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DUBNER: I wouldn’t intentionally go to a hospital and ask them to operate on me or give me a Coca-Cola enema.

*      *      *

DUCKWORTH: I’m Angela Duckworth.

 DUBNER: I’m Stephen Dubner.

 DUCKWORTH + DUBNER: And you’re listening to No Stupid Questions.

 Today on the show: If Americans are generally happy as individuals, why are we so frustrated as a nation?

 DUCKWORTH: We’re going to hell in a handbasket as a country, but my own life is pretty good.

*      *      *

DUBNER: Angela, I recently came across a Gallup poll, which found that only 17 percent of Americans are currently satisfied with the direction of the United States.

DUCKWORTH: That’s a little depressing.

DUBNER: We’ll say depressing, but probably not so surprising. And I will say that number has been falling over recent years in the U.S. But here’s the thing: the same poll found that 85 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in their personal life.

DUCKWORTH: Almost the exact opposite, right?

DUBNER: Yeah, so we can discuss some of the other numbers in the poll later, because the breakdown is interesting, but how do you explain this astonishing gap between personal satisfaction and our satisfaction with, quote, “the way things are going in the U.S.”?

DUCKWORTH: When I first heard of this statistic — because it was a pretty widely publicized poll — I thought about what it means to be asked, “How satisfied are you, Angela, with the way things are going in this country?”

DUBNER: Should we try that right now? Should I pretend to be Monsieur Gallup?

DUCKWORTH: Yes. You could be Monsieur Gallup —  “Gallup.”

DUBNER: Okay: Angela Duckworth, “How satisfied would you say you are with the current direction of the United States?”

DUCKWORTH: If you’re giving me a scale of, you know, “really dissatisfied” to “very satisfied”?

DUBNER: I’d say zero to 10. 10 being optimal satisfaction. Zero being, “I’m moving to, you know, Nigeria, Canada — fill in the blank.” 

DUCKWORTH: Yeah. I’m close to zero.

DUBNER: Ooh! Borderline moving to Nigeria or Canada. I think you’re more like a two-and-a-half.

DUCKWORTH: Yeah. I’m definitely exaggerating there. I mean, I’m not going to move, but it has crossed my mind. I just feel like, relative to where things were, I don’t know, 10, 20 years ago, there’s lots to be concerned about.

DUBNER: Can you give me a moment when you think the direction of the country would have polled at 10 across the country?

DUCKWORTH: Hmm. That’s a good point.

DUBNER: Would it have been 1776? 1789? Would it have been maybe 1945? 1945 probably was, right? End of World War II.

DUCKWORTH: But now, when you ask me, “How are things going in the United States?” my thoughts immediately turn to politics. I’m an optimist by disposition — as you know, Stephen — but the polarization of the left and the right, it doesn’t feel like things are coming together. It feels like they’re coming apart. It doesn’t feel at all like a positive forward direction, politically, for the country.

DUBNER: Why does your mind immediately turn to politics? Because, as far as I know, you don’t really care that much about politics, or follow it.

DUCKWORTH: Well, it’s a very good question, Stephen, because as you know, I am pretty out of touch with contemporary — or historical — politics. So, like, “How do you even know what’s going on in the United States, Angela?”

DUBNER: How do you know enough to be so miserable with the future of the country?

DUCKWORTH: I think when, occasionally, reality impinges upon my own personal life — when a very good friend wants to discuss what’s going on: you know, what do I think about such-and-such and so-and-so? Then, I wake up a little bit, and I get myself out of whatever I was working on, and I say like, “What’s going on? Who’s invading where?” I guess that also there is a kind of zeitgeist of unrest, distrust of our fellow— like, we’re annoyed with each other. I feel like it’s palpable.

DUBNER: So, I would be shocked if you hadn’t picked up on that, because yeah, it’s really hard to not— even if you don’t consume a lot of media, but I think what’s interesting about this is: It’s a good illustration of the power of negative media — or media generally. And we’ve done a Freakonomics Radio episode about this not long ago called, “Why is U.S. Media So Negative?” And the answer is that we have, as we’ve discussed on this show before, a built-in negativity bias.

DUCKWORTH: Right, the “bad is stronger than good” effect — which was the title of the Roy Baumeister paper that first documented this.

DUBNER: And major-outlet American journalism in particular exploits our negativity bias to maximize profits, and then social media algorithms kind of add fuel to the fire. It doesn’t even have to be bad news. It can just be concern or alarm.

