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Daily Doses of Reason

Presented by Bo Bennett, PhD

This course is based on the first two years of The Dr. Bo Show, where Bo takes a critical thinking-, reason-, and science-based approach to issues that matter with the goal of educating and entertaining.

A Critical Thinking-, Reason-, and Science-based Approach to Issues That Matter

Learn how science works even when the public thinks it doesn't.
Learn a reason- and science-based perspective on issues where political correctness has gone awry.
Get some data-driven advice for your health and well-being.
Learn about human behavior and how we can better navigate our social worlds.
Put on your skeptical goggles and critically examine a few commonly-held beliefs.
Learn a few ways how we all can make the world a better place.


Push Your Understanding of Reason to the Limit

Audience

This course was designed for students 13 and up.

Learning Resources

For this course, text, audio, and video resources are used. All of the resources are compatible with virtually all modern web-browsers and mobile devices.

Prerequisites

There are no prerequisites for this course.

Required Resources

There are no required resources for this course.

Optional Resources

There are no optional resources for this course.

Course Organization

This course begins with an introduction lesson, then the other lessons presented are in no particular order. You are free to skip around to the lessons that interest you most at the time and complete the lessons in any order.

Student Expectations

As a self-paced course, there are no time expectations. However, student support is limited to 6 months from the start of the course date. Students are expected to communicate with instructors and other students in a professional and respectful manner.

This Syllabus May Be Updated

The contents of this syllabus may change from time to time. All students will be notified by e-mail of any significant changes.

Lessons in this Course

Click on any lesson below to see the lesson details. If you are a student and logged in, or if the lesson is a sample lesson, you will be able to go to the lesson.

Section 1: Preface

Lesson #1: Introduction

I take a critical thinking-, reason-, and science-based approach to exploring issues that matter with the goal of both educating and entertaining. I have a PhD in social psychology, but I cover a broad range of topics including: Science Education (. . .

Lesson #2: The Point of Reason and Rationality

I want to make the distinction between rationality and reason in the domain of argumentation (these terms have specialized meanings when referring to different topics). The two terms are often used interchangeably, and one could argue that the . . .

Lesson #3: Idiocracy: The Future of Humanity

Virtually all behavioral scientists today agree that while there are both pros and cons to rationality and reason, in today’s social environment, the personal and societal benefits of reason far exceed its problems. A leader in this field is . . .
Section 2: Part 1

Lesson #4: Science Works

Overall, very few people have a strong understanding of what science is and what it is not. This ignorance often leads to the “rejection” of science or at least a strawman idea of science that can easily be dismissed. But science is too. . .
Section 3: How Important Is Scientific Literacy?

Lesson #5: Intro

The National Science Education Standards defines scientific literacy as “the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic pro. . .

Lesson #6: So What Can We Do About It?

I think there are perhaps hundreds of small ways that we can encourage scientific literacy such as making science more entertaining, making it a larger part of standard education, warning people of the dangers of scientific illiteracy, call out ant. . .
Section 4: Don’t Blame Science for Bad Doctors

Lesson #7: Intro

Too often, the public sees science and doctors as the same “thing.” They are not. Not by a long shot. Science is a method for separating fact from fiction. Doctors and therapists are trained in this method—whether they use it or n. . .
Section 5: The Problem with Relying on Your Own “Common Sense” and Ignoring Scientific Consensus

Lesson #8: Intro

Let me start by being perfectly clear that we should always employ reasoning when it comes to making decisions that matter. However, an important part of the reasoning process is knowing when to defer to those who know more than you on a particular. . .

Lesson #9: “Common Sense” and “Intuitions” Often Contradict Reality

What is generally referred to as “common sense” is a subjective sense of our own knowledge. In psychology, there is a phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect , which is the illusion that we are smarter than we actually are based . . .

Lesson #10: Experts and Trust

There is a clear relationship between ignoring the claims of experts in favor of your own “common sense” and trust. If we were to undergo brain surgery, very few of us would question the surgeon’s technique and choice of surgical . . .

Lesson #11: Your “Freedom to Reject Science” Ends When It Puts the Safety and Lives of Other

Discussing freedom is a touchy issue, but it is important in understanding that your “right” to reject certain findings in science is limited, just as your “right” to freedom of speech is limited by not yelling “bomb&r. . .
Section 6: Doubting Science Because of Unknown Possible Long-Term Effects

Lesson #12: Understanding the Science

First, let me say that it is reasonable to be wary of virtually any claim (including “I think, therefore I am”). However, “being wary” of something and “rejecting” it are two different things. Understanding t. . .

Lesson #13: We Fear the Unknown

There are many psychological reasons why people tend to overestimate the probability of potential long-term negative effects. Many of these reasons are related to cognitive biases. One evolutionary explanation has to do with the cost of being wrong. . .

Lesson #14: Risk and Rewards

As mentioned, science cannot provide any guarantees. Regardless, a science-based approach to predicting future possible negative effects is far superior to any other approach including one based on what one believes is one’s own “common. . .
Section 7: A Guide for Trusting Sources of Science, for the Non-Scientist

Lesson #15: Intro

It is no secret that much of the information found on the Internet today is strongly influenced by its monetary value, or to put another way, how many clicks an article can get. Unfortunately for science—and humanity—accuracy, journalis. . .

Lesson #16: Peer-reviewed Journals

For those of you who do know a bit about science and how scientific information is published, you may think that peer-reviewed journals are the definitive source of scientific information. In a way they are, but in other ways, they are not. Jeffery. . .

Lesson #17: Rules of Thumb to Assess the Accuracy of Sources

While I am tempted to provide a list of sources, these would only be my opinion and certainly leave out many great sources of which I am not aware. Each specific scientific discipline has a myriad of highly credible sources, so I couldn’t beg. . .
Section 8: Why Trust Scientists?

