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Linnea Gandhi is adjunct professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago Booth and founder of BehavioralSight—an advisory firm helping businesses to integrate insights and methodologies from behavioral science into their research and decision-making processes. Linnea also coaches leaders on ways to reduce error in their own everyday decisions. Her work has been published in Harvard Business Review. Prof. Gandhi has also written and spoken about topics such as noise in decision-making, nudging strategies, and experimentation in business. She aims to teach students to understand and design for the nature, causes, and implications of human decision-making patterns in real-world settings.

"We talk about money and time but, in these days, we are dealing with the currency of attention. We have very limited attention (throughout our lifetime and each day) and it seems like we've lost control to it, to different companies, governments, and each other. I really believe in taking back control of your attention. "
— Linnea Gandhi

Transcript

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Linnea Gandhi (guest): is I think we are dealing in these days with the currency of attention. You talk about, you know, money all the time and even time but I think attention is the really the currency does your in in in how behavioral science is being used. We have very limited attention throughout our lifespan and throughout each day and then it feels like we've lost control of it to different companies, governments, each other pinging each other right. I could be texting you right now and your attention is drawn in. I really believe in taking back control of your attention.

Simone Salis (host): I am Simone Salis, next up on the humanist today's guest Linnea Gandhi. I am Simoni Salus today on the humanist linear Gandy adjunct professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth and founder of behavioral side and advisory firm helping businesses integrate insights and methodologies from behavioral science into their research and decision making processes. Linear also coaches leaders on ways to reduce error in their own everyday decisions. Her work has been published in Harvard Business Review, while Professor Gundy has also written and spoken about topics such as noise in decision making 19 strategies and experimentation business. She aims to teach students to understand and design for the nature causes and implications of human decision making patterns in real world settings. So basically how to make less terrible decisions both in business and everyday life. So I hope that with my accent all pronounces right linear linear where does the name come from?

L. Gandhi: It's Swedish. Okay. And my mom's name is Linda and her mom's name is linear. And then it skipped a generation It was her grandma's name. Okay, I'm any of the fourth, the fourth and officially

S. Salis: What are your last name? I'm pretty sure they usually people go like where are the round glasses?

L. Gandhi: Gandhi comes from marriage look, now the thing was when I grew up, I was a self proclaimed feminist and thought I was never going to change my name. I was going to be an independent woman my own identity Yeah. And then when I fell in love with my now husband is like really good branding

So I decided to change it and and it's actually really a fun calling card when you walk in the room. They're like your white chick.

And so it's a nice

S. Salis: you're like good observations. Yeah,

L. Gandhi: yeah. And at 1.1 of my past jobs the full name of it was the greatest good okay for for a hot second. My email was Gandhi at the greatest good.com which is pretty

S. Salis: well the other thing dot Mahatma

L. Gandhi: Yeah,

exactly.

S. Salis: Um, but you are a behavioral scientist to show

L. Gandhi: me in the field is very, it's very diverse. And honestly, I think of it is pretty messy. You have social psychology, cognitive psychology, you have problems of identity, you problems of self control problems of rationality, it's, it really is

S. Salis: and what is yours

L. Gandhi: personally in this field? And for me, actually, it's mostly my decision science would be the, the, the area of it, that the slice of it that I like the most. So where are people making decision making errors? Where are they do they? Is there a gap between what I want to do and what I follow through on or where if I were to step back and be my best self, I realized that I might be making a statistical reasoning error that's inhibiting my learning in this situation, or my acting in the most appropriate way, where's my attention being directed in an area that don't want it to be directed in I think long term, I like to be something of a decision therapist. Some of my most enjoyable partnerships with clients have been one on one discussions of where my clients feel they're making errors from a process or an outcome standpoint and talking through what are the patterns Why is it happening and redesigning their work or personal environment to help mitigate those errors? And it really feels like coaching or therapy.

