June 23, 2021

The Uncertainty, Anxiety, Information Paradox


We live in a world filled with uncertainty. Often this uncertainty leads to anxiety about the future. Fortunately, information can reduce uncertainty, and in turn, reduce anxiety. The catch is that the new information may also uncover new uncertainty, leading to increased anxiety. In this episode, we explore the seemingly paradoxical relationship among uncertainty, anxiety, and information and consider examples from daily life whether it’s checking the weather or a kitty peeking around the corner. We won’t let this conundrum contribute to your anxiety, though. Tune in to learn about helpful strategies to handle the uncertainty/anxiety/information paradox. Naturally, Stoicism is part of the solution.



Transcript
Craig:

Hi, folks, this is Craig van slyke. Welcome to the rational ignorance podcast where we talk about facts, values and living life. Well,

Andrea:

Hi everyone. I'm Andrea Christelle, a philosopher and outdoor enthusiast who lives in Sedona, Arizona,

Craig:

and I'm a business professor, author and rancher who lives in the middle of the woods in eras, Louisiana. We're here to have fun practical conversations with smart, interesting people to help us cut through the noise and get to what really matters.

Andrea:

Rational ignorance is an idea from economics, that basically means there is a limit to what we need to know. So we'll skip the small stuff, focus on what really matters and separate the wheat from the chaff.

Craig:

The human brain it has been written as an anticipation machine and making future is the most important thing it does. The ability to use past experiences and information about our current state and environment to predict the future allows us to increase the odds of desired outcomes, while avoiding or bracing ourselves for future adversity. This ability is directly related to our level of certainty regarding future events, how likely they are, when they will occur, and what they will be like. Uncertainty diminishes how efficiently and effectively we can prepare for the future. And this contributes to anxiety. Andrea, this is a quote from a 2013 paper by Roop, I think is how you pronounce it in niche key.

Andrea:

And why did you select this quote to begin this episode?

Craig:

Well, this episode is going to be about this paradox of information, uncertainty and anxiety. And to kind of give a little foreshadowing, it turns out that information can help us reduce anxiety by reducing uncertainty. But the flipside is also true. information can bring about or surface uncertainty which can increase our anxiety. And so I think it's an important topic for us to get into, to maybe explore this paradox a little bit

Andrea:

good. And I think that, you know, one of the things that we'll also explore is anxiety and its relationship to fear. And, you know, a little HP Lovecraft, too, was a science fiction writer, said that the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear. And the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the unknown.

Craig:

And well, one thing we do know, anybody who's ever watched a horror movie knows that you don't go in the basement. Don't go in the basement. But but that's, that actually relates, right, that the way that builds fear in the audience, is because you don't really know what's down in that basement. I mean, you can kind of guess it's gonna be something not good. But I think the Lovecraft quote is spot on this beer, you know, is something that's programmed into us, you know, anybody who's ever watched any kind of an animal, when they sense a threat knows how important theory is. And, you know, fears really bad when we don't know what's going on.

Andrea:

Right. And, of course, one one way to, to address that is simply not to have a basement, which is the case out here in the southwest. We were just talking about that with a group of friends. And we're all talking about how very few homes here have basements or attics. Whereas you know, where I grew up in the Midwest, we all had basements and attics. But if you don't have a basement, then you don't have to go down there.

Craig:

That's right. So here in Louisiana, it's don't go under the house. A lot of our houses are up on piers. So you mentioned fear and anxiety. And it's, it's really hard to separate those two out cleanly. So some researchers that are into this area, claim that fear is really a part of anxiety, that that fear is kind of the basic physiological process that underlies anxiety. And anxiety is, is more of a complex response. It's not this automatic kind of response. It's complicated response to situations where either we know the situation is going to be averse or it's an unknown situation. And I think that's the important point is that you really can't separate out anxiety and uncertainty, very, you know, they're almost inextricably linked together.

Andrea:

Anxiety and uncertainty are inextricably linked

Craig:

because We have this fear component. And fear is often due to uncertainty, you know something about the unknown. And since anxiety is a response to fear, or can be now we're talking about, but maybe we should back up a little bit. Here, I think we're going to talk in this episode, mostly about what would be called episodic anxiety, as opposed to chronic anxiety. And so there are people that have a mental illness, that's related to anxiety. And that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about anxiety that's brought about by specific situations, specific episodes, rather than this chemical imbalances, or, you know, something in somebody's past that is made them more prone to anxiety. I think that's an important point that we need to make,

Andrea:

right? And we can be anxious or having anxiety related to all different sorts of things. And what we're talking about right now, is anxiety, specifically related to information, either not having enough of it or having too much of it.

Craig:

Right. So, okay, so the way that I understand the causal chain is fear is the the appraisal of some stimulus in the environment, you know, something, something stimulates or gets our attention. And we see it as being dangerous or threatening stimuli. And that, that danger or that threat is relatively eminent. And then anxiety is the subjective response to experienced fear. And I'm sure there are a lot of different views on this. This is just one of the views that's out there in the literature, but it kind of makes sense to me, and it helps tie into information. And so it seems to me that information is both the cure for and the cause of uncertainty, and therefore many kinds of anxiety. So one, one way to reduce anxiety is to reduce uncertainty by gathering more information. But you know, like I said earlier, the opposite can also be true. information can bring to the surface, new uncertainties. So maybe we should talk about the first part, how information can reduce uncertainty.

Andrea:

So can you tell us now that we know that either having too much information or not having enough information can cause anxiety? It seems like you know, we might be anxious no matter what, so what could we possibly do to reduce that anxiety?

Craig:

Well, so so it's important to understand kind of what uncertainty is. And that's, you know, we talked about uncertainty a lot. So we all kind of know what it is. But let's go into a little bit more detail. So uncertainty is caused by a lack of information. So we're uncertain because there are things that we don't know. And the unknown we can define as a perceived absence of information. And so this absence of information is the foundation of uncertainty. So at some level uncertainty is a lack of information. So the apparent cure for uncertainty then, and, by extension, certain types of anxiety is more information, and more relevant information,

Andrea:

right? So I want to think of one of our friends, the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, David Hume, who also thought a lot about this and he liked, I've never met the man. Now, I know as soon as we learn how to meet our friends, that are no longer living, it will be very interesting. And people are often asked this question like, who would you have? Who would you have dinner with? If you could have anyone dinner with anyone living or dead? For some reason? That's a very common question to ask people.

Craig:

Well, you know, you live in Sedona there should be a lot of people around there that can help us out.

Andrea:

But anyway, so even even yes, even though that there are many people that are able to connect with various beings, I've never managed to connect with David Hume. But I but but because as he would point out, the future is an unknown state of affairs, that may at some point in the future be possible. But the only point I wanted to make here is that we are all uncertain with regard to the future to some extent, and even something as you know, reliable as the sun coming up, even though the sun of course rising and setting as a figure of speech. We know that that's not what actually happening, but even something that has has happened that rely on For all of our lives, it is still uncertain whether or not that will happen tomorrow. So our future future states of affairs can have very high probabilities. But we can never be absolutely certain about a future state of affairs. Well,

Craig:

that, obviously, that's right. I mean, it's kind of hard to argue with with that at all.