DUCKWORTH: Even the weather, right?

DUBNER: Especially the weather.

DUCKWORTH: Every time it’s going to rain, it’s, like, a catastrophe.

DUBNER: I happen to know someone, very closely — someone who I happened to live with, who may or may not be my spouse, who, since COVID, has made a habit of turning on cable news in the morning. Sometimes she will watch an outlet that aligns somewhat with her political philosophies. I should say, her political philosophies are well-thought through and fairly heterodox, just for the record. But then, sometimes, she will intentionally watch a channel that is probably the furthest from her political philosophies.

DUCKWORTH: To avoid confirmation bias or to be more even in her consumption?

DUBNER: Well, no, I would say it’s not to avoid confirmation bias or to be more even. In her view, she wants to see what the “crazy people” are saying.

DUCKWORTH: Oh!

DUBNER: Because it’s important to understand those arguments.

DUCKWORTH: Like, “know thy enemy.”

DUBNER: There you go. Yeah. But also, I will say this: If I walk into the kitchen, let’s say, on 10 days in a given month, that channel is on probably six of those days.

DUCKWORTH: What!

DUBNER: So, I’m not quite sure I buy the argument that it’s purely opposition research at this point. Here’s why, though: it is unbelievably entertaining. Like, I don’t like horror movies. I don’t even like thrillers. I don’t get it. Like, I wouldn’t intentionally go to, let’s say, a hospital and ask them to operate on me or give me a Coca-Cola enema, even.

DUCKWORTH: Coca-Cola enema?

DUBNER: I don’t invite any suffering with the notion that there is a thrill associated to it. And yet, it seems that people really do get off, to a degree, on wallowing in horror —whether the horror is a horror film, or horrible news expressed in the most horrible way. And because so many people are doing that, I think people like you and I — who may not have as much attraction — we get caught up in it.

DUCKWORTH: That’s just kind of a soft masochism, right? I do think the “bad is stronger than good” instinct that we have — just to say how I understand that concept — it is that: when we have a good event and a bad event, what draws our attention, and also what carries weight in our consciousness — what we keep thinking about — is the bad event, not the good event. There’s an asymmetry there, and the evolutionary explanation is: if you have three good things that happen in a day and three bad things — or three things that might threaten your life — maybe you should disproportionately allocate your conscious awareness to the bad things. Because, guess what? They might end your life. In other words, bad is stronger than good for good reason. I mean, to me, the interesting thing in the Gallup poll — the twist of all this, or the further mystery — is: Why does that not play out, apparently, when we think about our own life?

DUBNER: Right.

DUCKWORTH: Why do we only say, “Oh my gosh, we’re going to hell in a handbasket as a country, but my own life is pretty good.”  

DUBNER: That was entirely my interest in this as well. What astonished me was this gap that I interpreted as a mismatch. In other words: How can it be that 85 percent of us are satisfied with the way things are going in our lives, but that only 17 percent of us — the same people — are satisfied with the direction in the U.S.? And the gap, we should say, is not quite at its all-time high. It’s currently at 68 percentage points.

DUCKWORTH: Which is huge! It’s like the Grand Canyon.

DUBNER: You almost couldn’t invent a poll that could get a gap as big as that. It’s second only to last year’s gap, which was 71 points. And, just to help draw the picture of what this poll is getting at, I’ll give you a little bit of detail on the people who are more satisfied with their own lives first. Okay?

DUCKWORTH: Mm-hmm.

DUBNER: Weekly churchgoers, college graduates, and wealthier people are more satisfied, on average, with their personal lives.

DUCKWORTH: And I can just affirm for you, Stephen, that is not a “Well, maybe that’s just 2021.” That’s always the case — that education, participation in formal religion, and income are all positively, reliably correlated with personal life satisfaction across cultures and across history.

DUBNER: And we should say— You said participation in formal religion but as, for instance, Bob Putnam — the sociologist —  argued in his book Bowling Alone, it doesn’t have to be religion. It could be different social, or charitable, or even familial networks, which have weakened a lot in the U.S. for the past 50, 60, 70 years. But religion remains one that is fairly strong. So, I just wanted to put in that pitch for secular networking, as well.

DUCKWORTH Yeah. I don’t think anybody would say that religion or religious services are the only way to be in a social network, but religion has been singled out as a particularly robust predictor of happiness.

DUBNER: And we have, overall, a very strong religious belief in this country. Now, if I were to ask you: “What sort of person would you say is most displeased at this moment in time, with the direction of the U.S.?”, what would be one category that you feel you’d find a lot of people professing that direction.

