Planet Rationalist

April 30, 2016

Dan Ariely

Ask Ariely: On Allowances for Appearance, Desirable Drafts, and Too Many Tasks

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to


Dear Dan,

I’m a young woman who works at a Fortune 500 company, and I feel pressure at work to dress up. Between hair, makeup and a different, interesting outfit every day, I’d estimate that the extra effort takes about an hour a day and costs more than 10% of my income. So shouldn’t women be allowed to come to work an hour later than men and get paid 10% more?


You’re quite right that the different standards we have for men and women in the workplace create lots of inequalities that, as a society, we need to fix. But your modest proposal is inherently flawed. If we followed it to its next logical steps, we would give raises to people with strong body ...

by mrtrower at Sat, 30 Apr 2016 11:30 Instapaperify


How to maintain a vigorous, positive sum society… in theory

I’ve long urged folks to go have another look at one of the founders of the Western-Pragmatic Enlightenment, Adam Smith. Lately, Smith has been picked up by ever more economists and thinkers seeking to understand how we’ve gone astray.

Liberals are surprised to discover Smith’s compassion, along with his denunciations of oligarchy and inherited power. Open-minded conservatives and libertarians are reminded that Smith’s recommendation of vigorous market competition can only happen when things are relatively flat-open-fair, but cheaters are only thwarted by rules, by regulation. (The same is true in sports, democracy, science etc.)

Both sides need to be reminded that human beings are essentially delusional, and we prosper best when we are shown – competitively – our mistakes. 

In an article - Stop Using Adam Smith and F.A. Hayek to Support Your Political Ideology - on the fast-rising Evonomics site, I show how both Smith and Friedrich Hayek offer no support for conniving, monopolistic concentrations of economic power.  For markets, democracy, science, etc to deliver their fabulous, positive sum outcomes, there must ...

by David Brin at Sat, 30 Apr 2016 04:45 Instapaperify

April 29, 2016


Jonny Bowden – The Proof is in the Pork #305

Why you should listen – Jonny Bowden is a nationally known board-certified nutritionist and expert on diet and weight loss. He has appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC and CBS and has contributed to articles in The New York Times, Forbes, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair Online, Men’s Heath, Prevention and dozens of other print and online publications. He is the best-selling author of 15 books and his latest is Smart Fat: Eat More Fat, Lose More Weight, Get Healthy Now! On today's episode of Bulletproof Radio, Dave and Jonny talk about the low-fat diet myth, evidence-based diet claims, contaminated foods, plant-based fats, recommended Omega ratios and more. Enjoy the show! Watch Listen Follow Along with Transcripts!

by Dave Asprey at Fri, 29 Apr 2016 19:00 Instapaperify

Blog – Cal Newport

What We Learned Teaching Over 1000 Professionals How to Practice Deliberately


Top Performer Returns

Last October, Scott Young and I launched an online course called Top Performer, which teaches knowledge workers how to apply the insights of deliberate practice to excel professionally. The first session of the course was a big success, so, by popular demand, we’re going to open up a new session later in May.

To help prepare for this new session, Scott and I wrote a series of articles that share the most interesting insights we’ve learned from the over 1000 individuals who have gone through our curriculum to date.

We’ll be posting these articles over the next two weeks only on our email newsletters (to keep our respective blogs tidy).

Therefore, if you’re intrigued by the idea of deliberate practice in the workplace, sign up for my newsletter using the form at the top of my right sidebar.

If you already receive my posts in your inbox from me (e.g., and not from Google) then you’re all set. Similarly, if you already receive Scott’s posts ...

by Study Hacks at Fri, 29 Apr 2016 18:57 Instapaperify

Mind Hacks

Spike activity 29-04-2016

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:

This is how it feels to learn your memories are fiction. Good BBC Future piece on confabulation from an event with the fantastic Headway East London. However, not rare as the strap line claims.

Neuroskeptic covers an interesting study on the neural precursors of spontaneous thoughts.

Who Will Debunk The Debunkers? Good FiveThirtyEight piece on why debunking memes can be myth and rumour.

Psychological Science in the Public Interest has a long, detailed impressive review article on the causes of differences in sexual orientation.

Good piece in Gizmodo on why the brain’s ‘pain matrix’ probably isn’t a ‘pain matrix’. Ignore the headline, has nothing at all to do with how pain is ‘diagnosed’.

PrimeMind has an excellent piece on the false dream of less sleep and why you can almost never win against sleep deprivation.

Science probably does advance one funeral at a time, reports Vox, covering an intriguing study.

