How To Read The News Like a Scientist

Illustration by Jenice Kim 

In our daily reading, we encounter all kinds of claims. Depending on the news story and the week, Chinese imports, coffee, large-cap stocks, snacking, and eggs should be embraced — or they should be avoided altogether. What’s a person to do when bombarded with confusing, contradictory information?

Try thinking like a scientist, says Emma Frans, who’s an epidemiology and psychiatry researcher at Oxford University in the UK and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

“In present times, our risk of being fooled is especially high,” she says. There are two main factors at play: “Disinformation spreads like wildfire in social media,” she adds, “and when it comes to news reporting, sometimes it is more important for journalists to be fast than accurate.”

Which is why it’s useful to know how to evaluate news the way a scientist does. Scientists labor under a burden of proof. They must conduct experiments and collect data under controlled conditions to arrive at their conclusions — and be ready to defend their findings with facts, not emotions.

“We all have gut feelings and biases that sometimes cloud our judgment,” says Frans. But scientific thinking offers us tools for “evaluating information in a rational way.”

Try these 6 tips to read the news like a scientist:

1. Cultivate Your Skepticism

Science moves forward by challenging accepted wisdom. You can do the same. When you learn a new piece of information through social media, think to yourself: “This may be true, but it also may be false,” Frans says. “This kind of healthy skepticism does not mean you’re dismissing everything as false — it simply means remembering the things you hear could be false, but they could also be true … or they could be something in between.”

2. Find out Who Is Making the Claim

“In science, researchers have to declare potential conflicts of interest before publishing their findings,” says Frans. When you encounter a new claim, look for conflicts of interest. Ask: Do they stand to profit from what they say? Are they affiliated with an organization that could be swaying them? Two other questions to consider: What makes the writer or speaker qualified to comment on the topic? What statements have they made in the past?

3. Watch out for the Halo Effect

The halo effect, says Frans, “is a cognitive bias that makes our feeling towards someone affect how we judge their claims. If we dislike someone, we are a lot more likely to disagree with them; if we like them, we are biased to agree.” It’s such a common human trait that the scientific community has devised a workaround: New scientific papers under review are read “blind,” with the authors’ names removed.

That way, the experts who are deciding whether it’s worthy of publication don’t know which of their fellow scientists wrote it so they’ll be able to react free from pre-judgement or bias. You can try this with your own news feed, too. Maybe you’ve read about a jobs policy proposed by the candidate you favor, and you think it sounds good. Frans suggests, “Simply question how you would consider the claim if it came from someone else.”

4. Look at the Evidence

When evaluating a claim, Frans asks, “Can the sources be traced? Are they reliable? Is the conclusion based on a rational evaluation of the information?” And you should try to consider all of the research on a topic. She says, “For instance, if there is one study claiming that drinking wine is just as good for your health as going to the gym, this finding is not relevant if ninety-nine studies show the opposite.”

Before you act on or share a particularly surprising or enraging story, do a quick Google search — you might learn something even more interesting.

5. Beware of the Tendency to Cherry-Pick Information

Another human bias — confirmation bias — means we’re more likely to notice stories or facts that fit what we already believe (or want to believe). As Frans says, “When you search for information, you should not disregard the information that goes against whatever opinion you might have in advance.” Some scientists combat this by seeking out collaborators who, as management thinker Margaret Heffernan puts it, “aren’t echo chambers.”

These are people who will actively try to prove you wrong and can help you check your ideas and assumptions. In your own life, look for friends and acquaintances on social media with alternative viewpoints. You don’t have to agree with them, or tolerate misinformation from them — but it’s healthy and balanced to have some variety in your information diet.

6. Recognize the Difference Between Correlation and Causation

Frans researches ADHD and autism, and, she notes, in recent decades, “the number of individuals diagnosed with these disorders have increased rapidly.” Many possible causes have been raised, including vaccinations, video games and junk food. However, she says, “there is no evidence supporting these claims, and it’s important to remember that just because two things increase simultaneously, this does not mean that they are causally linked to each other.