DUCKWORTH: So, probably the people who don’t like the current political party in their state or in their country. If the presidential candidate that you voted for lost — or at least other people thought they lost — you’re going to be unhappy.

DUBNER: Yeah. When this Gallup poll was taken quite recently — and there’s been a Democrat in the White House for over a year now — this said that 30 percent of Democrats are satisfied with the direction of the U.S., which isn’t a very high number. So, if only 30 percent of Democrats, currently, are satisfied with the direction of the U.S. while a Democrat is in the White House, what share of Republicans would you say are currently satisfied with the U.S. direction?

DUCKWORTH: I mean, half as many or less?

DUBNER: Right. That’d be a good guess. So, 15. Maybe 10, if you wanted to be aggressive. How about four percent, in this poll?

DUCKWORTH: Wow.

DUBNER: So, satisfaction in direction of the U.S. is strongly correlated with political party, and it rises when your party is in power and it drops when your party’s out.

DUCKWORTH: Makes sense.

DUBNER: If we were to go back just before the 2020 election, when Donald Trump was president, Biden was just running, it was the Republicans in this poll who were pretty optimistic about the direction in the U.S., and it was the Democrats who were pessimistic, and then it just flips.

DUBNER: I think one thing that distinguishes us is that we have a lot of very extreme left and very extreme right. And in a lot of countries — or in this country 50 years ago, or even 30 years ago, when the media worked differently — those would be considered fringes, and you wouldn’t hear about them.

DUCKWORTH: Now you’re talking about magnification through — what, social media?

DUBNER: And regular media, and being elected to Congress, let’s say. I mean, there’s 435 of them. So, the fact that there is 10 on either side that, if you’re on the opposite side, you might consider total lunatics, is not really that surprising. But when those voices are amplified, because they get more microphones, then it changes the perception for everybody. But I feel like the actual middle is very, very large in this country and almost never discussed.

DUCKWORTH: So, Stephen, if I’m towards the low side of the scale on, like, “How are things going in the United States?” — where, I’m curious, are you?

DUBNER: Well, actually, we budged you from a zero to a two-and-a-half. So, you’re kind of standard, really. I would say that I’m nowhere near as negative about the future of the country. If I had to put a number on it — zero to 10 — I don’t want to be the ostrich with the head in the sand. I don’t think I am, but I would say about a six-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half.

DUCKWORTH: Wow.

DUBNER: I mean, look, if this were school, that’s a C+. So, I’m not saying it’s great. But let’s just think for a second about what it means to create, and live in, and sustain a society: infrastructure, electricity, education, law and order, access to food —  et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Compared to the rest of the world over history, we’re doing it about 9.9. But then, on the flip side, you don’t want to say “Well” — and I think a lot of people are having this conversation right now about Putin and Ukraine — “is this 1939 Germany? Is this 1941 Germany? Is it neither?” And that’s the kind of misjudgment one does not want to make again. So, I’m not saying that Pollyanna-ish is the way to be, but I do believe that a little bit of perspective can go a long way.

Still to come on No Stupid Questions: Stephen and Angela discuss why other countries might not experience the same gap in individual versus national satisfaction.

DUCKWORTH: Is it going to affect your personal life if, for example, the Communists prevail and the nationalists lose?

 *      *      * 

Before we return to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about the poll on national satisfaction, let’s hear some of your thoughts on the topic. We asked listeners to send us voice memos about moments when the broader direction of their country actually did affect their personal lives. Here’s what you said:

Yvonne COUCH: Hello. British person here. When Brexit happened, I was unbelievably embarrassed to be British. I work in research, so I have lots of friends from all over the world, and it felt like my country had become racist overnight. And I just — I felt so ashamed.

Susan ASTORGA KEMP: So, like a lot of people, the 2016 election messed me up. I’m half Mexican and half Caucasian. My mom, she immigrated from Mexico when she was a kid. So, I grew up identifying as that. But I present as white. I found the election results shocking. I remember turning to my mom the day after the election and being like, “I feel like half the country hates me.” And she was like, “It certainly feels that way, doesn’t it?”

