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Two Psychologists Four Beers

Science Podcasts

Two psychologists endeavor to drink four beers while discussing news and controversies in science, academia, and beyond.




Two psychologists endeavor to drink four beers while discussing news and controversies in science, academia, and beyond.




Episode 109: RE-RELEASE: Against Mindfulness

Playing devil's advocate, Yoel and Mickey mount a criticism against the scientific study of mindfulness. What is mindfulness? Can we measure it? Is mindfulness-based therapy effective? Can mindfulness improve the quality of attention beyond the meditation cushion? Are effects of mindfulness mostly placebo effects produced by motivated practitioners and adherents? Should we be impressed by mindfulness meditation’s supposed effects on conceptions of the self? Is mindfulness, in all its complexity, amenable to scientific study? Bonus: Is the value of diversity and inclusivity a core part of open science? This is a re-release of an episode first released on August 7, 2019.


Episode 108: RE-RELEASE: We Need to Talk About Fraud

Yoel and Alexa are joined by Joe Simmons to talk about fraud. We go in-depth on a recent high-profile fraud case, but we also talk about scientific fraud more generally: how common is it, how do you detect it, and what can we do to prevent it? This is a re-release of Episode 73, originally released on September 29, 2021. Special Guest: Joe Simmons.


Episode 107: Against Anti-DEI Rhetoric

Jennifer Gutsell joins Alexa to discuss the controversy surrounding Yoel's experience interviewing at UCLA. They focus on a post, written by Alexa, in which she pushes back against defenses of "viewpoint diversity" and argues that the graduate petition advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) was a brave effort that should be taken seriously. Jennifer elaborates on these ideas, suggesting that there are some views that are not up for debate, and emphasizing the care that is required when having theoretical discussions without a personal stake in the matter. Alexa and Jennifer go on to connect these ideas to a paper written by Kevin Durrheim in which he proposes that psychology's emphasis on our progressive accomplishments silences the deeper reality of racism within our field. Special Guest: Jennifer Gutsell.


Episode 106: We Need to Talk About Fraud Again

Harkening back to episode 73, Alexa and Yoel discuss recent evidence of fraud documented in the Data Colada blog post "Clusterfake." The post is the first in a series of four, which will collectively detail evidence of fraud in four papers co-authored by Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino. First, the co-hosts dive into the details, with Alexa soberly (in both senses of the word) explaining the revelations of calcChain. They go on to discuss the potential impact of these findings for collaborators, some of whom have begun conducting audits of work co-authored with Gino. In addition, they speculate about ways to reduce fraud that could relieve some of the burden from those who currently do this time-consuming and often thankless work. Finally, they consider what this means for a field still struggling to build a more trustworthy foundation.


Episode 105: Patchwork Politics

In heated political debates, people are often accused of being hypocrites, lacking consistent foundational values. Today, Yoel and Alexa discuss a recent paper by David Pinsof, David Sears, and Martie Haselton, that challenges the commonsense notion that political belief systems stem from our core values. Instead, the authors propose that people form alliances with others, and develop political beliefs that serve to maintain those alliances. The cohosts discuss how these alliances might form, the various biases used to defend them, and whether values are truly absent from the process. They also tackle the deeper question of whether the alliance model means that neither side is right or wrong.


Episode 104: Quantifying the Narrative of Replicable Science

Yoel and Alexa discuss a recent paper that takes a machine learning approach to estimating the replicability of psychology as a discipline. The researchers' investigation begins with a training process, in which an artificial intelligence model identifies ways that textual descriptions differ for studies that pass versus fail manual replication tests. This model is then applied to a set of 14,126 papers published in six well-known psychology journals over the past 20 years, picking up on the textual markers that it now recognizes as signals of replicable findings. In a mysterious twist, these markers remain hidden in the black box of the algorithm. However, the researchers hand-examine a few markers of their own, testing whether things like subfield, author expertise, and media interest are associated with the replicability of findings. And, as if machine learning models weren't juicy enough, Yoel trolls Alexa with an intro topic hand-selected to infuriate her.