Andrea:

And so it might seem like kind of a pedantic point, but I just raise it because it's very easy to forget it. And when we are going about our day to day lives, we say, Well, you know, certainly, you know, the day will come about and then the evening fall in the same ways that it has previously, but it may not. And there were other examples where we expect someone to behave in a certain way, because they behaved that way previously, and they surprise us where we think that know, something will happen at work or in our government. And I think that we can be surprised. So it's just a good thing to remember that no matter how much data we have acquired, and no matter what past tendencies have been, or probabilities are, are, that the future is always an in somewhat unknown state of affairs and always attended by some uncertainty.

Craig:

Right. Right. And I really was, was going to say that, that seems like an obvious thing to say, but I was going to, you know, that the future is uncertain, but I was gonna make the same point you were making is that we sometimes treat it as if it can be perfectly predicted, which is one of the ways we can go down rabbit holes. I wasn't gonna make fun of you.

Andrea:

That's right, you thought that you were going to be able to make that point.

Craig:

Future was uncertain. That's right. I was out. Reality fell outside my confidence interval. It but but the larger point, you know, it's hard to argue with it. And I'm not going to remember which one one of the stoics said this, but they said something along the lines of much of our, you know, much of our negative effect, our upset, comes from anticipating future events that will never come to be. And, you know, I think we have to acknowledge that a lot of us are prone to that. And so how can we reduce uncertainty? Well, one way is through gathering more information. So I mean, not uncertainty is is, you know, caused by the unknown. And the unknown is caused by information that we lack, or at least that we perceive that we lack. And so I think about, let me give you almost a trivial example. So I don't know if I've mentioned this, but we have cats. I think I've mentioned we've even had tags on as a guest on the show. Five cats. And you know, cats go, we live in a place where there, it's very safe to let them outside. They don't stay outside at night. But during the day, they like to go in and out and in and out and in and out. And so we get a lot of exercise, let them out. But I noticed Sasha, one of our cats, takes forever to go out the door. And part of me thinks she's just being a cat and doing whatever she can to cause aggravation to the people that she owns, but, but you can see her she's looking around the corner and she's kind of looking around. And what she's doing is she's got a little bit of, I don't know, we're gonna anthropomorphize a bit here and say that it's anxiety. But she's got a little bit of caution about going out the door. Because you don't know what's out there. You know, she was a stray who knows what went after her when she was a little kitten. So what she does, is she feels that uncertainty and we're going to ascribe anxiety to it. But she seeks information to reduce that uncertainty and to reduce her concern about going out the door. Now, you know, I'm putting an awful lot on little you know, walnut sized brain of a cat but I think the point is that we're we're inherently wired to want to reduce uncertainty. And so she looks around for threats she's gathering information about her environment. You know, if she sees the let's say the UPS truck comes rolling up but about the time she's going out the door, she either Sprint's out the door and goes under the house or she turns around and Sprint's back inside the house, you know, so she reacts to this, this unknown. And so we do that inherently. Whenever there's any kind of a threat perceived, whether it's real or just imagined. It arouses our attention to we have heightened attention to different stimuli, different elements of the environment. And what we try to do is assess, you know, those potential threats in order to reduce our uncertainty and reduce our anxiety.

Andrea:

No, I just was wanted to think about the cat. I think that's such a great example. Because notice how hardwired and or maybe somewhat conditioned, this response of avoiding the UPS truck is right, the truck rolls in this cat is terrified, the cat runs away, or assuming the cat is terrified, but having some experience that, you know, is motivating the cat to get away from the truck as quickly as possible. Now what what's the real threat of the UPS truck to the cat? Probably probably nothing, right? Probably negligible. But notice that, you know, that could be happening to us as well. And so just like the cat is not going to be a perfect predictor of what of perceived versus actual threats. We too, sometimes may have anxiety or fear about things unknown, or assume consequences about something that comes about when you know, we may misjudge those things.

Craig:

And often do mean even waiting in line. So if you go to the airport, remember going to the airport,

Andrea:

that is something to fear.

Craig:

And you see this giant line at security? What happens to you automatically start? There's some level of anxiety there, am I going to get to the gate on time? Or, you know, how long am I going to be standing in the stupid line? Or, you know, all those kinds of thoughts?

Andrea:

Yeah, unless you have a great podcast to listen to you like this, then then you're fine. Yeah,

Craig:

then you just chill out. And, and of course, I'm projecting because the the two airports that I fly out of now a long line is three people. So you know, pretend you're in Phoenix. So what do you do? What's your reaction? When you see that big long line? You start looking for ways to mitigate the possible harm. So you might look for a shorter line. Or you look at your watch, and you think, Okay, well, how long do I actually have here? For you start watching the line and see how quickly It's moving. And maybe that, you know, maybe that reduces your anxiety, because you see it's a long line, but it's really moving pretty quickly, maybe, you know, they've got one line, and it breaks into six different lines to go through the X ray machine. So but what we're doing is we're finding, trying to find information that can help us somehow better cope with that, whatever that perceived, I'm going to put what thread in air quotes, because it's not really a threat going through TSA, but we need to figure out how to respond to that threat. Do I start looking for backup flights? Do I put on a podcast? Do I look for another line? Do I say, you know, I'm so early, I'm just going to go back and have a cup of coffee somewhere and wait for the line to go down? You know, I've just hit it at a bad time. What but, you know, do we want to try to escape? Do we want to try to avoid the situation? You know, what do we do. But that's all predicated on seeking information to reduce our uncertainty, or uncertainty that is inherent in that particular situation. So that's kind of the big picture on it, a lot of our anxiety can be traced back to uncertainty. And one of the cures for uncertainty is information. And so one of the ways to deal with anxiety is to try to get information.

Andrea:

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. And that's, you know, our friend the internet, right. That's one of the reasons that our devices are so popular, because whatever we want to know, we feel like we have the information at our fingertips now. And we can get more information and that will reduce our anxiety. But it seems like that can't be the whole picture. Because I think if we were to characterize the populace today, more even, you know, the segment of it that's very connected and has access to information that the result has not been that people are less anxious. Right? Quite the reverse.

Craig:

But I think what you're trying to get at, I think, is that information, inflammation can cause anxiety by throwing just too much information at us. So it's a it's a whole information overload.

Andrea:

event, right. And so that I mean, maybe you can help me understand that. But on the one hand, no, I see a strange truck or a strange event in my life, you know, I'm not sure what it means maybe I experience fear, right. But I try to get information because, you know, unlike the cat, right, I have the ability to learn more about what the real threats are. But even seeking that information, it may allay my anxiety in some instances, but not always. And in fact, may exacerbate it.

