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Seize the Moment Podcast

Jun 27, 2022

On episode 136, we welcome behavioral scientist Stuart Vyse to discuss the practical benefits of certain delusional beliefs; love-at-first-sight as a defense mechanism to foster romance; whether we can prevent the emotional crash that normally results from idealizing our partners; the mindset of defensive pessimism as a way to reduce the probably of future physical and emotional harm; the benefits of optimistic and idealistic thinking in setting goals and sustaining effort to achieve them; the benefits of perceiving others as having fixed personality traits despite the significant influence of environments on decision-making; the natural illusion of free-will and why people are often averse to considering determinism as a plausible alternative; the downside of hyper-rationality and why some level of delusional thinking is recommended; and the correlation of the belief in free-will with a need to punish others.

Stuart Vyse is a behavioral scientist, teacher, and writer. He taught at Providence College, the University of Rhode Island, and Connecticut College. Vyse’s book Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition won the 1999 William James Book Award of the American Psychological Association. He is a contributing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, where he writes the “Behavior & Belief” column, and a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. His newest book, out now, is called The Uses of Delusion: Why It's Not Always Rational to Be Rational. 

Psychologist Stuart Vyse’s new book, The Uses of Delusion, is about aspects of human nature that are not altogether rational but, nonetheless, help us achieve our social and personal goals. In his book, and in this conversation, Vyse presents an accessible exploration of the psychological concepts behind useful delusions, fleshing out how delusional thinking may play a role in love and relationships, illness and loss, and personality and behavior. Throughout, Vyse strives to answer the question: why would some of our most illogical beliefs be as helpful as they are? Vyse also suggests that evolutionary pressures may have led to the ability to fool ourselves in order to survive.

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