my schedule."
[00:20:21] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:20:21] Dan Ariely: It's the stress exactly as you described. Why is my life not working out? And why is my life not working out and other people are, why is my life falling apart? Why don't I get my share of things? Why is my work not going well? My relationship not going well? You feel that something is against you.
[00:20:38] Now what happens when people are stressed? So first of all, there's some beautiful results. So imagine a sheet of paper with black, white, and gray dots just scattered randomly. And I give them to you and I said, do you see a pattern? Can you see a pattern with this random signal? And in most cases you say no, but sometimes you try and you find patterns. Now, when do people find more patterns? When they're stressed.
[00:21:01] Jordan Harbinger: When they're stressed? Really? Interesting.
[00:21:04] Dan Ariely: Beautiful research showing that when people go to parachutes, they see more of those and they see more of those just before they jump. It's the stress, the pressure to find order. And I think about your lawyer friend. So first of all, you want a story that explains why you're not doing well. So it can't be a story about the benevolent God.
[00:21:23] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:21:23] Dan Ariely: Right? Because that wouldn't explain why is life so miserable. So you're looking for a story with the villain. So you have pressure to connect the dots and find the story. You want a story with the villain and you want a complex story with the villain. Why do you want a complex story? Because you want to feel in control. If the story is simple, you say, "Oh, I'm just not better than other people. But if the story is complex, it gives you this incredible view. Look how smart I am, how much in control, how many dots I've connected. So that's what we're starting with. We're starting with a need for a story that has a villain and a complex story. That's the starting point.
[00:22:02] Jordan Harbinger: I always wondered why conspiracy theories were so comical in their complexity, because I thought maybe it had to do with the grifters making it complex so that they can explain it, which keeps the attention on them, but I didn't realize that particular angle because It seems like, what is it, Occam's razor, where it's, "Hey, we probably landed on the moon." "No, what really happened was they faked all this, and they faked the shuttle program, and 50, 000 people who worked on it are all lying, and it's a big conspiracy, because if you say that the moon landing was real, then the earth must be round, because the photos are real, which means that the earth isn't flat, which means there's not hidden resources." And you're just like, maybe we just landed on the moon. That's complex, but not as complex as what you're trying to concoct right now, than this YouTube video.
[00:22:43] Dan Ariely: Yeah. Now, just to be clear, a lot of the phenomenons out there in the world are multiple things. So I think what you said is that the people who produce those theories also benefit from the complexity because it's, if it's a complex theory, you'll come back tomorrow and I have more to share. There's also a knowledge structure that we can build over time and cement the belief so they have other advantages.
[00:23:06] By the way, one of the things that is so interesting about the relief that people get from these stories about villains is that the relief is short lived. So imagine that COVID started and your quality of life is low. You're looking for a story, you're looking for a villain, you find a story. At that moment, you feel some comfort. So, okay, it's not me. It's whatever, Bill Gates. And that moment you feel a bit better, but now you've added to your thought process that there's a villain out there that is out to get you, the G5 and your kids and so on. So even though there's a slight increase, there's a longer term slow decrease. And eventually that kick in well being become negative.
[00:23:48] Jordan Harbinger: I see.
[00:23:48] Dan Ariely: And then you ask yourself, what did I do last time to feel better? Oh, I saw these videos about that. You do it again. So it's like small increase, slow decrease, small increase, even more decrease, and so on. And these people are not happy. One of the things that happened to me in this process of talking to them is that I started feeling their pain. If you think about somebody who believes in God, God is generally good. Sometimes there's a devil, but generally it's good. Like if you believe in God, you believe somebody is out there to protect you, benevolent and so on. If you believe in these evil forces, life is very tough. You wake up in the morning and you feel that not only are there people out to get you, but they're incredibly convoluted, and they're having an amazing amount of force, and they can do all kinds of things. That's a very difficult way to live. Just think about this lens of looking at life from this perspective. It's very tough.
[00:24:40] Jordan Harbinger: And not having the agency to do anything about it, right, which is why it's never just, there's a bunch of people that are just like me that are doing something, it's always billionaires in a secret club that meet in a mountain fortress or whatever it is.
[00:24:51] Dan Ariely: Yep.
[00:24:52] Jordan Harbinger: And that explains why they toss out Hanlon's razor, which is, for people who are not big nerds like us, never attribute to malice what can be attributed to foolishness or ineptitude.
[00:25:01] So a lot of the things that look wrong, like how messaging during COVID was really bad. I look at that and I go, "These guys, how did they not see this coming? This is so ridiculous, but also classic government bungle with the PPE," and people go, "No, they did it on purpose. And here's this crazy flow chart. That has 17 pages of why they did this on purpose." "Or maybe they really just did a crappy job with messaging because they hadn't thought about this problem and they had to say something and they said the wrong thing." And it's like, "No, no, no, no flowchart," right?
[00:25:36] Dan Ariely: Yeah. The funniest one for me is the World Economic Forum.
[00:25:40] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:25:41] Dan Ariely: I don't know if you ever got the pleasure of going to that place, but the parties are amazing.
[00:25:45] Jordan Harbinger: I'm sure.
[00:25:46] Dan Ariely: But it's such a disorganized, modest, intellectual quality place.
[00:25:53] Jordan Harbinger: Well, there goes your invite, by the way. You're never getting invited there again. I'm just saying that.
[00:25:57] Dan Ariely: But it's fun parties, nice people, nothing really is happening there. But all of a sudden they made them this unbelievable place that gets to move the whole world and control the whole world and so on. They can't get a decent report out. But it is amazing, this desire to see things not as randomness, it goes back to the stress, right? The more things as randomness, the more you think the world is chaotic, the more you think the world is disorganized. The pressure is not to see it as random, but to see it as intentional, as on purpose, and then, because these are bad things, the intention has to be bad.
[00:26:32] Jordan Harbinger: You mentioned in the book that big events seem to us like they should have big causes not just sh*t happens and maybe it came from a wet market, maybe it came from a lab because they had crappy internal security. And no, it's a bioweapon designed by this and that and the other.
[00:26:46] Dan Ariely: That's right.
[00:26:46] Jordan Harbinger: What was this called? Proportionality bias, but it only works for bad events right for good events somehow we're totally fine with chance. Like, wow this good thing. I found a job after I lost my other one. That's really lucky.
[00:26:58] Dan Ariely: That's right.
[00:26:58] Jordan Harbinger: That's fine But if another thing happens, it's because of the Illuminati or the conspiracy. Is that because it's more comfortable to think good things happen randomly but bad things only happen by cause? Because if bad things happen randomly, wow, I better look out all the time.
[00:27:13] Dan Ariely: Yeah, it's perfectly fine to say insulin was discovered randomly. Think about what an amazing thing. But when you look at bad things, first of all, there is a pressure to find what caused it. We do want to understand it. And the reason we want to understand it is we want to prevent it the next time. So, when good things happen, you say, oh yeah, in principle, I would like to know how to make more good things. But we are very much attuned to bad things.
[00:27:37] So when bad things happen, we really want to understand the mechanism and the proportionality bias basically say, like, where's your hypothesis? What's your first hypothesis about what explains the tragic, a really big tragedy? And the place where people start is not with, oh, just a random human error, they start with something big because if something big happened, it must have had a big cause. And therefore, that's what they start thinking about. And often they get stuck with what they thought about.
[00:28:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You get stuck in the thought loop or go down the rabbit hole on YouTube or whatever now is the funnel.
[00:28:11] Dan Ariely: Yeah. And when you say it's random and human error, you have to accept the level of ambiguity. Where you say, I don't know exactly why I made the mistake. There is an accepted level of ambiguity the moment you say human error. That you basically say, I don't think we found it. I don't think we'll find it. I don't think we'll figure it out. It's much, much less comfortable than to say, I have a story. It's an evil story and it's a big thing.