Episode 103: Psych (with Paul Bloom)

Alexa and Yoel chat with Paul Bloom about his newest book, Psych: The Story of the Human Mind ( The book, built from Paul's popular Introduction to Psychology course, is an opinionated overview of the field of psychology but also a window into his deep fascination with the mind. Yoel and Alexa spend some time picking Paul's brain, inquiring about writing, and teaching, and how to avoid boredom. But Paul has a few questions of his own, challenging the cohosts to consider what their own version of Psych would look like. In the process, their conversation ranges from Freudian dream content, to the limitations of psychology, to the (glaring omission of) the anatomy of the inner ear. Special Guest: Paul Bloom.


Episode 102: Destigmatizing Mental Health (with Andrew Devendorf)

Andrew Devendorf joins Alexa and Yoel to discuss his work on "me-search" (or self-relevant research) within clinical psychology. He talks about the prevalence of mental health difficulties within the field, and the harmful taboos against speaking openly about them. And, he shares his own reasons for studying depression and suicide, and how he has been discouraged from citing personal experience as a motivation for his work. Their conversation also explores common misconceptions about mental illness, strengths of self-relevant research, and ways to be more supportive to those facing mental health challenges. In the end, Yoel and Alexa fail to resolve their debate about the existence of the "unbiased researcher." Special Guest: Andrew Devendorf.


Episode 101: An Outside Perspective on Implicit Bias

Alexa and Yoel discuss the much trodden topic of implicit bias from a less trodden perspective: that of the general public. Offering insight into the public's views is a paper by Jeffrey Yen, Kevin Durrheim, and Romin Tafarodi, which explores public thinking about the implicit association test (IAT) through an examination of the New York Times comments section. These comments demonstrate varying reactions to the idea that negative associations with some identities - racial and otherwise - can bubble beneath the surface of our explicit attitudes. Some dismiss the IAT as "academic abstraction," while others see their scores as an opportunity for confession, or even absolution. Still others embrace the role of troll, a topic foreshadowed by our discussion of the proposed overhauling of New College of Florida.


Episode 100: What Happened at Perspectives on Psychological Science?

Yoel and special guest Rachel Hartman discuss the recent ouster of Klaus Fiedler, the former Editor in Chief of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, over allegations of racism and abuse of power. They try to untangle a complicated story of peer review gone awry, explain the dueling open letters condemning and supporting Fiedler, and critically evaluate the allegations against him as well as the process that led to his dismissal as EIC. Along the way, they also talk about wine spritzers and journal prestige. Special Guest: Rachel Hartman.


Episode 99: Is MTurk Too Good To Be True?

In a recent article, psychologists Webb and Tangney document their experience collecting psychology data online using Amazon's crowdsourcing platform MTurk. Alarmingly, the authors conclude that ultimately only 2.6% of their sample was valid data from human beings. Yoel and Alexa weigh in on these findings, discussing what researchers can reasonably expect from online studies and platforms, and how their personal experiences have informed their own practices. They also consider a response written by Cuskley and Sulik, who argue that researchers, not recruitment platforms, are responsible for ensuring the quality of data collected online. Questions that arise include: What studies do people want to do? Does anyone read the fine print? And what are the ethics of mouse-hunting?


Episode 98: Inspired Science (with Spencer Greenberg)

Yoel and Alexa are joined by Spencer Greenberg, founder of the behavioral science startup incubator Spark Wave and host of the Clearer Thinking podcast. He describes how he became fascinated with psychology and behavior change, and how he's been working to provide empirically-backed strategies for everday tasks, like making decisions or forming habits. He also offers an alternative perspective on open science, arguing that a phenomenon he calls "importance hacking" has been overshadowed by p-hacking in calls for science reform. Greenberg further challenges the Alexa and Yoel to consider whether the "open scientist" will fall short of what can only be achieved by the truly "inspired scientist." Finally, Spenccer has a major project in the works, and he gives us the honor of the big reveal. Special Guest: Spencer Greenberg.


Episode 97: Getting Into Grad School

With grad school application deadlines around the corner, Alexa and Yoel discuss how, exactly, that process works. Big picture, they talk about their goals in selecting graduate students to work on their labs, and whether they've gotten good at the process. They also examine typical application requirements - including recommendation letters, personal statements, GPAs, and (sometimes) the GRE - and consider which they'd keep, and which they'd prefer to never deal with again.


Episode 96: So, What Do You Do?

