DUCKWORTH: Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t, Stephen.
* * *
DUCKWORTH: I’m Angela Duckworth.
DUBNER: I’m Stephen Dubner.
DUCKWORTH + DUBNER: And you’re listening to No Stupid Questions.
Today on the show: Why are humans so fascinated by coincidences?
DUCKWORTH: Are you my fifth-grade English teacher?
DUBNER: Have you ever seen us in the same place? The answer’s no! Coincidence? I think not.
* * *
DUCKWORTH: Stephen, we have a really interesting email by somebody named Selvi. I’d like to read it to you.
DUBNER: Please do.
DUCKWORTH: “Hi, Stephen and Angela.”
DUBNER: Hi, Selvi.
DUCKWORTH: “Last night, my husband and I finally decided that we should start watching the new season of Succession.” You are a Succession fan. Yes?
DUBNER: I am.
DUCKWORTH: I have not watched a second of Succession.
DUBNER: I’d recommend it.
DUCKWORTH: “So, after deciding this,” Selvi writes, “I announced I would clean up the kitchen, and then we would sit down to watch. Of course, while cleaning up, I needed to listen to an episode of my favorite podcast. So, I popped you guys on to entertain me while I cleaned.”
DUBNER: How do you feel about that, Angie? Being an accompaniment to dishwashing? Do you think that Selvi should be sitting at her desk and taking notes?
DUCKWORTH: I was flattered! “Lo and behold,” Selvi writes, “a mere five or so minutes into the podcast, you start to discuss Succession.”
DUBNER: Oh my God.
DUCKWORTH: O.M.G. “I was so surprised by this odd coincidence, as if my decision to watch Succession had somehow caused you to discuss it on the podcast — obviously impossible and silly, but it made me wonder why we seem to think there’s something so magical and special about coincidences. As I understand it, coincidences are pretty commonplace. For example, the ‘Birthday Paradox’ says that in a room of 23 random people, there’s a 50 percent chance two people will have the same birthday, but it seems so crazy and special when that happens. So, what is it about our psychology that makes us so fascinated by coincidences, despite the fact that they are relatively common and meaningless occurrences?”
DUBNER: Interesting question. I’m happy to hear her assert that we are, quote, “fascinated” by coincidences. I am very interested in them, but I had never thought about how universal that is. Let me ask you this: What is it called when, let’s say, I decide to take up knitting, and the next day, I observe that my next-door neighbor also knits, even though I never observed that before? What is that called?
DUCKWORTH: Oh, you know, like, this is a personal example, but when I was trying to get pregnant, I swear to God, you just, like, walk down the street and it just seems that—
DUBNER: “Preggos” everywhere.
DUCKWORTH: It’s just everywhere. So, it’s an attentional bias. I thought it went by the name “the Red Honda Bias.”
DUBNER: Right, you buy a certain kind of car, and then all of a sudden, you notice, “Oh my gosh, look how many of these there are!”
DUCKWORTH: Yeah. Like: “Everyone else has my car!” And it’s just that you are paying attention. I mean, attention is where you’re not just passively taking in information from your environment — you’re searching for images of pregnant women when you’re not pregnant and you want to be, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
DUBNER: When I ask you what strikes you as a classic coincidence, what comes to mind?
DUCKWORTH: Well, I think what we’re getting at is two things that happen coincident in time.
DUBNER: Ah, you can’t use the word to define the word!
DUCKWORTH: Oh, gosh. Are you my fifth-grade English teacher?
DUBNER: Yes, I am.
DUCKWORTH: You and Mrs. Bryan actually don’t look that dissimilar.
DUBNER: Have you ever seen us in the same place? The answer’s no! Coincidence? I think not.
DUCKWORTH: Okay. How about this? A coincidence happens synchronously in time.
DUBNER: I beg to differ. Okay. Here’s one that does fit your definition: Did you know that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on exactly the same day?
DUCKWORTH: Oh, but not the same year.
DUBNER The same day, same year! And it was the Fourth of July. These are two political rivals — founding fathers. Adams apparently said at the time, “Jefferson lives,” as he was going out. Like, he was so ticked off that he was going to die first, but Jefferson didn’t live! Died the same day.
DUBNER: But a lot of coincidences that I think people notice aren’t happening synchronously — not at the same time. Here’s another — if we’re sticking on American political figures — what about the famous Abraham Lincoln/John F. Kennedy parallels?
DUCKWORTH: Well, I know enough about American history that these things could not have happened at the same time.