Correlation does not equal causality.” Keep this in mind when thinking about our world. For example, if there is a rise in violent crime in your area and it’s being blamed on gang activity, or if a politician is credited with creating a low unemployment rate, take a wider view and look into the other contributing factors. Frans says, “It’s important to remember that there might be alternative explanations to a phenomenon.”

By: Daniella Balarezo & Daryl Chen

Daniella Balarezo is a Media Fellow at TEDx. She is also a writer and comedian based in NYC. Daryl Chen is the Ideas Editor at TED.

Source: How to Read the News Like a Scientist

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Supporting a Friend or Family Member with a Mental Illness

It can be scary when someone you love is sick. It can be especially scary if they’re diagnosed with a mental illness. It’s hard to see someone you love in pain and it’s confusing when someone you know well is not acting like themselves.

You know how you would take care of them if they had a cold or flu, but what do you do for a mental illness? Like any other health problem, someone with a mental illness needs extra love and support. You may not be able to see the illness, but it doesn’t mean that you’re powerless to help.

How can I help?

Research confirms that support from family and friends is a key part of helping someone who is going through a mental illness. This support provides a network of practical and emotional help.

These networks can be made up of parents, children, siblings, spouses or partners, extended families, close friends and others who care about us like neighbours, coworkers, coaches and teachers. Some people have larger networks than others, but most of us have at least a few people who are there for us when we need them.

There are a number of major ways that family and friends can help in someone’s journey of recovery from a mental illness:

Knowing when something is wrong—or right: Getting help early is an important part of treating mental illness. Family and friends are often the first ones to notice that something is wrong. See “How do I know when to help?” on the next page for signs to watch for. Finding a treatment that works is often a process of trial and error, so family members may also be the first to see signs of improvement.

How do I do this?

  • TIP: Learn more about the signs and symptoms of different mental illnesses. Also learn more about how treatments work so that you know what side effects you may see, when to look for improvements and which ones to look for first. A recent review found that when the family is educated about the illness, the rates of relapse in their loved ones were reduced by half in the first year.

Seeking help: Families and friends can be important advocates to help loved ones get through those hard, early stages of having a mental illness. They can help their loved one find out what treatment is best for them. They can also be key in letting professionals know what’s going on, filling in parts of the picture that the person who’s ill may not be well enough to describe on their own.

How do I do this?

  • TIP: Offer to make those first appointments with a family doctor to find out what’s wrong or accompany your loved one to the doctor—these steps can be hard if your loved one doesn’t have much energy or experiences problems with concentration. If you do accompany the person, work with them to write down any notes or questions either of you have in advance so that you cover all the major points. If your loved one wants to do it on their own, show them your support and ask them if there’s anything you could do to help.
  • TIP: You can’t always prevent a mental health crisis from happening. If your loved one needs to go to hospital, try and encourage them to go on their own. If you’re concerned that your loved one is at risk of harm, they may receive treatment under BC’s Mental Health Act. It may be necessary in certain cases, but involuntary treatment can be complicated and traumatic for everyone. To learn more about the Mental Health Act, see the “Coping with Mental Health Crises and Emergencies” info sheet.

Helping with medications, appointments and treatments: If you spend a lot of time around your loved ones, you can help them remember to take their medications. You may also be able to help tell a doctor why medications aren’t being taken as they should be. Similarly, you may be involved in reminding your loved one to do their counselling homework or use their light therapy treatment each morning, or reminding your loved one to make or keep appointments for treatment.

How do I do this?

  • TIP: If you notice that your loved one is having trouble taking their medication, you can encourage them to talk to their doctor or pharmacist. They can suggest ways to make pill taking easier. If there are other problems with taking medicine, such as side effects, encourage your loved one to write down their concerns and questions and talk to their doctor. If they don’t have a good relationship with their doctor, help them find a new one. If cost is a barrier, learn about BC’s no-charge psychiatric medication coverage called Plan G.

