Society The Internet

Critical Ignoring

Bookmarked Critical Ignoring as a Core Competence for Digital Citizens by Kozyreva et al (

Low-quality and misleading information online can hijack people’s attention, often by evoking curiosity, outrage, or anger. Resisting certain types of information and actors online requires people to adopt new mental habits that help them avoid being tempted by attention-grabbing and potentially harmful content. We argue that digital information literacy must include the competence of critical ignoring—choosing what to ignore and where to invest one’s limited attentional capacities. We review three types of cognitive strategies for implementing critical ignoring: self-nudging, in which one ignores temptations by removing them from one’s digital environments; lateral reading, in which one vets information by leaving the source and verifying its credibility elsewhere online; and the do-not-feed-the-trolls heuristic, which advises one to not reward malicious actors with attention.

As important as the ability to think critically continues to be, we argue that it is insufficient to borrow the tools developed for offline environments and apply them to the digital world.

Investing effortful and conscious critical thinking in sources that should have been ignored in the first place means that one’s attention has already been expropriated (Caulfield, 2018). Digital literacy and critical thinking should therefore include a focus on the competence of critical ignoring: choosing what to ignore, learning how to resist low-quality and misleading but cognitively attractive information, and deciding where to invest one’s limited attentional capacities.

This is like a “to don’t” list — deciding what to ignore.

Lateral reading begins with a key insight: One cannot necessarily know how trustworthy a website or a social-media post is by engaging with and critically reflecting on its content. Without relevant background knowledge or reliable indicators of trustworthiness, the best strategy for deciding whether one can believe a source is to look up the author or organization and the claims elsewhere… Instead of dwelling on an unfamiliar site (i.e., reading vertically), fact-checkers strategically and deliberately ignored it until they first opened new tabs to search for information about the organization or individual behind it.


Via Paul Millerd:

A common heuristic for many is to pay attention to what other people are talking about. This worked well enough for most people for a long time but it seems to be [failing(?)] in an age of information overload because of how fast the “current thing” changes.

This is my approach too — I like the way he phrases it in feeding his curiosity:

My approach instead is to follow individuals and I try to think about this like a diversified portfolio of information, optimizing for the long-term aliveness of my own curiosity.

Environment Health Science

Correlation does not equal causation: tree planting episode

Replied to The association between tree planting and mortality: A natural experiment and cost-benefit analysis (

Tree planting in Portland, Oregon is associated with decreases in non-accidental and cardiovascular mortality, and the magnitude of this association increased as trees aged and grew.

Look, I’m a huge proponent of planting trees but you gotta be careful about correlation and causation. The article itself admits that “It is an observational study, so it cannot establish a causal relationship between trees and mortality.” Yet you’d believe the study established causation based on the monetary claims about the value of tree planting if you only read the abstract, which claims, “Using US EPA estimates of a value of a statistical life, we estimated that planting a tree in each of Portland’s 140 Census tracts would generate $14.2 million in annual benefits (95 % CI: $8.0 million to $20.4 million).” You cannot make this estimate if you do not know it to be a causal relationship.

I get really pissed when environmentalists mislead the public towards their preferred outcome using faulty or over-interpreted data*. I wrote a report about single-use items a few years ago, and the deeper I dug into statements about straws and such that were listed on environmental advocacy sites, the more of a sham they turned out to be. I wound up doing a literature review to find valid, empirical evidence in support of our paper, and uncovered that compostable packaging actually has greater impacts when it is not composted — which is often!

Tell people to plant trees because they clean the air, provide shade, and reduce flooding, but don’t lie and tell them planting a tree will make them live longer.

*There are many reasons for this in the scientific literature, but at the core comes down to two challenges: science is insufficiently funded and researchers are rewarded for significant findings. See also: Imagining a better way — for everything


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 Mental Health

Anxiety and depression increase risk of long COVID

Bookmarked Psychological, not physical factors linked to long COVID (

“We were surprised by how strongly psychological distress before a COVID-19 infection was associated with an increased risk of long COVID,” said Siwen Wang, a researcher in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School who led the study. “Distress was more strongly associated with developing long COVID than physical health risk factors such as obesity, asthma, and hypertension.”

[D]istress before COVID-19 infection, including depression, anxiety, worry, perceived stress, and loneliness, was associated with a 32 percent to 46 percent increased risk of long COVID. These types of psychological distress were also associated with 15 percent to 51 percent greater risk of daily life impairment due to long COVID.

I hate self-fulfilling prophesies.

Link to paper:

Associations of Depression, Anxiety, Worry, Perceived Stress, and Loneliness Prior to Infection With Risk of Post–COVID-19 Conditions by Wang etc al, JAMA Psychiatry (2022)

Health Self Care Work

Chronic stress recovery

4 elements of recovery activities:

  1. Psychological detachment
  2. Relaxation
  3. Mastery
  4. Control (choosing how to spend your time and doing things the way you want to do them)


Sonnentag S, Fritz C. The Recovery Experience Questionnaire: development and validation of a measure for assessing recuperation and unwinding from work. J Occup Health Psychol. 2007 Jul;12(3):204-21. doi: 10.1037/1076-8998.12.3.204. PMID: 17638488. (No free full text)

Cortisol levels may actually be low in chronic stress due to:

  • Desensitization of the receptors that interact with cortisol
  • Exhausted secretion of cortisol
  • Enhancement of the negative feedback loop process


Hannibal, K. E., & Bishop, M. D. (2014). Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation. Physical therapy, 94(12), 1816-1825.