[00:28:40] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with Dan Ariely. We'll be right back.
[00:28:46] This episode is sponsored in part by Nutrisense. I wanted to share something I've been geeking out on a little bit lately. It's called Nutrisense. It is a blood glucose monitor. It sticks on your arm. No, it doesn't hurt. It looks like it's going to hurt. You think it's going to hurt, and then it just doesn't hurt. But it monitors your blood sugar 24 hours a day, which is incredible. So things like mood swings and focus and energy levels, you can really see essentially graphed out what your blood sugar is in that moment. Stress, exercise, sleep, all reflected in the graph. You tell it what you ate, it shows your blood sugar. And it doesn't just leave you with the data, they have a board certified nutritionist who is looking at your data and telling you, "Hey, you spiked because of this, try adding some of that, try not eating as much of this." It's not just don't eat this kind of advice, they gave me practical, I ate sushi the other day, my blood sugar went through the roof, and they were like, "Hey, How'd you feel after that sushi? Looks like you should add some protein to avoid spiking your glucose." I just thought that was a really cool bit of feedback, because I would never have noticed that in my entire life. So there's accountability, there's coaching, it comes with the sensor, and I'm making data-driven decisions that are sustainable over the long term, aka the rest of my life, on things that will affect long-term health risks like diabetes and heart issues, which, by the way, run in the family. So, I think it's a great to get a handle on this now and this is how you do it.
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[00:30:06] This episode is also sponsored by Warby Parker. My eyes are working overtime from staring at screens. That's why I dig Warby Parker. Those guys are the whole package — eyeglasses, sunglasses, contacts, and eye exams, which I didn't even know you could do that remotely. You can shop online or hit up one of their 190-plus stores. And here's what I did. I used their home-try-on program, selected five stylish frames, had them shipped to my doorstep, zero cost. Plus, they're offering 15 percent off your first order of contacts from brands like AccuView, Biofinity. So if you're glued to your devices like me, check out their anti fatigue and blue light filtering glasses. I added them to my frames, and let me tell you, they're a game changer for eye fatigue, sleep quality, especially when you're going to bed earlier or trying to, and if you need a prescription renewal, their virtual vision test is just 15 bucks, done from the comfort of your home, which I think is amazing. I didn't know you could do that. I didn't know that was possible. So Warby Parker, not just about sales. With their "buy a pair, give a pair" program, they've distributed over 10 million pairs of glasses globally. So treat your eyes, and maybe someone else's eyes too.
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[00:31:10] Jordan Harbinger: If you're wondering how I managed to book all these amazing folks for the show, all these authors, thinkers, creators, every single week, it's because of my network. And I know networking is a dirty word. I'm talking about the circle of people around you that know, like, and trust you. And I'm teaching you how to build the same thing for yourself for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. This is a course about improving your relationship building skills and inspiring other people to want to develop a relationship with you. It is not cringey. It is very down to earth. It is not awkward, it's not cheesy, it's stuff that you're not going to have a hard time doing. It's just little baby steps that'll make you a better connector, a better colleague, a better friend, a better peer, and it's a light lift. Just a few minutes a day and many of the guests on our show subscribe and contribute to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong. You can find the course at jordanharbinger.com/course.
[00:31:58] Now, back to Dan Ariely.
[00:32:02] Back to the idea about stress. In the book, you write that stress adds up across unrelated domains in life. And I think that was actually a missing piece for me that explains a lot because, again, people who had their kids home, the job's not working out, their income gets cut, they're arguing with their spouse. A lot of the people who really fell down the rabbit hole, it really was life not working out as planned, but I thought, you lost your job, but you found another one. What's the problem? Everybody has home life issues. I know plenty of people that are homeschooling their kids and they don't believe that the Earth is flat suddenly or the moon landing was fake. I think it really does make sense that you have to add up. Like you almost have these different columns of like health, family, relationship, work, financial, and God knows what else.
[00:32:42] And you need this complete picture of someone's life that you can't get unless you are their brother or something, or you're living with them, because they're not maybe going to share all of that with you. And I think if we really were able to study these folks and you could get them to tell you everything 100 percent honestly, which I guess is probably impossible. The patterns really start to emerge because we're all for questioning things on this show, right? It's good, but this goes way beyond that. They go so far in the other direction that they become attached to an entirely new set of beliefs in the process. So they go beyond skepticism to being convinced of the other set of beliefs, which are often ridiculous and far fetched.
[00:33:19] But it's almost like an autoimmune disease of the mind. They're so skeptical that they question everything, good, but they don't stop there. They then get magnetized to another set of ridiculous beliefs, such as the vaccine being magnetic or turning you magnetic. And they can't get away from that. They get sucked into it like gravity.
[00:33:37] Dan Ariely: That's right. So skepticism, again, is ambiguity. Oh, I'm not sure if AOB is correct. Actually, we want people to be skeptical.
[00:33:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:33:46] Dan Ariely: But the problem is it's in a very uncomfortable state to be skeptical and they move to something else. Let's go back and dive a little bit deeper into this accumulation process across domains.
[00:33:54] So, first of all, we know this about pain. If you think about the level of pain that people experience, it's not just about the physical pain. Emotional pain adds to it, and fear adds to it, and stress adds to it, and financial insecurity adds to it. So let's say we have somebody in hospital and they just broke their leg. Just measuring their cell receptors and their leg is not going to be a good predictor. We need these other things, right? Somebody who's worried about how they'll pay their bills is not the same as somebody who's not. So. Things accumulate, right? The brain has a pain center, and that pain center gets delivered signals from lots of places, and stress is the same.
[00:34:32] And one of the papers that I love that I talk about in the book is this study across many countries that's showing that as countries experience more violence, conspiracy theories about COVID 19 go up. Unrelated, but lots of things create stress, including violence in the country. And therefore, the more violence there is, there's all kinds of things people adopt. Stress just accumulates across domain. But this understanding of stress is also a very important input to saying, what can we do about it?
[00:35:03] So imagine that you have close friend or family or somebody that you see them starting to go down the funnel of misbelief. What can you do? The first thing you want to do is you want to alleviate some of that stress. And again, the good news is it accumulates across domains so you don't have to attack the specific domain. And one of the best antidotes is resilience and secure attachment is a part of resilience. And here is a way to think about it.
[00:35:30] Imagine you have a four-year-old kid and you go with him to the park and you say, kid go to the swing, and the kid goes to the swing and they come back half an hour later. You've been successful creating a kid with secure attachment.
[00:35:41] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:35:42] Dan Ariely: On the other hand, if they go, but every 90 seconds they look around to see if you're still there, you haven't been so successful. And if you think about this idea of resilience, secure attachment, it's thinking about having a insurance policy for everything. Usually we think about resilience is life is good. Something bad happened and resilience is how fast do you jump back or even better to where you were before.
[00:36:05] Secure attachment is before something bad happens. It's what is your attitude at life. How do you walk around life? And if you have secure attachment, you say, somebody will catch me. I can try more things. I can risk more things. I can try a new career. I can say what I believe. I can do all kinds of things because it will be okay. I have this insurance policy for everything, right? It's an amazing thing.
[00:36:29] And by the way, if we think about resilience in society, we're not doing very well. We are less connected to people, we're more apart. Economic inequality is a negative predictor to, even in neighborhoods, as economic inequality increases, people ask for favors less.
[00:36:48] Jordan Harbinger: Really? That's interesting. Why is that?
[00:36:52] Dan Ariely: Just because they don't feel as connected.
[00:36:54] Jordan Harbinger: I see.
[00:36:54] Dan Ariely: Money is a big separator. One of the things we can do is to think about how do we create resilience for ourselves and for the people around us. That's incredibly important. If we understand that stress is a big issue, that's one of the best antidotes.
