#58 — Art Markman (University of Texas)


Hello! And welcome to another edition of Inside The Newsroom. Today’s guest is… Art Markman, cognitive scientist and psychology professor at the University of Texas in Austin. Art is the first guest to appear on the podcast for a second time, having got into why the majority of people who believe in climate change aren’t willing to sacrifice anything from their own lives back in March. This time around we went deep into risk profiles and how they make us make the decisions we make. Before we get into it, you can add Inside The Newsroom directly to your preferred podcast app using this link. Below is a post-game of everything we talked about and more. Enjoy 🤓

Art Markman 👇

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Knowing Our Own Risk Profile

Knowing our own risk profile is important. It requires looking inward to identify why we make certain choices: What we like or dislike doing, what makes us scared or confident, and how we can overcome our fears. Quick question: do you consider yourself a risk-taker or risk-averse?

Risks can be broken down into five types, according to Art, also known as “risk domains”. First up is financial risk, which is pretty self-explanatory… How willing are you to spend money without knowing exactly what you’ll get in return? For example, are you willing to spend thousands of dollars for a graduate degree without knowing whether future earnings will be worth the initial outlay? Next up is social risk, i.e. are you willing to make a fool of yourself in a group of new people in order to make friends? Third, is ethics. Then comes recreational risk… Are you more of a softball player or bungee jumper? And lastly is health risk, which is probably something none of us consciously think of when we have a pint or glass of wine, or smoke a cigarette or a blunt.

Next task: I went through each domain and wrote down a couple of examples for each of what kind of risk raker I am, and it made my outlook a little clearer. So how about you? What kind of risk taker are you?

Art Markman for Fast Company

Analysis Paralysis

One risk domain Art didn’t mention in his article was that of time. More than any other domain, how to spend free time is my most agonizing. Whether its freelancing on the side of my regular job which has an obvious financial incentive, writing this newsletter which has no financial incentive, or simply debating how best to spend a free hour I have. Ironically, my brain works its hardest when trying to figure out how to relax.

Fortunately there’s a term for extreme indecisiveness: free-time paralysis, or 'analysis paralysis’. Essentially, it’s the idea that having too much choice, or too much time, leaves our brain overwhelmed with all the possibilities that we end up doing nothing. But the first-world problems don’t stop there. Shame and guilt then creep into our psyche over the complete failure to achieve anything.

One technique you can try tomorrow is what Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, calls ‘going for good enough’. Instead of agonizing over perfection or completing every single task on your list, settle for good enough and it will unlock more happiness and satisfaction.

Daniella Scott, Cosmopolitan

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The Power of Introverts

If you’re like me, going to a work event or conference is more of a burden than a pleasure. Standing around making aimless smalltalk with people wIouldn’t socialize outside of work isn’t my idea of fun. It’s excruciating. I thought I was part of the minority feeling like this, but thanks to Susan Cain’s amazing book Quiet, it turns out that I’m not alone.

In fact, there was a time when introverts were among the majority. A time when extroverts weren’t so excessively and misguidedly respected by society. A time when we didn’t make only extroverts the CEOs of our companies or the political leaders of our countries. Cain cites the increase of mass media and communication since the start of the industrial revolution as the primary reason behind why the loudest and boldest people are rewarded over the contemplative and well-informed.

Sarah Cain, Author of Quiet

Social Media and Introverts Don’t Mix

If you’re like me, you know you should probably get off social media completely, but enjoy keeping in touch with what’s going on in the world without having to talk to anyone. Unfortunately, that comes with a price. According to a study by the Royal Society for Public Health, the majority of Britons aged 14-24 believed that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter had negative effects on their mental health and wellbeing.

Personally, Instagram is the most poisonous of them all. Unlike the other major platforms — Facebook has fake news, Twitter has trolls that troll — Instagram goes one worse. Instagram exacerbates our worst traits of social comparison. Posting pictures with the sole aim of getting as many people (often strangers) to click that little red heart button has unnatural and extremely damaging effects to our mental state. When I posted pictures, I checked my phone literally every two minutes to see how many likes I’d received. My target was usually to get to three figures. Let’s think for a minute: How insane is that? Waiting by your phone until you got to 100. Regardless of how many likes I got, it was a lose-lose situation.

That’s because it’s completely unnatural for our brains to generate such an intense rush of dopamine, only to crash hard once we don't get to 100 likes. Even if it did, masking your unhappiness isn't worth it.

The Economist

Last week…

#57 — Stephen M. Walt (Harvard) on whether the U.S. could have a successful foreign policy again

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Job Corner

Each week I’ll feature a selection of new journalism jobs. This week, The Seattle Times has a number of cool positions…

Business Reporter

Editorial Writer

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Political Editor

Project Homeless Reporter

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