Yoel and Alexa discuss a recent paper, written by Hughes, Srivastava, Leszko, and Condon, that created and validated a new index of "occupational prestige." The index is intended to provide a tool to measure the third component of socioeconomic status, alongside income and education. The cohosts consider how occupational prestige might lead to differential treatment, or even unrealistic expectations ("is anyone in this hotel a doctor?"). Digging deeper, they discuss the paper's exploration of ways that prestige tracks with the physical, critical thinking, and interpersonal demands of a profession. Finally, they realize that as a "former social neuroscientist," Alexa hasn't been getting the respect she deserves.


Episode 95: What are Teachers Good For? (with Paul Bloom)

Paul Bloom joins Yoel and Alexa to talk about the glamour and humiliation of teaching psychology at the college level. They discuss how they've changed their approaches to teaching over the years, and whether they've become more skilled or more out of touch (or both). Alexa shares her experiences teaching about morality and evolution to a predominantly Christian student body, Yoel laments the fact that his students aren't more disagreeable, and Paul claims that critical thinking is overrated. In an era of increasing remote instruction, they claim that online courses can't do what they do. But, only Yik Yak knows for sure. Special Guest: Paul Bloom.


Episode 94: Individualism, Interdependence, and Student Loans

Inspired by a recent Atlantic article ("The Myth of Independent American Families" by Stephanie H. Murray) Alexa and Yoel consider what it means to live in an indiviualistic society. At an abstract level, they discuss different visions for interdependence, from communes to church communities to welfare states. On a more personal note, they reflect on ways that they depend on, and support, people in their families and communities, and whether it would be desirable to increase those levels of reliance. They also consider the domains of romantic relationships (should we feel like we're free to leave at any time?) and college education (how affordable should it be?). And, Yoel explains his beef with student loan forgiveness.


Episode 93: Facing a Social Media Mob (with Stefan Uddenberg)

Yoel and Alexa are joined by Stefan Uddenberg, a social perception researcher and author of the paper "Deep Models of Superficial Face Judgments." This paper was the focus of a previous episde - "A Face for Podcasting" - in which the co-hosts discussed the research, and the resulting controversy. Now, Stefan offers a new, insider perspective. He begins by offering a deeper explanation of the work, noting that a large, diverse set of facial images, is essential for studying how people are unfairly judged based on appearance (e.g., their race and gender). He also recounts the outrage on Twitter and somehow finds lessons to be learned from even the harshest and most misinformed attacks. In an unexpected twist, Yoel and Alexa discover Stefan's hidden talent. Special Guest: Stefan Uddenberg.


Episode 92: Should SPSP Stay Out of It?

As the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) starts gearing up for their 2023 conference, Alexa and Yoel debate some of the organization's recent efforts to be more anti-racist and politically engaged. First, the co-hosts discuss debate over moving the conference from its originally scheduled location (Atlanta, Georgia) due to the state's restrictive abortion laws. They consider how boycotting (or, as SPSP ultimately decided, not boycotting) fits with the organization's mission and identity. Second, they examine SPSP's new submission evaluation criteria, which reward submissions for promoting equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Yoel and Alexa are largely divided on both topics, but Yoel provides at least one improvement they can agree on.


Episode 91: Decriminalizing Mental Illness

Yoel and Alexa chat with Jennifer Cox and Lauren Kois, co-directors of the Southern Behavioral Health and Law Initiative. Established in 2020, the initiative was created to address the dearth of mental health resources for people who become involved with the legal system. Jennifer and Lauren walk our co-hosts through common scenarios that can occur when a person with mental illness encounters the legal system, some of which involve long waits in understaffed state hospitals with little access to basic mental health resources. They also describe various efforts to ameliorate these problems, including their own work to optimize use of the 988 mental health emergency line in Alabama. In the process, they offer hope for researchers who aim to effect policy change without becoming mired in political polarization. And, they challenge future guests to a deadlifting contest. Special Guests: Jennifer Cox and Lauren Kois.


Episode 90: Freelance Kinkology (with Aella)

Independent researcher Aella joins Yoel and Alexa to talk about her experiences doing freelance social science. Their discussion touches on some far-ranging topics, from the upsides of Twitter microfame to the humbling experience of questioning one's faith. At one point, they consider the compromises - good and bad - that come from catering to one's critics. Aella also discusses a recent funded research project where she asks people about their sexual fetishes. Special Guest: Aella.