S. Salis: So you're doing both business clients and personal on a personal

L. Gandhi: these are business people who are individuals. Okay. Okay. So so so you know, it it really folds into personal life, like you were mentioning with even social media, where is your attention going? And if your attention and emotion is really triggered, because you had a fight with your spouse know, and your trader and maybe you shouldn't trade that day

S. Salis: and you went to school, came to school here in Chicago,

L. Gandhi: now went to college at Harvard in Boston, and work there a little bit afterwards, actually writing business cases for Business School. Mm hmm. Not knowing what I wanted to do. Actually, at that point in my life. I wanted to be a dancer. I'm not kidding. You. You laugh I i in college, very late, very late bloomer. I

S. Salis: can see from how you sit.

L. Gandhi: No, no, I am a very physical and kinetic person. I which so. So I like teaching very in front of people. Um, but when I was in late high school and college, I was really dedicated to ballroom dance. So competitive ballroom dance Latin and standard. And it just, it spoke to me in a way I'd always been more intellectual, more of a student than any other than an athlete. But I'd also been a performer and I kind of, I guess, ballroom just spoke to me in terms of the philosophy of how to people should relate. So it's like, what's the ideal partnership? I was fascinated by that in college, both in my dancing and actually my studies I studied the philosophy of relationships and the psychology of relationships of two people.

How can two people see each other as subjectivity and not objects,

S. Salis: like it's very

L. Gandhi: existential, and in my dancing, I try to do the same thing. And it was it was never romantic. With my partners, it was always had a two people get along verbally and non verbally and improvise in a high stress environment. And you see each other every day and you're working on this physical, emotional, expressive, vulnerable craft. It was really all encompassing. I did it like five hours a day, I would go to New York for lessons. And so when I left college, that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to keep going on the amateur circuit and then eventually be pro my life really revolved around get good grades dance in college. Okay, didn't go out. socialize, didn't party really was probably very boring. I had friends, but it wasn't. I just didn't do the solo thing as much. So dance was just such a big part of my life. It was like, of course, I'm continuing. I need to find a job so I can continue dancing.

S. Salis: Uh huh. See, you wanted to do it all

L. Gandhi: kind of do it all. So my, my first job out of college was at Harvard Business School writing business cases. So the ones that you might read when you're a business school student of you know, john smith, the CEO, stared out the window and had to decide what to do this merger that was, that was me writing that. And it was a great job because it allowed me the flexibility to dance while keeping a lot of doors open in terms of next steps career wise, but dance really was the was just the default. I felt very alive. It felt it felt like a philosophy or even a religion to me, okay, like I should, I need to practice the way I relate to my body to the dance floor to the audience into my partner and practice it and it's just always develop it. It's, um, when I watched those videos now, the pros that I admired, it's, I could feel it. You know, it's and it's a you did improv to, right. Same thing when I got really immersed in improv. As soon as you get some training, and you've tried it out, you see more when you watch it as a spectator, you I appreciate it more. And that's how I feel about dance. Now,

S. Salis: when did you start you you decided you would pursue this career but eventually you I years?

L. Gandhi: Oh, I mean, I went cold turkey. Actually. I one of the reasons ballroom dance appealed to me from the very beginning was, uh, I was very attracted to studying relationships. Okay, how do you get to people to really get along platonic Lee and you get them to really work together as a team and our partnership. And the last partnership I was in was not was not a very healthy one. We didn't really get along.

S. Salis: We were talking on the dance floor

L. Gandhi: on the dance floor. And in general, I mean, generally, you know, is also okay. Yeah, we were. We were dancing together for nine months. And, and doing generally pretty well. Uh huh. Um, but I needed I needed some friendship. We didn't talk beyond the dance.

S. Salis: Oh,

L. Gandhi: yeah. At all. And I wanted to, and he was like, No, this is just like, do your thing. Dance? Fine. We'll go. It just didn't. It was just not a good match.

And I realized also I I kind of had been neglecting.

my intellectual pursuits. Mm hmm. And so just decided Monday. This is it. I'm done.

