Learning as vibes

Liked You’ll forget most of what you learn. What should you do about that? by Adam Mastroianni (Experimental History)

Knowledge fades fast, especially when you don’t use it. In the words of the late, great psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, “All sorts of ideas, if left to themselves, are gradually forgotten”

Feelings, or vibes, on the other hand, seem to stick around a lot longer.

Connection here to facts not convincing people; feelings shape people’s opinions.


Pluralistic ignorance

Bookmarked Pluralistic ignorance by Contributors to Wikimedia projects (Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.)

refers to a situation in which the minority position on a given topic is wrongly perceived to be the majority position or where the majority position is wrongly perceived to be the minority position.

When I was little I assumed most people I met were also not religious 😂 I then carried that assumption forward to other geeky people like me, but I finally learned my lesson on this front in my twenties.

Now collectively the US is suffering from this phenomenon wherein Republicans cannot fathom that their views are unpopular and so believe elections are being stolen from them. Of course, no one wants to admit they’re in the wrong, and especially not when it puts them on the losing side, so we face an uphill battle for democracy now they’ve dug in and refuse to believe anything contrary to their belief in their majority, from demographics to clean audits to a complete lack of evidence of wrongdoing.


Imagining a better way — for everything

Liked Things could be better by Adam Mastroianni (Experimental History)

Eight studies reveal a (possibly universal) bias in human imagination

The paper you just read could never be published in a scientific journal. The studies themselves are just as good as the ones Ethan and I have published in fancy journals, but writing about science this way is verboten.

For instance, in a journal you’re not allowed to say things like “we don’t know why this happens.” You’re not allowed to admit that you forgot why you ran a study.

Even in the world of science, where “wrong” answers are as useful as “right,” people want to look like they are smart and got it right first try.

And for writing, people conflate complex with quality, when in fact simpler communication can be more challenging to write because it cannot rely on an audience’s knowledge of jargon or the field and must fully explain everything from assumptions to method to reasoning to the implications of the results.

Love the radical approach to self-publishing scientific research — I’m curious how he feels about the quantity and quality of commentary he got on this compared to articles in a journal.

Because paywalling science really sucks. Limiting access to institutions deprives the public of access to humanity’s realm of knowledge, while excluding anyone but experts from participating in science (when let’s be real a lot of science is very MacGuyver/DIY-y in its tangibles — like the ecological research I worked on involved 5 gallon buckets buried in the dirt with damp sponges at the bottom and kiddie soccer cones binder clipped to tubes of wire fencing). Could democratizing research help with anti-intellectualism?

Health Society

Why others get upset when you mask

Bookmarked Why Do They *Think* That? by JTO, Ph.D. (

I’ll just give you a non-comprehensive run-down of various biases (which are basically rules of cognition that become errors when they’re incorrectly applied) and heuristics (which are basically thinking shortcuts or strategies that can lead to thinking errors), focusing on those that can cause people to be more alarmed by risk reduction than by the risk posed by actual threats.

Why people don’t seem to care about the health risks”

  • People don’t like to think about death or disability
  • Death and disability are abstract without personal experience
  • Selection and survivorship biases when they only see healthy people out and about
  • People estimate their own risk based on personal experiences
  • “base-rate fallacy: people are much more swayed by single dramatic events than by large numbers or probability statistics”
  • Optimism Bias = expect they’ll have a good outcome
  • Perceived invulnerability = don’t think bad stuff will happen to them
  • Diffusion of Responsibility –> they can’t directly see or be held responsible for the consequences of their actions (e.g. passing along sickness so people you don’t know die)
  • Just World Thinking = “people get what they deserve” because otherwise would have to admit the world is unfair and random, and can attribute their success to their own choices by blaming what others have done differently than them (e.g. get vaxxed)
  • Fundamental Attribution Error, which leads us to focus on personal vs. situational causes for other people’s behavior and outcomes – though not for our own”

Why do people seem to care so much that YOU care about Covid health risks?