[00:37:09] Jordan Harbinger: It's very interesting to see that as a function of resilience. Because when you look at a funnel of misbelief, it seems like many people, like you said, they're stressed, they're afraid, those people might be a little bit easier to pry out of a funnel later on because they're just worried or scared, right? It's like a casual worry. But it seems like there's a point at which people cross a semi-permeable membrane or whatever and they cross this barrier and then they go from, "I'm a little worried. I'm a little scared. I believe these things that I hold on to these opinions weekly. But they affect me strongly in the moment," and then people start trying to gain status almost in a community of conspiracy folks and you mentioned feeling connected.
[00:37:49] They've maybe they feel connected to other people in their friend circle family circle social circle. And then they cling to the community online and then they're adding information or anecdotes or they're organizing a march against whatever it is. And those people would be harder to get out because it's become a part of their identity. No longer are they just somebody who thinks that the earth is hollow. They're the vice president of the Hollow Earth Society and they're the moderator of that Facebook group. So that's a job now, almost.
[00:38:19] Dan Ariely: That's right. So the funnel of misbelief has the stress. Then there's the cognitive component and confirmation bias is part of it, but it has a bit more. Then there's the personality part. Personality we can't change, right? That's what people, we can change. And then the thing that seals the deal, exactly as you said, is the social part. And the social part is actually, it's not just social media. The first part of the social part is ostracism, and ostracism is the sin we all have done when we've taken some people that are close to us and made fun of them.
[00:38:51] But here is how ostracism works. The guy who started this research on this tells us a beautiful story. He says he's walking in the park with his dog. He sees two people playing frisbee. They throw. The frisbee falls next to him. Picks it up. It throws it to one of them. And for a few minutes, they keep on throwing it back to him. And all three of them play. All of a sudden, they stop throwing it to him. And just throwing between the two of them. Now, he doesn't know them. He didn't come to the park with them. But he felt very rejected. And then he went back to the lab and he said, can't you recreate that? And he created a very similar game.
[00:39:25] He invited people to come to the lab and there was a person that came to the lab and he had two people that worked for him. And he said, the three of you are here for the experiment. The other two were just not there really for the experiment, they were just working for him. He said, wait here for 10 minutes. And then one of the two people that worked for him picked up a soccer ball and they start passing it between the three of them. And in some cases, they pass it between the three of them for the 10 minutes. In some cases, they pass it between the three of them for five minutes. And then for five minutes, they stop playing with the real participant. They ostracize them. And then you could measure what's the difference. What's the difference between somebody who played for 10 minutes with two other people versus somebody who played for five minutes and then for five minutes watched other people play and he was not participating.
[00:40:08] And it affects people dramatically. It affects people's well being and optimism. It affects people's willingness to help, to donate money. When they did fMRI studies, they showed that people had activity that is very much like physical pain. This rejection is really tough. So the first part of the social element is this rejection. As people started exploring alternative ideas, we make fun of them. We think we're making a little fun of them, but they think they're making big fun of them. We're questioning something very deep, right? People are struggling, they're not sure, they're bringing up new ideas, and we don't give them resilience, and instead we ridicule them. And that, of course, pushes them to those things.
[00:40:51] By the way, when I look at some of those bulletin boards and facebook groups and so on, these are some of the most loving people to each other. The amount of hearts and hugs and loves and congratulations. Every day there is somebody deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. And it's not for nothing. If we said, look, we don't want to discount those people and we don't want to discount misbeliefs, they are answering a real need. You can see that the way they function with so much support and so much love is not for nothing. It's a real need. It's a real need and they get it there because they don't get it in the rest of the world.
[00:41:26] You talked about these extreme opinions. Once people are in a group and it's the only group that doesn't ridicule them, what is very natural for people to do? To want to be extra loved in the group, not just belonging, but to get the things that they're not getting. And this is where extreme opinions come to play. And there's a beautiful term called shibboleth, and the story about shibboleth is a story from the Bible.
[00:41:48] And the story is that there were two tribes that had a very bloody war. At the end of the war, they each settled on a different side of the river. But then, when they would meet somebody, and they didn't know if it was from their tribe or the other tribe. And there's a plant called shibboleth in Hebrew, and two tribes pronounce it in a different way. One of them said shibboleth, and the other one said seaboleth. Okay, so now when you meet somebody, you say, how do you say the name of this plant? And if they say it the way you do, you say, you're okay, you're one of us, you can live. And if they say it the wrong way, the other tribe, you try to kill them.
[00:42:21] Now when I ask you, what's the name of this plant? I don't really care about the name of the plant. I want for you to say something about your identity. And the term shibboleth has started to mean that in social science. It's when we say something, but we don't mean what we say. Instead, what we're saying is look how loyal I am to the cause.
[00:42:41] Jordan Harbinger: So virtue signaling, basically.
[00:42:43] Dan Ariely: For example.
[00:42:44] Jordan Harbinger: Got it.
[00:42:45] Dan Ariely: In the beginning, it's just virtue signaling, but over time it could become accepted truth, right? So if we say something in the beginning about virtue signaling, and it has to be extreme, Over time, it could say, oh, we've said it so many times, we defended ourselves so many times, over time, it can become something else.
[00:43:01] Jordan Harbinger: But this is also how extreme opinions are created. So you have a group, and you have somebody who wants to signal, so they go, and they say something a little bit crazy, a little bit extreme. They don't mean it as real facts, they mean it as signaling, and then things shift, because after a while, it's not extreme anymore.
[00:43:19] I see. Also, I would imagine there's a status element, right? Because if I'm in a Facebook group and everyone's saying the same thing, but I take a more extreme position in that group, I stand out a little bit, and then people will start to say, "I agree with Jordan." And then I've got this mini tribe of people that are like, "What else you got?" And some people might disagree, but then they're not in my in group. And if my in group gets big enough and they want to be in it because now they're an outsider. So what do they do? They start saying seaboleth instead of shibboleth or whatever. And I'm like, good, I got another follower.
[00:43:53] So then, what do I learn from that is, I just need to start having more extreme positions and beliefs. And then if I'm a grifter, I just start making those up, right?
[00:44:01] Dan Ariely: Right.
[00:44:01] Jordan Harbinger: Because that's easier than finding something that's real.
[00:44:04] Dan Ariely: That's right. It's easier.
[00:44:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:44:06] Dan Ariely: I would love to get people who say those things, and take them to an FBI lie detection interrogation immediately afterwards. How long does it take? I'm sure that when they make those things up in the beginning, they know that they make them up. I just don't know how long afterward, they still remember that they made it up and it's not part of reality.
[00:44:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:44:25] Dan Ariely: And by the way, the moment our politicians do it, it's very cross signals, right? If we are in a discussion and we expect them to say the truth, but they are signaling identity, how do we tell when they do each of those?
[00:44:40] Jordan Harbinger: It's a good question. I also wonder the same thing right when I see somebody that says look the vaccine has made me magnetic And they take a spoon and they stick it to their skin And it doesn't stick there and they have to bend their arm up a little and get it wet but not too wet. You have to know that you're not really magnetic and that you're just making it stick to your skin. But then at some point you go, "Aha! I'm really magnetic," and you've convinced yourself of this and now you're making videos about as you try to convince other people.
[00:45:07] It reminds me, a long time ago I saw this movie called Jesus Camp, and it was little kids that went to a very fundamentalist Christian camp, and they would lurch, and they would have these seizure things on the floor, where they were like, "The Holy Spirit is in me." These kids are young, right? This one kid's maybe six, seven years old, and he goes, "I don't feel anything. I'm just acting and the other kids aren't. So what's wrong with me?" And then, at the end of the movie, he's doing it and he's like, "Oh, I do feel it now." And you can tell that he's just, "I don't want to be the one guy who doesn't get the Holy Spirit." So he just pretends. And what he doesn't realize is that everyone else has just done a better job of convincing themselves of the exact same thing that this poor kid was feeling, minutes earlier in the documentary.
