Michael Shermer with Bobby Duffy — Human Misunderstanding: Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything

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What percentage of the population are immigrants? How bad is unemployment? How much sex do people have? These questions are important and interesting, but most of us get the answers wrong. Research shows that people often wildly misunderstand the state of the world, regardless of age, sex, or education. And though the internet brings us unprecedented access to information, there’s little evidence we’re any better informed because of it. We may blame cognitive bias or fake news, but neither tells the complete story. In Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything, Bobby Duffy draws on his research into public perception across more than forty countries, offering a sweeping account of the stubborn problem of human delusion: how society breeds it, why it will never go away, and what our misperceptions say about what we really believe. We won’t always know the facts, but they still matter. Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything is mandatory reading for anyone interested making humankind a little bit smarter. Duffy and Shermer also discuss:

• cognitive biases and how they distort what we think about the world
• do men really have more sexual partners than women (and if so, who are they having sex with?)
• why we lie to ourselves and others about almost everything
• fears about immigrants and immigration
• Brexit: leave or remain and why people vote each way
• why we are more polarized politically than ever before (and what we can do about it)
• the “backfire effect”: the bad news and the good
• why we are not living in a post-truth era
• why facts matter and why free speech matters, and
• kids these days…

Bobby Duffy is director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London. Formerly, he was managing director of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute and global director of the Ipsos Social Research Institute. He lives in London.

This dialogue was recorded on November 20, 2019 as part of the Science Salon Podcast series hosted by Michael Shermer and presented by The Skeptics Society, in California.

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