Lesson #18: Intro

Scientists are people, and like all people, they are susceptible to biases, have self-interests, and are corruptible. In fact, corporations, lobbyists, political parties and action committees, defendants and plaintiffs will hire their own team of s. . .

Lesson #19: Full Disclosure of Biases and Potential Conflicts of Interest

Full disclosure of biases and potential conflicts of interest are taken very seriously in science. Research and journal publication require full disclosure of potential conflicts of interests. Harsh disciplinary action can be taken against academ. . .

Lesson #20: Biases and Research Results

Biases might affect the hypotheses and the area of research, but are far less likely to affect the results. A strong example of this is the largest study ever conducted on the effects of intercessory prayer, conducted by the Templeton Foundation.. . .

Lesson #21: Science is Self-correcting

Science is self-correcting. The methodology sections of papers require very clear details of how the research was conducted so that other scientists can replicate the research. If any errors, biases, or “shenanigans” that affected the. . .

Lesson #22: If You Don’t Trust Scientists with Scientific Information, Who Do You Trust?

In many cases, the cause of distrust in science is a result of the opinions of other people. These other people are often, friends, political commentators, the media, religious leaders, and former Playboy bunnies. Scientists are rarely as familiar . . .
Section 9: Why Trust Science When It Keeps Changing Its Mind?

Lesson #23: Intro

“ In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again... . I cannot r. . .

Lesson #24: Scientists Change Their Views Based on New Information

Scientists change their views based on new information—this is the foundation of learning. Science is a process of discovery. As we learn more, that new information is used to update existing findings, therefore, converging on what we might. . .

Lesson #25: Specific Studies

People (thanks to the media) often latch onto specific studies and equate those findings with science “making up its mind.” The field of science shares some of this responsibility—science communication is and has always been a p. . .

Lesson #26: Outlier Studies

When an outlier study is published, this is often presented by the media or inferred by the public as science changing its mind, when in reality it is just another of many studies conducted in an attempt to improve our collective understanding. O. . .

Lesson #27: Poor Science Communication

Due to poor science communication, the public’s view on science is more often associated with popular TV doctors and Internet websites that are pseudo-scientific, outright fraudulent, and/or offer potentially deadly advice. These “reb. . .

Lesson #28: Confused About Scientific Debate

People tend to confuse scientific debate about fine points of a theory with debate about the theory itself. Science is a process that thrives on scholarly debate. This debate is more prevalent in complex theories, but challenges to a theory aren&. . .
Section 10: Money and Science: Just How Skeptical Should One Be?

Lesson #29: Intro

According to a recent review published by Princeton, financial interest is a common reason for distrust in scientists.  Anecdotally, in my discussions with people about science, money seems to be the top reason for their distrust in science. . . .

Lesson #30: Fallacious Reasoning

Fallacious Reasoning. This default position of distrust is based on the Ad Hominem (Circumstantial) fallacy , which is when one suggests that the person who is making the argument is biased or predisposed to take a particular stance, and therefo. . .

Lesson #31: The Demonization of “Big” Industry

The Demonization of “Big” Industry. Growing up, we had an arcade-style pinball machine in our basement that I used to play all the time. The game allowed you to “nudge” the ball by modestly shaking the machine, but would t. . .

Lesson #32: Money is Not the Greatest Motivator

Money is Not the Greatest Motivator. There are far greater motivators than money including power, fame, prestige, meaning or purpose, being a hero by exposing perceived injustice, or believing that one is securing one’s place in Heaven by s. . .
Section 11: PART II: Rationally and Scientifically Correct

Lesson #33: Intro

There are many views on political correctness. Some believe it is synonymous with morality, truth, and doing the right thing, and others claim that it is “destroying America.” These are two extreme views that ignore the important detail. . .
Section 12: Should Women Stick To Their Gender Roles?

Lesson #34: About Gender Roles

The PC answer might be “of course not, you misogynistic moron,” but I am not here to offer politically correct answers; I am here to offer scientifically correct ones. The actual answer is more complex than a yes or no answer, and not a. . .

Lesson #35: The Happy Grandparents

Rarely does a discussion of gender roles take place without someone mentioning how their grandparents, who adhere to strict 1950s gender roles, have been happily married for 60+ years. In previous generations, women were far less equal to men and a. . .

Lesson #36: Why Gender Roles Should Not Be Prescriptive

Each of us is different, no matter what our gender. We all have different levels of ambition, goals, and desires. This means that in any given couple, both partners can have high levels of ambition, low levels, or one partner can be highly ambitiou. . .
Section 13: To Blame or Not To Blame: A Look at Victim Blaming

Lesson #37: Why Do We Unjustly Blame the Victim?

The term victim-blaming implies injustice, or victims being either fully or partially blamed for something they don’t deserve. There are several common reasons why people do this, but there is also an accurate assessment of responsibility tha. . .

Lesson #38: Are Victims Ever to Blame?

People tend to think in black and white and have a very poor concept of causality. People confuse an ideal world with the real world and fail to differentiate between legal responsibility and personal responsibility. In order to deter criminal beha. . .
Section 14: Increasing Your Well-Being Through Emotional Responses

Lesson #39: Intro

Recently, yet another woman came forward accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault, or more specifically, “forcefully” kissing her. In the interview, the woman was clearly emotionally disturbed recounting this event... that happened almost . . .

Lesson #40: Example: Rape

Let’s look at an uncomfortable, but important example—rape. The physical act of something as horrible as rape can appear identical, at times, to the physical act of sex between two consenting adults. The difference is what is going on i. . .

Lesson #41: Limitations of Appraisal Theory

Researchers on appraisal theory are well aware of the limitations of the theory, which recognize the physiological, unconscious, and automatic emotional responses outside of one’s control. For example, if you sit on a cactus, you don’t . . .

Lesson #42: Emotional Distress and Cultural Response

Depending on one’s culture, a certain level of emotional distress as a response to a negative life event is not only acceptable but encouraged. In many cases, the lack of an expected emotional response is seen as a sign of callousness or inse. . .