Craig:

That's right. And well, so So consider this, I know you were talking about the internet and some of our, our media based information sources, but But think about being in a really crowded place, airport, Sedona, apparently, from what you've been saying, but any kind of a place where you're in a big crowd, and you have some level of uncertainty, well, all of the people that are moving around you all of the noises, all of the smells, all of those things are coming at you, and have to either be assessed for a threat level or for and again, we want to put threat in quotes. I don't mean necessarily physically threatening, but you know, are you going to make it across the street and time before the light changes, that could be a threat. But that's a lot to go through, and you have to filter all of that information out. And then the information that survives the filter, then you have to process that somehow to change your assessment, or to adjust your assessment of the situation. And so that can cause just a mental fatigue, the overload of all of that work that you have to do to process that information. And part of that comes from that appraisal process, because we don't know the value of the information. And we've seen this, at least a lot of us have seen this, when we're searching for something on the internet, you know, you need to buy a new pair of shorts. While you know, there are a lot of pairs of shorts that you can buy on the internet. So how many of them? Are you going to look at? Are you going to get the best pair? You're going to get the best price? What about the shipping time? You know, you need the shorts for your trip to the beach, or whatever it is. And you know, all of this, you know, used to be before you went to the mall, and you found a pair of shorts that were going to be okay. And you bought the shorts. And that was the end of well, now you have I mean, this is not an exaggeration, I'll bet there are 1000 places you can buy shorts on the interwebs you know and that which ones do you buy? I've been I've been shopping for mowing pants, my 14 year old mowing pants finally bit the dust and so I'm, I'm pretty upset about that. So I'm I've ordered new mowing pants, surprisingly complex activity if you let it be complex, but but all of that can bring about a certain weird kind of anxiety. Especially if you go back to like the big crowd situation. And we've all felt that, right, you get you tense up, maybe start to sweat a little bit, your pulse rate goes up, because you're in some big crowd, and you're not sure exactly what's going on, you know, and what you need to be aware of, and how you need to react to it. So I think that information overload can be one cause of one information based cause of anxiety.

Andrea:

So we've talked about how not having information can cause anxiety, we've talked about how information overload can cause anxiety. So this seems to suggest that it's less about not having or having information and more about us, right or something about our internal response to, to not having information or to having information. And you know, you mentioned the stoics earlier, I think one of the things that they tried to encourage us to do was just to moderate our own internal disposition, irrespective of what was going on outside of us. So in some cases, we may not have information or may be completely unfamiliar state of affairs. In other cases we may be faced with and you know, excessive amounts of information. But I think what they would encourage us to do is to try to regulate our own internal states, irrespective of you know, whether we have too much or too little information. But at this so that's that's one thing to sort of keep a watch on our own internal disposition. But then, still, I mean, they weren't they were practical people, right. And so I'm from a practical point. So I can see on the one hand, wanting to regulate my own internal state of being but As far as what course of action I should pursue, I'm a little bit confused at this point, because it seems like I don't know like that I'll never have complete information. But seeking as much information as possible, may not be optimal, either. So I'm totally confused. That's right.

Craig:

But you're right, you're right, it is knowing when to stop is part of the problem. And I think we can get to that in a little bit. But before we do, I want to just briefly mention what I see as a much more problematic way that inflammation can cause anxiety. And I'm going to use a personal example here. As any of our regular listeners know, I'm obsessed with my generator situation, which hopefully is being resolved today. So it's I mean, it's physically on its way, on its way here. So this is very exciting for me. It's difficult to record when I'm in this level of the state of excitement, elevated excitement, but can you hear it in my voice? So

Andrea:

the most mellow, excitable person?

Craig:

Yeah, I try to kind of smooth out the peaks and valleys. But but it But anyway, well, so because of where we live, we live literally in the middle of the woods, where we are a long way from any kind of a power substation. And so that means there are lots of places where our power can get knocked out. And having gone through the first hurricane that anybody could remember in this area, and a tropical storm that was almost a hurricane and a multi day. Ice Storm. You know, I'm relatively sensitive about the weather. And we're, we're recording this and kind of the, we're kind of towards the tail end of the summer, the spring, storm season. So like a lot of people do. I look at the weather report, right? I go on weather.com or pull up AccuWeather on my phone or whatever. And I look at the weather report. And I'm doing that to reduce uncertainty. Right. I want to know what what kind of clothes that I wear? Do I need to wear? You know, stuff that I'll care if it gets wet? Because it's going to rain? Do we need to move the horses from the better the pasture with the better barn to the pasture that's got less shelter, you know, all these kinds of things. Am I going to be able to mow this afternoon? Most of us do this. We take a quick look at what the weather weather forecast is. By the way, it's forecast. It's not forecast that makes me crazy. Especially when the somebody on TV who gets paid to do these things as forecast. There's only one t right. Yeah, there's only one T and that word. Sorry. These are the things I get upset about. Interesting. Yes, yeah. Yeah.

Andrea:

Because you're very equanimeous about so many things. And but that one gets proper pronunciation is where you

Craig:

Sorry, a little side trip here. If somebody a normal person says it doesn't bother me at all. But if I see the weather reporter on television, say forecast is like this is your job. You know, you should know this. I don't care if somebody at the grocery stores as Have you seen the weather forecast? Man, I don't care about that at all. People. This is your job. You should know this word. It's your life. I can I can pronounce professor. Why can't you pronounce forecast. But anyway, as they say on the internet, slash and rant, you know, we look at the weather to reduce uncertainties. Right. And if it's going to be bad, we're going to look at ways to mitigate the negative effects. You put on a raincoat, you take an umbrella you wear coat, whatever it is, by so let's let's suppose that I look and I see that there are heavy thunderstorms predicted. Now that's new information that I didn't have before. My anxiety automatically goes up because it brings up new uncertainty. How bad is this storm going to be? So what do I do? I look at the radar. And I will even come up to my office and look at the radar on the nice big screen so I can see a little bit more detail. So now I look at the radar and I see this big blob of red. That's heading for little eras, Louisiana. Well, that's more information than I had before. Right. But this information triggers new uncertainty about the consequences of the storm. You know, How bad is it going to be? You know, is it when's it going to get here? No. Do we need to give their dog the dogs cannabis kits which are little CDB oil biscuits to calm them down if they have storm anxiety. I haven't tried one by the way, so don't ask. They have. They're called cannabis kits. I bet I've got a dozen boxes of them because they had a really good sale. And they actually they help they're a lot gentler than the sedatives you can give them. So

Andrea:

we have a whole thing. Do you have little scotches for your dogs at night?

