Could Solving This One Problem Solve All the Others?

The biggest problem with humanity is humans themselves. Too often, we make choices — what we eat, how we spend our money and time — that undermine our well-being. An all-star team of academic researchers thinks it has the solution: perfecting the science of behavior change. Will it work?

Outsiders by Design

Season 6, Episode 30 On this week’s episode of Freakonomics Radio: What does it mean to pursue something that everyone else thinks is nuts? And what does it take to succeed? Plus, Stephen J. Dubner asks, “What do medieval nuns and Bo Jackson have in common?” To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this […]

Failure Is Your Friend

Season 5, Episode 17

On this week’s episode of Freakonomics Radio: there’s a huge stigma attached to failure. But should there be? Perhaps we’re not thinking clearly about failure. Maybe failure can be your friend.

Also on this week's episode: in most countries, houses get more valuable over time. But in Japan, a new buyer often bulldozes the home. Why?

Failure Is Your Friend: A Freakonomics Radio Rebroadcast

This week's Freakonomics Radio episode is a rebroadcast of the episode "Failure Is Your Friend" (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

Failure Is Your Friend: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

This week’s episode is called “Failure Is Your Friend.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

This is a natural followup to last week's episode, "The Upside of Quitting." Why are so many people so reluctant to quit projects or jobs or relationships that have soured? One reason, Stephen Dubner argues, is that we tend to equate quitting with failure, and there’s a huge stigma attached to failure. But … should there be? In their new book Think Like a Freak, Dubner and Steven Levitt  argue that perhaps we’re not thinking clearly about failure. Failure, they say, can be your friend:

LEVITT: I always tell my students -- fail quickly. The quicker you fail the more chances you have to fail at something else before you eventually maybe find the thing that you don’t fail at.

The Three Hardest Words in the English Language: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

This week’s episode is called “The Three Hardest Words in the English Language.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

So what are the three hardest words? Conventional wisdom suggests: "I love you." Readers of this blog recently offered up their suggestions of challenging three-word phrases. In their new book Think Like a Freak, Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt tell us that the hardest three words in the English language are "I don't know," and that our inability to say these words more often can have huge consequences.

Which Came First, the Chicken or the Avocado? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

This week’s podcast is about selective outrage -- why we get so upset over some things, and then not over others. It’s called “Which Came First, the Chicken or the Avocado?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

We start with Marius the giraffe. Marius lived at a zoo in Copenhagen. Zoo officials said he was a “surplus” animal: too genetically similar to other giraffes, and therefore he couldn’t breed. It was kinder, they said, to kill him. So they fed him some rye bread (“his favorite food”), shot him in the head, and dissected him in front of a crowd of onlookers, including kids. Next they fed his corpse to the lions. Perhaps not surprisingly, the world reacted with outrage.

How to Make People Quit Smoking: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called "How to Make People Quit Smoking." (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) The gist: the war on cigarettes has been fairly successful in some places. But 1 billion humans still smoke -- so what comes next?

In the U.S., roughly 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit. But when they try, some 90 percent of them fail. So what does get people to smoke less? Something must be working: the smoking rate in the U.S. has fallen by more than half.

Kenneth Warner, an economist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, has been doing tobacco-policy research since the 1970’s. One of the most powerful smoking deterrents, he says, is making cigarettes more expensive.

“It’s Fun to Smoke Marijuana”: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest podcast is called “It's Fun to Smoke Marijuana." (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) In it, a psychology professor argues that the brain’s greatest attribute is knowing what other people are thinking. And that a Queen song, played backwards, can improve your mind-reading skills.

In the episode, Stephen Dubner talks to Nicholas Epley. Here’s how Epley introduces himself:

EPLEY:  I’m a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago. I’m in the Booth School of Business, and I study mind-reading.

Fear Thy Nature: A Freakonomics Radio Rebroadcast

This week’s podcast is a rebroadcast of a show about human nature and circumstance, “Fear Thy Nature.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) The episode is about how profoundly human behavior is influenced not only by our inner bearings but our outer circumstances. It centers on the fascinating show Sleep No More, created by the British theater group Punchdrunk; and the famous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, in which student volunteers were asked to play the role of inmates and prison guards. What do the SPE and SNM have in common? Give a listen to find out.