Lesson #43: Taking Control of Our Appraisals

Although we may not always succeed, we can certainly do our best to take control of our appraisals. Here are a few tips for achieving increased well-being through appraisals. Focus on your emotions. How do you feel? Why do you think you feel t. . .
Section 15: Baby, I Was Born This Way... or Not

Lesson #44: The Flaw in the Question, “Are People Born Gay?”

Are people born gay? Before we attempt to answer this question, we need to unpack it. We will find a) that the question itself is flawed in the sense that it presupposes an outdated and incorrect causal view of heredity, b) the term “gay&rdqu. . .

Lesson #45: Equivocation of the Term “Gay”

The term “gay” can refer to a label with which one identifies, a person who has sexual or romantic feelings for another person of the same sex, or a person who engages in sexual activity with a person of the same sex. This issue gets ev. . .

Lesson #46: Another False Dichotomy: Born Gay or Choice

Again, a naive view of causality might suggest that being born a certain way means 100% determined, and not being born a certain way means 100% choice. As usual, reality is far more complex. Without getting into the issue of freewill, we can say th. . .

Lesson #47: A Gross Misunderstanding of How Heredity Works

In a complex trait such as homosexuality, we are almost certainly talking about a combination of many genes (not a single “gay gene”) that interact with the environment, so different environments are more conducive to the expression of. . .
Section 16: #BlackLivesMatter and Racism Today in America

Lesson #48: Intro

As a social psychologist, I study stereotype, prejudice, and discrimination using scientific methodology—a process that is designed to minimize bias regularly found in personal anecdotes that seem to fuel this movement. As a white male, I am . . .

Lesson #49: #BlackLivesMatter vs. #AllLivesMatter

Ironically, many of those who promote #AllLivesMatter have no problem with “God Bless America” rather than “God Bless Humanity,” and many of the supporters of #BlackLivesMatter have a real problem understanding that the outr. . .

Lesson #50: Examining the Generic Claim...

Examining the Generic Claim: Prejudice and Discrimination Exist Against Blacks in America Today You won’t find a shortage of personal testimonies and anecdotes of Blacks who feel they have been discriminated against, but we can’t c. . .

Lesson #51: The Media Shouldn’t Determine Reality

In cognitive science, there is a phenomenon known as the availability heuristic . This is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to mind when evaluating something or making a decision. The media strongly influences our evalu. . .

Lesson #52: Meeting the #BlackLivesMatter Demands

Personally and professionally, I am convinced that racism exists and has real effects on the Black community. I strongly support increased awareness to this problem and even conscious efforts made to compensate for our implicit racism that we are s. . .
Section 17: Has America Lost Its Sense of Humor?

Lesson #53: Intro

In the 1994 movie Dumb and Dumber , Lloyd (Jim Carey) sells a dead bird (Petey) to a blind kid in a wheelchair . Clearly one would have to have psychopathic tendencies to find dead birds or handicap children funny, yet despite personal preferen. . .

Lesson #54: Nothing New

People being offended by comedy is nothing new. Let’s not forget the 1990’s with Denis Leary and Roseanne Barr. The 1980’s with Andrew Dice Clay and the pre-Disney Eddie Murphy. The 1970’s with Richard Pryor and George Carli. . .

Lesson #55: What’s Funny?

There is a well-known paradox of sorts to those who study humor either scientifically or professionally; the more you analyze humor, the less funny it becomes. This makes the questions “what’s so funny about...” difficult to answe. . .

Lesson #56: How Political Correctness Spoils Comedy

To be good social justice warrior, so it seems, one needs to express outrage at any hint of inequality, discrimination, or moral wrongdoing. Take the Petey story from Dumb and Dumber . Petey is the dead bird that got his head cut off by thugs atte. . .

Lesson #57: Sacred Cows and Taboo Topics

I can’t help but notice the hypocrisy when it comes to what is and what is not fair game as the targets of satire, ridicule, and criticism. Very often, the same people who insist that religion must be open to satire, express outrage at satire. . .

Lesson #58: Not-So-Cruel Intentions

If we quip by warning Jared not to drop the soap in prison, are we somehow endorsing or even supporting rape in prison? By not actively speaking out against the scene in Fletch Lives where Chevy Chase humorously infiltrates a KKK ceremony , ar. . .

Lesson #59: A Lesson from Freud

Like the anti-gay male preacher who spends his weekends with male prostitutes in hotel rooms, or the “family values” guy with an active account on the adultery site Ashely Madison, much of this “outrage” can simply be a resu. . .
Section 18: Is “Sex Addiction” a Myth?

Lesson #60: Intro

Disclaimer: I am a social psychologist and a researcher, not a clinical psychologist licensed to diagnose disorders. My expertise in this area is in understanding research, scientific consensus, and how disorders are defined and legitimized wi. . .

Lesson #61: The Bibles of the Mental Health Profession

The Bibles of the Mental Health Profession There are essentially two “Bibles,” or authoritative books, used to diagnose mental disorders (including addiction) in the mental health profession: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual . . .

Lesson #62: Might As Well Face It You’re Addicted To Love

The word “addiction” has many meanings in our everyday language. One can often be heard saying that he or she is “addicted” to a new show on TV or “addicted” to a new frozen yogurt flavor at the mall. It might go. . .

Lesson #63: Social and Cognitive Factors Involved In Maladaptive Behavior

The thing about maladaptive behavior is that there is a level of subjectivity to it. For example, consider the thirteen-year-old boy going through puberty and experiencing the surge of hormones leading to thoughts, desires, and “self-gratific. . .

Lesson #64: My Thoughts and the Current Research

Some who argue that sex addiction is a myth do so based on the presumption that addiction can only really apply to external substances introduced into the body. However, science disagrees . Even the APA has acknowledged “gambling addiction&r. . .
Section 19: Dismissing Whitey: The Voice of the Non-Marginalized in a World Full of Marginalized Groups

Lesson #65: Does Your Opinion Count?