Craig:

That's a thought. That's a thought. No, but that's an ultimate solution. If I pour enough scotch in me, I don't care about the dogs being nervous, but that's not being a good dog, daddy. And you know, it's really bad for the dogs, because the cats are just laughing at them. You know, you're inside, right? You're not outside, there can be a storm, it's okay. Get under the bed. If you want, you can, you know, the cats just laugh out. But it's really traumatic for the dogs. Anyway, but but then I started thinking about, alright, how bad is a storm going to be? Am I going to need to fire up to generate, and then I do things that are going to reduce that uncertainty. So I might go start the generator just to make sure it's gonna start, I might check the gas that I've got to make sure I can run the generator for an extended period of time. And so it's this kind of back and forth where information triggers uncertainty, which triggers anxiety. And that triggers me to seek out more information, which can either reduce Deuce even though it reduces uncertainty in one respect, it can introduce new uncertainties which introduce new anxieties, which triggers another information search, and so on, so on, and so on, and so on. And so it's really this weird. I don't know, paradox is quite the right word. But it's kind of a paradox where information can be a source of reducing anxiety, but depending upon the situation, what that information is, it can also be the cause of anxiety. And that just seems kind of Absolutely.

Andrea:

I mean, what it's not neutral, like whether or not we are, you know, what we are calm your suit or made more anxious depends on what the information itself is,

Craig:

and how we react to react to it to your earlier point.

Andrea:

Okay, everyone, before we dive into the details on this, we have a small favor to ask, our purpose in doing this podcast is to help people live well. So would you please help us do this by sharing the rational ignorance podcast with just two people that might enjoy and benefit from listening, you will be helping us and them. Thank you.

Craig:

Thanks for doing that, Andrea, because we really would like to spread the word about the podcast as we, we think people can benefit from it. So maybe we can spend a little bit of time I don't want to spend too much time but a little bit on information overload. Just so we kind of have a little bit of an angle, a little bit of a handle on what it is. That sound good.

Andrea:

Yeah, that sounds good. Do you have a definition or a working definition, at least of information overload? Well,

Craig:

uh, kind of, and you know, it's one of those things where you can see a lot of definitions in the literature, but what they boil down to is that information overload exists when the amount of information presented to someone exceeds their capacity for dealing with it. So just like, you know, try to put five and a half gallons in a five gallon bucket, it's going to overflow, you know, there's a certain capacity that we have for dealing with information. And when we approach or start to exceed that capacity, we have a state of information overload. And so it's really two things. It's the amount of information that's available that in our awareness, and then it's our ability to process that information. And so we can approach the information overload problem by addressing either one of them.

Andrea:

Right, I like breaking it down that way into the amount of it on the one hand, and our ability to process it on the other. Because I'm thinking in particular about our ability to process it. It really depends on what the information is, right? I mean, if you get a weather forecast that says it's going to be 70 degrees and clear tomorrow, then that's easy to process, right? If it's, you know, a tropical storm coming in the way then that is more difficult to process and actually, you know, increases your anxiety. So, some some information is easy to process other other information, not so much. But can we talk about, you know, the information that we're able to process that that's great, that doesn't cause a problem? But how does information overload cause anxiety?

Craig:

Well, I think there are two main ways one is that the anxiety comes from just trying to deal with so much information. So you know, we have this stress over getting our jobs done, whether our jobs are paid work or just things that we We have to do in our home lives. And so we want to do a good job, we want to make good decisions. And so we seek out information, sometimes to the point of overload. And that leads to a mental exhaustion. And we are more susceptible to anxiety when we're exhausted. So fatigue and increases our susceptibility to anxiety. And so I think, just, you know, dealing with all that information, and even figuring out when you have enough information can cause anxiety. And we've, I think we've all experienced that to some degree, I call it my mental ping pong ball in a hurricane state, where I'll catch myself trying to do 16 different things at once, and I'm bouncing back and forth and finding information. And that'll send me somewhere else with new information. And then at some point, just have to say stop. Let's just stop. And let's focus on this one thing.

Andrea:

Right. And I just right now, I really want to tie this back into the overall theme of the podcast and its name, which is rational ignorance. And this is just a reminder, as we think about information about how it can cause anxiety, and having more doesn't always help the situation that is perfectly rational. And indeed, in your best interests to sometimes remain ignorant, to not fill your life up with extraneous information, or to feel like you have to acquire all the information that's available one, because, you know, it's not possible to require all the information that's available. And two, is that this behavior of constant information seeking leads to anxiety and unhappiness, and therefore it is very often rational to remain ignorant.

Craig:

And for those of you who haven't listened to the tuning, and are tuning out to tune in episode, you might want to do that, because we dig into this a little bit more. Now, that whole idea of just finding ways to step back from this dilution of information that we face. And so that's the good points there, you know, if we're more selective about what information we attend to, or expose ourselves to, we can reduce the amount of information that we have to deal with them. So that that's one way to kind of address this.

Andrea:

Craig, I just wanted to ask you about this too, because there is kind of a paradox there. I mean, we do know that it's rational to be ignorant about a number of things, and that we can, you know, cause needless stress by constant information seeking. But also, you know, what about the FOMO? What about the worry of missing out on important information. And while it's rational to be ignorant about some things, ignorance does have a negative connotation for a reason, right? Often it's valuable to have information. And so, you know, how do we deal with this sort of feeling this feeling that I think, rightly, often nags at us, that tells us we should be trying to get more information.

Craig:

And for those of you listeners who aren't as hip, as Andrea and I are FOMO, is shorthand for fear of missing out. But you can we address this on that tuning out to tune in episode. So, you know, I think the fear of missing out gets looked at a lot on social media, we're missing out on social things. But I think we can extend that pretty easily to other aspects of our lives. We have this, sometimes some of us have this felt obligation to be informed. You know, you and I have debated this a little bit when it comes to voting, which is the genesis of rational ignorance. So but we have this obligation to be informed. And if we're not seeking out the information that we feel like can inform us that can cause some level of anxiety, I think, because we feel like we're missing out on this important information.

Andrea:

I think that's right. And I think in one of our earlier episodes, with Tara Zimmerman, who was talking about social noise, one of her recommendations was that we don't have to know every piece of brick breaking news at the moment it happens, and we don't have to weigh in with our opinion on the breaking news every every time it happens. And she talked specifically about that is that being informed generally is good, but knowing everything minute by minute, the second it happens, right? Isn't isn't necessary.