[00:45:48] And I have to believe that when you put a spoon on your skin and it doesn't stick, you're not magnetic. But then somewhere you change your mind.
[00:45:55] Dan Ariely: Yeah. You know what? There's a lot of very subtle things. that people can say, Oh, that's what it is. It's this tingle that I had in my knee.
[00:46:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:46:03] Dan Ariely: That's the thing that's where God is and so on. So there are ways to convince ourselves in all kinds of things. And it's actually very frightening. If you think about everything has become identity, virtual signaling and so on, where's reality, where's the truth in all of this. And It's also important to say misbelief is not a question of right versus left. It's not that one party is immune from that and one party is susceptible to that. It's really about the human condition. It's about the things we want to believe and it's about low critical thinking. It's about stress. It's about the social pressures to do it.
[00:46:39] But there's one more thing on the social I want to talk about. So we said that there's ostracism that pushes people out. And then there's the process of making things more extreme. Then it's also very important to realize the role of cognitive dissonance. I know that most people know about it, but just as a quick reminder. When Festinger first thought about cognitive dissonance, there was this woman that said that in a particular day the Earth would be destroyed and some aliens would come and only save her and her followers.
[00:47:09] Okay, so he went there with a couple of his buddies, and he said, let's think that there are just two types of followers. There's the extreme follower, the diehard and the on-the-fence follower. The day after, when the Earth is not destroyed and the aliens don't come, what would happen to those two? And one interpretation is to say the diehard followers would be the most disappointed. These are the people who said goodbye to their family and sold their house and gave all their property away. They would be the most disappointed and they would leave the next day. And the people on the fence said, "We never really thought it was like this. If it's not, that's okay. It's fun here. Let's stay."
[00:47:46] But what he predicted is that the people who would diehard followers will actually stay longer. Yes, they could be more disappointed, but they also have a lot of pressure to agree with. These are the people who said goodbye and sold their properties and so on. And that's indeed what happens. They became so much more enchanted with her, they tried to recruit more people and raise more money and so on. Whereas the people on the fence just left and went home. And this is the idea of cognitive dissonance, is that once you've invested a lot of work in something, you can't just say, "Oh, I guess I was wrong." What you do is, we usually think that our preferences drive our behaviors. But cognitive dissonance says that our behavior drive our preferences.
[00:48:27] That once people have behaved in a certain way, they are more likely to believe that way. So, if somebody's posting things on social media, if somebody's going to protest, if somebody's putting effort, writing, whatever they're doing, all of this effort translates into something, and that makes it very hard to escape. So we said, when you just see somebody on the stress part, once the social element to hit them, the support group, the extremity, cognitive dissonance, very hard to get people out of there.
[00:48:57] Jordan Harbinger: I don't even remember what this was about last time, but it was something with the election. And it was, somebody had sent me a DM and they said, "You're going to find out that on inauguration day, Donald Trump is still the president." And I was like, "What if you're wrong?" And he was like, "No, you're going to find out." And I said, "But what if you are wrong?" And it was like, I was speaking Chinese at that point to that person that never got an answer to the question. I couldn't pry even a hypothetical out of him if that would have the case. It was just not an option. It was like saying run through that brick wall.
[00:49:31] And on the days following the election, I sent the DM and I said, "So what do you think? It looks like Joe Biden is president." And he replied, "Ha, am I living rent free in your head, you loser?" And I was like, "No, seriously, I'm so curious. Yes, you're living rent free in my head. I'm a loser. What do you think? Who is the president?" And he blocked me. And I thought, wow, I'm not even saying anything negative. I'm not making fun of you. I literally just want to know what you think happened. And it's still to this point, he just couldn't face that at all. It occurred to me that this person lives in a completely different reality.
[00:50:05] Dan Ariely: Yeah. Look, it's very tough to admit mistakes. There's a phrase that I like as a test. What would it take to change your mind? And it's an interesting thought. And actually, if you want to be critical on the wrong beliefs, you say, what would it take to change my mind about my belief about social justice, or what would it take to change my belief about religion? Oh, lots of things that quite a few of them to say, you know what? Nothing.
[00:50:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:50:32] Dan Ariely: I don't think there's a reasonable amount of data that will convince me or it has to be incredibly crazy and hard to imagine that what will convince me. So we all have those things where we're not as data driven as we would like to think we are.
[00:50:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's uncomfortable because when I do that to myself, I go, okay, what would I need to see or know or do to think that the earth is flat like this person I'm talking to on Instagram right now who's a fan of the show. And it's possible for me to change my mind to think that the earth is flat but you're right my gut is like nothing is going to come and then you go wait a minute that's not fair because if he said that to me about the earth being round. That's not fair. So then, you really do have to come to terms with what it would take for you to change your mind. And sometimes it is quite a heavy lift. But you find yourself being more fair to people who tell you crazy things when you start asking yourself that question.
[00:51:19] Dan Ariely: That's right. So we said we have stress, the breathing realm. We said we have social as the lid. But then we have cognitive and personality. And this question about what would it take to change your mind is connected more to the cognitive component. So what is the cognitive component? The cognitive component really has two parts. First one is confirmation bias. There's a lot of information out there. There's lots of websites and we choose to look at just some of them. Some people choose Fox News, some people choose NBC, right? There's a choice. For what you want to do.
[00:51:51] By the way, with social media, it's a bit more tricky because you choose, but you don't always know that you choose, right? You can end up getting Fox or NBC, but you don't know that you chose it. It's just the algorithm is choosing it for you. So that's one part of it, that we expose ourselves to a narrow range of opinion.
[00:52:08] But the second part is the part where we take the information that is given to us and we distort it. And we don't like the conclusion, we distort the information. Ah, that study was not good. It actually showed the opposite. We can play all kinds of tricks. That falls under the general umbrella of multivariate reasoning, where we don't just pick information, but we distort information. And when you talk about some of those, there's one very interesting method to try and use, which is based on a finding called the illusion of explanatory depth.
[00:52:42] And here's a study that I did as an example. I go to people and I say, "Hey, flush toilet. Do you know how it works?" People say yes. I say, "Please rate it on the scale from zero to 10." And they rate how well they understand flush toilet. And they think they're great. And then I said, "Well, you know, luckily for you, I have all the pieces of a flush toilet here, unassembled. Please assemble."
[00:53:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Can I revise my answer to how well I know how this thing works?
[00:53:09] Dan Ariely: So they struggled with it and nobody ever did it, including a woman who said her father was a plumber. But anyway, but after this exercise, people say, "I don't really understand this." Now, there are two interesting things here, which is that we have a lot of times we understand things very superficially, but our confidence is very high. And when we are asked without any new information, When we're just pushed to explain how we think things work, we understand that we need to reduce our confidence. And that's a very healthy thing.
[00:53:39] So imagine I asked you for now, how does a zipper works? Now, we just talked about this, so you're probably doubting yourself, but—
[00:53:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:53:46] Dan Ariely: If I asked you a few hours ago, I said, "Hey, you understand how a zipper works?" You say, "Yes, yes, I understand." But now, if I said, "Okay, explain to me exactly how a zipper works," you would realize that it's really tough. And my guess is it's true for lots of things.
[00:53:59] By the way, the illusion of explanatory depth is true for almost everything. How a plane works, a helicopter works, a zipper, a locker. But the difference between our knowledge and our confidence is even higher for things that have more invisible parts.
[00:54:13] Jordan Harbinger: Like a flush toilet.
