Tag Archives: cognitive

Episode 47: The Backfire Effect

Did you guys hear the latest Nontheology episode? No, and furthermore you’d really rather not? Well, too bad, you’re about to.


Listeners can now contact us and leave a voicemail! Feel free to call in at (260) 245-3846. That’s 260-24-KEVIN!

Erik’s fun pamphlet (7:10)

  • Q1: Will suffering end?
  • A1: Listen guys, God is super busy and won’t be able to get back to you in a timely manner.
  • Q2: Can we trust the bible?
  • A2: Duh, the Bible says so.

The backfire effect (15:00)

  • A great summary from a great blog, “When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.”
  • The backfire effect hasn’t been studied for a terribly long time, but there are definitely some good papers floating around the internet, a few of which we discuss.
  • When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions (2010) by Brendan Nyhan and Dr. Jason Reifler

“In each of the four experiments, which were conducted in fall 2005 and spring 2006, ideological subgroups failed to update their beliefs when presented with corrective information that runs counter to their predispositions. Indeed, in several cases, we find that corrections actually strengthened misperceptions among the most strongly committed subjects.”

“The American public remains largely divided about how to approach climate change despite widespread scientific consensus that global climate change is largely caused by anthropogenic sources and has the potential to create substantial ecological, social, and economic harm worldwide.”

  • The Millerites and the Great Disappointment
  • What can trigger the backfire effect
  • The implications of the backfire effect
  • Science ftw!
  • The difference between confirmation bias and the backfire effect
  • Chasing Ice is Erik’s favorite documentary. Check out the trailer!

Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Cognitive Bias, New Episode, Wait What?


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Episode 32: Probably Statistics

Understanding statistics and numerical data is important and useful if having accurate beliefs is one of your goals. So listen up!

This is not a podcast about the mathematical side of statistics, so there is no discussion of p-values, Weibull distributions, or lift charts. Rather, we look at some of the ways people can be mislead by statistics and numerical data.

Listen to this episode

Cliff notes:

If you liked this topic, there are lots of great resources to learn more. Check out the following books:


Posted by on August 19, 2013 in Cognitive Bias, New Episode, Rants


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Episode 26: The Evolution of the Human Mind with Dr. Gary Marcus

Continuing with part 2 of our series about evolution, we cover a special topic within evolutionary biology. We are joined by Dr. Gary Marcus to talk about the oft-overlooked evolutionary history of the human brain. Our discussion draws largely from some of the chapters of Dr. Marcus’ book Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind. Read it and love it.

Dr. Marcus’ book Kluge shows that our brain, like the rest of our bodies, has evolved not to function well, but to function well enough. Evolution works with what it has, and cannot start over with a better design, regardless of how much better a new design might be. As a result, our brains work with neuro circuitry which did not evolve to help us solve complex problems or think critically–and yet they do (or, at least, our brains tell us they do). This presents interesting problems which might undercut common notions of our own rationality.

Listen to this episode

Use your evolved brain to understand the following from our conversation:

  • Decisions about chocolate cake and sex
  • Quantified Self
  • Evolution of cognitive biases (familiarity biasstatus quo bias, etc)
  • The strength of evolutionary accounts of homosexuality
  • The halo effect and the pitchfork effect
  • How can we use our evolved brains to become better thinkers?

Dr. Marcus is a professor of Psychology at New York University, whose research covers neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, and molecular biology. He is also a best selling author and contributor to The New YorkerThe Wall Street Journal, as well as other important popular media. He is a top-notch writer, so check out his other books about psychology and neuroscience.


Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Cognitive Bias, Guest, New Episode, Science


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Episode 14: Are Debates Useful?

We talk about whether we think (formal) debates are useful. Gabe says no, because they do a poor job of informing the audience and skilled debaters rely on psychological tricks rather than advancing good arguments and evidence. Erik says yes, because they are entertaining and stir up the public’s interest in the area.

Regrettably, Erik did not prepare for the debate, and lost.

Listen to this episode

Dig a bit deeper:

Do you think formal debates do more harm than good? Are they more educational or entertaining? What is your favorite formal debate? Each side will get five minutes of opening remarks in the comment section below!


Posted by on September 29, 2012 in New Episode, Rants


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Episode 13: Confirmation Bias

We start talking about cognitive biases by introducing confirmation bias. As usual, we blab on about a bunch of only loosely-related things, including pareidolia, american food, abortion, quack medicine, horoscopes, your own self-image, germ theory in the bible, Lee Strobel, apologetics, and the like.

Cognitive biases are both neat and unfortunate. Unlike logical fallacies, they are one of the things that you probably can’t do an especially good job of eliminating just by learning more and changing how you think; they aren’t something you eliminate, they are something you become more aware of.

Listen to this episode

Some spooookey show notes:

Have you ever seen a horoscope with a negative description of you or your future? What are some cases where you have fallen victim to confirmation bias? What are some ways you have tried to avoid the influence of confirmation bias? Get that data out of your head and into the comment section below!

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Cognitive Bias, New Episode


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