Dismissing ideas based on one’s race or sex rather than the ideas themselves is both fallacious and a prime example of prejudice. My own views on social issues that I hold as a social psychologist are data-driven, science-based, and sometimes. . .

Lesson #66: Self-Interest and Being Objective

Assuming a person’s view is not outright rejected based on skin color, the presence or absence of a penis, or if they think Brad Pitt is hot or not, the discounting of their view is usually a result of expected biases that the person might ho. . .

Lesson #67: Facts, Biases, and Perception

A fact is a (virtually) undisputed piece of information that remains a fact regardless of opinion. The sun is roughly 93,000,000 miles away from the earth whether you think it is or not. The fact that I might want it to be closer, or that it looks . . .
Section 20: Encouraging Obese People to Get In Better Shape... or Not

Lesson #68: What Is Obesity?

Should we encourage obese people to get in better shape? This question can and should be explored both biologically and socially. We need to look at science and what it can tell us about obesity—specifically how much control does one have ove. . .

Lesson #69: What Is Wrong with Being Obese?

There are many physical, mental, societal, and social problems associated with obesity. As for the physical, being obese increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and some cancers . As for the mental, research consistently. . .

Lesson #70: Blaming the Victim

According to new guidelines from the American Heart Association, obesity should be treated as a disease . This view of obesity puts more focus on the genetic and other biological factors that contribute to obesity that are often ignored by most pe. . .

Lesson #71: We Are Not Our Weight

The often asked question, “should we accept obese people for who they are?” implies that obesity is a major part of who the person is. Unless you are a Chris Farley who was known as “that really funny fat guy,” the chances a. . .

Lesson #72: Cause and Effect

No matter what one’s view on freewill is, or how much control one may believe one has over their weight, most people can agree that influence can play a significant role in one’s weight. Many years ago, when a guy I already didn&rsquo. . .

Lesson #73: How You Say It and Why You Say It

When talking about weight problems and the obesity epidemic, one must be careful—perhaps overly careful. If the message comes across as offensive, it can have the opposite of the intended effect. We can accuse people of being “too polit. . .

Lesson #74: Be Prepared For the Wrath

To some, words of encouragement with the intention to motivate a person to lead a healthier and happier life is akin to making fun of a blind kid in a wheelchair. This reaction is not completely unjustified since there are people who “comment. . .
Section 21: Part III: Here’s To Your Health and Well-Being

Lesson #75: Intro

We tend to take our health for granted—especially when we are not currently suffering from any ailment. The problem is, when our health takes a turn for the worse, it is usually a result of our long-term behaviors and habits. At this point, &. . .
Section 22: How to Stop Self-Licensing from Ruining Your Health and Fitness Goals

Lesson #76: Self-licensing

Self-licensing or the licensing effect is relying on reasons to justify subsequent gratification . In other words, it is the process we go through when we convince ourselves that we deserve an indulgence. This is different than simply lacking . . .

Lesson #77: Scenario

Imagine you are trying to lose weight and you have begun an exercise routine of 20 minutes of cardiovascular work, three times per week. At the end of the week you finish your third workout, and feel proud of your accomplishments (as you should). W. . .

Lesson #78: Suggestions

Here are some suggestions to help you avoid the potentially disastrous effects of self-licensing. Be aware of self-licensing. Now that you know what it is, keep it in mind when you begin to attempt to justify a behavior that goes against your . . .
Section 23: Willpower, Smillpower. A Better Alternative

Lesson #79: Intro

I started training in martial arts when I was in the eighth grade because I wanted to learn how to fight. By that time in my life, I had many encounters with people who were physically stronger and certainly more intimidating than I was, and though. . .

Lesson #80: Facts About Willpower

First, a definition and some important facts about willpower. Willpower can broadly be defined as a subset of self-control dealing with the deliberate ability to resist temptation—a conflict between our physiological and personal goals . &ld. . .

Lesson #81: Avoid the Fight

With the exception of replenishing the glucose levels in your body throughout the day, virtually all suggestions one might find to increase willpower are cognitive strategies that are no match for the powerful physiological influences people face e. . .

Lesson #82: “Out of Sight, Out of Mind.”

Perhaps the expression that best sums up this strategy for avoiding behaviors counterproductive to achieving your goals is “out of sight, out of mind.” It is about taking control of your environment and avoiding the temptation that caus. . .

Lesson #83: Choose One Act of Willpower Over Hundreds

While it is true that exercising self-control does appear to strengthen willpower, the effect is insignificant compared to the effect of avoiding the need for willpower to begin with. Imagine you love chocolate (won’t be that difficult for mo. . .

Lesson #84: Avoid Situations Where You Know You Will Be Tempted

Avoid situations where you know you will be tempted. One of the most effective strategies used by addicts is avoiding situations they commonly associate with their addiction. This means that gamblers should stay away from casinos, alcoholics shou. . .
Section 24: Seven Reasons Why We Find Fad Diets Irresistible

Lesson #85: Intro

According to a 2014 Marketdata report , the weight-loss market in the United States was about $60 billion, with an estimated annual revenue of about $20 billion. To put this in perspective, that is about $63 per US citizen (infants included) spe. . .

Lesson #86: They Work—for the Short Term

They work— for the short term . Losing weight is not difficult; it’s keeping the weight off that is the challenge. Any diet that lowers your overall calorie intake will lead to weight loss. This short term success provides layman&rsqu. . .

Lesson #87: People Like to Hear What They Want to Hear, Not What They Need to Hear

People like to hear what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. People want to hear that their weight problem is due to the big bad food industry poisoning us all with “toxins,” some demonic ingredient commonly found in foods,. . .

Lesson #88: People Have a Poor Understanding of Complex Causality

People have a poor understanding of complex causality. Establishing causality in science is extremely difficult and can only be done under the most strict experimental conditions, and even then causality claims are probability-based. The problem . . .