S. Salis: Did it go live with cigarettes? Like, after a while, it feels better.

L. Gandhi: Oh, I missed it. Oh, my gosh, I still when I watch those, like videos of your head of sales, and I feel it in my tummy. Um, but I've been able to still pursue the topics I cared about in Applied Psychology. So I it's, it's, it's interesting is it feels like I kept getting pulled back to that over and over again. When. So when I when I quit dance. I also started a new job at BCG, doing strategy consulting, and what did I love most their relationships, teams, organizational development, how do you create a positive culture? How do people thrive at work, when I went to booth fell into behavioral science very quickly, is the science behind it, not just the fluff or the philosophy which I had studied and enjoyed but the actual rigor to prove what works and what doesn't in different contexts and that it was like a light bulb went off it does I it doesn't have to be an art like dance. It doesn't have to be a feeling or philosophy or logic there's actually science

S. Salis: so you want applied research basically you apply what what is the research Do you you you're more interested in a practical application demonstration of those behavior?

L. Gandhi: Yeah, no, that's what that's what happened. When I when I went to do my MBA the one of the very first courses I took was managing an organization's when I yell at Fischbacher on awesome professor at booth, and I kept seeing the slides these little footnotes of the studies. So I want to read the studies. And so I ended up taking a bunch of PhD courses during my MBA thinking I would flip tracks, but I kept getting the feedback on my papers, which is how the seminars or run when you're in PhD course, you write a research proposal that, you know, if you're a PhD student, you would actually turn into a paper to be part of your portfolio of work. So I'm writing this proposal. And the feedback I always got was, this is interesting, but not really theoretically interested in it's interesting from a life standpoint, but not theoretically interesting. You'd never get published, you won't get tenure. So I was pretty clear to me that I wasn't interested in doing the traditional PhD route, I wouldn't thrive in that context.

S. Salis: I have no knowledge of it. I was just thinking you can only be a science in the measured that we're machines are wise, there is a little bit of like uncertainty. And they're like, well, there is always always answer. Yeah,

L. Gandhi: yeah, I mean, actually, I love the topic of uncertainty. My I see my role in is to help businesses and individuals reduce unwanted uncertainty, we're never going to get rid of it. But how do you wrap around your arms around measuring the amount of uncertainty in your environment, your outcomes, and trying to control it through some systematic changes and accept that there's still some uncertainty and outcomes? So like

S. Salis: you said, No unwanted unwanted uncertainty? Is there any wanted,

L. Gandhi: that's a good point there's gonna be. So if we think about the science, the science behind this, like a lot of what I tried to do is not just give you a new way of framing an email or a new way of running your day. But can we measure your adherence to a process and measure outcomes? And actually, can we create a counterfactual and run an experiment and try to shift behavior and wonder like outcomes in one way or another systematically? There's always going to be uncertainty in those outcomes, though, because there's chance variation. Yeah, there's variation, the environment, different versions of us come down stage into a situation you Is it your best self that day? Or were you moody Are you hungry, and that's going to influence outcomes. A lot of that variation is on wanted, right? You want to bring your best self every day, but there's some variation that is wanted, like you It's good that you and I are different people. You don't want all your employees to be the same cookie cutter. So helping people understand when we're trying to shift behaviors are changing decisions. When do we want to reduce variation? And when do we want to keep it know some of that diversity is actually really good. It is it's it helps with evolution. Evolution wouldn't happen without variability. Right. But there's some very ability that's unwanted unexplained randomness. And that's what we're trying to sometimes control. Yeah.

S. Salis: Hello, I am so Mona Salus and these St. humanist support for this show comes from you. If you would like to keep enjoying new episodes regularly, please become a supporter. Now visit human is to slash support.

MC Mona Salus today on the humanist linear Gandy a Harvard graduate and adjunct professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth, teaching students how to understand and design for human decision making patterns in the real world. She is also the founder of behavioral side, helping businesses and leaders to apply better decision making processes, through methodologies and insights from behavioral science. And she's also a trained performer, and improvisational theatre from the second CD the Iowa theatre Chicago and the annoyance she was explaining how to redesigning our environment to drive positive change for our own selves as possible Alenia so far what I get from your work,

okay. You're like a therapist for optimizing behavior of individuals inside

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That is why

L. Gandhi: I aspire to be that way. But I think the thing that I've been I've been really reflecting on lately,

I feel very strongly about this idea of being partially naive,

as a company, I might, I might believe my consumers are making mistake by not buying my product, but I'm like, I don't know if that's an error or, you know, it's, it's hard for me to really, you know, do the does the consumer believe they're making mistake? Is it an actual mistake, who's the

normative area that is really tough, I think, in Applied Behavioral Science. And, and so I, I am more and more leaning towards working with what I say I'm applying my skills to partially naive individuals and users. And I don't want to do it to people who are naive, because that's very, that's just too paternalistic.