Supporting a healthy lifestyle: Families can also help with day-to-day factors such as finances, problem solving, housing, nutrition, recreation and exercise, and proper sleeping habits.

How do I do this?

  • TIP: See our Wellness Modules at http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca for practical tips on how to have a healthy lifestyle for both you and your loved one. Case managers and peer support workers at mental health centres in your community may be able to help with life skills training as well as connections to income and housing.

Providing emotional support: You can play an important role in helping someone who’s not feeling well feel less alone and ashamed. They are not to blame for their illness, but they may feel that they are, or may be getting that message from others. You can help encourage hope.

How do I do this?

  • TIP: Try to be as supportive, understanding and patient as possible. See our “Where do I go from here?” section for resources on how to be a good communicator.
  • TIP: Taking care of an ill family member or friend can be stressful. Remember that you need emotional support, too. Consider joining a support group for family members of people with mental illness. There, you can connect with other people going through the same things and they can help you work through your own emotions. It’s very important to make sure you are taking care of your own mental health as well….To be continued

By: Here To Help

Source: Supporting a Friend or Family Member with a Mental Illness | Here to Help

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What Can We Learn From Recessions Past?

Look, the economy has been weird for a while now. I can’t pretend to know exactly what’s going on or, more important, what will happen in the future, but I do know it’s unsettling to leave the grocery store wondering how the hell you just spent $40 on mediocre salad ingredients and some chicken. These are mysterious and confusing times, and I don’t have all the answers.

Based on history, things will probably get worse before they stabilize. The Fed is trying to fight inflation by raising interest rates — part of its job — which has had the unfortunate side effect of triggering recessions in the past. Of course, there are other ominous forces at play, too, like supply-chain problems and COVID and the war in Ukraine. No one can predict a recession for sure, but the odds are pretty high.

That’s scary to think about, especially considering that the last big recession (i.e., the Great one) cost millions of people their jobs and their homes. But the lessons from previous recessions can make the next one a little easier to handle, whenever it hits. (And not just “save more money,” although that undeniably helps those who can afford to do it.) I spoke to several financial experts about putting this moment in context, what to remind yourself of when things look hairy, and the mistakes to avoid.

Resist the urge to take drastic action.

When things feel precarious or a recession actually happens, it’s natural to want to do something — liquidate your 401(k), hoard beans, buy random stocks you read about online. Things are urgently bad, and you can’t just sit there! But actually, you probably should: “People tend to want to make big moves when they’re anxious, but it’s almost always better not to,” says Megan McCoy, a financial counselor and professor of financial planning at Kansas State University.

“No one makes great choices when they’re panicking, and economic scarcity is known for triggering irrational actions that don’t serve you best in the long run.” One example of this is the rush to buy homes, which started during the earliest days of the pandemic (technically, the last recession). “I spend a lot of time telling my clients, ‘No, don’t buy a house. Don’t buy an apartment. Stay put if you can — real estate is crazy right now,’” says Georgia Lee Hussey, a certified financial advisor and founder of Modernist Financial.

“They’re trying to anchor themselves to deal with their anxiety, which is completely understandable, but that doesn’t mean you should act on it.” A better way to channel that stress is to take stock of your spending. “The only thing you can really control right now is your cash flow from day to day,” she adds. “If you’re feeling pressured to act, get one of those tracking apps and gamify it for yourself. Knowing where all your money is going and seeing where you can save are good uses of that impulse.”

You may have to improvise.

I’ve written before about how to prepare for a recession, and it certainly helps to have an emergency fund to fall back on. But the truth is that most people don’t. If that’s you, now isn’t the time to beat yourself up about it.

“If job loss does occur, be ready to make adjustments and remember that they are temporary,” says Dr. Preston Cherry, a certified financial planner and head of the financial-planning program at the University of Wisconsin. “You can take an alternative job you may not be thrilled about or sell some belongings. You’re just filling the gap and managing the moment.”