Craig:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, and then it even gets extended out further. So if we have this fear of missing out, and that makes us acquire information, then we can have some leveling of anxiety because we feel like we should do something with that information. You know what, I've got this information, what should I do with and that can cause some level of anxiety. And then I think, for decisions, you know, there's a fear of missing out on information that would help us make decisions. And so there's a FOMO, related to making uninformed decisions. And I think we can talk about some ways to mitigate that maybe a little bit later in the episode. So it seems to me those are the two big ways that this information overload is kind of tied into anxiety, where we have this anxiety over dealing with so much information, but then there's a FOMO trigger, that makes us go seek more information when that information could get us into a state of information overload. I do think the maybe the, what we were talking about earlier with, with me, and whether is, is at least as interesting and maybe more interesting, in terms of this weird relationship between information uncertainty and anxiety. And so we have this, this cycle that we can get into where we seek information to reduce uncertainty. And sometimes that can reduce our uncertainty and and stave off anxiety, which is good. But in other cases, that new information sheds light on new uncertainty, which increases anxiety. And what do we do to try to reduce that anxiety, we seek more information. And so we can get in this almost for you. Fellow gearheads out there, we can get in almost kind of an endless loop of anxiety, uncertainty, anxiety information, and we just keep doing that cycle over and over and over again. And you know, I go back to the weather, I catch myself doing this with the radar. If I don't see a storm, then I zoom out, you know, and keep zooming out until I can see the front, which is kind of weird, you know, sometimes I'll end up where I'm looking to New Mexico, which for you, those of you who are maybe not as informed about us geography, that's a long way from Northeast Louisiana. But sometimes I'll catch myself feeling like I need to have that information. So it's this weird mental thing where the uncertainty triggers information search, which triggers uncertainty, and all that leads to a lot of anxiety.

Andrea:

So, so I think we all engage in, in these information seeking behaviors, and we know how much anxiety it can cause whether it's, you know, checking the weather or investment portfolios or any number of things. But what, what can we do about it? I mean, what is the action plan? Or how do you? How do you deal with this?

Craig:

One thing we can do is reduce our exposure to potentially anxiety inducing information. Let me diverge just a little bit to share a another animal story. I don't know if you notice, but I like talking about our animals. So Sophie are one of our colleagues is getting up there. She's I think she's 13 years old now. And she's lost a lot of our hearing.

Andrea:

one of your colleagues,

Craig:

not Callie,

Andrea:

I first heard that you said colleagues, so I want to make sure we didn't have a forecast forecast moment. Holly co Ll

Craig:

IDs, yeah, all those this could also be true of some of my colleagues, but I'm unaware of any of my colleagues other than me who have storm anxiety. But But Sophie's kind of lost her hearing, which happens to a lot of older dogs. And it's interesting, because she has less storm anxiety now. I mean, I think dogs sense changes in barometric pressure. But I think part of that is blink to their ears. And certainly she can't hear thunder like she used to. And so there'll be a big, you know, rumble of thunder somewhere, and she won't react to it, like she would have a year ago. But it's I know, this seems disconnected, but it really isn't, you know, she she's cut off from one source of anxiety inducing information. Because that Thunder would trigger some level of uncertainty in her, you know, am I gonna need to go hide somewhere, you know, we're gonna get, you know, pelted with rain and lightning, because there's still, you know, kind of genetically wired to be outside animals. And so now she doesn't have that source of information. And so that anxiety, that uncertainty doesn't get triggered, and neither does the anxiety. But back to the action plan. I think what you mentioned earlier, about rational ignorance can be kind of a core basis for a lot of the specific actions that we can take. So one of the things that we can do is we can think about filters. And I'm not sure if this one is all that tied to Rational ignorance. So maybe I'm going in a not so good order. But in an earlier conversation, you mentioned using something like Siri, as a way to have technology filter for us. So if you if you say, hey, Siri, or Hey, Google, or Alexa, or whatever it is, you know, what's the Find me a pair of shorts, I guess, you know, it does a lot of the filtering for you. I don't use Siri. So I don't really know how accurate that is.

Andrea:

I, you know, I use Siri. And I think like a lot of these technologies, it's getting more accurate and better all the time. So we can look forward to that. But it's not perfect. And, and a lot of these technologies, you know, are also provided by for profit companies. So they're often you know, loaded with information, that's not necessarily giving it to you in a completely unbiased way. But certain advertisers may have, you know, paid to have their products, you know, listed at the top. And so, but still, I mean, technology, I think, can be a very useful filtering tool. That, you know, as you were saying this, I was thinking that really, a lot of this depends on us. I mean, it depends on us using our judgment about in really assessing ourselves, right? Do I because if you have a storm coming in, you may indeed need to get more information and to be as you know, well prepared as possible. By the time you're zooming out to look for friends in New Mexico, right? Maybe like, this is something like it's just, you know, curiosity, or we're seeking information. And, and you already, like have the judgment, right to know which one is really helpful, and which one is maybe you know, just habitual. Right. And so I think that for a lot of a lot of this, it really requires for us to be self aware and to self monitor,

Craig:

I think we could divide up the ways to deal with this into two broad categories. One is that idea of self awareness, the other I think, is preparation.

Andrea:

So when you have a big new generator on the way, then in propane tank to go with it, then you don't have the same level of anxiety with the storm front as you do when you don't have a power backup plan. Right? So through preparation,

Craig:

dang, Skippy, we will, we're going to be prepared. Yeah. Yeah, that that'll be generator number four. Right, but but being prepared, can reduce that anxiety a lot. You know, if you think about, and, you know, you're not going to do this for everything. But for really important things that might be anxiety inducing. If you can, in advance, think of what's going to bring that anxiety to bear what's going to cause the anxiety and what you can do in advance to mitigate it, you're going to be better prepared to deal with the uncertainty that might normally cause anxiety. I mean, one of the ways I try to rein in my anxiety, is by knowing I've got x number of gallons of gas. And that'll run the generator for this long. And, you know, we've got batteries, and we've got we've been have portable battery operated, rechargeable fans, which sounds ridiculous. But, you know, if you're in Louisiana and August, and you don't have air conditioner, it's pretty nice to have a fan that can, you know, be recharged through, you know, what we can run on the generator. So I think that's part of it. The other part is the self awareness. And so a big caveat. Neither one of us are therapists or psychologists. So take this with with that in mind. But one of the things that can help us deal with anxiety, broadly, is recognize recognizing when we're in a spiral, you know, when you get in this spiral of anxiety, bringing up something else, that brand causes more anxiety, they call it a break, if you can find some way to give your mind a break, and that cycle can really help reduce anxiety.

Andrea:

Right? And I guess I just we're certainly not licensed therapists by any means. But I would like just to point out that Epictetus said that philosophy is a therapeutics, and I think that's, that's really right. And you know, for some, you know, serious chronic or medical conditions absolutely want to see a licensed professional, but I think it's also important to remember that just you know, thinking things over and talking them through or analyze using them in a philosophical way, or just applying some analysis can itself be therapeutic, because what we're doing is just coming to understand the things that impact our lives a little bit more closely. And so just like not all therapy needs to be clinical, and sometimes just having a conversation with a friend can be a deeply therapeutic activity.

Craig:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So I think the self awareness is a big part of how to keep yourself from getting into this, this spiral or this cycle of information, uncertainty and anxiety.

Andrea:

So Craig, can I also ask you, though, let's let's stick with the generator example. Because I think having access to some way to cool off in the Louisiana summer, or some way to keep the lights on all the time is something that most of us can relate to. Right, like, so. So when we're thinking about that, can you just talk a little bit about your requirements and goals? And how establishing those can help with information seeking and anxiety levels?