S. Salis: Um, you're also an improviser, did you get close to improvisation for the same reason of analyzing relationship and human interaction?

L. Gandhi: I certainly think that was appealing. I so I took it up while I was in my MBA program. Okay, as I just I missed having an art or performance element in my life. But I was fortunate enough to end up going to the annoyance for my first set of training classes. And it was it was this talk about randomness, pure, pure randomness. It was just that that's the schedule that fit with my schedule the best it was a little IO and the second city and was like well, I guess annoyances, starting at the right time for me. So that's where I'll start. And I loved it there. And particularly at the annoyance Susan messing was the final course for me. I took her course twice. I loved her so much. I just, I could just take take me two people on she to me, she's a philosopher. I have notebooks full of things she said. And it's about it is about how do you relate to yourself? How do you relate to your your team? How do you relate to the audience sucks great therapy taking her class

S. Salis: Susan messing for who doesn't know if she's fairly famous, known improvisational teacher here in Chicago. And she is a great comedian to. And

L. Gandhi: I mean, even outside of behavioral science, just from a skill standpoint, I've used a lot of what I learned there just for teaching. And when I run workshops, and when I talk with clients in those settings. And when I embrace the principles of improv, especially those embraced by Susan messing, I just end up doing a lot better. And connecting with my audience and much better pedagogical experience,

S. Salis: you'll end up enjoying more like us to talk about it.

L. Gandhi: Yes,

S. Salis: behavioral science in the past decade as I don't understand it. But what I understand that he has a huge impact and implication in as we were saying, in everybody's everyday life, because we're starting to be some services that we all use that heavily rely on behavioral science studies to drive you towards some decisions that are not so conscious, I would say are more mechanical, and they're like, driven by the fact that, you know, you need to interact with the service, take Facebook, take anything, you know, even my first studies were industrial design. And so from the point of user interface, and user experience, I'm very sensitive about those. And so that is why I'm really interested in it. But I also have a strong hope that we can take behavioral science and the way that it is, is it has been misused, they think, as my personal point of view with those services so far, and we can actually started to apply it on a mass scale and level to help people and use their mental shortcuts and our animal thinking instead of against people. That is, yeah, desire, like,

L. Gandhi: I love that, um, there's two kind of things I'm thinking out in relation to that. The first has to do with, you know, I feel like I've shared something and a lot because of some of my work today, like, gets near this gray area of Who am I to say that you're making an error? Who am I to say that this is the behavior I ought to be helping you do? Maybe this isn't right. And so that's comes up to a philosophical question of who's utility? Are you maximizing? Is it the, the the manager that we use the word knowledge, I guess, to think about these interventions? Is the person who's changing the environment to shift your behavior? Is it their utility? We should be maximizing it you the individual who's being swayed one way or another? Is it you in the present? Is it your? Or is it your prospective self? Or your remembering self? Or, you know, is it the net of all of those? And does it depend on my contractual relationship with you, a parent child have different rules of the road there, then an employer employee has different rules that the company and a consumer has different rules than a government and the citizen, there's many different ways of trying to parse out

I guess, the ethics or where do I draw the line of, of when I as the, the architect of this behavior should or should not be doing and I think, I think every company, every individual has to come to terms with those rules on their own. And that's why for me, like the last few months, I've really been doing a lot of thinking about what do I feel comfortable using my toolkit for I love all my clients it love what I've done, but I'm starting to be more picky. Because I really do have this belief in I really am only interested in helping people who are partially naive, who, if they were in their best self standpoint, would say, Yeah, actually, I do want my decision to be fixed in this way, or my behavior to change in this direction.

