Skeptic » eSkeptic » April 2, 2014

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The Science of Lying

When are we most (and least) likely to lie, and why? In Michael Shermer’s April 2014 ‘Skeptic’ column for Scientific American, he takes a brief look at the science of lying.





This week Derek talks with Executive Editor of Sports Illustrated magazine, Jon L. Wertheim. Jon is the author of Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won, the New York Times Beselling book which is an interesting blend of Freakonomics, Moneyball, and Mythbusters. Yes, the book is about sports, but it comes at the world of sports from a scientific angle to expose the hidden forces which shape how games are won and lost, while breaking down many of the superstions and myths which are embedded in popular culture about sports in general.

Skepticality (the Official Podcast App of Skeptic Magazine) is available on the App Store
Skepticality (the Official Podcast App of Skeptic Magazine) is available at Amazon for Android
Skepticality (the Official Podcast App of Skeptic Magazine) is available on Windows Store


A Wolf in the Fold

Did it take a silver bullet to kill the beast of Gévaudan? Is that where Curt Siodmak got the idea for his film The Wolfman? Host Blake Smith reveals his findings from more than two years of werewolf research. This episode is the first to go live with a complete transcript and lengthy bibliography.

MonsterTalk Podcast App (presented by Skeptic Magazine) is available on the App Store
MonsterTalk Podcast App (presented by Skeptic Magazine) is available at Amazon for Android
MonsterTalk Podcast App (presented by Skeptic Magazine) is available on Windows Store

Jennifer Ouellette, on Vimeo
Me, Myself and Why: Searching for
the Science of Self

Jennifer Ouellette (photo by Ken Weingart)

In this lecture, popular science writer Jennifer Ouellette turns her attention to the science of the self and delivers a fascinating survey of the forces that shape who we are and why we act the way we do. Ouellette acts as both journalist and subject, as she takes a battery of personality tests, has her genes sequenced and an MRI brain scan done, and even goes on her first and only LSD trip, all the while taking the reader along for the ride. As an adoptee, with basic information about her biological parents, Ouellette considers what traits she undeniably has inherited through genetics and what traits she has in common with her siblings (also adoptees) and her parents, which leads to a fascinating discussion on synapses and how the brain is wired and continues to change as we grow older.

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Join Us For The Amazing Meeting
South Point Casino, Las Vegas
July 10–13, 2014

How does cognitive science inform the project of skepticism? What brain sciences should you be skeptical about? Are brains hard-wired for belief in the unbelievable? Explore the science of the brain at The Amazing Meeting 2014: the world’s largest celebration of science and skepticism!

Our theme this year—Skepticism & The Brain—focusses on the cognitive and brain sciences and how they inform the project of skepticism. Keynote speakers include the acclaimed philosopher, cognitive scientist, and best selling author DANIEL DENNETT, Scientific American Editor-in-Chief MARIETTE DICHRISTINA, and MICHAEL SHERMER, Editor-in-Chief of Skeptic magazine. Other speakers include neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland, Australia’s Dr. Karl, Evolution & Human Behavior Editor-in-Chief Robert Kurzban, Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience authors Scott Lilienfeld and Sally Satel, M.D., influential memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, clinical neurologist Steven Novella, M.D., immunologist Paul Offit, M.D., National Center for Science Education’s Eugenie Scott, psychologists and best selling authors Carol Tavris and Richard Wiseman, and many, many more!

This annual celebration of critical thinking is an unparalleled opportunity to make like-minded friends, enjoy some of the brightest minds on issues important to skeptics, and leave with tools for spreading a helpful and educational message to those who might be hurt by charlatans and unfounded belief. Join James Randi and over a thousand other like-minded folks for four days of fun, friendship, and critical thinking!

Enter “SKEPTICMAGAZINE” when registering and save $25.

Register for TAM today!



  1. Bob Pease says:

    “and leave with tools for spreading a helpful and educational message to those who might be hurt by charlatans and unfounded belief. Join James Randi and over a thousand other like-minded folks for four days of fun, friendship, and critical thinking!”

    I am really interested in these “tools”
    The folks who are “getting hurt” , from my experience, seem to need the particular
    flapdoodle that they believe, and resent any insinuation that they might be deluded or manipulated.

    I can’t go to the Meeting, but need to find some reason to believe that Magical Thinking posing as “Scientific” is not bringing down “western” society to a level more easily manipulated by socioeconomic overlords.

    Any ideas??


  2. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    I kinda agree with Bob Pease’ comment.

    I’ll go one step further: If you really want to prevent people from “getting hurt” by those who wish to exploit them, first teach them how to be good consumers. Teach them the statistics & CBA of extended warranties. Teach them math to estimate whether paying $20/mo extra for unlimited texting would save them money _over the long haul_ rather than paying $0.20/text. Teach them how to go over each utility bill and check for ‘slamming’ charges that creep in… and bank statements for mystery fees.

    Teach them how to do basic math to figure out if the larger, “cheaper” quantity of Orange Juice is really cheaper per ounce (assuming it will be fully consumed without any going bad). Teach them to read the ingredients lists of everything they buy – how can you be a smart shopper in ignorance? Campaign for full disclosure of consumer products – especially food (You can decide if you want to eat GMOs only if you know which products contain GMOs).

    Teach them how to be savvy about mortgages, insurance, auto loans (heck Skeptics ought to offer an entire seminar on buying a car and avoiding rip-offs).

    I would wager that the number of consumer dollars lost on flapadoodle is tiny compared to the number lost to shady (but legal) business practices – I do not see how banks, phone companies and insurance companies have any moral high ground over psychics and astrologers – a lying cheat is a lying cheat no matter what they are selling.

  3. Bob Pease says:

    Thanks for the addenda…

    I agree that ideological scams are not substantially different from consumer scams, and frequently involve spending money for really stupid stuff.
    Sadly , the money by NewAgeGoofiness is believed to be gotten honestly.

    Homeopathy is the classical example.
    These folks really believe that the magic in the water is there by “scientific” means
    but rave about “Traces” when asked for evidence.

    As for math savvy in business deals:

    A requirement to Computer Programming 101 in my syllabus at a Community College was to design and test by oral exam a program in compound interest.

    I would ask them to calculate the Amount you would have accrued on $100 for five years at 5% per year compounded daily.

    About one in five would give me the answer of several million ( I forget the exact answer ) with a straight face .

    The psychology seems to be that Math Stuff isn’t related to “Real Life” and couldn’t see that the answer was absurd.
    A lot of this has folks wondering if the Common Core ideas are actually doing the opposite of their original intent.

    The Archdiocese of Denver has dropped ( or never used ) Common Core
    standards , bluntly stating that they were too low to insure acceptable quality of preparation for future life ( not to mention College prep) .


  4. Phea says:

    “I would wager that the number of consumer dollars lost on flapadoodle is tiny compared to the number lost to shady (but legal) business practices –”

    Oh boy, what a can of worms.

    How about the common, accepted, standard, widespread business practice of planned, or built in obsolescence? In a world of, “infinite” resources, it means jobs and profits. In the “real” world, it means deception, unbridled greed, and outright theft from future generations.

    Am I missing something here, or does stuff like this raise serious questions about the very BASICS of our entire world economic system? Perhaps we should not be skeptical of the really BIG con jobs…

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