DUBNER: That is true. So, two American presidents: both assassinated, but also, Lincoln was elected in 1860. Kennedy — 1960. I’m reading something here from “Historical Notes: A Compendium of Curious Coincidences” from TIME Magazine in 1964. “Both were deeply involved in the civil rights struggle. The names of each contain seven letters.”
DUCKWORTH: Oh, God.
DUBNER: “The wife of each president lost a son when she was first lady. Both presidents were shot on a Friday. Both were shot in the head, from behind, and in the presence of their wives. Both presidential assassins were shot to death before they could be brought to trial. The names of the assassins, John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, each contain 15 letters. Lincoln and Kennedy were each succeeded by southerners named Johnson.”
DUCKWORTH: Okay. That is eerie. I mean, each individual fact, you can explain. You’re like, “Oh, how many letters? That’s probably not an uncommon number of letters for names. Friday — maybe there’s something about Fridays? I don’t know.”
DUBNER: You got a one out of seven chance anyway.
DUCKWORTH: And that’s true, too.
DUBNER: That’s the key of a lot of coincidences. We’re not very good at probabilities. That’s what the birthday surprise is about, right? When Selvi mentioned that you only need 23 random people in a room to have a 50 percent chance that they’ll share a birthday. It’s just math.
DUCKWORTH: A lot of times, I think people do this math problem, and they imagine themselves in the room, and they imagine that there’s 22 other people. And they’re like, “Okay, what’s the probability that I have a birthday with you?”
DUBNER: But that’s not the right way to think about it.
DUCKWORTH: Right. Anybody could have a birthday with anyone else. And I think that birthday problem actually sheds a little light on this. Because there are so many things that could go together, have the same number of letters, the same color.
DUBNER: So, sometimes things that we think are coincidences, in fact, are not coincidences.
DUBNER: Do you use Instagram, Facebook, et cetera?
DUCKWORTH: I use Twitter.
DUBNER: Okay. So, let’s say that you are at a neighbor’s having a backyard barbecue. And you’re talking to another neighbor, someone that you’re a little friendly with, and you’re talking about some item, some product. And then, five minutes later, you check your phone, and you get an ad served for that very product. So, what do you think, in that case?
DUCKWORTH: Oh, that has happened to me. I was looking for these boots, and then I was like, “Oh my gosh, these ads are coming up!” My search history was, I guess, instantaneously saved, and then linked up to some algorithm, and they knew I had my eye on the Stuart Weitzman 5050, black, over-the-knee boots and served up an ad to me.
DUBNER: So, that is one channel by which you will be served an ad. And that would seem to be pretty explicable to most of us, and understandable, and maybe even desirable for some of us.
DUCKWORTH: It didn’t bother me, by the way. I was like, “Algorithm the hell out of it. I don’t care.”
DUBNER: Right, because you know that it’s something that you were interested in. So, the fact that Google knows that and serves you the ad — you kind of get that. But no, that was not the case in the example I just gave you. Let’s say that you had not searched for “Stuart Weitzman boot” on your phone.
DUCKWORTH: Okay. So, maybe I’m paying attention to ads, and my eyes are drawn to the ad that I like. Right?
DUBNER: That is, I’m sure, an acceptable answer as an explanation, but it’s not the explanation I’m looking for. Have you ever heard of people who are concerned that their mobile devices are listening to them?
DUCKWORTH: Oh, I have heard of those people. I’m definitely not one of those people. You mean, for example, I am talking to my husband about Stuart Weitzman boots, and then—
DUBNER: And you’ve both got, let’s say, a smartphone — an iPhone, or whatnot.
DUCKWORTH: Yeah. Like, Siri or Alexa overhears it, feeds that to an algorithm. I had not thought about that. And I still don’t care about it.
DUBNER: Ooh, really?
DUCKWORTH: I care that other people care, by the way. I just personally don’t care.
DUBNER: But that is theoretically possible, and it may be happening, but that’s apparently not what results in the phenomenon I’m describing either.
DUCKWORTH: Oh, it’s not that?
DUBNER: Well, the firms will tell you that they are not allowed to do that, and they don’t do that. That’s, at least, what they say. So, here’s what actually happens, at least according to the research that I’ve read, which is that you, Angie, are standing next to someone at that party, and they did search for Stuart Weitzman boots. And you’ve now come into contact with them. And you are geolocated. And algorithmically, you are known to be a person who, because you’re friendly with that person who did search for Stuart Weitzman boots, they will now serve you an ad for those Stuart Weitzman— Gosh, I feel like we’re saying “Stuart Weitzman boots” so much, we should be paid for advertising for Stuart Weitzman boots.