S. Salis: And you are putting an emphasis on naive people

L. Gandhi: are partially partially someone who's fully and I'm you. I'm not an economist.

Hopefully I'm not using this wrong, but it has been a framework that's helped me. You have a spectrum of full naive at a, I don't realize I have an error that I'm exhibiting to spell sophistication, I realize it and I can fully remediated, okay. Most of us live in the middle ground. We call it partially naive. Okay, I can't thank you. I know I'm I'm stealing that from behavioral economists who probably right now are saying Oh, she's butchering that concept but that's that's like the loose way that I think about it it's for me to understand it so I think

S. Salis: this is like, it's, it's for me,

L. Gandhi: but I fear that a lot of like, your example of social media, it's, it's, I feel like we're dealing with a lot of people who are either fully naive, have a problem, and then it's like, well, is it my right to tell you have a problem or not? Or people who don't have an issue at all? And I'm just deciding beliefs are very few No, no, no, I mean, like, why should I be directing your attention towards add a versus add be okay, there's no decision making air, that's just me. So this is

My second point is I think we are dealing in these days we always have, but to really at a high level with the currency of attention, right, you talk about, you know, money all the time and even time but I think attention is the really the currency does your in in in how behavioral science is being used for better or for worse a lot of the concepts we talked about framing for instance draws your attention to one or other elements of information. And then you change what you do and decide based on where your attention has been drawn. We have very limited attention throughout our lifespan and throughout each day, and a lot of different competing draws of that attention and it's, it feels like we've lost control of it two different companies, governments, each other pinging each other right I could be texting you right now you have your attention is drawn in I really believe in taking back control of your attention.

Um, so I think part of it or somebody

These tools that are coming out with around digital health or digital diet these Hey, guess what did you realize? You open your email 20,000 times a day, like screen time from iOS? Yeah, some of it's about increasing awareness and patterns that you wouldn't be able to notice. But an algorithm or AI will help you notice. And then I think it's about you taking time to reflect and saying, Well, how, how do I want to be spending this is my this is my wallet of attention. Where do I want to be spending it and then setting rules for yourself in your digital life or even in your physical life? Yeah, to help that. So for instance, I,

my husband, and I realized very quickly last year that we were coming to a bad habit of checking our phones in our work emails all the time, even when we were together, and he travels during the week. So I really only see him on the weekend. So we have scarce time and scarce attention to devote to each other. And we recognize this as an issue in that we always felt a bit jilted when the other person would be check their phone while we're talking to him. And you're like, dude, is that really that important? And so now, our environmental design change, right? So we're, we're partially night, we realized we had a problem, we didn't realize how bad it was, and we didn't realize how, what to do about it. So it's a great situation, we sat down, reflected, and we said, okay, how can I design How can we design our environment

to get to the outcome we want? So now, our default is when we are together on the weekend, we don't have our phones, or if we have a phone because we need it for navigation, or for, you know, Uber or Lyft he, we take his phone and put it in my purse. Okay. So if he wants to check if you'd have to ask me any reason. Yeah. So we've, we've designed the environment for ourselves to help our behavior. And that's what I think one way to fix it.

S. Salis: You're highly conscious people. And you're,

you're a step ahead. Like, you know, I don't think you see we are partially naive. Sure, because you're not 100% on the special room of 100% consciousness of the mechanisms that over new Luckily, sale, but, um, I know very few people that have that kind of control. Most of my friends or people that I know are people that are just constantly with with the thing on their face.

L. Gandhi: The thing is, who are we to judge it? That's the right or wrong thing?

S. Salis: Um, no, I guess I can only judge for myself. But, you know, I want to believe that if the reason why you lose attention to the people around you, does not bring you any economical or social advantage. But it brings it to someone else, right? Who are we are a person with a conscience.