Craig:

Yeah, absolutely. So I think we can in terms of preparation for decisions, we can think about two things. First, how important is this decision? If it's a relatively trivial decision, then which I would define as having low consequences? If you make a bad decision? We actually went out to lunch last weekend. And, you know, do I get to I get the cat fish? Or do I get the shrimp? Well, you know, first of all, great problem, yeah. And Louisiana, either one of them are likely to be good. And this was a pretty good little restaurant we went to, but you know, I'm not going to ask 20 questions and get on Yelp and look at the different reviews of I'm just going to order the cat fish, you know, and be done. If I don't like the cat fish. I think I like the shrimp better. Next time we go back, I'll get the shrimp. So you know, that's not worth going into this, you know, this cycle of information seeking. But for bigger decisions, where there really are important outcomes, making a bad decision, if you give thought to the separation between requirements and goals, which the language is a little fuzzy around that, but we're going to define requirements as what I call the god perhaps, you know, this is a hard and fast thing, any potential solution, any potential choice that doesn't satisfy this criterion. It's out.

Andrea:

It's, if I was if I was in Louisiana, for me, the gotta have would be the catfish.

Craig:

Yeah, how fish was really good. We'll give a little plug. This is a place called the shinny shack, which is not it's spelled shinier or something like that. But the town is called Shetty. Yeah, catfish is hard to beat. Just don't think about what catfish are eat. Don't think about that. You don't want to think about that. Same thing with shrimp. But anyway, they those, understanding what your requirements are, can let you filter pretty quickly. So I'll give you an example. If you're buying a house, there's the maximum mortgage you can qualify for. Well, that that is a requirement. The if you take your your maximum mortgage plus, or whatever you're comfortable with, it might not be maximum you can qualify for but whatever you're most comfortable with, plus your down payment, that's the maximum price of the house, that you should be looking at anything that's more than that. Don't even look at, it's pointless. All it will do is potentially trigger anxiety isn't quite the right word, but some sort of negative effect that you know, you see this really nice house, but you can't afford it. If you never saw that house, it's not going to trigger any negative effect. And then the goals are the water haps these are criteria that ideally, an alternative would meet but if they don't, you can give in on it. And so just simply sitting down and thinking about what are the criteria that I want to use for making a decision and then separating those into requirements and goals. Got to haves Waterhouse can help us reduce the number of alternatives that we have to look at and can also give us a foundation for seeking information that will actually help us make the decision. And so that kind of preparation for big decisions can be really helpful and reducing kind of this this frenzy of information seeking.

Andrea:

Yeah, and I think also, you know, looking at this distinction that you've made between requirements and goals, which I think can be really helpful, you know, understanding in terms of gotta haves and want to haves in realizing how to Sometimes the things that we think that we've got to have could actually sometimes be want to haves. So it's like I say, like, what do I got to have? Like, let's just put this in like bare physical terms or something like oxygen to breathe, right? That's something that I that I have to have, right? Everyone does the most fundamental level level. But something, you know, what do I What do I have to have? Well, maybe I want to live in a certain place like Sedona, right? And I say, that's my, my gotta have I've got to have that. But is it is it actually a requirement? Maybe Actually, it's something that I that I want to have. And so often, I mean, it's helpful to separate things out like this. And often things might move from one category to another. Yeah,

Craig:

absolutely. So I'll give you a really quick example, when we moved to Flagstaff. And St. Louis, we lived in a three storey townhouse with 12 foot ceilings in a basement. So four different levels. And one of the gotta haves was a single level house? Well, guess what we bought, we bought a two story house. Well, but what it turned out was the the real requirement, and this is not really switching from Gada to awana. But it's a refinement. So what what the requirement really was turned out to be that most of what we did, we could do on one level. So it turns out there were just two bedrooms upstairs and one was my office one was the guest room. So you know, nobody was having to schlep up and down stairs to do the laundry, or, you know, having to lug a vacuum cleaner upstairs to you know, clean up, unless there was a guest coming. So it turned out what was really the requirement was that most of our living could be on that single level. And, you know, I'm a bad husband, so I didn't care because I wasn't going to be doing any of that stuff.

Andrea:

Well, I was just wondering how with what frequency you vacuum your office, he said, you know, to go up there unless there was?

Craig:

Well, it depends on how frequently we move, we always vacuum it before we move yet, we have a we have a deal, Tracy largely ignores that my optics office exists. And you know, we're just all happier that way. I'm a bit of a slob when it comes to that sort of thing. But But I think that the going back to the main point is you can save yourself a lot of information search and information evaluation if you give some forethought to what your criteria are. And if you have these requirements, then you can use technology in some cases, to reduce your set of alternatives, which reduces the amount of information that you've got to consider. You know, like if I was looking for a pair of shoes, I ended up buying Obama shoes By the way, listeners are going to look this up. So apparently, President Obama attended Duke University of North Carolina basketball game, and people went nuts over how, how effortlessly he looked cool. And so what he was wearing this pair of shoes that the internet just blew up over. And so I was looking at shoes, and I thought those do look pretty cool. And they they do look pretty comfortable. So I bought a pair. They're called all birds, by the way, a Ll brds. So, free plug for all birds, you can, you can send us a check if you want to all birds anchor, whatever it's called. But anyway, what I do, if I'm looking for shoes, well, I look and see if they're available my size. And then if they're you know, most shopping sites have a way you can filter by size. But that's a pretty trivial thing. You know, if they don't have them in my size, then I don't need to look at them. But we can take that kind of thinking to bigger decisions. And then use technology tools like the real estate websites, trula, Trulia, Zillow, Zillow, realtor.com, all those kind of places, they'll let you filter by price, the number of bathrooms, the number of bedrooms, and you know, a lot size. And so you can use those technology tools to help reduce the amount of information that you have to deal with. I think more broadly, we can be purposeful, and how we attend to information. So you think about what information and what information sources are going to help you live the kind of life you want to lead, and to be the kind of person you want to be. And so going down information, rabbit holes may be worthwhile, if it really helps you be the kind of person you want to be. But most cases, maybe not.

Andrea:

No. And that that makes complete sense. And that seems so closely linked to your requirements and goals, right? Because to really establish those if you're purposeful First in decide like what your priorities are, then you can go back and say, Okay, then these are my requirements, these are my goals, recognizing that it's going to be an iterative process, right, our purpose changes over time. And we've talked about how, you know, the requirements, I think that's a great example with the house. Right? three stories, you know, we, you know, our requirement is one story, but that wasn't actually the requirement. So, you know, we're constantly modifying these things. But if we're clear about our purpose, right, then it makes it easier to identify and figure out which modifications of our requirements and goals are ultimately going to work for us.