  • Cognitive Dissonance
  • Confirmation Bias
  • Psychological Reactance –> people get mad when they think their freedoms are under attack or they’ll lose control –> trying to reassert control
  • “people personalize the actions of others, inferring that those people mean to have a negative effect on them – for example, thinking that masked people are deliberately trying to make them irate or imply they’re stupid” = hostile attribution bias
  • group norms, conformity, and group consensus
  • group think happens when going along with your group trumps making an informed decision –> group polarization = group beliefs gradually become more radical

“People wish to be seen (by themselves and others) as reasonable. Because of this, when folks try to decide on a “rational” response to an environmental threat, they often look at the array of available risk mitigation options and try to pick a percentage of these that is neither an ‘under-response’ or an ‘over-response.’” “Unfortunately, that’s not the way risk actually works; a threat is what it is, and it isn’t going to negotiate with you regarding how much you have to do or what is a “fair” amount of effort.”


Mental Health Self Care Society The Internet

Read Notes on a Nervous Planet

Read Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

The societies we live in are increasingly making our minds ill, making it feel as though the way we live is engineered to make us unhappy. When Matt Haig developed panic disorder, anxiety, and depression as an adult, it took him a long time to work out the ways the external world could impact his mental health in both positive and negative ways. Notes on a Nervous Planet collects his observations, taking a look at how the various social, commercial and technological “advancements” that have created the world we now live in can actually hinder our happiness. Haig examines everything from broader phenomena like inequality, social media, and the news; to things closer to our daily lives, like how we sleep, how we exercise, and even the distinction we draw between our minds and our bodies.

Very casual writing style, like a collection of blog posts (even listicles 😂). I don’t have as much trouble as he does with phone use, but can relate to the overall overwhelming information intake of the internet and the constant marketing pressures. Enjoyed reading through this slowly. Complementary to Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks.

Science Fiction

Watched Voyagers

Watched Voyagers from

A crew of astronauts on a multi-generational mission descend into paranoia and madness, not knowing what is real or not.

For a bunch of very smart people, they were mostly very dumb.

This mission design seems ill advised.

Vague plot spoilers:


Pain Without Injury

Watched The mysterious science of pain – Joshua W. Pate by TED-Ed from

Explore the biological and psychological factors that influence how we experience pain and how our nervous system reactions to harmful stimuli.

Personal Growth

Take the Bet

Watched Would You Take This Bet? by Veritasium from

How much would it take for you to risk $10?

I like how he takes this lesson about loss aversion and taking lots of little bets with equal odds of winning and losing, and encourages people to make little bets in their lives when winning could make their lives better. Even if you win and lose as often, overall you’ll come out ahead.

I like this reminder as a pretty risk averse person.

Mental Health The Internet

Zoom Exhaustion

Bookmarked A Theory of Zoom Fatigue by L. M. Sacasas (The Convivial Society)

Why is video-conferencing so exhausting?

The problem with video-conferencing is that the body is but isn’t there… The situation is more like a face-to-face encounter than most any other medium, but, for that very reason, it frustrates us because it is, nonetheless, significantly different. I suppose we might think of it as something like a conversational uncanny valley. The full range of what the mind assumes should be available to it when it perceives a body, simply isn’t there…

Participants are not, in fact, sharing the same physical space, making it difficult to perceive our conversation partners as part of a cohesive perceptive field. They lose their integrity as objects of perception, which is to say they don’t appear whole and independent; they appear truncated and as parts of a representation within another object of perception, the screen.


Listened to Frugal Hedonism Podcast

Listened Annie Raser Rowland on frugal hedonism and living more creatively with less by Madeleine Dore from Routines and Ruts podcast

Artist, horticulturist and author Annie Raser Rowland shares how spending less can enliven us to a magnificent spectrum of pleasures.

  • “Getting” feeling really satisfying for people, find ways besides consumerism to fill that need, like learning something or getting a new story
  • Offer up cheap alternatives as ways to gather, like watching the sunset or grabbing snacks and walking around instead of dinner at a pricey restaurant
  • Pick a high target for what proportion of things you buy used versus new, like 95%, so most of the time you won’t even consider new an option [side note: I’ve found it much harder to get used items during the pandemic since I don’t want to browse and shipping often makes vintage unreasonable]
  • Pay close attention to the urge to treat yourself, and how much you rely on money to make yourself feel better
  • Don’t think of days with lots of admin and adulting and crap you wish you didn’t have to do as days to get through to “real life” – seek out the flavor of life even during these less than ideal days, like through noticing details and sensory experience