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8 weeks in: a word of thanks
Also: my week in science communication & the top posts you might have missed
Dear Educated Guessers, I have some exciting updates this week. First of all, I want to thank you for joining me on this newsletter. I published my first post just eight weeks ago and there are already more subscribers than I could have ever hoped for! You are an engaged bunch, opening nearly every email (which is super rare on this platform 🙏) and sharing your thoughts with me via comments and direct messages. You are the best, thank you!
This week has been a very active one in science communication for me. It was my turn to take the helm of the rotating Twitter account NL_Wetenschap, which has allowed me to share my research with thousands of followers in the Netherlands. One of the coolest things was responding to the questions of total strangers with a keen interest in science. I received very fundamental questions about psychology, such as: What is mental health really? How do you measure it? And why is it worse than it used to be? When working in this research field, answers to these questions quickly become assumptions you never talk about. So I’m happy that I got the opportunity to go back to the basics and share my perspective on these core questions with the audience.
Part of the Twitter role is also a nighttime radio interview in Holland—which usually takes place at 4:30 am but for me, being in the U.S., happened at a relaxed 10:30 pm. If you speak Dutch you can listen to it here, and I hope to record more English conversations soon to make my work more accessible to all.
Yesterday, I spoke with a group of experts who work with young children and their families (0-4 years of age) in the city of Utrecht. The group consisted of doctors, childcare workers, social workers, nurses, and so on. The topic was what I call “achievement anxiety”: a pressure to achieve the maximal possible performance in all domains of life (from work to vacation). This problem has been endemic in young adults in the last 10 years or so—but since these “former youths” now have children of their own, it affects even the youngest kids. I shared my experience with this issue, the research behind it, and potential solutions that I see. I will write more on this on An Educated Guess in the future, because achievement anxiety is still an urgent problem and it’s been one of my focus areas for about 10 years now.
If you are curious about my views on achievement anxiety, consider reading my book (in Dutch) or watching my TEDx talk on the topic (in English, linked below). Viewing the talk might be worth your time; here’s what one Youtuber commented:
Brilliant stuff. Very well spoken. I personally feel that in today's day an age the focus on excessive progress and excessive motivation has driven us all up against the wall. Everyone is obsessed with reaching the top rung on the ladder of materialism. People are obsessed with outdoing themselves and reaching some esoteric standard they perceive will help them attain status in society.
All these outreach experiences this week reminded me that psychology is everywhere in our daily lives. Almost everyone is interested in how it can help us live better. And I am one of the lucky folks who get the opportunity to study it. This emboldened me to keep writing on An Educated Guess, make cutting-edge research as widely available as possible, and most importantly provide accessible answers to your questions. My time on that Twitter account is almost over, but this newsletter will keep going as a place for debate. If you have three minutes to spare (I promise, just three), I would be very grateful if you could fill out this survey so I can learn about what you are most interested in. Thank you!
Finally, next week is a special one for me: I’m getting married! Because of this (and Thanksgiving) I’m taking the week off, meaning the next Educated Guess will arrive on December 1st. I look forward to reconnecting then.
In the meantime, I have a plan to keep you reading :) Since a lot of people joined this newsletter in the last couple of weeks, you might have missed some of my earlier stories. So here are three of my most popular older posts on An Educated Guess. Enjoy!
First, in a longer post published in early October I set out the reasons why I started this newsletter. I shared some of my own experiences as a researcher, my disappointment with classical academic work, and my optimism about sharing science online. I ended with an invitation to you to join the discussion here, on An Educated Guess!
Second, I explored how the psychological notion of “self-concept” might be holding us back from adapting to climate change. For this post I used an anecdote from the podcast “This American Life” as well as some data on speed skating on natural ice in my home country, the Netherlands.
Third, here is one of my most popular posts so far: a Data Dispatch with the latest projections of worldwide “wet-bulb temperature”. With a dangerous humid heat wave currently sweeping across Brazil, this idea is more urgent than ever. Check it out:
Have a great break, everyone, and see you on December 1st!