How complacent are you? Possibly more than you believe

Tuesday, 21 March, 2017

US economist and writer Tyler Cowen contends Americans are becoming ever more settled, and impervious to change. Are you one of them? Or, if you reside outside the US, are you likewise becoming complacent? Take the quiz, and find out.

To score any better than comfortable, which is one step better than a complacent rating, you need, I think, to follow the example of Jordan Peterson:

He’s been a dishwasher, gas jockey, bartender, short-order cook, beekeeper, oil derrick bit re-tipper, plywood mill labourer and railway line worker. He’s taught mythology to lawyers, doctors and businessmen, consulted for the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Sustainable Development, helped his clinical clients manage depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia, served as an advisor to senior partners of major Canadian law firms, identified thousands of promising entrepreneurs on six different continents, and lectured extensively in North America and Europe.

In case you end up with the worst possible rating, complacent, Cowen offers a number of suggestions for helping to break out of the mould at the conclusion of the quiz.

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YouTube stardom, it’s not the way you look, it’s the way you talk

Wednesday, 8 March, 2017

If you want to succeed as a YouTube influencer, listen to the way those with large followings speak. In fact, you may have already noticed some similarities in their style. Long story short, it’s all about delivering your message with an “intellectual used-car-salesman voice”, says Julie Beck, writing for The Atlantic.

So it turns out the “YouTube voice” is just a variety of ways of emphasizing words, none of which are actually exclusive to YouTube – people employ these devices in speech all the time. But they generally do it to grab the listener’s attention, and when you’re just talking to a camera without much action, it takes a little more to get, and keep, that attention.

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Simón Prades, Saarbrücken based editorial illustrator

Friday, 17 February, 2017

Illustration by Simon Prades

Simón Prades lives in the German city of Saarbrücken, where he works as an editorial illustrator. Judging by some of his more recent works, he seems interested in what is happening inside people’s heads. This illustration, for instance, was for an article about the minds of evil people.

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It’s crazy but we’re all frightened by the sound of the telephone

Friday, 17 February, 2017

I’m one to avoid telephones if I can, though that can’t be a surprise, but it appears, as with Robert Palmer, I’m not alone. More people, it seems, are shying away from making or taking phone calls, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them though.

Hating the phone doesn’t necessarily mean you have social anxiety – the two often go hand in hand, but some people who are otherwise perfectly fine with social interactions have a deep-seated fear of making or receiving a call. And besides, you’re in good company. There’s not a lot of hard data out there about how many people hate the phone, but research suggests that more are shying away from it.

As a method of communication, it is one of the more invasive. The phone rings, interrupting whatever you’re in the middle of, and you feel an obligation to stop what you’re doing, and take the call. Letters, email, messaging, and texting, all allow you the option to respond later.

But not the phone, or not, at least, back in the day. Today we have the luxury of being able to reject calls, or route them though to voicemail, for people still using voicemail, that is. When it comes to trying to contact someone though, they’re not much more effective.

The person you’re attempting to call is either driving, in a meeting, out of range, or simply isn’t answering. So you reach their voicemail, if they have one. Aside then from emergencies, and situations where you can arrange a time to call someone else, they’re good for nothing.

Short wonder telephones give rise to anxiety.

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Is winning a big prize in the lottery a ticket to happiness?

Monday, 13 February, 2017

This was a point touched on by the protagonists in Richard Linklater’s 2004 film, Before Sunset. Ethan Hawke’s character, Jesse, is discussing with Celine, portrayed by Julie Delpy, the findings of a study that had followed people who had either won the lottery, or become paraplegics.

Two different situations that are very definitely good or bad. In short, after about six months, once used to their new circumstances, study participants felt the same as they had originally. If someone was of a positive disposition, they remained upbeat, even if confined to a wheelchair.

Here, Nashville based art director and animator, Allen Laseter, looks at the question in regards to lottery winners, in this TED-Ed video clip. While individual character is part of the equation, it seems people who spent their winnings on others, rather than themselves, were happier.

