Behavioral Grooves Podcast

Delusions Can Actually Be Useful: Hidden Brain’s Shankar Vedantam Reveals How [Republish]

Aug. 22, 2022

Shankar Vedantam is the host of the wildly popular podcast, Hidden Brain and esteemed author of the book Useful Delusions: The Power and Paradox of the Self-Deceiving Brain. We initially interviewed Shankar in mid 2021 but want to highlight this discussion for you again as it is one we still discuss in more recent episodes.

Before reading Shankar’s book and interviewing him for this podcast we were, as Shankar describes himself, card-carrying rationalists. We were firmly in the camp of believing rational, scientific findings and believing that lies and deception are harmful to ourselves and to our communities. However, Shankar walks us through a compelling argument, that paradoxically, self-deception actually plays a pivotal role in our happiness and well-being.

In our discussion with Shankar we cover:

  • (6:38) Speed round questions.
  • (11:04) The difference between self delusions being useful and being harmful.
  • (16:23) How nations are a delusional construct.
  • (23:00) Awareness of self-delusions and how daily gratitudes can shift our perspective of the world. 
  • (25:56) Shankar’s personal story of delusional thinking. 
  • (29:58) The role emotions play in our mood and delusions.
  • (35:23) How avoidance of delusional thinking is a sign of privilege.
  • (37:30) Why our perceptions play an important role in understanding delusions.
  • (44:36) Shankar’s unique approach to conspiracy theories.
  • (52:28) What music Shankar has been listening to during COVID.
  • (52:15) Grooving Session and Bonus Track with Kurt and Tim.

We really hope you find Shankar’s unique insight on how delusions are useful as compelling as we did. If you’re a regular Behavioral Grooves listener, please consider supporting us through Patreon. Thank you! 

© 2022 Behavioral Grooves

  • The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars and Save Our Lives

Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Kahneman, Sibony and Sunstein, 2021 

Richard Dawkins 


Lake Wobegon Effect 


Other Episodes We Talk About

The Myth of the “Relationship Spark” with Logan Ury (featuring a guest appearance by Christina Gravert, PhD):

Robert Cialdini, PhD: Littering, Egoism and Aretha Franklin: 

Self Control, Belonging, and Why Your Most Dedicated Employees Are the Ones To Watch Out For with Roy Baumeister:

George Loewenstein: On a Functional Theory of Boredom:

Gary Latham, PhD: Goal Setting, Prompts, Priming, and Skepticism:

John Bargh: Dante, Coffee and the Unconscious Mind:

Linda Thunstrom: Are Thoughts and Prayers Empty Gestures to Suffering Disaster Victims? neither hosts nor alters podcast files. All content © its respective owners.