I don’t want to minimize how difficult those things can be. During the Great Recession, I lost my job and, after doing some depressing temp work, eventually found a new position that wasn’t a great fit (I stayed for over a year because health insurance!). I don’t want to do that again, but there’s some comfort in knowing I could if I had to.

Beware the get-rich-quick schemes.

When people are nervous and desperate, they turn to the internet — where bizarre scams proliferate. “Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, when emotions were running high, I saw a lot of things online that were too good to be true,” says Dr. Cherry. “Some are more legitimate than others, but the important thing is that there’s no magic wand for making money.”

Some obvious examples: random cryptocurrencies and meme stocks, which, well, you know how that went. A similar thing happened in 2008, especially with scammers posing as government officers requesting financial information as a precondition for receiving tax refunds — and then opening credit cards in their names.

Even if you come across an “investment opportunity” that sounds aboveboard (and may be, technically), it’s usually not good to experiment with your money during a volatile time. You’re better off putting any funds you’ll need in the near future somewhere boring and safe where you can access them, Dr. Cherry adds.

Don’t be afraid to seize the moment.

No one wants to profit off widespread misfortune and economic suffering. But if you’re one of the lucky ones who can afford it, investing your long-term savings (read: not your emergency fund) in the market during a downturn can be extremely smart. “Putting money into mutual funds when the market is down — that’s the dream,” says McCoy. “It’s not sexy to buy stocks now, but during every recession, some people have made a ton of money by thinking big picture.”

Remember that the economy will recover.

When the economy takes a dive, it can seem as if our entire financial system is crumbling and we’ll be burning our worthless dollar bills to cook our food. And hey, maybe that will happen someday — but in the near future, it’s much more likely that things will bounce back.

That’s because recessions are, unfortunately, a normal part of how our economy functions. They have occurred about once or twice a decade for the past 70 years. And there’s no reason to think the next downturn will be an exceptionally painful one — like, say, 2008’s, which was the worst in almost a century.

“It’s easy to anchor our minds to the Great Recession and worry that things will get that bad again, but the economy is very different now, and there are a lot of promising signals,” says Dr. Cherry. “Not all recessions are created equal.”

This may not be a ton of comfort if you’re stressed about losing your job and taking care of yourself and your loved ones. But it is important to keep an eye on the bigger picture, which is that these downturns do pass.

Source: Lessons From Past Recessions

Critics:

Policymakers should take the lesson from the past two years that vigorous fiscal and monetary policy can boost income for most households and disproportionately for lower-income households and can speed economic recoveries. However, doing too much can have serious downsides that might be difficult to mitigate.

Macroeconomic support for an economy deep in recession with many underused resources can increase output and employment with little effect on inflation. But as the economy gets closer to its capacity, additional macroeconomic support will feed increasingly into inflation instead of improvements in output and employment. Going forward, the magnitude and timing of the response should be improved through more automatic stabilizers, and the targeting of the response should be as well. The good news is such responses can be implemented efficiently if policies are developed in advance of a crisis.

It is important to draw lessons not just from what happened, but also from what did not happen during the COVID-19 recession: for example, there was no financial crisis in the United States or worldwide. The initial, robust response by monetary policy-makers was critical to keeping the financial sector on an even keel. Better preparation in the form of more robust and stress-tested balance sheets for banks prior to the recession also helped.

The preexisting social safety net is inadequate in the face of recessions: it is not generous enough and has too many gaps, which is why it needed to be supplemented by policy action both in the Great Recession and to a much greater degree in the COVID-19 recession. Additional automatic stabilizers are likely part of the answer but are unlikely to be sufficient to avoid the need for well-timed and wise discretionary fiscal responses in the future.

It is still not clear what policies would work better in the United States to lessen the impact of a GDP decline on employment and preserve worker attachment to their employers. Job retention schemes were heavily utilized in European countries compared to state-based work sharing programs in the U.S.—these programs should be explored in greater detail for future downturns.