DUCKWORTH: We’ll send them an invoice.
DUBNER: That would look to be, maybe, a coincidence that you saw the ad. Whereas, in fact, it’s not. So, it starts to get a little bit tricky. How about this one? I would not be at all surprised if you know this. Who would you say are two of the most prominent experimental social psychologists of the 20th century?
DUCKWORTH: Okay, Kurt Lewin.
DUBNER: Who did the most famous social-psychology experiments of the 20th century?
DUCKWORTH: Festinger? Milgram?
DUBNER: Ding, ding, ding! Stanley Milgram. Okay. Tell us who Milgram was, and what he did that was famous.
DUCKWORTH: So, Milgram was actually famous for experiments where, basically, in the experiment, the subject shocks somebody else, who’s actually a confederate.
DUBNER: Delivers a fake shock.
DUCKWORTH: Yeah. They’re really about authority. It was trying to explain how, essentially, Nazi Germany happened. Like, how do normal people do cruel things?
DUBNER: Right. So, if you, Angie, were the researcher, and I come in as the research subject, you’d put me in a room with, like, a little panel where I have buttons, and I’m told that I can deliver an electric shock to the person on the other side of that glass. And you tell me to do it, and I do it, and I hear that person respond, right?
DUCKWORTH: Yeah. You hear that person screaming. You hear that person saying, “No, please stop! My heart. My heart.” And then the authority figure, in some versions of the experiment, wearing a white lab coat with a clipboard, like, “No, you must go on. You must administer the next shock.” And what the stunning finding is, is that people that you recruit off the street, who don’t seem to be sadists or mentally unwell, will, in large numbers, shock the guy practically to death.
DUBNER: We should emphasize: the shocks were fake. The people were not actually being hurt.
DUBNER: Okay, so you’ve identified one.
DUCKWORTH: I got one of the experimental social psychologists.
DUBNER: You did great. So, what would you say is the most notorious social—
DUBNER: Zimbardo. So, tell us who Philip Zimbardo is. He’s alive.
DUCKWORTH: Phil Zimbardo is a Stanford psychologist who, in the basement of a building at Stanford, re-created a prison. And Zimbardo wanted to understand the effects of group conflict and conformity. And he essentially wanted to see how different people could be when they are put into roles of authority. I assume that these must’ve been undergraduates for the most part, but there were these research volunteers. And you get randomly assigned to be a prisoner or a guard in this fake prison in the basement. This is a pretty controversial experiment, not only in terms of the ethics, but also what actually happened — or didn’t happen — and how we interpret it. But the short story was that you can turn a normal, nice, kind, ethical person into a monster by putting them into a social role — for example, play the role of a prison warden.
DUBNER: And it was so grotesque and brutal that he had to shut down the experiment much earlier than planned.
DUCKWORTH: Yes. But, anyway, what is the point of the Milgram and Zimbardo pop quiz?
DUBNER: Well, can you tell me what Stanley Milgram and Phillip Zimbardo have in common, aside from the fact that they conducted two of the most memorable and notorious social psychology experiments in history, really?
DUCKWORTH: I’m trying to count the letters in their names. Phil Zimbardo, Stanley Milgram. I don’t think it’s a number of letters. I don’t know. What?
DUBNER: Would you believe if I told you that Phillip Zimbardo and Stanley Milgram went to the same high school at the same time? James Monroe High School in New York City.
DUBNER: They were also, interestingly, both fans of Alan Funt and the TV show Candid Camera. But here’s the real question: Would you say that that’s a coincidence? Or is it something other than a coincidence?
DUCKWORTH: So, they were boys of a certain generation, right?
DUBNER: Well, it’s not just that. It’s about boys of a certain generation who were interested in a certain type of voyeurism, or experimentation.
DUCKWORTH: Oh, you’re going to read into it. Candid Camera was so popular, though, Stephen. Come on.
DUBNER: You’re right. But here’s what I’m getting at: First of all, what I want to know is who their high school science teachers were, because it would seem to be noteworthy that two people who went on to do these things went to the same high school. And I would want to know what inspired them to do so.
DUCKWORTH: Did they take AP Psych?
DUBNER: Did AP exist in the 40s?
DUBNER: You want to hear another Stanley Milgram coincidence? Stanley Milgram was married at the Brotherhood Synagogue in Gramercy Park neighborhood of Manhattan. Guess who else got married at the Brotherhood Synagogue.