[00:54:15] Dan Ariely: Well, no, no, like, like a virus.
[00:54:17] Jordan Harbinger: Like a virus. Okay, yeah, you just jumped like an order of magnitude or two in complexity.
[00:54:20] Dan Ariely: That's right, but—
[00:54:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:54:21] Dan Ariely: For things that we don't have a simple mechanical thing, computers. Things that we don't see working that we can more easily create the illusion that we actually understand.
[00:54:34] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dan Ariely. We'll be right back.
[00:54:38] This episode is sponsored in part by Eight Sleep. The first step to conquering the day is a killer night's sleep, but not just any sleep, talking about that Eight Sleep. That sweet, sweet Eight Sleep. Eight Sleep's Pod Cover, which fits on any bed like a fitted sheet, improves your sleep by automatically adjusting the temperature based on the phases of your sleep and the environment that you're in. Jen and I swear by Eight Sleep. We've had ours for several years now. It's just one thing we can't live without. And I hate sleeping hot, who doesn't? Eight Sleep's cooling tech will feel like you're sleeping on a cloud made of mint leaves. But here's where it gets even cooler, pun intended. Each morning you wake up to your own personal sleep report. Think of it like a daily briefing, but for your sleep. Gives you the lowdown on how late night caffeine binges or your evening workouts are affecting your Z's. Or kids kicking you in the face over and over at four o'clock in the morning. And if that's not enough, Eight Sleep also has a nifty gentle rise feature. So instead of a blaring alarm that makes you want to punch someone in the face, you get a gentle wake up through temperature changes, subtle vibrations. Pretty damn cool. Oh, and by the way, the thing is pee proof. Ask me how I know.
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[00:57:13] Now for the rest of my conversation with agent of the deep state, Dan Ariely.
[00:57:19] I think I could do a zipper. Even now I'm like, I'm pretty damn sure I know how a zipper works. But you're right, there's like little bumps on each tooth. And those on the right side or the left side, I'm not sure.
[00:57:30] Dan Ariely: And what does the thing in the middle does?
[00:57:32] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, I know what that thing does. That's why I'm like, I can do this, but then I'm like, oh, there's got to be more to it than just that. Otherwise, it would slip.
[00:57:38] Dan Ariely: So why don't we do this after the show records to me a video in which you explain a zipper and send it to me.
[00:57:44] Jordan Harbinger: I will do that. And I won't even cheat. See, this is why this is so good because even me has been warned that I definitely can't do this. I'm like, no, I can totally do this.
[00:57:55] Dan Ariely: So we'll see. But so we said that I can probably reduce your confidence, by the way, even for you, this zipper story, probably reduce your confidence a little bit—
[00:58:02] Jordan Harbinger: Definitely.
[00:58:02] Dan Ariely: —even if we didn't take it all the way down. The interesting thing about these exercises of reducing confidence with the illusion of explanatory depth is they also work on generalized confidence. So let's say you talk to somebody and they believe in something, they believe that they understand that the elections were stolen or something like that.
[00:58:20] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:58:21] Dan Ariely: Talking to them about the election is a hot button topic, it's going to be aggressive and so on and by the way, you're not attacking them with the illusion of explanatory, you're saying, help me understand, how exactly would the elections be stolen, what happens, who would change the note, how does it work and so on, and all of a sudden people say, oh, you know what, I don't really understand how an election works, but it turns out that if you talk about other things that people have confidence, and you change their confidence in that, that transfers to other topics.
[00:58:48] So if you want to use the zipper example, it's not as effective on election as attacking election, but it also has an effect. Because once you get people to recognize that their confidence and knowledge are two separate things that are not aligned, that sense generalizes a little bit to other things. Maybe I don't understand other things as well.
[00:59:08] Jordan Harbinger: Sure, so basically, we humble ourselves or we humble the person we're talking to by asking them how an LED panel works and they're like, "I don't know." And you're like, "Okay, but you know how a voting machine works. So explain that to me." It's usually do your own research. I won't do your work for you. Here's eight videos where the person also didn't do any research and is just talking about it. That's, I think, the problem is a lot of critical thinking in terms of evaluating a source of information is wrong.
[00:59:33] But there's another missing piece that I've really enjoyed from the book, which is the idea that we misattribute emotions, right? We're bad at figuring out what causes emotions. And that had never really occurred to me. But of course, that's the case. Am I angry because I'm hungry and impatient? Am I angry because of something that's in the back of my mind that happened yesterday? Or am I angry that I stepped on a Lego? What's the real cause of this emotion? And I often don't know.
[01:00:03] Dan Ariely: Yeah, yeah. How would we know? Emotions are quickly evoked by an outside stimulus. Thing that makes us happy and angry and sexually aroused and all of those things. But we don't have a cognitive interpretation of these emotions. So the cognitive interpretation often comes afterwards, in a different way.
[01:00:22] Jordan Harbinger: I think a lot of people might be like, "What does that have to do with misbelief?" And the example you give in the book is maybe we're stressed about society and the fact that I might get laid off and that seems unfair because I work hard, but then it's I'm not going to maybe know to point to that. So maybe I'm just pissed that the government Jew, big pharma Illuminati club is all aligned against me and my family, and that's unfair. It's not because of this other actual stuff that's happening in my life.
[01:00:48] Dan Ariely: That's right. And the way it works is that we are looking for a story to explain the way we're uncomfortable. And the story needs to be something specific with the villain and so on. And those stories are not random and not this. And we end up telling the wrong story, even if it's not the right thing. The last component we didn't talk about is personality.
[01:01:09] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[01:01:10] Dan Ariely: So we said stress, cognition, social, but there's personality and personality is something that we can't change, right? We can reduce people's stress. We can change their cognitive processes. We can improve on the social element. Personality is not something that we can change, but it's a very interesting part of the story. And it can also tell us about who is more and less susceptible. My favorite personality research on conspiratorial thinking, this is the research on alien abductees.
[01:01:38] Jordan Harbinger: Uh, alien abductions. Yeah. All right.
[01:01:41] Dan Ariely: So we know that there are people who believe that they were abducted by aliens. And the question is, how does it happen? How does it happen to these people and believe that they were abducted by aliens? And it turns out it's a very nice story. When we sleep, especially during REM sleep, when we dream, our brain gives instructions to our bodies. Draw your sword, fight the dragon, save the princess, all kinds of things, but we don't move. How come? How does the brain activity of giving all of these instructions, how come they don't translate into activity? And it's because we have this thing called sleep paralysis. At the same time that we sleep, the brain paralyzes our spinal cord. Now, some people, the estimates are about seven, eight percent of the people, sometimes wake up while still paralyzed. Ever happened to you?
[01:02:30] Jordan Harbinger: I've never had sleep paralysis that I can remember, but I've read about it and I've asked friends and they say it happens to them all the time.
[01:02:38] Dan Ariely: Yep, yep. So some people it happens, right? You're in a REM sleep dream, you wake up, and for another minute or two, there's sleep paralysis. You can't move your body and so on. Tingling, lights, all kinds of things happen. So this happened to about, let's say, seven to eight percent of the population. But of course, it's not that all of those people end up believing that they were abducted by aliens.
[01:02:58] But by the way, you could say if you woke up with this feeling. One assumption could be I'm abducted by aliens. It's a fine assumption. But most people don't believe that. But some people do. What's different between the people who believe that and the people who don't? The people who have sleep paralysis but don't believe that they were abducted by aliens.
[01:03:16] And it turns out that there's a couple of characteristics. One of them is connecting dots. Imagine I show you a picture and there's a house and a tree and a window. And I show it to you for a couple of seconds. I take it away and I say, please draw it. And you also draw a sun and another tree and a door and all kinds of other things. You basically have taken the concept of the picture, but you've added things to it. That's a characteristic that gets people to feel more like they were abducted by aliens. Because you can imagine why. You wake up, you have these signals that you tell the story in your mind.
