In conversations, “filled pauses” have a purpose

“I felt like I had lost touch with who I was, that I was somebody else.” – Jane Mickelson, the protagonist in this week’s episode.


  • Can’t seem to stop peppering your speech with ums, likes, or uhs? Here’s some consolation: linguists call these utterances “filled pauses,” and it turns out, they play a crucial role in conversation. “For example, while a silent pause might be interpreted as a sign for others to start speaking, a filled pause can signal that you’re not finished yet,” explains Lorenzo García-Amaya of the University of Michigan in a TED-Ed video. Filled pauses also buy time for your speech to catch up with your thoughts. Watch the full video to find out how these verbal idiosyncrasies serve a meaningful purpose when it comes to everyday conversation.

  • Does passion trump hard work? A new Stanford study found that, when deciding which candidates to admit to college or hire for a job, decision-makers in individualistic societies often emphasize passion. And this, in turn, may make them overlook talented candidates from collectivist cultures, where support from family is often considered as important as passion and individual motivation. The researchers found that those being passed over may include low-income Americans and first-generation immigrants. “We need to make our admission and hiring processes fair to people from diverse backgrounds,” said the study’s lead author, Xingyu Li. The research sheds light on how cultural differences can play out in the workplace and beyond. 

  • When you’re hungry, it can be hard to think of anything other than food. When you’re broke, you may constantly worry about making ends meet. When you’re lonely, you might obsess about making friends. Researchers explain what your brain looks like when it’s been hijacked by scarcity.


May 10: Have you ever felt as if someone else was writing your personal narrative? Controlling what you do, shaping how you act? This week, we bring you a surreal tale about a woman who became a reluctant character in someone else’s love story. 

May 17: We all change our minds from time to time. The decisions we make often vary depending on our mood or circumstances. But when it comes to matters of judgment, this variability is often unwanted. Nobel-prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls this “noise.” Noise, he says, is pervasive in our lives, and it’s often a much bigger problem than we realize.  


A puzzle for you…

Walking down a road, you reach a fork, where you meet two brothers. They’re identical except that one can only tell the truth, while the other can only tell lies. You’re not sure which fork to take, but you do know that one side leads to eternal life and happiness, while the other side leads to death and destruction. To figure out which road to take, you can only ask one brother one question. You don’t know which brother is the liar and which one tells the truth. What question should you ask?


Peter's father has five sons. The names of four sons are Fefe, Fifi, Fafa, and Fufu. What’s the name of the fifth son? 

The answer: Peter. Peter’s father has five sons, and Peter is one of them.


How do you take advantage of negentropy? What are some small habits that help your life run smoother?


A post-pandemic guide to etiquette. “See those long, tubular things in the back of the closet? Those are pants. You’ll need those.”

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