Lesson #89: People Have a Poor Understanding of Science

People have a poor understanding of science. Tim Crowe, Associate Professor in Nutrition in the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, recently wrote an article beautifully illustrating how sim. . .

Lesson #90: We Want Simple Solutions to Complex Problems

We want simple solutions to complex problems. The majority of people experience adverse effects by eating some kinds of foods. Figuring out what the actual causes are of the adverse reaction can be a long and frustrating process, even when done u. . .

Lesson #91: The Appeal to Authority

The appeal to authority. We tend to take an intellectual shortcut when it comes to evaluating scientific claims by blindly trusting people in positions of authority rather than testing their claims against the body of available scientific evidenc. . .

Lesson #92: The Placebo Effect

The placebo effect. Virtually all fad diets claim that their diet will make you feel better by suggesting generic feeling-based improvements such as “more energy,” easily enhanced by the mere belief in the diet’s claims and the . . .
Section 25: Part IV: Human Behavior and Navigating Our Social World

Lesson #93: Intro

In behavioral psychology, we predict patterns of human behavior and general tendencies, but very often, any given individual will act unpredictably. Ironically, our unpredictability is quite predictable. What makes human behavior so difficult to pr. . .
Section 26: Jumping On Grenades: Attempting to Explain Determined Behavior

Lesson #94: Intro

In the movie Captain America , Steve Rogers (pre-steroid Captain America) jumps on what he believes is a live grenade to save the people around him. In this universe (not the Marvel one), people display similar acts of heroism when they put themse. . .

Lesson #95: The Will and Human Behavior

The word “act” in the context of the question, “wouldn’t we predict from evolutionary theory that we would act in our best interest?” refers to human behavior. As the question implies, our behavior is an outward expres. . .

Lesson #96: Predictability and Acting in One’s Own Best Interest

It is very clear that people don’t always act in their best interest. We are not just rational beings, we are emotional beings, as well. We know that smoking is an almost certain death sentence, yet an estimated 42.1 million people still smok. . .

Lesson #97: The Predictability of Human Behavior

We live in a probabilistic universe where the laws of probability are used for virtually all predictions, especially when it comes to human behavior. For example, employers use past work history to make predictions about employees’ future per. . .

Lesson #98: Determinism and Predictability

Even if we were to hold to the belief that the will was 100% determined, and that our actions or behaviors were a perfect reflection of our will (which we now know that they are not), in no way would this mean that prediction of the actions of an i. . .

Lesson #99: The Lack of “Freewill” Does Not Necessarily Mean Determinism

There is an ongoing debate about the nature of quantum indeterminacy or what might be considered “true randomness.” Some believe that there really is an indeterminate component of nature that is and always will be impossible (in the str. . .
Section 27: Are Genes Linked to Psychopathy?

Lesson #100: Intro

It has been estimated by the top researchers in the area of psychopathy that about 1 out of every 100 people are psychopaths . This means that statistically speaking, we all have at least one and maybe two psychopaths in our lives. More often than. . .

Lesson #101: The Term “psychopath”

The term “psychopath” is not a clinical term in the sense that it is not one of the officially defined mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) used by virtually all mental health professio. . .

Lesson #102: The Questions

If there are genes linked to psychopathy, then the question “is there a genetic component to psychopathy” must have an affirmative answer. However, if there is a genetic component to psychopathy it does not mean that there are certain g. . .
Section 28: How To Avoid Being Seen as “Creepy”

Lesson #103: Intro

If you have ever been referred to as “creepy” (and you probably have—at least behind your back), worry not. There are things you can do to significantly reduce your level of creepiness. Perhaps the most effective would be to becom. . .

Lesson #104: Bo’s Five Rules To Avoid Being Perceived As Creepy

1) Don’t look the part. The way you dress and your attention to personal grooming can knock off several points on your personal creepiness scale. The better dressed and groomed you are, the less creepy you appear. Of course, there are excep. . .
Section 29: How To Tell If Someone Likes You (or Not)

Lesson #105: Doing Your Best to Detect

Detecting if someone likes you or not is similar to detecting if someone is lying or not. “Lie detectors,” human or machine, are actually anxiety detectors since the physical signs of anxiety are associated with lying. While a person . . .
Section 30: The Secret To Success

Lesson #106: What Is the Secret to Success?

The question “what is the secret to success” is a prime example of what is called a loaded question , or a question that contains an unjustified assumption. The unjustified assumption is that there is a secret to success. The quest. . .

Lesson #107: Success vs. Achievement

A reason I no longer like to talk about “success,” is because a common trend has been to water down success and define it in such a way where everyone is successful. This is like giving all kids trophies simply for playing the game. A s. . .

Lesson #108: Year To Success

In 2004, I published my first book called Year To Success , which outlines specific advice for achievement. The central theme of this book is that there is no secret to success, rather success is like a game where you have control over the odd. . .
Section 31: Part V: A Healthy Dose of Skepticism

Lesson #109: Intro

Skepticism is a commonly misunderstood concept that often gets conflated with cynicism or denial and is seen as a negative trait. Those who hold beliefs without evidence that warrants those beliefs don’t want to be asked for evidence supporti. . .
Section 32: Dead Men Don’t Tell Tales: Understanding the Survivorship Bias

Lesson #110: Survivorship Bias

I was about 22 years old, just graduated college, and moved to Boulder, Colorado to live “the good life.” In the city of Boulder, there is a park called Chautauqua Park with very impressive rock formations known as the Flatirons. The Fl. . .

Lesson #111: A Common Example

What makes a good “saved by the supernatural” story fascinating is not just the supernatural elements, but the claims that it was the supernatural that deserved the credit for the survival of the person with the experience. To the non-s. . .

Lesson #112: Stats Help

How do we know that the number of people who reach out for supernatural help can be evenly distributed? For example, perhaps all those who reached out to the right god got help, but those who died never reached out to the right god. Although we can. . .