[01:03:52] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. It's almost like creativity.
[01:03:54] Dan Ariely: That's right. By the way, that's true, right? So there's a lot of personality traits that are not necessarily good or bad. They could be wonderful in some cases, but also help people down the funnel of misbelief. These people have more false memories. I read to you aloud a list of 20 fruits, and then I ask you about those 20, but plus 10 that you didn't listen and you think you remember the other ones as well. There's more confusion about what was the thing you experienced and what is just related to that.
[01:04:26] Another interesting attribute is following your intuition. You remember this question called the bat and the ball?
[01:04:33] Jordan Harbinger: No, the bat and the ball. I know, I don't know this.
[01:04:36] Dan Ariely: Okay, ready? Simple math problem.
[01:04:37] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[01:04:38] Dan Ariely: A baseball bat and a baseball ball cost together $1.10.
[01:04:41] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, God.
[01:04:43] Dan Ariely: No, it's simple, don't worry. A baseball bat and a baseball ball cost together $1.10. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. And now, the question is, how much does the ball cost? Don't say anything. How much does the ball cost? Now, most people, the first answer that comes to mind is 10 cents.
[01:05:00] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:05:01] Dan Ariely: Together $1.10, a dollar more, 10 cents. Some people say 10 cents. And some people check themselves. They said, if the ball is 10 cents, and the bat is a dollar more, then the bat will be $1.10.
[01:05:13] Jordan Harbinger: Right, it doesn't add up.
[01:05:14] Dan Ariely: And then together, it will be $1.20. You know, that doesn't work out. Each of them has to be 5 cents less. So maybe it's $1.05, yes, that works out. Now, not complex math, everybody can do it. But some people trust their first gut intuition.
[01:05:27] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, yeah. I would never trust my gut. Because I was like, oh, it's a dollar. But I know that's wrong because otherwise this would just be too easy. I would never in a million years trust my gut instinct on anything math related. It's funny.
[01:05:38] Dan Ariely: So the people that are more likely to believe in misbelief. Follow their intuition more readily, right? They see something, it feels right, and they just adopt that perspective. And then there's another interesting trait. There's a few others, but another very interesting one is narcissism. Turns out that, I'm not talking about extreme narcissists, but as people become ever so slightly more narcissists, they also become ever so slightly more likely to be misbelievers.
[01:06:05] Now, why is that the case? That actually goes back to stress. Narcissists love for the world to tell them how wonderful they are. They thrive on that feeling from the world. What happens when the world is less rewarding to them? They feel stress and they want more of that. So they're more likely also to go down the funnel of misbelief. So it's people who have this see connect dots, people who remember things that didn't really happen, but are with the same theme. It's people who trust their intuition and narcissism, that's the basic categories of these personality traits.
[01:06:42] Jordan Harbinger: The social element really is fascinating the idea And I think this is a study that maybe you ran people who got emotional support and reassurance Their propensity for misbelief was much lower, so that flies in the face of what we all kind of want to do. We have Crazy Uncle Frank at Thanksgiving, and it's like, I'm just not going to go, or I'm not going to invite Crazy Uncle Frank to Thanksgiving.
[01:07:04] Dan Ariely: That's right.
[01:07:04] Jordan Harbinger: And we got to do the opposite, because it's hard to do because they're so annoying. But when we do that, they just find their community and other misbelievers. Was it also a study that showed that people who are ostracized are less likely to help others, more willing to lie?
[01:07:18] Dan Ariely: That's right.
[01:07:18] Jordan Harbinger: So, it's just a whole mess of things that happen when we start to cut people out of our life who are like this, which is unfortunate. Because speaking of gut instinct, your gut instinct is to never talk to that person again.
[01:07:29] Dan Ariely: That's right.
[01:07:29] Jordan Harbinger: You're really throwing this crap in your face nonstop.
[01:07:31] Dan Ariely: That's right. And it's not just about misbelievers. Think about the proportions of Americans from either political side who are as happy if their kids married somebody from their own political side on the other one. Those numbers are changing. Those numbers are changing dramatically. We are becoming more politicized, more identity driven, more separatistic. It feels like the things that divide us are becoming larger than the things that unite us. And the moment we have these feelings of intolerance, we are just chasing those people away from our lives. And if in the old days, you had to be at the big dinner table at some point, and you had to be exposed to a range of opinions, if we don't have to be in those meetings, and we don't have to be exposed to a range of opinions, we can deteriorate quickly into a very undesirable state of beliefs.
[01:08:26] Jordan Harbinger: If we have good friends, first of all we don't ostracize them, sure. Can we try to help them figure out what's causing their emotions? Will that even work? Will they even believe us if we do that? Oh, it's not Illuminati conspiracy. You're upset because you lost your job and you're getting a divorce. Like, how do we do that?
[01:08:43] Dan Ariely: Yeah. So first of all, it depends when they are, right? If they're down the funnel a lot, it's very tough to do it. But yes, you can get people to reattribute emotions correctly. And even in a very easy way of saying, let's think together about where these emotions can come from. And also let's think about how we ease them. You might want to ease them more directly than indirectly. For example, you ask people how happy you are today. And the weather is a big input for that. People rate higher happiness on nicer days, and they rate lower happiness on lower days. But if you ask people, how is the weather today? And then you say, okay, and how happy you are. Now, people have thought about the weather, and they give you a better answer, a more accurate answer that kind of partial out some of the weather.
[01:09:28] So let's say I asked you how stressed you are. But instead of getting this general thing, I say, how's your marriage and how is work going? And what about the issues that you have with your kids? And now, let's talk about how stressed you are. And now, you're able to separate those topics to a better degree and give me a stress measure that takes those less into account and we can deal with them more directly. And now you can say to your friend, okay, it looks like the major stress in your life is work. Let's think about what you do. And the other thing is about a sense of control.
[01:10:00] By the way, I just realized the other day that this whole book is my therapy with low control.
[01:10:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:10:06] Dan Ariely: So if we say that the misbelievers have stress and so on, and they basically look for a story that would have a villain and would give them an explanation. This is my story. I was attacked, I had stress and so on. And I went on a journey to find the villain. In my case, the villain is human nature and the way it interacts with all of these things. But this book is really my coping mechanism, but my coping mechanism was seek control, try to understand something.
[01:10:35] If we understand that misbeliefs are bad reactions to a real problem, can we help our friends have better reactions to a bad problem. There are ways to experience more control in everything we do. We can try to experience more control in our relationships with our kids, but we just need to understand where is it coming from and how do we help people have more control.
[01:10:58] Jordan Harbinger: There's another technique in the book that I liked and it was essentially over agreeing with someone. Can you take us through this? I thought this was quite clever?
[01:11:07] Dan Ariely: Yeah. So I'll give you this in the Israeli Palestinian context. You go to somebody who believes that the Palestinians should be taken out to Jordan and you go and you say, "We're here looking for ideas for how to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict. What's your idea?" And they say, "Oh, I think we should just ship them all to Jordan." And okay, so now one approach is to argue with them. But instead of arguing with them, what if you agree with them more heartily? And you said, "You know what? I've never heard of a better idea. Like clean, simple, elegant, really amazing, but help me out with the details. How do we take them out? Do you mean buses? Do we take them with cars, trains, what if they don't want to go? How do we take them out? And when we drop them on the other side of the border, do we give them water, a sandwich? Walk me through the details of how it's done."
[01:11:59] And all of a sudden, when people start thinking about the details, "I didn't really mean that. I don't really mean that I'm going to go there and take people and tear kids from their families and then do all kinds of things." And people don't move from the right to the left, but people basically start saying, "Maybe I didn't mean it as much." It's a little bit like the illusion of explanatory depth, but it's not about a mechanism. It's about your own opinion called paradoxical persuasion, because it looks like you're coming from their side. "Oh my goodness, what a brilliant idea."