The Atlantic reports on a new meta-analysis suggesting the harmful effects of ...

by vaughanbell at Fri, 29 Apr 2016 18:24 Instapaperify

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

Irrational person feels attacked –

How does a rational person avoid conflict with an irrational person that feels attacked each time the rational person is about to present a rational argument contradicting what is being said? Assume ...

by Jack Maddington at Fri, 29 Apr 2016 18:01 Instapaperify


Scott H Young

What We’ve Learned from Top Performer: Free Lesson Series

Cal Newport and I have worked the last three years on developing Top Performer, a course in applying the insights of deliberate practice to becoming really good at your work. This process has taken us through years of pilot classes and experiments–all trying to figure out what is the best method for rapidly crafting the skills you need to have a career you love.

For the few of you who don’t know Cal, he’s a professor of computer science at Georgetown University, MIT PhD alum and author of five books, including So Good They Can’t Ignore You and Deep Work. Cal’s work has had enormous influence on my own life, and I suspect he has he has had a similar impact on many of yours.

As we get ready for the next session of Top Performer, Cal and I wanted to put together a special series of lessons sharing some of the best insights from working with thousands of professionals in different fields and career stages in previous iterations of ...

by Scott Young at Fri, 29 Apr 2016 16:43 Instapaperify


zen habits

The Downward & Upward Spiral of Health & Productivity

By Leo Babauta

The bad news about health and productivity habits is that if you start to slip up, things can slowly spiral downward.

If you are tired, you can’t focus on your important work, you don’t make time for exercise or cooking healthy food, so you grab some fast food, you veg out in front of the TV. This doesn’t lead to better energy the next day, but it does lead you to feel worse and worse about yourself.

When you feel worse about yourself, you want to comfort yourself with more unhealthy food. You don’t feel motivated to exercise or be productive.

Things spiral downward, until you feel hopeless and out of control.

The good news about these habits is that they can also spiral upward.

If you take a positive step, like going for a walk, you feel pretty good about it. That gives you the inspiration to eat a healthy meal. Now you’re cranking out emails and important tasks. You’re motivated to take care of ...

by zenhabits at Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:00 Instapaperify

NeuroLogica Blog

Some Battery Click-Bait

battery-24In an updated version of Dante’s Inferno there is one level of science hell that is specifically reserved for headline writers. In their hell there are endless signs pointing the way out of their torment, but all the signs are misleading or overhyped. They are therefore perpetually devastated by the difference between what they are promised and the reality.

Take the following headline (please): Researchers have accidentally made batteries that could last 400 times longer. They know the average person is going to read this and think they won’t have to recharge their cell phones but once per year (it’s recharge day, everybody). The headline is not technically wrong, it is just deliberately ambiguous in the use of the term “last.”

There are two ways in which batteries “last” – how long do they last on one charge, and how many charge-recharge cycles do they have. Guess which one we are talking about here.

The news item is also genuinely interesting, and would have grabbed my attention even without the click-bait headline. But ...

by Steven Novella at Fri, 29 Apr 2016 12:09 Instapaperify


Book Tour

I’m going through a couple new phases with my upcoming book (available for pre-order now!):

WeaponsMath r4-6-06 (1)

Sorry, I have no more galley copies in my kitchen. They were gone really fast.



This first and current one is “the blurb phase.” That means my publisher has sent out nearly final versions of my book to various fancy people with the hope that they have enough time in their busy lives to read it and write a blurb to go on the back cover.

It’s really an exciting time because we’ve carefully chosen people who probably won’t hate the book. Which is to say, I’ve started to get positive feedback, and not much negative feedback. That’s a nice feeling!

So pretty much I’d like to hold on to this moment for as long as possible, because when the book is reviewed more widely, the critics – at least some of them – will hate the book. That will be tough, but of course I wrote it to be provocative. So I hope ...

by Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe at Fri, 29 Apr 2016 11:30 Instapaperify

BPS Research Digest

Looking back on your past can make you less likely to suffer depression in the future

Is spending time looking back on our lives good for our mental health? A lot of research suggests it is, but these studies have been cross-sectional, making it hard to form a clear causal story – for example, perhaps being happier makes it more likely that people will reminisce. On the other hand, there are therapeutic trials that show purposeful reminiscence can bring about clinically meaningful decreases in depression. Now, a longitudinal investigation in Applied Cognitive Psychology provides further evidence for the benefits of the right kind of looking back, and it shows that reminiscence has this effect by building up our psychological resources.