Lesson #113: Don't Get Scammed

The survivorship bias is used by scammers and con artists who take advantage of the “statistically ignorant” public. One common scam is something I call the “prophetic investor.” The scammer will send an e-mail to a very lar. . .
Section 33: Woo or Communication from Beyond?

Lesson #114: Stating the Implied Alternative Hypothesis

A woman wrote to me telling me that she had recently lost her son to suicide. A friend of hers gave her a kangaroo stuffed toy representing a mother and a child. A few times since then, the woman's boyfriend and the woman witnessed the toy move hor. . .

Lesson #115: Tainted Memories

Our memories can easily be tainted by our emotional states. I imagine that this woman’s situation has resulted in sleepless nights, high levels of stress, and emotional turmoil, all of which have been known to contribute to fabricated memorie. . .

Lesson #116: Testing

Again, because this appears to be a repeatable phenomenon (repeatable at least in the sense that it does seem to repeat even though it cannot be repeated it at will), I suggested that the woman might want to conduct a few tests. First, I would repl. . .

Lesson #117: Update: Thursday, Aug 06, 2015 05:54 AM

Thank you again for your quick, thoughtful response. I have followed some of your suggestions. Namely; I replaced the kangaroo toy with a toy that has no emotional significance to me and put it in the same spot where the kangaroo formerly seemed t. . .

Lesson #118: Update: Thursday, Aug 06, 2015 03:15 PM

Mystery solved!!!! Dear Dr. Bo, Thank you again for your posting of my experiences of Roo’s “flights” and for all your efforts in giving me ideas and helping me understand what’s been going on. Please feel free to. . .
Section 34: Don’t Be Manipulated by Loaded Language

Lesson #119: Intro

Recently, the proposition that marriage can be between two men or two women has been a hot topic in social media, with people both for and against speaking out aggressively on the issue. If you are for the proposition, you would likely refer to the. . .

Lesson #120: Internet Meme Example

Let’s have a look at a meme that recently came up on my Facebook news feed: Giving someone else equal rights does not infringe or take away rights from you. It just makes it illegal to enforce your prejudice and hate. It’s tha. . .

Lesson #121: Commonly Used Loaded Language

Here is some commonly used loaded language emotionally charged with implications, connotations, and moral values. These word or phrase pairs can be used to describe the same actions, especially not having access to the thoughts and feelings of the . . .
Section 35: Personal Religious Experiences: Real or Imagined?

Lesson #122: Intro

I often hear people proclaim “certainty” about the source of their experiences. All experiences are filtered through our minds, and our minds are far from perfect reality detectors that can be in any sense of the word “certain,&rd. . .

Lesson #123: Hallucinations

In his book, Hallucinations , the late Oliver Saks gives vivid examples and details of what are called hypnopompic and hypnagogic hallucinations. These are defined as “visual, tactile, auditory, or other sensory events, usually brief but. . .

Lesson #124: A Result of Obsession or Persistent Thoughts.

Is your experience based on an obsession that you have? This is common for those too deeply immersed in religion or science-fiction. In psychology, an obsession is characterized by “a continual thought, concept, picture, or urge which is ex. . .

Lesson #125: A Better Explanation

As within the hallucination example previously, psychology provides very detailed naturalistic explanations for some of life’s most bizarre experiences. Without knowing about these explanations, it is easy to accept a supernatural explanation. . .

Lesson #126: The Same General Experience, Very Different Interpretation

All around the world, people have personal experiences that they interpret as being in communication with alien, spiritual, or multidimensional beings. Not surprisingly, the “being” is virtually always the result of the person’s c. . .

Lesson #127: Third Party Verification

When I attended a spoon-bending seminar many years back, dozens of people all around me were bending spoons with what was claimed to be “mental energy,” while my skeptical mindset appeared to block this energy and keep my spoon straight. . .

Lesson #128: No New Information

Personal experiences often result in insights, confidence in a decision, or platitudes. What they don’t result in is new information that the person didn’t already have. For example, “mediums” who claim to communicate with t. . .

Lesson #129: Overreaching Conclusions

Having a warm feeling inside and claiming that it is communication with a specific being is like seeing a blinking light in the sky and claiming that it is an alien spaceship from a specific planet. It is our desire to know things that result in wh. . .

Lesson #130: Evidence

What evidence do you have for your interpretation of the experience aside from “I just know”? Do you have any medically verifiable implants from the aliens that abducted you? Do you have any demonstrable supernatural powers from the god. . .
Section 36: If Zombies Eat Brains, Do They Eat Minds, Too?

Lesson #131: Intro

Science tells us that the brain and the mind are different only in that the brain is the physical organ and the mind is a word we use to describe a function or product of the brain. The mind/brain relationship is not unique. For example, our voice . . .

Lesson #132: Emergence

It is difficult to imagine how a mind can result from matter, or as it is often said, “molecules in motion,” but it’s also difficult to imagine how wetness can result from hydrogen and oxygen—two dry gasses. Everywhere in th. . .

Lesson #133: Physical Correlates to Mental Phenomena

Science has demonstrated unambiguously that changes in the brain affect the mind. From simple chemical alterations such as intoxication due to alcohol, to complex surgical or magnetic brain stimulation with the patient awake. For example, neuroscie. . .

Lesson #134: Near Death Experiences and Other “Evidence” for Dualism

Many people have claimed to have visited other “spiritual” realms, that is, they claim that their minds have left their bodies. Some people claim to have been reincarnated—the claim that their mind has occupied several bodies thro. . .
Section 37: Do Atheists Fear Hell?

Lesson #135: Intro

First, we need to understand that the belief in a literal Hell is not ubiquitous among religions. Even within Christianity, roughly 30% of Christian Americans don’t believe in a literal Hell according to a 2007 Pew Forum on Religion & P. . .

Lesson #136: What the Hell?

