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Town Hall Seattle: Science Series

Town Hall’s Science series is dedicated to understanding the world around us. Whether we’re hearing from a legendary physicist or a UW graduate student, the Science series explores math, biology, chemistry, the environment, and so much more.

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Jun 9, 2021

Have you ever asked someone, “How are you?” while not really caring about their actual response? And why would you need to, when we are conditioned to rarely respond to this question honestly? This is an example of deception and self-deception, and it happens in little and big ways around the world every single day. While this example may seem innocuous, self-deception has caused harm—to us, to our communities, to the planet. But if it is so bad for us, why is it so ubiquitous? The Hidden Brain’s Shankar Vedantam argues that, paradoxically, self-deception can also play a vital role in our success and well-being.

Vedantam joined us in conversation with KUOW’s Ross Reynolds to explore how the lies we tell ourselves sustain our daily interactions with friends, lovers, and coworkers. On the Hidden Brain podcast, Vedantam peels back the layers of lies that keep us from seeing reality clearly and from becoming our best selves, which led to him uncovering and exploring this dichotomous impact of self-deception specifically. Drawing on powerful personal stories contained in his book Useful Delusions: The Power & Paradox of the Self-Deceiving Brain, he presented a correlation from self-deception to why some people live longer than others, why some couples remain in love and others don’t, why some nations hold together while others splinter. But how do we find the line between those lies we tell ourselves that are helpful and those that are harmful? Coupled with new insights in psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, Vedantam offered a fascinating tour of what it really means to be human.

Shankar Vedantam is host of the Hidden Brain podcast and public radio show and the author of The Hidden Brain, a New York Times national bestseller. He lives in Washington, DC.

Ross Reynolds is KUOW’s Executive Producer for Community Engagement. Before that he was a KUOW program host for 16 years and has also been KUOW’s News Director, Program Director, and hosted the weekly KCTS-TV interview program Upon Reflection. Reynolds was previously news director at KBOO Radio in Portland, Oregon and News/Public Affairs Director at WCUW Radio in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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Presented by Town Hall Seattle and KUOW