The work, from Deakin University’s David Hallford and David Mellor, recruited 171 adult US participants (average age 26) using Amazon's Mechanical Turk survey website. At two time points a week apart, the participants rated their levels of depression symptoms and they reflected on the past week, reporting how much they had thought or talked about their personal history during that time, and whether they had done it to achieve either ...

by Research Digest at Fri, 29 Apr 2016 08:54 Instapaperify

rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

How to overcome ADHD related productivity loss? –

I sometimes find myself losing focus on a task due to my severe ADHD (Stack Exchange doesn't help!). I'm not missing deadlines, but I tend to lose interest easily while I work or am doing something ...

by Anoplexian at Fri, 29 Apr 2016 08:24 Instapaperify

Where is motor skill function located within the brain? –

Does the neural activity that correlates with motor skill function tend to be focused near or far from the outer surface of the brain, or both? And what about perception? My deeper curiosity being: ...

by Tristan Rentz at Fri, 29 Apr 2016 07:40 Instapaperify


How To Hack Your Happiness

The Dalai Lama famously said that, “Happiness is not ready made. It comes from your own actions.” He was onto something. Happiness can feel out of your control (especially if you’re unhappy), but you actually have a lot more influence over your mood than it may seem. With a few well-placed biohacks, you can take […]

The post How To Hack Your Happiness appeared first on Bulletproof.

by Bulletproof Staff at Fri, 29 Apr 2016 06:00 Instapaperify

Fallacy Files


'Doctor Strange' turns Tibetan man into European woman

Fri, 29 Apr 2016 04:00 Instapaperify


Baseball Card Collecting

On average, how many baseball cards do you need to buy to ensure you get a complete set?

Fri, 29 Apr 2016 00:00 Instapaperify

April 28, 2016

Mind Hacks

The search for the terrorist ‘type’

BBC World Service has an excellent radio documentary on the history and practice of terrorist profiling.

Unlike many pieces on the psychology of terrorism, which tend to take a Hollywood view of the problem, it’s an insightful, critical and genuinely enlightening piece on the false promises and possibilities of applied psychology in the service of stopping terrorists.

Crucially, it looks at how the practice developed over time and how it’s been affected by the ‘war on terror’.

For decades researchers, academics and psychologists have wanted to know what kind of person becomes a terrorist. If there are pre-existing traits which make someone more likely to kill for their beliefs – well, that would be worth knowing… It’s a story which begins decades ago. But, with the threat from killers acting for so-called Islamic State, finding an answer has never felt more pressing.

Link to programme webpage, streaming and mp3.

by vaughanbell at Thu, 28 Apr 2016 20:37 Instapaperify


NeuroLogica Blog

What Is Biohacking?

bulletproof-butter-coffeeAfter reading up on biohacking and listening to its proponents, I have come to the conclusion that biohacking is not a real thing. It doesn’t really exist.

Here is how one biohacking site describes what they think it is:

Biohacking is a crazy-sounding name for something not crazy at all—the desire to be the absolute best version of ourselves.

The main thing that separates a biohacker from the rest of the self-improvement world is a systems-thinking approach to our own biology.

You know how coffee feels like a shot of energy to your brain?

Pre-coffee you is sleepy….zzzzzz…

Post-coffee you is WIDE AWAKE!!

The only difference is the coffee in your stomach.

The lesson is this: What you put into your body has an ENORMOUS impact on how you feel.

See what I mean? So, drinking coffee is “biohacking?” If you look at what is considered biohacking it essentially amounts to living a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise, with the addition of the usual assortment of pseudoscientific nonsense. This is nothing ...

by Steven Novella at Thu, 28 Apr 2016 12:13 Instapaperify

April 27, 2016


rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

How to explain utility function from personality, beliefs and ongoing emotions? –

Economists widely use utility function (and more broader approach called hedonistic regression) but are there explanations or derivations of utility function from the perspective of cognitive sciences ...

by TomR at Wed, 27 Apr 2016 16:51 Instapaperify


rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

Do ALL decisions arouse cognitive dissonance? –

I continue to see an oversimplification in the descriptions of the options available that arouse cognitive dissonance: some websites state that all decisions have positive and negative aspects that ...

by Bob Pagoda at Wed, 27 Apr 2016 13:59 Instapaperify

Art Markman, PhD

People Differ in Their Ability to Suppress Memories

Your ability to recall a word or event involves mechanisms that enhance the item you want to remember and suppress competitors.  It is like a bunch of 6-year-olds trying to be picked for the kickball team.  The kids who jump the highest and shove the other kids hardest are the ones who are selected.