DUBNER: Me. And as an homage to Stanley Milgram, we pretended to deliver an electric shock to the rabbi during the ceremony.
DUCKWORTH: That’s adorable.
DUBNER: That’s not true.
Still to come on No Stupid Questions: Stephen and Angela discuss the Jungian idea of synchronicity.
DUCKWORTH Oh my gosh, we’re meant to be together. I’m also a Taurus!
* * *
Before we return to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about coincidence, let’s hear some of your thoughts on the topic. We asked listeners to share their perspectives on seemingly serendipitous moments.
Twitter user @joekourieh writes, “When my dad moved to the US from Syria in the 70s, he first visited N.Y.C. Knowing nobody there, he stopped into an Arab shop to say hello. They chatted a bit about where he was from, and they asked if he knew someone named Abboud. He told them he had a longtime friend by that name. They asked him to describe Abboud. And he did. Then they said, famously, ‘Abboud is in the basement.’ And he was. My dad had found a hometown friend two continents away in one of the world’s biggest cities, totally by chance.
@audrey-trace says, “I absolutely find meaning in these moments — they are a reminder that we all have something in common. Coincidences can be a helpful-perspective adjuster and a great talking point.”
And finally, @pcoelho_rabbit writes, “My name is Paulo. My wife is Paula. My dad’s name is Manuel, and so is hers. Her mom’s name is Armandina, and so is mine. What is the meaning of this coincidence? Nothing whatsoever.”
Thanks to everyone who shared their responses with us. Next week’s episode of the show is about emotional intelligence, and we’d like to try something a little different. If you’d like to share your thoughts on the subject, email a voice memo to NSQ@Freakonomics.com with the subject line “Emotional Intelligence.” Let us know what the term means to you and how significant it is in your personal and professional relationships. Please keep your thoughts under a minute, and maybe we’ll include them on the show! Now, back to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about the human fascination with coincidence.
* * *
DUCKWORTH: I want to bring a word into this that I thought was just the title of the Police song and album, but apparently is a word that predates the Police.
DUCKWORTH: Synchronicity. Yeah. I think Synchronicity was one of the only albums that I possessed in my youth, and I won it in a bar mitzvah — back to the synagogue thing. It was, like, the limbo contest.
DUBNER: Coincidence of coincidences. How “synchronous” is that? Jung invented the phrase, right?
DUCKWORTH: Yeah. Jung was a prominent psychiatrist. He was in the psychoanalytic tradition, but I think it would be inaccurate to call him a follower of Freud. He had this term, “synchronicity,” for events that would happen that were not causally related to each other. So, it wasn’t that event A caused event B. It wasn’t that event B caused event A. There’s a third variable, and maybe it is something that we have no conscious perception of. He had this pen-pal correspondence with a very famous physicist at the time. And they were really talking about the nature of free will, and the universe, and connections between physics and psychology. So, anyway, this idea of synchronicity is that two events might be connected in some way, and one doesn’t cause the other, and yet it’s more than just chance. And I think this had to do with this idea that he had, that there could be forces at play that also might be behind ghosts, and magic, dreams. These are my words, not Jung’s. He had this idea of the collective unconscious — that’s supposed to be some, like, shared mind of all humans.
DUBNER: Which ties into his notion of archetypes. Right? So, there was shared consciousness, but there were individual differences.
DUCKWORTH: Yes. I wouldn’t call Jung a great scientist in the way that we think of scientists today. I mean, he wasn’t data-driven. He was a really interesting thinker. To me, all of this points to the sort of overdeveloped, causal machinery of the human mind.
DUBNER: We look for patterns.
DUCKWORTH: Yeah. We see patterns unbidden.
DUBNER: It sounds like a pejorative. It sounds like you’re saying that’s not a good use of our time, and thinking, and so on. On the other hand, at the beginning of this conversation, you called attention to something that I thought was really interesting, which was the fact that noticing coincidences is an act of paying attention. And so, I would think that you would applaud the instinct, at least, to seek out patterns, even if the patterns turn out to be not-that-meaningful, because it means that you were paying attention in a particular way.
