The Long-Term Mind-Set in Times of Short-Term Hysteria: Part Two

Before examining the times in which we live, it is useful to briefly reflect on some basic psychology. How does the brain form thoughts and make decisions? According to the Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s research there are two cognitive systems in the brain:

1. TECH/ALWAYS-ON

The biggest distractor and short-term thinking booster is right in your pocket: your smart phone. In the recent past we consumed our media, entertainment and social interaction in filtered chunks at specific moments of the day. We watched the eight o’clock news to receive an update on what was happening in the world. When we opened our morning newspapers we received the daily values of the stock exchange indices. When we picked up the phone or went to a bar we chatted with our friends. Nowadays, news and media are continuously updated and only partly filtered. Every time you open your phone or click on an app the world has changed. All these apps know exactly what to do to keep you hooked and checking in over and over again. There are so many updates that even the most avid techies get the feeling they have missed more than they have taken in.

2. CULTURE OF FEAR / LOW TRUST

One of the most famous psychological studies is called the marshmallow experiment. A child was offered a choice between having one marshmallow immediately or two marshmallows if they waited for a short period, during which the researcher left the room and then returned. The researchers found in follow-up studies that children who were able to wait longer for the extra reward tended to have better life outcomes on a variety of life measures.

3. SHORT-TERM (WORK) RELATIONSHIPS

The professional relationship is an increasingly short affair. The average worker today only spends around 4.5 years at each of his or her jobs. The Millennial generation, at the beginning of their working lives, only stay for half that time. As a result, people will have ten to fifteen employers over the span of their working lives. That means the answer to the classic job interview question ‘where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’ should be: ‘at a different company’. If only people where that honest.

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