Related contents:

Economy Is at Risk of Recession by a Force Hiding in Plain Sight The New York Times

12:25
12:21
U.S. Retail Sales up 1% in June, easing fears of a recession Newsy

21:30 Fri, 15 JulUS Economy Business (US) Economy
20:34 Fri, 15 JulNasdaq US Economy Business (US)

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Is Your Relationship With Money Holding You Back?

Mel H. Abraham, the host of The Affluent Entrepreneur Show, often hears clients tell him, “I’m having some money issues because …” What follows “because” could be any number of reasons, but in Abraham’s book, money issues are often a symptom and not the actual problem. “The fact is your current financial situation is a result of your past decisions,” he explains.

So, when his clients take a moment to honestly examine their decisions and habits surrounding money, he often sees some of the seeds of where they are today — things like how much they did or didn’t save, what they typically spend their money on, and whether their relationship with money is toxic.

The reality, says Abraham, is that we are often conditioned to have limiting beliefs about money from a very young age. Money is not something we talk about or are taught about in school. And unless you intentionally seek to learn about money, your primary source of learning is observation. “The question, though, is: Who are you observing?” Abraham asks.

Most of our money education comes from our surroundings, aka parents, friends, and neighbors, as well as conversations we’ve overheard or what the media has told us. “Were they the best source of financial information and financial education?”

Based on these observations, we unconsciously create beliefs about money, and these beliefs form what Abraham refers to as our “money identity.” That identity could spur from things as simple as hearing a parent say, “We can’t afford that,” which could lead you to start believing that money is scarce and that you need to be afraid of spending any money at all.

You could have grown up hearing that “people who have money are greedy,” which might make you not want to work as diligently, or that “money is not important,” which can lead to brushing off the financial side of your life.

As you get older, these limiting beliefs can intensify. And Thomas Creel, the founder and owner of Creel Financial LLC, says these common toxic money thoughts can lead to everything from preventing you from asking for a raise you deserve to overspending, putting off saving for retirement, or staying in debt. He shares the following as examples of limited money beliefs:

• “I’ll never be good with money, so why even try?”

• “My friends seem to be doing well with money; something must be wrong with me.”

• “As long as I can pay my bills every month, I can spend the rest on having fun.”

• “Life is too short; I’ll worry about retirement when I get older.”

• “Only going out with my friends and spending money is when we have fun.”

• “My friends wouldn’t want to hang out with me if we did something for free.”

• “My parents never talked about money, so I guess I won’t talk about it either.”

• “If I lose all my money, then my parents will just give me more.”

• “Money is the cause of all the world’s problems; therefore, I never want to be wealthy.”

When it comes to money conversations, Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, the chief science officer for Happy Money, sees many parallels to the evolving conversation about mental health. “In the past, there was more of a stigma that kept many from sharing openly about their mental health struggles,” she says.

“Thankfully, that is changing, but when it comes to conversations about debt, income, and other money topics, it seems that we are still very reluctant to discuss our finances.” Getting in tune with your financial beliefs is one of the very best ways to start repairing your relationship with money.

Here are some expert-backed ways to begin repairing your relationship with money:

View money as just a tool

Creel likes to look at money as a tool in the same way that you would view a hammer as a tool. “You can either use the hammer to build a useful shelf for your home, or you could use the hammer to break things. It’s the same thing with money,” he explains. And just like how you have to learn how to swing a hammer, you have to learn how to use money to build the life you want.

Let go of the belief that “money is complicated or confusing”

“This often leads to not trying to learn about money because you believe it is beyond you — which it isn’t,” says Abraham. But if you don’t do anything to increase your understanding of money, you cannot feel better about your relationship with money. “All money skills are learnable, but without effort, we can fall into complacency, and complacency with money, which is the first step toward crisis,” Abraham explains.

Creel says it’s likely that you weren’t ever formally taught how to handle your money, and this is probably the reason you aren’t managing it correctly. “No one is taught how to use their money, and that’s what gets us into trouble,” he explains. “So, give yourself grace and know that wherever you’re at in your journey with money, there’s always something you can do to get better with it and improve your situation.”