Craig:

Absolutely. And so I think, you know, really broadly, spending some time to figure out what your purpose is. And to figure out what kind of life you want to lead can be helpful in so many aspects of life, including this idea of information uncertainty, and anxiety. You know, I really think that's a critical piece of all this, and it ties back into rational ignorance. Because we can remain ignorant of those things that aren't going to help us live the way we want live, and be rationally ignorant about

Andrea:

Yeah, and you know, Craig, I remember when we taught a course together, and you really emphasize for the students the importance of defining your purpose and understanding your purpose. And if you can get clear about that, how much easier it is to define your requirements and your goals and figuring out which modifications would be acceptable. And, and once you can do that, right, once we're clear about our purpose or requirements and our goals, then this idea of rational ignorance becomes more accessible to us, right? I mean, then it should be possible to reduce our exposure in some way.

Craig:

And so not only from the information overload perspective, but look, you know, it's an old saying, but sometimes ignorance is bliss. I mean, you know, I, when I decided I just wasn't going to watch the news anymore, you know, I became a happier God, because a lot of things didn't aggravate me, now, I still check some websites to see if there's anything big going on, that I really should be aware of, but you know, I just don't obsess over a lot of those things anymore. And so ignorance really can be bliss, and it is often rational. Going back to our theme, you know, our overarching theme for the podcast. So there, there are some other things you can do that go beyond that idea of, of rational ignorance, or maybe or outside of that idea. You know, I think about all the information, junk food that's out there, social media, and, you know, a lot of I want to say a lot of the television news that's out there, you know, some of it is just real junk. But some, some of it is really valuable and well thought out, but a lot of it is the equivalent of going out and getting a fast food, hamburger and fries. You know, you might enjoy it in the moment, maybe, but you're gonna pay for it later. And so if we can wean ourselves off of the some of that information, junk food, and I think putting some boundaries in place around social media can be useful. And even traditional media, you know, if you can find traditional media outlets that are informative, and, and useful for you, where you actually get something out of it. It can be worthwhile. But but it takes a little bit of effort, I think,

Andrea:

I think that's such a good point about juicing information, junk food, you know, as we're calling it, because I think that there is really a role for public journalism, or some sort of nonprofit journalism. But right now, especially, I think we're in a really difficult situation of, you know, on the one hand, having access to all this information, whether it's through a regular internet search, or whether it's, you know, through, you know, different social media channels, but so much of that space is populated by for profit companies or people that are marketing or advertising. And so on the one hand, it seems like we're getting information. But on the other hand, what we're often getting is a product or a political agenda that's being funded. And our, you know, that's really changed a lot in the last decade or two. Whereas we used to have publishers who would, you know, review and verify the credibility Do you have information? Now a lot of that is left up to the individual. And there are a lot of really smart people making it difficult to tell whether this is you know, information provided by an objective and credible source or whether it's designed just to get you to keep looking at their channel or by by a product. So you really have to be pretty savvy to avoid information, junk food, it's it's, you know, wanting to do it is the first step. But it's not always that easy. And again, I think, you know, your idea of putting some, you know, guardrails on social media and on the news is really going to be important for the benefit and welfare of society. I think that, you know, otherwise, we're just going to get information from people that that have most money. Unless you're unless you're savvy enough and careful and left to tune into to well meaning sources like the rational ignorance podcast.

Craig:

That's right, you can trust us, we're not selling anything, right. Despite our we receive no compensation, they're not going to send me I've already paid for my shoes, they're not going to give me a refund. So yeah, we're not plugging anything here. But I think I would amend what you said very slightly. It's not just the most money, it's the most power. So money is certainly one form, one, one way that that power can be brought to bear, but it's not necessarily the only way. So be skeptical. More broadly. There's another approach that I think is worth considering. And that's the idea of satisficing. So earlier, one of us said something about making optimal decisions. Well, the reality is, we rarely if ever need to make optimal decisions. So optimal decisions require full information. Right? If you're going to make the optimal decisions, you've got to have the information to make the optimal decision. And so, but you have a quizzical look, there Andrea. Well, I just, if yo could see the screen right now folks, there's no doubt tha Andrea is going to challeng what I just said

Andrea:

Well, I'm just seeking more information. So but I mean, I'm just wondering, if, if it's not possible to make an optimal decision on accident? So, you know, you could so you could write, but so,

Craig:

but you wouldn't know it was an optimal decision. Well, I've stumped her.

Andrea:

I don't know. I mean, you might, I'm trying to think of a good example. But it just strikes me that, you know, you could have full information and still make a poor decision. Because again, you'll never have a full information about a future event. Yeah, right. We already talked about that. And so since you never have full information about a future event, there's always some degree of uncertainty, you could make an optimal decision, even having less information than you might have about a future event. It just seems to me that those are probably correlated that in general, having more information will help you make better decisions, but that you could make an optimal decision on accident. So more or with very little information, or even with incorrect information, more

Craig:

relevant information can help you be more likely to make an optimal decision. But I would I would agree with that, that might be our middle ground there. Well, you know, I get I get wound up sometimes when, when I hear absolutes, you know, we need to make cars as safe as they can possibly be. No, no, we don't. You couldn't afford them, they would be be environmentally horrible. If we did that, because they'd have to be so big and so slow. And so we really don't want to, you know, go into these absolutes. And so I'm gonna go back and say it's impossible to knowingly make an optimal decision, because we don't know the state of the future. And so let's not go down that rabbit hole again. So no, I get your point, I would get your point, we might back into what turns out to be an optimal decision. But most of the time, we can engage in some kind of satisficing which is making a decision that's good enough, given the information that's readily available, that's, you know, we make a decision that we're going to be satisfied with. So this is a Herbert Simon, concept of satisficing. And he he looked at that not necessarily as a normative thing in the beginning, I don't think but as a way that people make decisions

Andrea:

So maybe for satisficing, in terms of automobile safety, I wear a seatbelt. Right? It's not the safest possible way to be in a car. But it's certainly safer than not wearing a seatbelt pretty low. pretty low cost is buckling my seatbelt. So in a satisficing behavior,

Craig:

it kind of, if you think about it as being a decision to wear their seatbelt or not, you know, it's, it's a good enough decision to wear the seatbelt. But if we look at like, buying a vehicle, you know, you're never going to know, if you bought the absolute perfect vehicle for you, even the cybertruck, I know you're going to disagree with me there, but have you got to look at, you got to look at the F 150. It might be better than the cybertruck 00 to 60. And under four seconds. That's just amazing.

Andrea:

Well see what the cybertruck does.

Craig:

It's just another 100 bucks, but another 100 bucks now, you know, you can buy boat, but it anyway, you know, the coolest thing about the the F 150 is that the hood is a trunk. So you can put things in the the what used to be the engine compartment, but we could do a whole episode on that. So but but you, you make a decision that you can be happy with. And then you stop. So this decision is good enough. And understanding what's going to make something good enough can reduce your your inflammation Induced Anxiety because you're going to disregard uncertainty that isn't important. And knowing whether or not you've made the optimal decision, is that kind of uncertain.

Andrea:

So do you have a strategy for figuring out? Like, what constitutes good enough? Like how, how much information do I need before I can reach a decision, that's good enough?