It’s important to understand that those who do/did believe in Hell, have very different ideas of what Hell is and how one ends up there. Below is an excerpt from the chapter “What the Hell?” in my book The Concept . Hindu. . .

Lesson #137: Factors

I have heard many Christians on the more liberal side refer to Hell as simply a “separation from God,” as they find it difficult to reconcile an all-loving God with a God that would allow us to be eternally tortured. Clearly, “sep. . .
Section 38: Do You Believe in Karma? Should You?

Lesson #138: Intro

Strangely, one of my strongest childhood memories is when I called my brother an idiot, and two minutes later I stubbed my toe. My brother told me that God was punishing me—that seemed to make sense to me given the Catholic framework in which. . .

Lesson #139: An Important Rule of Critical Thought

First, an important rule of critical thought: a universal law cannot be logically assumed from an anecdote or personal experience. We all have had times when we felt the effects of what could be Karma—we do something bad to someone, then some. . .

Lesson #140: Just World Hypothesis

A similar concept to Karma is the just world hypothesis , which helps people deal with injustice. For example, if I see a homeless person, instead of having painful and negative feelings, my belief in a just world (or Karma) alleviates my own disc. . .

Lesson #141: Reincarnation

The belief in Karma is often, but not always, associated with reincarnation. To believers, it is very clear in some cases, such as with the starving children in Africa, that they did nothing to deserve their fate. Rather than abandon Karma, it coul. . .

Lesson #142: Notice the Hits but Ignore the Misses

Another cognitive bias that cultivates belief in Karma is our tendency to notice the hits but ignore the misses (a form of the confirmation bias). A good example of this is found with Bernie Madoff, the guy who in 2009 was convicted of swindling an. . .

Lesson #143: Conclusion

A form of Karma certainly does exist; it exists as a social phenomenon fueled by our own beliefs, guilt, and cognitive biases. For example, if we steal, we have social rules (laws, in this case) that are in place to promote justice. If we don&rsquo. . .
Section 39: The Science Behind “Group Levitation”

Lesson #144: Scientific Principles at Work

I apologize in advance if I come across as a party pooper—that person at magic shows who ruins the fun for everyone by giving away the magician’s secrets, but there is no magic involved in what is usually referred to as “group lev. . .

Lesson #145: Doing the Math

I have experienced and participated in some of these events (I wrote about one such experience in detail in one of my books ). I participated as an objective participant—and I did this all as an adult, within the last ten years. It was cer. . .
Section 40: The Psychology Behind the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Lesson #146: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

With the measles outbreak at DisneyLand beginning in December of 2014, the debate on the need and safety of vaccines has been reignited. While I am not going to get into the science of vaccine safety and effectiveness, I am going to cover the p. . .

Lesson #147: The Availability Heuristic

Related to out of sight and out of mind, the availability heuristic is the mental shortcut one takes when forming an inaccurate view of reality based on what information is more readily available. For example, most people are more worried about d. . .

Lesson #148: Emotional Appeals

A good emotional plea can be far more effective than a collection of facts and accurate data. Charities know this secret well and don’t bombard potential donors with statistics on how many people die of starvation, but rather provide a pictur. . .

Lesson #149: Sense of Control

Having children is both a wonderful, but terrifying process. Given all the possible things that can go wrong over which we have no control, those things which we can control comfort us. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a psychological condition in whi. . .

Lesson #150: The Appeal To Nature

The appeal to nature is a logical fallacy people make when they believe or suggest that “natural” is better than “unnatural,” without evidence for the assertion. Besides the ambiguity involved in the terms, reality pro. . .

Lesson #151: The Post-Hoc Fallacy

The post-hoc fallacy is a common fallacy based on how we perceive the world. If one event proceeds another, we tend to make a causal attribution where none exists. Since the vast majority of vaccines (including MMR) are given before but close to . . .

Lesson #152: The Confirmation Bias at Work

Once people have a reason to hold an anti-vaccination position, whether it is because they believe that they are protecting their children from harm, seeking justice against an evil industry, or being a hero by exposing a government conspiracy, the. . .
Section 41: The Placebo Effect Explained

Lesson #153: The Controversy

The word “placebo,” Latin for “I shall please,” is generally understood in modern terminology as an inert (inactive) substance or procedure that affects the outcome of a treatment. The placebo effect (or placebo effects ). . .

Lesson #154: Is There Really Such Thing as a Placebo Effect?

We can answer this question either yes or no since the answer is dependent upon semantics. For example, if we define a placebo as “an inert substance or procedure,” by definition it cannot have an effect since that is what “iner. . .

Lesson #155: What Does This Mean for the “mind/body Connection”?

In the field of science, it is ubiquitously understood that the mind is a result of the physical brain, and mind/body dualism is a relic of theology and the pre-scientific age. In this light, the mind/body connection is less mysterious. We know t. . .

Lesson #156: If Placebo-based Deception Has a Significant Effect on the Patient’s Health...

If placebo-based deception has a significant effect on the patient’s health, does that justify its use? Let’s put health-related issues into two general categories: those that can be cured by a therapeutic intervention (i.e, medici. . .
Section 42: Part VI: Doing Your Part To Make The World a Better Place

Lesson #157: Intro

We all want to “save the world” or at least “make the world a better place.” The problem is, many of us really believe we are doing the right thing when in fact, we are actually contributing to the injustice or even the suff. . .
Section 43: What You Can Do About Political Polarization

Lesson #158: Intro

The problem of political polarization is characterized by a large number of people holding extreme political views (also know as hyper-partisanship ) with fewer political moderates, to the point where healthy political disagreement becomes destr. . .

Lesson #159: Politically Divisive Language

Politically divisive language is misinformation, half-truths, or opinions presented in a hostile way based on either a lack of critical thinking or an intent to manipulate opinions and beliefs. Refusing to tolerate politically divisive language i. . .