Irina WANG: Hi Stephen and Angela, this is Irina. After completing my undergraduate degree in the U.K., I remained working there under a visa with hopes of becoming naturalized as a citizen. And at the time I had, in a very privileged and youthfully brash way, made it part of my expat identity to denounce my Americanness, and had gotten fully behind things like free healthcare and smaller portion sizes at restaurants. But after the 2016 election, instead of feeling like I was lucky to have escaped, I suddenly felt like I had abandoned this country that I didn’t even understand anymore during a really important time. So, while many of my friends stateside were threatening to move to Canada, I actually made the move back. Plus, with Brexit looming, my future in the U.K. felt less encouraged and certainly less expansive.

That was, respectively: Yvonne Couch, Susan Astorga Kemp, and Irina Wang. Thanks to them and to everyone who sent us their thoughts. Now, back to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about the gap in America’s national versus individual satisfaction.

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DUBNER: When I read this poll, the first thought I had went back to first-year anthropology and this concept of “-emic” and “-etic.” You remember this?

DUCKWORTH: I did not take first year anthropology — or second year or third year anthropology. Tell me about -emic and -etic.

DUBNER: It’s a way that anthropologists talk about looking a society or a group from two different viewpoints. “-emic” is from within the social group, and “-etic” is from outside. It also made me think of this concept that I know even less about —  these Japanese concepts of “honne” and “tatemae.” “Honne” is how a person truly feels and what they actually want, whereas “tatemae” is often a very different portrayal of that same person in a public setting, where their private or personal desires are not expressed. And so I was thinking: Well, maybe Americans, we just have our own way of having two totally different, and maybe contradictory, impulses to describe the world — one from within, where I really know it intimately and I’m mostly happy with it, and one from ourselves looking out and saying, “Oh my goodness, I’m pretty cool, but out there, it’s just a shitshow.”

DUCKWORTH: It’s like nimbyism.

DUBNER: Not in my backyard, dammit.

DUCKWORTH: Yes. “Not in my backyard.” I was like, “Oh, is there some asymmetry where we hold inconsistent beliefs, but we’re motivated to hold them, because one is about ourselves and we have a self-serving bias to think positively, and then the other is about other people?” But honestly, Stephen, I don’t think it’s that deep. I don’t think it’s a cognitive error. I just think when you say, “Oh, how do you think things are going in the United States?” people are not asking themselves, “How happy do I think other people are with their lives, all 300 million of them?” I think they just think about politics and economics. I do know a little bit,  from working with Ed Diener and then also Louis Tay — these are two leading researchers in wellbeing — and they have specifically looked at what goes into your answer: “Hey, Stephen, overall, how satisfied are you with your life?” And Ed Diener worked with Gallup for many years, all the way up to his recent death. Diener specifically looked at: How do questions of my own personal wellbeing match up to questions of: “How do you think this country is doing overall?” And they did it not only in the United States; they did it for the whole globe. And one of the things they found is that in an individualistic society like we have, we’re more easily able to separate “Hey Stephen, how’s your life going?” from “Hey, Stephen, how do you think the country’s doing?”

DUBNER: Right.

DUCKWORTH: Whereas in countries that are typically less developed — they have lower GDP, and they’re less likely to be in the Western hemisphere — these communitarian cultures tend to have a closer link. It’s less likely that someone would give you one answer for their personal life and an entirely different answer for how things are going in their country. So it’s kind of American to be able to feel that your life is different and kind of walled-off, in a way, from the national direction.

DUBNER: But then I’m also thinking about: When you live in a country where nationalism is not as prominent — or maybe national media is not as large as it is in ours — the degree to which your own personal life and fortunes are intertwined with the state, or the government, or the community — especially when it’s much smaller. So, I could imagine that the gap could be quite different depending on your circumstances — just literally how much you feel the national direction of the country affects you. 85 percent of us are disturbed by the direction of the U.S. — but then think about Ukraine being invaded by Russia. How much do we Americans feel that kind of existential threat? Does that event make anyone take a perspective-check and say, “Oh, wait a minute, maybe I’m over-assessing the degree to which we are in the toilet, because think of the multitude of ways in which things could be much, much, much, much, much worse.”

DUCKWORTH: I mean, my parents grew up in China during the Communist Revolution. And if you ask them like, “Hey, is it going to affect your personal life if, for example, the Communists prevail and the nationalists lose?” They would have said, “Oh yes. Absolutely.” In fact, they fled the country because they were on the losing side, and they didn’t want to be tortured, or killed, or imprisoned. So, there’s clearly that reason why we can remove ourselves from how things are going in the United States. Also, I wonder whether the difference between the left and the right in this country — which seems to be about as far as it could possibly be — but maybe if we took a global perspective and we saw what was going on in Peru, in Ukraine, in other countries, we would see yet larger differences between parties that are vying for power. For example, I think most Americans believe that democracy is a good political system. I think most Americans — to some extent — believe in capitalism, a free market, not a communist state. So, if we could take a global perspective, we would see that our left and our right aren’t as extreme as they might appear.