Craig:

Well, that's where we go back to the requirements and goals. So you identify those requirements and goals that are important to you. And then when you see something that meets your requirements, and satisfies your goals, you stop. There may be something else out there that meets your requirements and better satisfies your goals. Because the goals in particular aren't necessarily binary, yes or no?

Andrea:

Right. So if I'm looking for the shorts, I'm looking in a certain price range, right? Say, you know, and a certain color, certain fabrics. And if I find something that meets all those criteria, then I'm done. I'm not going to search for shorts forever. That's why the first stablish my criteria upfront, right,

Craig:

the first one that meets that satisfies your your requirements and sufficiently satisfies your goals you stop. Because that's a good enough decision, it may not be the optimal decision, but it's good enough. And you can stop and move on with your lives, or your life. So I think that's a big if you don't remember anything else about kind of our recommendations here. If you remember that one, that idea of satisficing around your goals and your requirements, I think you'll be better off. But I do want to touch we're kind of starting to run a little bit long, I do want to touch a little bit on kind of revisit the spiraling piece. And so in terms of anxiety, if you can just periodically think about is this new information I'm going to seek give me a way to avoid or mitigate some predicted undesirable future. You know, think about the return on the investment? You know, okay, if if I find out that there's a storm in New Mexico? Does that Can I do anything more with that information that I wouldn't do already. If I know there's a storm in East Texas, I can take the precautions that are within my power. And then stop. I don't need to look into New Mexico or even West Texas. To do that I can stop. And so if you can build a habit of periodically pausing and saying this new information that I'm going to go out and seek? Is it going to really do me any good? Is it likely to do me any good? And if the answer is no, then stop. I feared that's easier to say than it is to actually do but with practice I I think you can do better at it.

Andrea:

Yeah. And I think it's important to say it I mean just to articulate that. We know that we have a tendency to keep seeking information once we get started and so that we're going to make a conscious decision to really try to notice whether this is helping us or would lead us to any, you know, action, any action and not to stop. I think that's really helpful.

Craig:

And that ties in a little bit to what you said earlier about Epictetus. And I think that this is a little bit of a stoic approach, you know, you can only control the present. And we could expand that out to, you can only control certain things about the future. And so if the information that you might be seeking can't help you exert any kind of potential control over the future, either to mitigate, mitigating or avoiding some negative future event, then what good does it do? Maybe media can only bring about, you know, negative emotion, you know, anxiety or fear,

Andrea:

right. And I guess I want to qualify this a little bit, because as we're talking, I realized that we're sending like, very good utilitarians we're really talking about, you know, what we could do to maximize our utility or happiness. So I think that, you know, if it's not going to, you know, do you any good, you know, maybe there's some information that we require that you could say, you know, does this help you, like, you know, reading a novel or listening to music, but I think that in some ways, those things can help us because they're entertainment of a sort. But I think that there can be like kinds of entertainment that that authentically help us and other kinds of entertainment, that do not contribute to our well being. And ultimately, I think people are the best judges of that. So I feel like in a way, sometimes the information seeking behavior can be a kind of entertainment, that doesn't necessarily contribute to our overall well being. Whereas if you're like reading a novel, or doing certain other things, may not be immediately productive, but still contributes to our well being

Craig:

well, and I think that's where we need to recontextualize what we're talking about, you know, here, at least I was thinking specifically of this information, uncertainty, anxiety cycle that we can get into. And so in those kinds of situations, where more information might bring about anxiety, that's when you need to trigger these. Because I'll agree, no, I'm not saying you should think through, they're always learning this new thing, reading this novel, watching this movie, reading this nonfiction book, you know that you need to think through all the possible consequences of that in advance I'm specifically trying to think about when you get into that, that information, uncertainty anxiety cycle, is ways to kind of help yourself stop and think about, you know, whether or not that information is going to be able to be used in some productive way. But But I will go back to maybe broaden, broadening this a little bit. I find myself going down these information, rabbit holes on what I'm not really seeking out anything in particular. But you know, we see this, oh, this is interesting. Oh, this is interesting. And I used to do this when I was a kid with the encyclopedia. Younger listeners, ask your parents what an encyclopedia is. But we had, we had the World Book encyclopedia, we couldn't afford Britannica, we had the World Book. And I'd sit down to look up something. And I'd be there for two hours. Because I'd be flipping through the pages to get whatever I was trying to look at, or I was really trying to do for whatever my homework was. And there'd be something else that was kind of interesting. And then that would trigger something else that was interesting. And I might, you know, grab another book, you know, they were out, they were alphabetical. By the way, those of you who've never seen a physical encyclopedia, and so you know, I'd have six volumes spread around. And I've gotten way off track from whatever my real task was. And I don't think that's necessarily a bad because I think I learned a lot of stuff. I still remember from those little diversions, but you have to kind of be able to control it. And fortunately, we have some good tools now with things, these read it later. Kind of apps pocket instapaper you can use Evernote for it. So you can kind of digitally put a thumbtack in it and you can come back around to it later. And maybe still stay on point. So you you keep yourself from going down this proverbial rabbit hole, no offense to the rabbits in the audience.

Andrea:

You know, when we're thinking about our action plan or ways to deal with this, we've talked about recognizing when you're spiraling, and, you know, sort of intentionally tuning out avoiding these rabbit holes, what other what are some other strategies that we want to leave folks with?

Craig:

You know, I think that's a pretty good toolkit for right now. You know, there's some other things you can do like What the What else geeks would call batch processing, to get it getting into all your emails at once and then ignoring your emails, but I think we've kind of covered the ground we need to cover for today. And I think we're going kind of long. So maybe we should just wrap it up from here.

Andrea:

Okay, sounds good. Thanks, Craig. And I would just say to all our listeners out there, remember that it can be rational and even make you happier to be ignorant.

Craig:

So the next time somebody calls you ignorant, just say thank you. And look at their faces. You talk about searching for information and being uncertain, they're gonna go What, what, what? Thank you. Just another way you can screw with people brought to you by the rational ignorance podcast. So thanks, Andrea. Thanks, everybody, for listening. And please don't forget to share, you know, rating and reviewing. That's all good stuff. But really, this is a kind of podcast that's hard to put in a particular box. So, you know, it's really gonna help spread the word. If you can just talk to a couple of people and say, Hey, here's, here's something you might want to try to listen to. We would appreciate it and believe me, they'll Thank you.

Andrea:

And we thank you too. Thanks, everyone.

Craig:

We are certain we thank you. We're uncertain about whether or not they'll actually Thank you. Alright, that's it for today, folks, thank you very much. The rational ignorance podcast is sponsored by Sedona philosophy, a completely unique tour company that uses sedonas amazing natural environment to unlock personal growth and insight, explore nature, culture and history with a philosophical twist. Visit Sedona philosophy.com to learn more.

Andrea:

Thanks, Craig. If you enjoyed this podcast, hit the subscribe button, please rate review and tell your friends until next time