Lesson #160: Demonization

Imagine making a list of all the bad things you have ever done. Clearly this list would not be representative of who you are as a person. By ignoring the good things you have done and even the neutral things, it would be an unfair characterization . . .

Lesson #161: Dehumanization

This is a more extreme version of demonization used extensively by the Nazi party in their propaganda as a way to disassociate the Jews with their humanity. It is a powerful psychological manipulation that lessens, and can even eliminate, any empat. . .

Lesson #162: Dichotomous Grouping

Political extremists tend to dichotomize groups into ingroups and outgroups , often creating unrealistically simplistic criteria for each group, failing to acknowledge the spectrum of political views that the vast majority of people hold. Thes. . .

Lesson #163: Splitting

Think of splitting as the non-human equivalent to the dichotomous grouping form of politically divisive language. Rather than dichotomize groups of people, it is the dichotomization of ideas , usually into simplistic “good” and &ldqu. . .

Lesson #164: Stereotyping

Stereotyping , or failing to acknowledge the individuality of people by grouping people by common traits—even if the traits are imagined, remains a serious social problem in our society. This is done within politics all the time when liberal. . .

Lesson #165: The Strategy

It is very important to note that this is a not strategy designed to suppress one’s opinion , but alter the way they tend to express their opinion by discouraging destructive politically divisive language. For example, if someone argues that. . .
Section 44: How You Can Help Solve the Problem of Mass Shootings

Lesson #166: Intro

According to a report by Stanford University, from the turn of this century to August 26, 2015, there have been 138 documented mass shootings in the United States resulting in 555 victim fatalities and a total of 1092 victims. To put that number in. . .

Lesson #167: The Gun and Mental Health Issues

First, let’s address the gun and mental health issues. Sure, you can’t have a mass shooting without a gun, and by most definitions, mentally stable people don’t perpetrate mass shootings. But even though guns and mental health iss. . .

Lesson #168: Expand Your Sphere of Care

Each one of us has what can be a called a “sphere of care” that includes those about whom we care. As we go through stages in life, this sphere tends to expand, but not usually past the point of close family and friends. Talk is cheap.. . .

Lesson #169: Make All Troubling Behavior of People in Your Life Your Concern

The following actions are a result of caring, and all contributing solutions to the problem of mass shootings. Make all troubling behavior of people in your life your concern. Some of the troubling behavior reported by people who knew the mass. . .

Lesson #170: Address All Threats of Violence and Take Them Seriously

The school shooter Charles Andrew Williams spoke on two occasions of his plan to “pull a Columbine” at Santana High School. Robert Stewart, Flores Jr., the Gulf War veteran who killed two of his professors told one of the professors he . . .

Lesson #171: Do Something About Those Who Appear to Be Socially Isolated

Befriend those who have no friends. If you are a parent, encourage your children to be the kids who invite “the lonely kid” to join in activities and be part of the group. Positive social interaction, especially at a young age, can have. . .

Lesson #172: Know the Five Signs

Nearly one in every five people, or 42.5 million American adults, has a diagnosable mental health condition. Often our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even family members are suffering emotionally and don’t recognize the symptoms or won&r. . .

Lesson #173: Look for “leaking” and Report It Immediately

Perpetrators of mass shootings, especially school shooters, almost always announce their plan through a process referred to as leaking . According to Pfeifer and Ganzevoort, “leaking can be indirect, for example in the form of school essays,. . .

Lesson #174: Help People Work Through Existential Concerns

Pfeifer and Ganzevoort evaluated six autobiographical documents left behind by school shooters and identified five existential concerns including death, isolation, identity, freedom, and meaning. These concerns all appear to be major contributors t. . .

Lesson #175: Encourage Our Children to Be Emotionally Strong

There is another disturbing trend that seems to be taking place now, and that is the coddling of students by “protecting” them against ideas. These ideas are often referred to as “hate speech,” “bullying,” &ldquo. . .
Section 45: How You Can Show More Appreciation

Lesson #176: Intro

When I was a child, my mom would often remind me to say my prayers before going to bed. The prayer was fairly secular as far as prayers go, besides the fact, of course, that I was directing my prayer to a god. The prayer was a list of all the good . . .

Lesson #177: Thank People

If someone does something kind for you, thank them. Make sure you let them know that you appreciate what they did for you. A few kind words of appreciation can go a long way. If you undergo surgery, thank the doctor and the nurses who kept you aliv. . .

Lesson #178: Return the Favor

A sincere “thank you” is wonderful and often sufficient, but why not take it one step further and show your appreciation by doing something kind in turn for those who do something kind for you? Keep track of the kind things people do fo. . .

Lesson #179: Pay It Forward

Very often, you will be the recipient of an act of kindness by a stranger or a group of anonymous people that you could not possibly or realistically thank. For example, you might donate blood as a way of “giving thanks” for the time yo. . .

About Your Instructor

Bo Bennett, PhD. Bo Bennett's personal motto is "Expose an irrational belief, keep a person rational for a day. Expose irrational thinking, keep a person rational for a lifetime." Much of his work is in the area of education—not teaching people what to think, but how to think. His projects include his books, The Concept: A Critical and Honest Look at God and Religion, Logically Fallacious, the most comprehensive collection of logical fallacies, and Year To Success, a full year course in success. Bo has a podcast/blog called "The Dr. Bo Show" at http://www.TheDrBoShow.com where he takes a critical thinking-, reason-, and science-based approach to issues that matter with the goal of educating and entertaining.

Bo holds a PhD in social psychology, with a master's degree in general psychology and bachelor's degree in marketing. His complete bio along with current projects can be found at BoBennett.com.

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Passive Microlearning Course:

This is passive course where you are sent one lesson per day by e-mail. There is no required interactivity. Each lesson averages just a few minutes.

  • 179 days of lessons delivered to your e-mail, one per day—just minutes per day
  • upon successful completion of this course, students will receive an authenticated certificate of completion

A total of approximately 3 hours 20 minutes of student learning.

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