L. Gandhi: So I mean, I totally buy into that. And I think holders in your life, certainly, we're buying it right, your family, your friends, you know, guess your manager probably cares how your attention is being spent. They want you to be productive, they want you to be optimally productive, right? They don't, maybe don't care that you're on Facebook, as long as it's during a healthy break. Sure you but they do care if you're opening Facebook too much. They might if they're really good manager also care whether you're plugged into email on the weekend, or if you're actually relaxing and unplugging. So there's a lot of people in your life who who care. So the question back to ethics is maybe I don't care or fully realize my problem. But if I have enough stakeholders that I care about who care is that enough for a tipping point for me to realize I have a problem and be somehow incentivized to redesign my environment to help

S. Salis: you know, so the first step is to take a good look at ourselves and the people that we love around us and decide for ourselves, how much we care and what we're looking for what our goal is. And then we take a step two and do these these interesting thing. They're very concerned, redesigning our environment to tell your behavior, that's great.

L. Gandhi: That's the big thing I stole that from Kurt Lewin foreclosure psychologist, the 1920s awesome guy behaviors a function of the person, the environment, this is his simple equation, I use it and everything I do, you could substitute behavior for decision, every behavior, every decision is going to be a combination of who I am. Uh huh. individually. And even just as a human, the way my brain works, these patterns that we've learned about and behavioral science and how all of that interacts with the environment around me, if there's a dinging noise, I'm going to turn my head and pay attention. That's a combination of who I am, and my auditory and the ding that happened in my environment. So if you and I, right now we're having an interview, I'll turn my phone off. That's an environmental design to maximize my behavior and where my attention is being drawn. That scares currency here because we have a shared goal. And you might tell me that you might ask me before this interview, to turn off my phone. And I'm going to comply because you're a stakeholder I care about,

S. Salis: right? So I need to gain leverage towards all the people that I care about.

L. Gandhi: I think sometimes we're not aware we can change the incentives for the people in our lives. And we love and it doesn't have to be a traditional incentive like money, it can just be judgment or social social proof. If everybody in your family is doing a great job keeping their phones off the table at dinner, you will implicitly feel pressure, the stakes are higher for you to take your phone out. What is it that your company it's behavioral site? I founded it last year? Okay. You found it on your own?

S. Salis: Yes. Okay. So you're the sole founder. So founder, Erica, you do what you were talking about, like consultant for companies with like decision making and behavioral science with that

L. Gandhi: exactly. So I wear two hats right now. And I'm very comfortable with that there's a bit of blur. One is as an adjunct Assistant Professor of behavioral science at booth and one is running behavioral site with my colleague. And in both of those domains, I do what I call applied behavioral science, or maybe more accurate applied decision science, since we are focusing more on on not just nudging, but this idea of rational decision making. And so with students, we teach them how to take all these great ideas. They've been learning in their behavioral classes, and apply them two different projects with outside organizations. Hmm. And they run experiments as well. And then in my consulting work, I do the exact same thing just at a larger, deeper, more complex scale. How do you how do you create some structure around judgment, we'd make too many judgments intuitively me jump to a holistic assessment, right? When some when I walked in the room, and you met me today, you have a first impression, and you just intuitively jumped to it. Yeah. Um, but what your impression of me is going to be based off of a few seconds, a few minutes, is that going to be accurate? I don't know. Instead, you could have a checklist that you preset of different categories of information about me that you want to collect during the interview interaction, and you will be filling that out during our interaction, and at the end, ideally, doing it independently. So that, you know, if you're evaluating my vocal quality, and you really love my voice, that it doesn't have a halo effect. And then the next attribute you evaluate, so independently evaluate them. And then when I leave, you know, you maybe you already have a numeric way of combining all that information. But then you sit back and you make your in your holistic judgment. Hmm. That's basically the structure

S. Salis: idea. There is such a level of objectivity involved into what should do and what you're describing that I am overwhelmed by it. Because the way my brain works is, most of the times they're a bunch of voices, they punch each other, and then I go, like, shut up.