[01:12:29] This research was also done in all kinds of other areas. You basically say, "I'm embracing your idea. Let's just take it to the extreme." Somebody says, "I don't think women deserve the same salary as men. So really interesting. Let's talk more. What are you imagining? What are you thinking? You're thinking that somebody would prepare your slippers, walk me through this process of an unequal society." And all of a sudden people say, "I don't really mean it." But it all comes from this professional thinking about what we think we know in our usual confidence.
[01:13:02] Jordan Harbinger: It seems like the antidote to a lot of this is instead of pushing people away, having real conversations with them about real things that are happening in their life and not sugarcoating anything. And also it's delicate, right? Because you almost have to take some of the people in your life that you'd rather not talk to anymore and have very real conversations with them that are maybe slightly uncomfortable for everyone in order to fish them out of this rabbit hole that they've fallen down.
[01:13:30] Dan Ariely: You know, at the end of the day, society's strength is in our unity, in our trust with each other. Trust is the unobserved lubricant of society. Like if you think about the importance of trust for society, for GDP, it's amazing. You walk around the street and you trust people. You can do lots of wonderful things and we don't see trust, but trust is about the fact that the elevator would work. And that the food would be there on time. When somebody would watch your kids when they say they would and that the teacher would teach them. The amount of trust that we have in society is incredible. And our unity is part of it.
[01:14:07] If you look at why the Northern European countries are so successful in so many ways is that they are united. It's not that all their kids are all their kids, they are different people, but there's a feeling of, it's our country, and we're here together, and we act together for our joint benefits. We don't pollute, and we don't double park, and we pay our taxes, and there's all kinds of things that we understand that the collective is incredibly important. If people start betraying the collective, it deteriorates very quickly.
[01:14:38] Jordan Harbinger: Unfortunately, that doesn't bode well for a society here in the United States, which seems increasingly divided across partisan lines. Or is that an illusion? I don't know.
[01:14:47] Dan Ariely: No, no, we're very divided. And actually the media is adding to the division and so on.
[01:14:52] Jordan Harbinger: Definitely.
[01:14:53] Dan Ariely: This book in many ways is more pessimistic than what I thought. When I started, I thought I'll have solutions and so on. And the deeper I got into it, the more I realized how difficult this process, how the funnel of misbelief with all of its four elements is incredibly tough to escape. And it's not just about people becoming conspiracy theorists. Everybody who takes a step in the funnel of misbelief, they lose something, their friends lose something, and society loses something, right? Even if you stop believing the medical establishment. Or you stop believing the bank, so you stop believing the environmental protection agency, everything you stop believing. I talked to the people in California who are trying to prevent fires, the moment you stop believing them and behave recklessly, you're creating potentially tremendous damage for other people. So the more depressing part of this book is that I think the problem is bigger and more complex and more painful than I've realized.
[01:15:48] Here is my hope. Humanity has managed to do all kinds of wonderful things. I'm here in New York. You look outside of the window, the buildings are amazing. We have planes, I'm flying to LA later today. We've done amazing stuff. Like it's, human achievement is miraculous. So I think it's possible if we put our minds to it. And my hope is that people learn something about themselves, about their friends and so on. But my hope is that if we elevate the importance of this idea, if we all understand how important trust is and how dysfunctional misbelief is and all the way it works, there's lots of things we need to do, but we'll take it on as a challenge. So it's a bigger problem than I thought, more urgent than I thought. I'm sure that if we'll decide to tackle it, we could, we just have to decide to tackle it.
[01:16:35] Jordan Harbinger: It does seem like a heavy lift. I love the book. I wish I'd written it now that I'm qualified to do that. Although that doesn't stop people these days now that I think about it. I really liked it. I'm super interested in this topic and thank you for taking the time to come on the show today. I guess I'll see you at the next Underground Reptile Illuminati meeting if you can make it.
[01:16:51] Dan Ariely: Yeah, I will be in the front.
[01:16:53] Jordan Harbinger: Great. Thank you so much.
[01:16:55] Dan Ariely: It's been a pleasure. Lovely talking to you.
[01:16:57] Jordan Harbinger: Likewise.
[01:17:00] Here's a glimpse of my interview with the son of a Hamas co-founder. Before a change of heart had him working undercover for Israeli intelligence against his former friends and family to thwart terrorist plots and save lives. Check it out.
[01:17:13] Mosab Hassan Yousef: Hamas is an Islamic movement. My father is one of the founding members of Hamas. Hamas for us was everything to the point where it became an army. It's a monster. I agreed to work with Israel with a hidden agenda to be a double agent. The level of pressure that I had to go through, my heart stopped for approximately 30 seconds. Most human beings cannot make it back. I was tortured mentally and physically. Everybody in the city knew, that I am a dead man.
[01:17:47] Jordan Harbinger: For more, including what it was like growing up in one of the first families of which many consider a terrorist group and why Mosab considers it the greatest school of his life, check out episode 407 on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:18:01] Man, I love conversations like this. I love this book, by the way. I really recommend it if you are interested in conspiracy belief, misbelief of all kinds.
[01:18:10] Early in the pandemic, I was very naive about a lot of this. Like I said, at the top of the show, I really thought that people who believed COVID-19 was a bioweapon and the vaccine was for population control and all that stuff. Like I do with a lot of conspiracy theories, I thought a lot of those people were just morons, or easily duped, rubes. And I really underestimated the stress that people were under. And knowing now what stress does to our minds, to our belief system, to our immune system, when it comes to critical thinking, it all makes so much more sense now, does it not?
[01:18:40] And of course, when people don't like the solution, they'll deny the problem exists in the first place. You see this a lot with climate change. For years, it was, and no matter what you think about climate change, right, it's happening. So, years and years ago, it was, this isn't happening, the data's wrong. And then it's sort of shifted to, well, it is happening, but it's not caused by humans. And I also predict a shift later on to, well, it's happening and maybe it's caused by humans, but there's nothing we can do about it. So we might as well do X instead, because that's going to maximize human flourishing in the meantime.
[01:19:12] And the truth is not everyone, but many people won't like the economic consequences of cutting back on carbon emissions. So they simply deny climate change is a problem or a problem caused by humans at all. And I fully understand where they're coming from. It's real easy for me to sit here in California with my expensive ass solar panels on top of my house and be like, can we all just stop the emissions? Meanwhile, it probably took tons of carbon to dig those things out of the ground. And then I get in my electric car that has lithium mined by child slaves somewhere in Congo. We're all just sort of virtue signaling when it comes to this, so I understand why this is a complex problem.
[01:19:45] But ignoring the problem exists is called solution aversion. And this is why simply providing more information about a problem itself to these people who have those certain beliefs, it's actually useless. And if climate change triggers you for whatever reason, switch the example to 5G towers causing mind control. If somebody believes that, giving them more information about 5G is not going to help. They're falling prey to solution aversion.
[01:20:12] And a lot of folks, not all folks, of course, who are against the vaccine. I have plenty of friends who are sort of anti-COVID vaccine. Many of them are very rational people, but some, a small subset, also made the leap to say that COVID itself was not real. Now, those people were also under a lot of stress. I found that very interesting. Look, again, not all anti-vax folks or anti-COVID vax folks, I guess I should probably separate these folks out, these groups. I don't want to mischaracterize their arguments. There's enough of that already, even if I disagree with their position on these things.