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Fortune favours those who think they’re bold. And the open minded

Wednesday, 8 February, 2017

Here’s something for anyone who feels they’re down on their luck. Try imagining that you’re in fact lucky, and that you’re on a winning streak. It’s a phenomenon I’ve observed before. Positive thinking, and the like. When you think things might go your way, often times they can, says Chelsea Wald, writing for Nautilus.

A belief in luck can lead to a virtuous cycle of thought and action. Belief in good luck goes hand in hand with feelings of control, optimism, and low anxiety. If you believe you’re lucky and show up for a date feeling confident, relaxed, and positive, you’ll be more attractive to your date.

Being lucky though is not only about thinking you are lucky. An open mind, an awareness of your surroundings, and keeping anxieties in check, also plays a part, writes Teresa Iafolla, in a separate Nautilus article.

Lucky people don’t magically attract new opportunities and good fortune. They stroll along with their eyes wide open, fully present in the moment (a problem for people glued to phone screens). This also means that anything that affects our physical or emotional ability to take in our environment also affects our so-called “luckiness” – anxiety, for one. Anxiety physically and emotionally closes us off to chance opportunities.

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When too much art is bad for you. That’s Stendhal Syndrome

Wednesday, 1 February, 2017

Everything in moderation. Too much of a good thing. And so on. It’s not just the likes of alcohol, or sweet and fatty snacks, where restricted intake is required. An excess of art can trigger a psychosomatic illness known as Stendhal Syndrome, or Florence Syndrome, or hyperkulturemia.

When exposed to the concentrated works of art, affected individuals experience a wide range of symptoms including physical and emotional anxiety (rapid heart rate and intense dizziness, that often results in panic attacks and/or fainting), feelings of confusion and disorientation, nausea, dissociative episodes, temporary amnesia, paranoia, and – in extreme cases – hallucinations and temporary “madness”.

I sincerely hope you’re not in this category, if so, you are in the wrong place. As you can see, if you look around you.

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Keeping calm under pressure, what a bomb disposal experts knows

Monday, 30 January, 2017

Some tips for keeping calm, while under pressure, from a bomb disposal expert. If anyone knows how to keep their cool in highly stressful situations, it would have to be a bomb disposal expert.

And if you’re looking to see a bomb disposal expert keeping calm while working under pressure, take a look at Bomb Harvest, a documentary about the work of Laith Stevens, a former army bomb disposal technician, and the efforts of his team to clear Laos of unexploded ordnances left over from the war in Vietnam.

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People who prefer time alone may be highly intelligent. Really?

Tuesday, 24 January, 2017

I’m more introvert that extrovert, and as a result enjoy time by myself. Now I read that people who prefer to spend time alone, tend to have higher IQs than those who would rather socialise more. There must be some mistake. In my case, anyway.

Researchers recently published a study in The British Journal of Psychology that looked into how intelligence, population density, and friendship affect modern happiness. While the conventional results showed that the more social interaction people have, the happier they feel, it wasn’t true for all people. They surveyed 15,000 people between the ages of 15 and 28 and noticed a surprising pattern – People at the higher end of the I.Q. spectrum reported being less satisfied with social interaction including just hanging out with friends.

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The Trolley Problem, illustrated and animated

Thursday, 19 January, 2017

British philosopher Philippa Foot’s ethical dilemma, the Trolley Problem, presents us with quite the conundrum.

A runaway train threatens the lives of five people further along a rail line. For whatever reason, the five are unaware the train is approaching, or they’re unable to get themselves off the line.

You, however, could switch the train onto another line, sparing the five. However, a sole person is on this other line. Do you sacrifice one person for the sake of the five? Or not?

While the dilemma may seem like an academic exercise, it has real life ramifications. The advent of driver-less cars is a case in point. In an emergency situation, an autonomous vehicle may find itself needing to choose between the apparent lesser of two unpleasant outcomes.

I wonder what will happen there?

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