And I try to make some decision based on the goal that I want to reach. But there is such an effort because it's very easy for individuals especially, and I've been trained this to become not a victim, but a follower of those, like impulses and decisions. And any, it's hard because looking at you explaining this and listening to you explain this. It sounds like there might be a way to get a better outcome of my bed decisions, pull liquid them any any seems to so logical, but then emotions, usually, takeover and scarce

L. Gandhi: time and attention. So if you can't do with every decision, you would never get out of bed, if you were trying to do this, and you can't be deliberative, but for really important ones you can prospectively okay design for it, it's all about it. Really, a lot of this is about environmental design. It's not it's hard to change people fundamentally, you're always going to have limited time, I'm not going to change your mortality. Let's have a little attention. I'm not gonna you know, turn you into Spock all of a sudden. So if we accept those limitations. And we accept that because of those limitations. We take these heuristic shortcuts that sometimes backfire. Then if we're being responsible to ourselves, we should think ahead of time, what are some of the big decisions coming up in life for me, and how can I design my decision making environments such that when I interact in that environment, in a day or in a week and I'm still human in that environment, I still end up on average with the right outcome. So how do you structure that decision making processes for yourself prospectively, can can be you don't have to change who you are. You're just changing your environment.

S. Salis: Hello. See mana Sally's here. This is the humanist honest conversations for technologically aware. Contemporary humanists get new episodes as soon as they are released on Apple and Google podcasts, Spotify, Alexa or whomever is D.

MC Mona Salus today's guest some of the humanist is linear Gundy Edirne professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth, discussing how attention is the real currency of our times, and how we can consciously claim it back for ourselves every day, to be more present and make better decisions. We were also talking about the whole autopilot for human decisions, you know, when when you do something without even thinking about it. So you go on autopilot for the small things. Exactly. And like when you drive and then you find yourself and the destination

L. Gandhi: or like today when I when I took, I took the red line south and then was like, I'm going out, I really don't know how the heck does that happen, right? I was on my attention was totally in my email, and not where I was,

S. Salis: what are some of the things that you use this knowledge that you have, and this tools to try to fix to train out of fixed to send into the right direction to wonder you wanted to a new know it was for the best outcome for yourself. And you are not following like you were not having much success? And you're like, All right, I'm gonna fix this.

L. Gandhi: Yeah, well, okay. This happened, I guess, four weeks ago. Um, so as you know, I got a puppy. Yeah, about two months ago. And I've never had a dog little puppy. So that has been a learning experience. She's lovely. But I had to get up every day at three 4am to let her out and then come back in, maybe she's tiny jitsu. poodle mix, small bladder, we knew we had to do that. My husband and me and often was me because he was traveling and were a few weeks in to having her and we keep doing this routine. I am like going crazy. Because I'm working. I'm touching. And I'm not sleeping. I've gone through no REM cycles in three weeks. And I'm like, I mean, I lost it a few. I just was crying. I just going crazy. But I kept doing this thing. And waking up at three and 4am, because my hypothesis was she can't make it that long. And if she can't make it that long Shopian her crate. And if you piece in her credit, she won't like her crate. But I needed to like her crate because that's what's to be her home. This is this is the cycle the hypothesis I had. I'm and I'm going crazy about this, though. Because I need sleep. And my husband and I are talking about it. And like confirmation bias. We are we have we haven't looked for discovering information. Meaning we keep assuming our hypothesis that she can't make it the whole night is correct. And we're assuming our hypothesis that if she pees in her create one she'll hate it. We're not looking for any information to just confirm that. Mm hmm. So we were like, Alright, tonight. We're not getting up.

And how long did she make it? nine and a half hours. I'm like, I could have been sleeping like, God knows how long I could have been sleeping for the last several days because I didn't look for just confirming information. Uh huh.

S. Salis: The same thing that I'm

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sorry, that was it. I just, I was just like, I'm an idiot.

S. Salis: No, that I feel that that's what happens. And I believe that this kind of similar to what happens when you have a belief that might be political or might be personal. And then you have all this group of friends that think the same thing that you do, because they're your friends. And that's how you select them song. Exactly. And then you never seek out for any different opinion. And you're just keep it that's the confirmation. Oh, yeah, yeah.