DUBNER: I do wonder how we, as humans, individually think about ourselves or other individuals versus the population. Maybe it’s just because we have a really hard time assessing how a big, let’s say, complex, dynamic system works. And therefore, we assume a lot of not just mystery, but downside to it. Whereas, ourselves, we understand. And there’s also just the size issue. So, if you think about “the direction of the country,” that just sounds impenetrably large, impenetrably complex and dynamic. I don’t usually quote U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, who I believe is one of your favorite politicians.

DUCKWORTH: Ha. Not a Ted Cruz fan.

DUBNER: So, Ted Cruz is someone I would not describe as a pro-social rationalist, which is you know, maybe a phrase that I would apply to you — and probably to me to some degree. But he was recently talking about the fundamentals of political conservatism. And here’s what he tweeted. He said, “Let me suggest a simple principle: Big is bad. Big Government, Big Tech, Big Hollywood, Big Universities Suck.” That is very U.S. senatorial language, I have to say.

DUCKWORTH: Did he say “suck”?

DUBNER: Yes, he did.

DUCKWORTH: Oh, gosh.

DUBNER: Furthermore: “Any accumulation and centralization of power is fundamentally dangerous for individual liberty.” So, that sounds like a kind of standard, small-C-conservative argument in 2022. Although, I would have to say, if Ted Cruz were president and he were trying to ramp up some Defense Department, or Education Department, or Transportation Department.

DUCKWORTH: Then he would say “big is good.”

DUBNER: Yeah. He would say “economy of scale,” et cetera, et cetera, because that’s the way politics works. But when I read that, I thought, “Hmm, you know, I do think a lot of we individuals have a really hard time getting our mind around the big, complex, dynamic system that is a country, and the future direction thereof, and all the political and social and economic elements attached to it. So, what do you say to that — that we’re just, sort of, intimidated by the complexity?

DUCKWORTH: I do think that in judgment- and decision-making research over the last 50 years, if there’s anything that’s been shown to be really reliable, it’s that we’re not very good at calculating, computing, synthesizing lots and lots and lots of information —  some of which was an uncertain. Like, when you asked me, “Angela, how do you think things are going in the United States?” think about how many dimensions there are to that problem. Also, I don’t even know what people’s lives are like in, you know, Idaho, right? I have no idea. So, here’s what people do: We start with our own life, and then we extrapolate a little. Now, in this case, I don’t think we’re extrapolating from our own personal wellbeing to the national direction, but we might be extrapolating from, “Oh, I really hated that city council person who was just elected. And I hate what’s going on in my daughter’s school. So, I’m very dissatisfied.” I don’t know that people are sitting there and thinking for minutes or hours about how, collectively, the entire country is going socially, economically, politically, and culturally.

DUBNER: So, if we were to summarize, we might say that it’s natural — or at least American — to feel better about one’s own situation than the surrounding direction. In terms of prescription, especially from you, the positive psychologist who — I have to say, if we were to put some kind of negativity-sounding Geiger counter on your voice—

DUCKWORTH: It’s a little more negative.

DUBNER: I don’t blame you, because that was the nature of the question. But you actually have sounded distressed during this conversation. And for that, I almost want to apologize that I brought to you a question that distressed you so.

DUCKWORTH: It’s okay.

DUBNER: On the other hand, it’s good to have that color in your palette, you know, as a positive psychologist. So, how would you be prescriptive here?

DUCKWORTH: I would say that, if we learn anything from the poll, it is that the questions that we are asked aren’t necessarily the ones that we’re answering. That’s one thing. Second — maybe not only because we’re American, but particularly as Americans, we’re able to answer differently about our own personal lives versus how we think politics and economics are going in this country. But that’s not true if you’re living in a war-torn country, or in an impoverished country, where there really is more of a relationship. In terms of prescription, Stephen — like, what to do with all this — I think that, for me — and I’ll reveal my personal bias here—

DUBNER: Because you usually play it so close to the vest, we should say.

DUCKWORTH: I know. I’m cryptic and distant. Look, if you are like so many people in this poll — feeling like, overall, your life is pretty great — and if you are, like so many people in this poll, somewhat dissatisfied, then do something. Like, what are you doing? Don’t just go on Twitter and get more indignant. What would you like to see different? And go and do something. Especially if you feel like your life is so great and things are so bad, why not spend an hour that would make things better?