Psychologists use the word inhibition to refer to the suppression of items in memory.  The inhibitory mechanisms in the brain involve circuits in the frontal lobes.  

A fascinating observation over the past decade is that these inhibitory mechanisms in the brain can cause subtle variability in people’s heart rate through the vagus nerve.  If you measure someone’s resting heart rate and measure the amount of variability in the time between beats, that variation may serve as a marker of the strength of people’s ability to inhibit information in memory.

An interesting paper by Brandon Gillie, Michael Vasey, and Julian Thayer in the February, 2014 issue of Psychological Science explored this possibility.  

They used a memory test called the ...

by Art Markman at Wed, 27 Apr 2016 13:24 Instapaperify


Talking to Yanis Varoufakis on Slate Money this week

Dearest Readers,

Yanis Varoufakis, economist and former Finance Minister of Greece, is currently on a book tour promoting his new book, And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe’s crisis, America’s economic future. I’m busy reading it right now.

Why am I telling you this? Because the super exciting news is that he’ll be a guest this week on Slate Money, which means I get to ask him questions.

So, we’ll likely talk about his book, but also timely issues like the situation in Puerto Rico, Brexit, and of course the Greek economy.

Important Confession: I have a celebrity crush on Yanis. And given that, I’m wondering if anyone a bit more level-headed would like to come up with smart questions I should ask him.



p.s. I think Yanis will be in a recording studio in Chicago, so it’s not like I’m going to swoon in person.



Here’s Yanis killing it with a crazy shirt in the Greek parliament.

by Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe at Wed, 27 Apr 2016 11:25 Instapaperify

Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists

Information use is shaped by bodily dynamics

I've just discovered a treasure trove of 30 talks recorded at the 2015 International Conference on Perception and Action (the main US ecological psychology conference). I just watched this one by Brett Fajen on some work he's done on how far ahead you have to look in order to control walking over irregular terrain. The answer is 'just far enough ahead so you can parameterise the passive dynamics of the walking system and then leave it to execute the step without additional control requirements'. It's a cool talk, some fun data and it's been tied to some cool simulations of the relevant dynamics.

This is a nice empirical demonstration of the kind of hard core embodied cognition that the ecological approach involves. Embodied cognition in all it's forms is roughly the hypothesis that the form of our bodies and our engagement with the world shape cognition. This means that if you want to understand cognition, you have to understand what kind of contribution the body is making so that you ...

by Andrew Wilson at Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:39 Instapaperify


Brin's random ramblings! And is a PhD worth it?

For this posting, let's go all over the place! In a semi-random walk of items that share one trait.  They're... well... interesting! Starting with --

A wide-ranging interview – covering future interactions with extraterrestrials and artificial intelligence agents, the Kardashev scale of planetary civilizations, possible means to deal with climate change, ‘Brin’s Corollary’ of cameras ... on MacObserver.

Hear me blather on the Future Thinkers Podcast about transparency, reciprocal accountability and future societies. 

== Random Musings ==

The most Interesting Man in the World is on his (one way) trip to Mars? Okaaaaay then.  Any nominations for a successor?  

Teen pregnancy in the U.S. has fallen to an all time low… though there are substantial regional differences. And the problem is worst in states that prescribe “abstinence only” sex education.

The 100 jokes that shaped modern comedy. No Monty Python... the list focuses on American humor.

Does the Web now contain everything? Far from it.  Let me give one example.  Late in 1979, when I was in grad school, our PBS radio station ran a hilarious ...

by David Brin at Wed, 27 Apr 2016 00:26 Instapaperify

April 26, 2016


Boost Your Confidence Before a Phone Interview by Dressing Your Best

Interviewing for a job over the phone can be just as stressful as interviewing in person. You can prepare yourself mentally and get in a good mindset by dressing up like they’ll be right there in the room with you.


by Patrick Allan at Tue, 26 Apr 2016 23:00 Instapaperify


Gerald Pollack – It’s Not Liquid, It’s Water: #304

Why you should listen – Gerald Pollack received his PhD in biomedical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968 and continued his research thereafter as a member of the University of Washington faculty. He is a professor of Bioengineering and is also the Founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal WATER, convener of the Annual Conference on the Physics, Chemistry and Biology of Water and Executive Director of the Institute for Venture Science. On today's episode of Bulletproof Radio, Dr. Pollack and Dave talk about landmark discoveries in the sciences of water, mineral water, ozone therapy, infrared light, the Hunza people, hydration and more. Enjoy the show! Watch Listen Follow Along with Interactive Transcripts!

by Dave Asprey at Tue, 26 Apr 2016 19:00 Instapaperify

Fallacy Files

Book Review: "Suspicious Minds"

I've had some criticisms of the subtitle of psychologist Rob Brotherton's new book, as well as of an article that Brotherton wrote for the "Los Angeles Times". My guess is that the subtitle was imposed by its publisher as there is little in the book that supports it, but I stand by my criticism of both it and the newspaper article. Nonetheless, despite my previous criticisms, I have good news about this book: it's excellent!...