Challenge your upbringing

Creel asks clients to take inventory of their childhood perceptions of money and question any limiting beliefs that they may have formed about it. “Ask yourself, ‘When it came to how my parents handled money, what did I learn from them?’ Talk with close friends and see what answers come up,” he says. This will likely bring up some common themes, like “money is hard to save” or “only people with X type of job have the ability to have a lot of money.” Next, ask yourself, “Am I sure that these beliefs are true?” “What are some other possible outcomes that could be true?” asks Creel.

Create some positive money affirmations

Come up with several empowering affirmations that you can say to yourself every morning that can help change your thoughts around money. Creel suggests the following:

• “I am capable of overcoming any money obstacles that stand in my way.”

• “I’m not poor; I’m just low in wealth right now. That is changing.”

• “I can conquer my money goals.”

Realize that your money situation can change

You might be strapped for cash at the moment, but a new job, a period of diligent saving, or a raise could change all of that, and quickly. “Remembering that much of what feels overwhelming in life, and with finances, is temporary is a good first step to overcoming anxiety when managing your finances,” explains Lauren Anastasio, a certified financial planner at SoFi. Try to shift your mindset and remind yourself that debt doesn’t have to last forever. “Keep your eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel,” Anastasio says.

Find a budget buddy

Understanding that the emotions you are going through are very real, and most likely have been felt by people you know, can be a comfort. “Talking to your partner, a close friend, or family member about what is going on may help you let go of guilt, shame, and financial anxiety,” says Anastasio.

Your budget buddy can be your cheerleader when you need it and motivate you whenever you get frustrated or discouraged. “Whether this person is a financial professional or a trusted friend whose financial choices you admire, he or she can also offer tips to help you be savvier with your money,” Anastasio adds.

Don’t compare yourself to others

Nobody is perfect, and comparison, says Anastasio, is the thief of joy. “It can be difficult to avoid making assumptions about how others are faring financially based on our social-media intake, but just because a friend is posting about their exotic vacations or a neighbor seems to be doing one luxury home renovation after another does not mean they’re experiencing success while you’re not,” she says.

Find the joy

While making money technically involves work, it doesn’t have to be a miserable, nonstop hustle. “Part of healing our relationship to money is not only believing that we are capable of making it, but believing that pursuing money and pursuing happiness, balance, and peace are by no means mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re mutually constitutive,” says Rachel Rodgers, the author of We Should All Be Millionaires and the CEO of Hello Seven.

While it’s true that “money can’t always buy you happiness,” it can definitely fund things like travel, new classes, and other passions you may have, enriching your life, and it can ease stress and increase your freedom. So, as you work through your limiting beliefs and grow throughout your financial journey, Rodgers says to remember to have fun and enjoy yourself along the way.

Tune in to your spending emotions

“Track what you spend and how it makes you feel so you can decide what’s worth it to you and what’s not,” suggests Dunn. Pay attention to how purchases affect your mood in order to identify what Dunn refers to as your “happy and sad spends.” By understanding how your money choices impact your mental and emotional well-being, you can start to shift your spending toward what makes you truly happy — such as paying down debt, savoring a treat, investing in an experience, or helping another person. “This mindfulness approach will help you get even more joy from your happy spends,” Dunn says.

Focus on your goals, not the dollars

When it comes to priorities, money can help you get there but shouldn’t be your primary focus. Robin Saks Frankel, a personal finance expert at Forbes Advisor, says it’s important to take time to evaluate what your goals are, not just with money but also with your life as a whole. “If you want to have a partner and children, for example, or you want to make a career change, those goals cannot be attained or measured by how much money you do or don’t have in the bank,” she says.

Nicole is a freelance writer published in The New York Times, AARP, Woman’s Day, Parade, Men’s Journal, Wired, Emmy Magazine, and more. Keep up with her adventures on Twitter at @nicolepajer.

Source: Is Your Relationship With Money Holding You Back?

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Desjardins, Jeff (December 15, 2015). “Infographic: The Properties of Money”. The Money Project. Ret

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