DUBNER: I’ll make a slightly parallel argument to the general argument of this conversation. I will say that the current direction of the podcast ecosystem is absolutely terrible.

DUCKWORTH: Is it really?

DUBNER: It is rife with misinformation, and disinformation, consolidation, and homogenization.

DUCKWORTH: So many “-izations”!

DUBNER: But I think this podcast is a A-O.K.

DUCKWORTH: Fantastic.

*      *      *

No Stupid Questions is produced by me, Rebecca Lee Douglas. And now here is a fact-check of today’s conversation.

In the first half of the episode, Stephen jokingly interviews Angela as “Monsieur Gallup.” The global analytics firm does have a namesake, but he wasn’t French. Iowa-born journalist George Gallup founded the American Institute of Public Opinion — the precursor to Gallup — in 1935. His first major success came three years earlier, when Gallup correctly predicted, in the first scientific political survey ever conducted, that his mother-in-law would win Secretary of State in Iowa.

Later, Stephen wonders when in American history the direction of the country would have polled at 10 across the board. Unfortunately, George Gallup wasn’t on the scene in 1776, so we don’t have relevant data from the country’s origin, and Gallup only began polling American satisfaction with the direction of the United States in 1979.  However, the institute does have data on presidential job approval going back to President Harry Truman 1945. As Stephen predicted, that year, the president enjoyed an all-time high approval rating of 87%. Ironically, seven years later, Truman also had the lowest-ever presidential approval with a rating of just 22%.

Finally, Stephen jokes about requesting a Coca-Cola enema at the hospital. A 2021 article from the Journal of Health and Allied Sciences actually documents two cases where this treatment was successfully used to remove large masses of hardened feces from a patient’s colon. Please don’t try this at home.

That’s it for the fact-check.

Coming up next week on No Stupid Questions: Stephen and Angela discuss the difference between the people who preserve and treasure new things and those who use them as much as possible right away.

DUBNER: What about plastic slipcovers on furniture? What’s your position on that?

DUCKWORTH: Having grown up with many, many relatives and neighbors who had the whole house, like, laminated. I have to say, maybe that’s why I don’t like to preserve things.

That’s next week on No Stupid Questions. For that episode, we want to know: are you a person who savors or someone who devours? And tell us a relevant story that comes to mind. As a kid, did you tear open your presents? Or did you keep them on the shelf in the original packaging? Did you eat your Halloween candy as quickly as possible? Or did you hoard it for months? To share your thoughts, send a voice memo to NSQ@Freakonomics.com with the subject line “User or Preserver.” Make sure to record someplace quiet, and please keep your thoughts to under a minute. Maybe we’ll include them on the show!

No Stupid Questions is part of the Freakonomics Radio Network, which also includes Freakonomics Radio, People I (Mostly) Admire, and Freakonomics, M.D. All our shows are produced by Stitcher and Renbud Radio. This show was mixed by Eleanor Osborne. Our staff also includes Alison Craiglow, Greg Rippin, Gabriel Roth, Morgan Levey, Zack Lapinski, Julie Kanfer, Mary Diduch, Ryan Kelley, Jasmin Klinger, Emma Tyrell, Lyric Bowdich, Jacob Clemente, and Alina Kulman. Our theme song is “And She Was” by Talking Heads — special thanks to David Byrne and Warner Chappell Music. If you’d like to listen to the show ad-free, subscribe to Stitcher Premium. You can follow us on Twitter @NSQ_Show and on Facebook @NSQShow. If you have a question for a future episode, please email it to nsq@freakonomics.com. To learn more, or to read episode transcripts, visit Freakonomics.com/NSQ. Thanks for listening!

DUBNER: There have been periods in U.S. history where our Congress, for instance, was much more vicious than it is right now.

DUCKWORTH: They would, like, beat each other with canes, didn’t they?

DUBNER: Yeah. Pulling guns and knives and literally wanting to kill each other. In a way, we’ve replaced that sort of violence with Twitter.

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Sources

  • Roy Baumeister, professor of psychology at the University of Queensland.
  • Ed Diener, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois.
  • George Gallup, creator of the Gallup Poll.
  • Robert Putnam, professor of public policy at Harvard University.
  • Louis Tay, professor of industrial-organizational psychology at Purdue University.

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