Fries, Eva, Judith Hesse, Juliane Hellhammer, and Dirk H. Hellhammer. “A new view on hypocortisolism.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 30, no. 10 (2005): 1010-1016.

(See also:

Fiksdal, Alexander & Thoma, Myriam & Hanlin, Luke & St. Pierre, Danielle & Chen, Xuejie & Rohleder, Nicolas. (2017). Chronic stress moderates late phase cortisol recovery from acute stress.

–> Chronic stress was evaluated using the Trier Chronic Stress Inventory (TICS) )

Recommend keeping consistent sleep and wake times to reinforce the normal pattern of cortisol release that is supposed to happen when you wake up.

(See also:

Duan H, Yuan Y, Zhang L, Qin S, Zhang K, Buchanan TW, Wu J. Chronic stress exposure decreases the cortisol awakening response in healthy young men. Stress. 2013 Nov;16(6):630-7. doi: 10.3109/10253890.2013.840579. Epub 2013 Oct 1. PMID: 23992539.)

Good explanation of adrenal dysfunction:

4 Secret Tips to Improve Adrenal Dysfunction


Office temperature does make a difference

Bookmarked Battle for the thermostat: Gender and the effect of temperature on cognitive performance (

At higher temperatures, women perform better on a math and verbal task while the reverse effect is observed for men. The increase in female performance in response to higher temperature is significantly larger and more precisely estimated than the corresponding decrease in male performance.

Our findings suggest that gender mixed workplaces may be able to increase productivity by setting the thermostat higher than current standards.

😂 It makes me happy someone has legit looked into this.

Another option: for jobs it’s possible, let people keep working from home where we aren’t in physical discomfort for eight hours a day 😉

Relationships Work

Physical proximity doesn’t necessarily result in collaboration

Bookmarked Collaboration, Physical Proximity and Serendipitous Encounters: Avoiding collaboration in a collaborative building (

In summary, employees reduced their openness to chance by focusing on existing collaborations, avoided searching for collaborators from other groups by reinforcing group boundaries, minimized flexibility by enacting legacy policies and restricted the obligation to interact by minimizing social interactions. Together, the four strategies resulted in the outcome of avoiding collaboration because they prevented employees experiencing the mechanisms of chance, search, flexibility and the obligation to interact that in combination led to serendipitous encounters.

A building designed to be collaborative actually led people to be less collaborative because there was no adjustment to their workplace cultural values, social structure and social norming to encourage collaboration and serendipity. Here, the space wasn’t enough on its own to achieve the goal — a collaborative space alone couldn’t overcome people’s behaviors.

Relationships Science

Half your friends change over seven years

Bookmarked Half Of Your Friends Lost In Seven Years, Social Network Study Finds (ScienceDaily)

Over a period of seven years the average size of personal networks was found to be strikingly stable. However, during the course of seven years we replace many members of our network with other people. Only thirty percent of the discussion partners and practical helpers still held the same position seven years later. Only 48 percent were still part of the network.

Networks in contexts : How meeting opportunities affect personal relationships (2009) by G.W. Mollenhorst


Cool Nature Science

Supergene divergence leads to “four sexes” in white throated sparrows

Liked The Fascinating and Complicated Sex Lives of White-throated Sparrows by Kenn Kaufman (Audubon)

With their quadruple personalities, those little brown birds at your feeder are a lot more interesting than they might appear.

I am not a bird person but this is legit fascinating. They buried the juicy bit down at the bottom of the article.

Field researchers noticed over 25 years of research that the two color morphs of this species *nearly always* cross-breed with each other, so they dug into the genetics and discovered a supergene that influences hormones that influences behavior to the point where there are effectively FOUR sexes of these birds!

(Actually good) explainer video from the original paper:

(Go go basic science research! Sometimes you need to look at things close enough to realize there’s something interesting going on — originally they thought the morphs were juveniles!)


Word prevalence indicates word difficulty

Bookmarked Word prevalence norms for 62,000 English lemmas (

Word prevalence refers to the number of people who know the word. The measure was obtained on the basis of an online crowdsourcing study involving over 220,000 people.

Word prevalence is also likely to be of interest to natural language processing researchers writing algorithms to gauge the difficulty of texts. At present, word frequency is used as a proxy of word difficulty (e.g., Benjamin, 2012; De Clercq & Hoste, 2016; Hancke, Vajjala, & Meurers, 2012). Word prevalence is likely to be a better measure, given that it does not completely reduce to differences in word frequency.

Dropped into this article from the table of words men are more likely to know than women and vice versa. They are mostly specialty vocabulary – for women, textiles, for men, military and mechanical. I hadn’t thought much before of the gender skew of vocabulary, and what it implies to know certain specialty words over others, and am not sure how to feel about knowing a lot more of the “women ones” despite being a science major and reading lots of military sci-fi and not being super into clothes 😉 I’d be more interested to see gender differences for slightly less specialized words.