DUCKWORTH Yeah, and, more than that, I do think that looking for patterns— I mean, is there a better definition of learning? When children do things like turn their cereal bowl upside-down to see what happens, they notice this coincidence, which is like, “I see one event — which, I turn the cereal bowl — and another event — milk goes all over the floor.” They’re looking for patterns. Frankly, they’re looking for causality. And I think that casual machinery, which is the foundation of learning, is good. And there are times that our machinery can get us into a little trouble. Like, “Oh my gosh, we’re meant to be together. I’m also a Taurus!” But I think, really, Jung was doing that. I mean, far be it for me to judge Jung, but, like, come on, can’t things just happen by chance?
DUBNER: Okay, but think about this: If Jung had not done that, and had that kind of wooly thinking that you are now not applauding so much, there never would have been a police record called Synchronicity. You never would have gotten it at that bar mitzvah. And you loved that record, did you not?
DUCKWORTH: I love that record.
DUBNER: So, there is no harm, necessarily, in embracing a pursuit of synchronicity or coincidence.
DUCKWORTH: I don’t know that there’s harm, but I guess you could make the argument that seeing patterns that aren’t there could get you into trouble.
DUBNER: Ah, conspiracy. Did you know, for instance, that when they were building the Pentagon, the first date of construction was 9 / 11?
DUCKWORTH: Oh, really? That is spooky.
DUBNER: Exactly. So, I’m sure I could spin out, from that a theory. How about this one? Ben Roethlisberger — the recently retired longtime quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers — as a starting quarterback, he was undefeated in the first home game after the debut of a Spider-Man film. I think there have been something like seven Spider-Man films. Every time Ben Roethlisberger started a game at home after the debut of a Spider-Man film, he won. So, this was a big meme in sports betting circles recently.
DUCKWORTH: It sounds causal.
DUBNER: It sounds causal. Right. “The Steelers are in the Super Bowl. Quick, release a Spider-Man film!” That wouldn’t work, though, because he wouldn’t play a Super Bowl at home. But, anyway, he won a lot of games. And he won a lot of games at home. So, the fact that he won a preponderance of them after the release of a Spider-Man film is actually not very noteworthy at all.
DUCKWORTH: And if you scan the entire NFL roster, and you’re looking at movie debuts, and you looked for patterns, like, “What about this tight end?” You can find things to line up in a pattern, but there’s really no pattern. You’re making a pattern. This is what gets you into trouble. Some things, you know— Spin it out, whatever, your life goes on. There are lots of innocuous examples. Did you know that ginseng roots — you know, my family is Chinese — the ginseng roots that look more like people, they’re more expensive. And, like, whatever, I guess it’s in the category of benign causal inferences. I don’t think there could possibly be any superior medicinal benefit from a root that grew under the ground that happens to look more like a human.
DUBNER: What would you say is more concerning: someone who doesn’t notice an obvious coincidence — which implies that they’re not paying attention — or someone who interprets every coincidence as if it’s more meaningful than it is?
DUCKWORTH: Who either had causal machinery in overdrive, looking for it everywhere, versus a creature who had none, who could never see patterns? I guess I would rather have the overdrive causal machinery. God. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t, here, Stephen.
DUBNER: So, if we were to want to answer directly Selvi’s question — what is it about our psychology that makes us so fascinated by coincidences, “despite the fact that they’re relatively common and meaningless,” she writes — what would you say does make us fascinated? Is it the fact that they are predicated on pattern recognition, and pattern recognition is important for being a human?
DUCKWORTH: I think it’s pretty much that. I think, Selvi, that what a coincidence does is it dangles a little meat in front of the drooling jaws of our causal machinery, because, like, that’s what it feeds on, right? It’s how we learn. And so we should be fascinated by it. We should be selectively attending to them. And maybe only recently, like, within our lifetimes, have we begun to understand human cognition to the point where you can say, “Hey, I recognize that my causal machinery is at work, and it could be accurate that there’s something going on here. And it also could be chance.”
DUBNER: So, if we were to summarize for her, we’d say that most coincidences, indeed, are not meaningful, but our recognition of coincidence is, we’ll agree, perhaps meaningful, at least as an indicator of how our minds seek out patterns, of how we develop causal machinery, of how we learn. And, I would just add — and you may disagree — that it’s fine to take delight in these coincidences in most cases, because it doesn’t cost you anything. It doesn’t hurt anyone — again, in most cases. And, you know, life can be hard and taxing. So, enjoy the fun things that come your way. That would be my approach to coincidence-noticing.
DUCKWORTH: I think that’s a very good prescription. And, you know, there is this Jungian idea. So, I believe in humility, and there is the possibility that a coincidence is neither just purely chance, nor “X is driving Y or Y is driving X.” I guess I just want to say that the jury is out on other possibilities. The jury might always be out, because those possibilities seem pretty far-fetched, but, at any rate, I think I should start watching Succession.