[01:20:43] I did find it interesting, he wrote in the book, the people most susceptible to fake news are the ones who can least detect it and are also most likely to spread it. We all know a super spreader, and you know what, I've got a podcast and I'm sitting here and when I get things wrong, I'm the super spreader. So there's irony in that statement as well. But that's one of the reasons why we need to have empathy. Empathy is key here, because we have to understand when people believe things and why they believe these things, they want truth. They want certainty. They want to feel safe.
[01:21:13] Some of these people, the grifter contingent, they're doing it in bad faith, right? They want political power. They want the clicks. They want to monetize those clicks. But those are the folks that start disinformation campaigns. They are not the people who are victims primarily of disinformation campaigns. And those groups are different. And we should view those groups differently. Somebody who makes up a lie that you become magnetic when you get vaccinated is not the same as a new mother who's heard a lot of disinformation or misinformation about healthcare for her child or vaccines or whatever it is and is now waffling or on the fence about certain things. Those are victims of disinformation, whereas the person who makes the video with the fake spoon sticking to you, that is somebody who is doing that in order to monetize this. And again, I really think those are two totally, totally different things.
[01:22:00] As Dan and I talked about towards the end of the show, people often lose their friends and family because of these ridiculous beliefs. And thus those people, they then pull closer to the community that holds those beliefs and it reinforces those beliefs. Because they've essentially filled that vacuum socially. And pulling away from folks, that's the worst thing to do. It always makes those beliefs even more strong, so we really have to make sure that we are not allowing ourselves to do that or taking the easy road out. Easier said than done.
[01:22:25] The earlier we can grab somebody out of the rabbit hole, the better, because once we start to cling to a theory, we execute what is called biased search. Dan touched on this as well. We search for info online that confirms our beliefs. So, this is what most people think of when they say, "Do your own research." They're not saying, "Huh, read a bunch of scientific studies that may or may not show what I'm looking at is correct." They're looking for YouTube videos, influencers, people who've read those studies and interpreted them in a certain way to discover or uncover or even craft the conclusion that they were looking for in the first place. This is pure confirmation bias.
[01:22:58] And, again, I got to be honest here. I usually start by looking for information that corroborates my existing beliefs. And it is not instinctive for most of us to do the opposite, even though it yields better results to get a balance of information. It's really easy for me to hear something, think, that doesn't sound right, and then search for, why is 5G totally safe, right? Instead of, is 5G totally safe? It takes a mental reframe to get a balance of information, and I think that's very important. And then, of course, media literacy comes into play, and you realize a YouTube video by some random guy who's wearing a mask is not the same thing as a scientific study on PubMed. And it takes a lot of practice, and some people will never learn how to do that, even if they wanted to. And that's in part because distrust in institutions is a big part of all this. I understand this part of things as well.
[01:23:44] Government, a lot of our agencies, have failed us in many ways, spectacularly. And once, we mistrust one institution, it becomes so much easier to mistrust another. Thus, one set of bad beliefs really does beget another. If Big Pharma is out to kill us, what does that say about the governments that regulate pharma? And if the government is bad, then maybe NASA is bad, which means maybe they faked the moon landing and maybe the Earth really is flat. You can almost draw a straight line between one set of bad beliefs and the next.
[01:24:14] There was an interesting study that Dan mentioned in the book, we didn't get to talk about that on the show today, but it essentially showed that pain inflicted upon people intentionally, it actually hurts more. Thus, since some people feel that the, quote-unquote, "elites" are doing this to the world, whatever it is, the pandemic, or whatever the economy, whatever it is, Then that pain, it feels more intense. It feels more personal. And that's one of the reasons why there's so much righteousness online. Why anger at society or at them, they, the elites, the whatever's hate actually can stem from this virtue signaling then to the conspiracy community because things are more tribalized, more divided. That stuff is all a natural outcropping of thinking that some group that has more power than you is out to get you specifically. It's not necessarily this paranoid delusion, I mean it is, but it also makes sense from a biological and psychological point of view. And that is why seemingly normal people, who should know better, get caught up in a lot of this.
[01:25:14] And Dan and I talked about some misbelief funnels after the show as well. For example, people looking for answers online for, let's say, OCD. They then find chemtrails info and maybe chemtrails, the trails that come from airplanes, we did a Skeptical Sunday episode about this, maybe those cause OCD. So you're thinking, "Okay, I have this psychological condition that's really messing up my life. Oh my gosh, it's from the poison that the government is spraying out into the air." Now, even if you don't believe that right away, that kind of discovery provides temporary relief, which leaves those same people seeking more relief and another hit of conspiracy nonsense, and so you really almost get addicted to the dopamine of conspiracy theories.
[01:25:57] And it's really easy to forget Hitchens' razor, which says that that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. We're not great at looking at what constitutes evidence. Right? We'll take a YouTube video again from some guy in a mask and we'll say, This is evidence! Or that guy presented evidence. We're really, really bad at evaluating evidence. And I understand that. I'm not a scientist. Most other people aren't either. So looking at things, we really can get convinced by somebody who's charismatic or has a really good presentation. And that's why on this podcast we throw presentation to the wind. We want the information to stand up for itself.
[01:26:31] Often there's a bit of truth in conspiracies added in for credibility. I think that goes without saying. You know, you want to add in 10 15 percent. RT does this. It's a television channel that's sponsored by the Kremlin. They'll cover like 15 percent real news and then the rest is Kremlin propaganda in many ways. And you see this on many state-owned networks as well. They do that because if they're reporting the weather and you look outside and it's raining, they said it was raining, okay, that builds trust. They cover a certain event and it looks more or less like the coverage you see from other outlets. that you do trust. Well, okay, then the other things they're saying might be true too. And then they can veer off into kook land and you think, ah, well, I better give this the same amount of credence that I gave them for everything else that I knew was true or that I compared elsewhere and also looked true.
[01:27:15] And man, last but not least, when people are in the conspiracy community, they're exposed to a lot more conspiracy theories and thus subject to what is called the illusory truth effect. Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth. Where have I heard that before?
[01:27:30] All things Dan Ariely will be in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com or ask the AI chatbot on the website. Transcripts in the show notes. Advertisers, deals, discount codes, ways to support the show, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please consider supporting those who support this show. Also, the newsletter, every week, the team and I dig into an older episode of the show and dissect the lessons and takeaways from it. So, hey, if you're a fan of the show, and I hope you are, or you want a recap of important highlights and takeaways from a previous episode, or even just want to know what to listen to next, The newsletter is a great place to do just that. Jordanharbinger.com/news is where you can find it. And I'm going to be giving away stuff on there. I'm also going to be giving out some free products that we are making, logical fallacy flashcards and stuff like that, which are in the works. Don't forget Six-Minute Networking, also at jordanharbinger.com/course. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on Twitter and Instagram. I'm not calling it X. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.
[01:28:20] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. If you know somebody who's interested in misbelief, surrounded by those who misbelieve, definitely share this episode with them. I think this is a great one for those who love psychology. It's just, I love conversations like this. In the meantime, I hope you apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you learn, and we'll see you next time.
[01:28:56] This episode is sponsored in part by Nobody Should Believe Me podcast. If you're like me, you're fascinated by stories that dive deep into the human psyche and you'll want to check out the Nobody Should Believe Me podcast. This groundbreaking investigative true crime podcast brought to you by my friend, Andrea Dunlop, unravels this mysterious world of Munchausen by proxy, which, in case you've never heard of it, it's basically when somebody, often a caregiver, makes another person appear sick or hurt on purpose to get attention or sympathy. We did a whole episode about it here on the show. It's a raw, gripping exploration through the eyes of those who've lived it. Not just tales, but real insights from the world's top experts in this very sort of random and terrifying niche. It's consistently dominating the Apple true crime charts, peaking as high as number eight. Pretty damn good for true crime, I'll tell you. Both seasons one and two are out, ready for you to go on a true crime binge. Check out Nobody Should Believe Me wherever you listen to podcasts.
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