Tue, 26 Apr 2016 18:00 Instapaperify


Point of Inquiry

Single Ladies, Single Longer: Rebecca Traister on the Rise of the Unmarried Woman

For a very long time marriage was considered a foundation of American life. Adulthood and marriage came hand in hand, and shortly after marriage children were the next logical step. Breaking that mold wasn’t a socially acceptable or financially viable option for women. Today, however, marriage rates show us a very different picture of what is considered the norm. To lend some insight into these changing conventions, Point of Inquiry welcomes Rebecca Traister, an author and award-winning journalist who is the writer-at-large for New York Magazine and a contributing editor at Elle. Her new book is All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation.


In 1960, the majority of American women were married by age 29. Today only 20 percent of American women are married by then. For over a century the median age of first marriages for women in America had remained between 20 and 22, but in recent years it has jumped dramatically to age 27.  Overall, fewer American women are married than ever before and Traister ...

Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:32 Instapaperify


Ideacide: The Perils of Self-Censoring (And How You Can Stop It)

It’s one thing to reject the ideas of others…we do that almost automatically. But when we reject, deny, stifle, squelch, strike, silence and otherwise put ideas of our own to death, sometimes even before they’re born, it is the highest crime against creativity. It’s an act of pure tragic mindlessness. I often think of this self-censoring as “ideacide,” because it entails the voluntary shutdown of the imagination, the long-effects of which eventually kill off our natural curiosity and creativity.

Most times, ideacide happens without us even realizing it. A possible off-the-wall idea or solution appears like a blip and disappears without us even realizing. As a result, some of our best stuff is suppressed before even getting out into the world.

Whether it’s because we’re too critical or because we recoil at the impending pain of change, the disruption of normalcy, self-censoring arises out of fear. Welsh novelist Sarah Waters sums it up eloquently: “Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I ...

by seanblanda at Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:30 Instapaperify

Improve Your Learning and Memory.

The One Best Way to Remember Anything

As explained in my memory-improvement book, "Memory Power 101," the most powerful way to remember something is to construct a mental-image representation. All the memory books I have read make the same point. The professional memorizers, "memory athletes" who can memory the sequence of four shuffled decks of cards in five minutes, all use some form of mental imaging that converts each card into a mental-picture representation.

Now a recent experiment documents the power of mental images in a study involving seven experiments that compared memory accuracy with whether or not a drawing was made. College-student volunteers were asked to memorize a list of words, each of which was chosen to be easily drawn. Words were presented one at a time on a video monitor and students were randomly prompted to write the name of the object or make a drawing of it. Each word presentation was timed and a warning buzzer indicated it was time to stop and get ready for the next word display. At the end of the list, a two-minute filler ...

by W. R. Klemm at Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:02 Instapaperify

Scott H Young

Ultralearning Matters More After Graduation

I think there’s a tendency to view ultralearning, the deep, intense self-education characterized by the MIT Challenge, as something mostly useful to students. Students have to do a lot of learning, so therefore, they would benefit the most from being able to do it faster or more efficiently.

I actually think it’s the opposite. Ultralearning is most useful in the working world. It’s effectiveness in school is somewhat more muted.

Why Ultralearning Matters in Work

Professional success is largely a matter of having rare and valuable skills. The best programmers outearn and outperform the mediocre by a factor of ten or more. The best entrepreneurs earn billions while the more typical can’t even stay in business.

To have rare and valuable skills, you first need to learn them. This already means that those with a more effective learning approach will outcompete those who don’t.

But I believe this fact of life is further exaggerated by two current shifts in society.

The first is that company loyalty has gone down. The ...

by Scott Young at Tue, 26 Apr 2016 15:59 Instapaperify


rationalist filter - Stack Exchange

How does one internalize the delayed reward of exercise? –

For the past few years my target has been to work out every morning (resistance training). On average I have only made it to the gym around 2 out of every 5 mornings. On days on which I do make it, I ...

by legatrix at Tue, 26 Apr 2016 14:51 Instapaperify