* * *
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 show, Stephen and Angela discuss an attentional bias that Angela remembers as the “Red Honda bias” — where if you purchase a red Honda, suddenly you see red Hondas everywhere. This illusion is commonly referred to as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. The name originated in 1994 in an online discussion board for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. A commentor came up with it after hearing about the ultra-left-wing German terrorist the Baader-Meinhof Gang twice in 24 hours. The phrase became a meme on the newspaper’s discussion boards, and the name stuck.
Later, Stephen tells the story of how presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day. He says that Adams’s final words were “Jefferson lives,” and that they were said in frustration. Adams actually said, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” And they weren’t said with spite. In January of 1812, Adams reached out to Jefferson with a desire to renew their friendship, and the men enjoyed 14 years of amiable correspondence before their deaths in 1826.
Then, when trying to figure out what social psychologists Philip Zimbardo and Stanley Milgram have in common, Angela jokes that it’s not the number of letters in their names. However, both men have names that are 14 letters long.
Also, Stephen wonders if AP classes existed in the ’40s, when Milgram and Zimbardo were in high school. The men actually graduated in 1950, five years too early for advanced placement classes. The program began in 1955 and was inspired by fear that American high school students were falling behind the Soviet Union.
Finally, Stephen says that Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger is undefeated as a starting quarterback in all first home games after the release of a Spider-Man movie. And there have been, quote, “something like seven Spider-Man films.” There have actually been a total of nine Spider-Man movies. The first was released in 2002, and the most recent one came out in 2021. However, only seven affected the Roethlisberger stat. The original came out before Roethlisberger was drafted in 2004. And the Steelers actually lost their first home game after the release of the 2018 movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse. But headlines get around that by saying the stat only applies to live-action movies, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse is computer-animated.
That’s it for the fact-check.
* * *
Coming up next week on No Stupid Questions: Is emotional intelligence a real, quantifiable thing?
DUCKWORTH: You know, you’re having a performance review, and the person that you’re giving the feedback to breaks out in tears and starts crying uncontrollably. What do you do next?
DUBNER: Slap them hard across the face.
That’s next week on No Stupid Questions.
* * *
No Stupid Questions is produced by Stitcher and Renbud Radio and is part of the Freakonomics Radio Network, which also includes Freakonomics Radio, People I (Mostly) Admire, and Freakonomics, M.D. This show was mixed by Eleanor Osborne. Our staff also includes Alison Craiglow, Greg Rippin, Morgan Levey, Zack Lapinski, Mary Diduch, Ryan Kelley, Jasmin Klinger, Emma Tyrell, Lyric Bowdich, and Jacob Clemente. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, or to read episode transcripts, visit Freakonomics.com/NSQ. Thanks for listening!
DUBNER: If it were not financially and ecologically unsound, I would wear brand new socks every day of the year.
DUCKWORTH: I’m just trying to think, is it so bad when they’re washed? But look, we both love socks.
DUBNER: Isn’t that a coincidence, by the way, that we both love socks?
- “Ben Roethlisberger’s Success Has Surprising Link to ‘Spider-Man’ Movie,” by Jason Hall (Fox Sports, 2021).
- “Is Your Phone Really Listening to Your Conversations? Well, Turns Out it Doesn’t Have To,” by Dana Rezazadegan (The Conversation, 2021).
- “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” by Saul McLeod (Simply Psychology, 2020).
- “The Milgram Shock Experiment,” by Saul McLeod (Simply Psychology, 2020).
- “What the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon Is and Why You May See It Again…and Again,” by Ann Pietrangelo (Healthline, 2019).
- “The Craze for Wild Ginseng, America’s Alt-Viagra,” by Clint Rainey (New York Magazine, 2015).
- Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman (2013).
- “Probability and the Birthday Paradox,” (Scientific American, 2012).
- “This Day in History: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams Die,” by History.com (2009).
- “Emperor of the Edge,” by Christina Maslach (Psychology Today, 2000).
- “Historical Notes: A Compendium of Curious Incidences,” (TIME, 1964).
- Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle (From Vol. 8 of The Collected Works of C.G. Jung), by Carl Jung (1952).
- Succession, H.B.O. series (2018–Present).
- “How Can You Stop Comparing Yourself With Other People?” by No Stupid Questions (2020).
- Synchronicity, by The Police (1983).