L. Gandhi: And this happened, even last weekend, I have a friend who's into coaching and like, had a big group of us over and we did ice baths, he had these huge tubs, he poured a ton of ice cubes in it, and a little bit of water. And we had to sit in it for three minutes. And do it three times over the course of an hour. And before it was going before I went to join this, I was like, I suppose it's a super intense, I'm, you know, I'm getting old, I getting achy from all the different, right, it's five, five years of dancing, like, my knees are going already. And I'm like, Am I gonna hurt myself doing this? So what do I Google or ice Bad's dangerous? What kind of links Do you think pop up on the first page of Google when you do that?

S. Salis: Well, it's like 10 reasons why I do are

L. Gandhi: terrible for me. What I should have also done was, are I bad, safe, and also read those articles. I mean, I still did the ice that's

just like, God, I'm doing confirmation bias

S. Salis: again, it just it comes. So naturally. I mean, once you're informed, then you can take the bed decision.

L. Gandhi: So things like little things like that come up before sometimes in my husband and I have big decisions to make, we make checklists, and we did something once where we actually built an algorithm to decide between options Oh, my god it was

so I mean it's great economist so that's okay. raises and pecan

S. Salis: guys at any given time. The free time that a behavioral

scientist because I don't want it but I behavior list.

L. Gandhi: Yeah. Science practitioner. The shirt. What a terrible.

S. Salis: Yeah. Linear. Linear. Yeah. The linear and an economist husband? Yeah. Might be algorithmic just diagram

L. Gandhi: Isn't this the search for rationality? Hmm. Okay.

S. Salis: Does it make you feel in control when you guys develop?

L. Gandhi: I think I'm just more and more aware of how naive I am of how many problems I have that I'm not doing right.

S. Salis: You gotta give up at some point.

L. Gandhi: Oh, Oh, absolutely. Give up. I mean, I watched the Kardashians like I'm the worst of them. I like the idea of self actualization. This is the the big theme from you know, high school onwards, through dance through improv, through decision science How can I help myself and other people become self actualize become the best selves that we for, by our definition on and I think it helps me feel like I'm when I'm when I dissect my own decisions with my husband or alone, it makes me feel like a richer experience, I understand things a little better, and I can nudge myself a little bit more towards the way where I want to go. So it's empowering. But I don't feel like I feel like lesson control. But I feel more empowered if that makes any sense. Because I become more and more aware of what I don't know my secondary knowledge continues to increase.

S. Salis: See if you don't have a stronger in your journey towards D. Almost impossible. But a great to pursue self actualization.

L. Gandhi: Yes, I feel I feel stronger, but I feel like the problem always feels bigger,

S. Salis: bigger. Okay. Yeah,

so gigantic. And

it's not the fun part for you trying to tweak that like trying to make yourself a little bit better do you find?

L. Gandhi: Yeah, I mean, that's a big part of my husband and my relationship. We both really believe in self improvement, even if we suck at it sometimes. And I think some of this tools helps helps me remember to stay humble, and just how little I know how little I control in the world. How little an impact I can make.

Which kind of sounds depressing now,

S. Salis: no, that's, that's, that's actually probably that's why you feeling empowering, because it's in a way to really

L. Gandhi: just, there's so many we control. And I think, I think actually, a lot of what I've been intellectually pursuing the summer has been more just pure statistics, understanding principles of statistical reasoning, because a lot of the psychology that I love my own decision science is just a divergence from being good statistician, being good economist. And so thinking that way, has been actually really empowering and what's big, and in statistics, accepting the fact that there's just a ton of uncertainty and randomness, and that we see systematic patterns, and there really isn't much they're like, there's a lot more randomness and uncertainty and chance in the world than we want to thank as humans. And it's kind of a relief to just accept that,

S. Salis: you know, there is the, the, the paradox of demand that is, like, standing in front of a gigantic tsunami wave, and just feel so serene, because it's nothing like there's nothing I can do. Yeah, and so I guess that's, well, hopefully smaller version of that, but I can understand that intellectually, seems to, we tend to act as you know, with our biases, shortcuts, and all kinds of things, that kind of thing. What is the way for us to take a decision consciously, not just because we're reacting to the environment, or the way that we are? Because the example that you said earlier, the auditory system is there and the bell rings, so your head turns, do you think that like trying to analyze and look at yourself like you do is the way to go, if you want to try to do conscious decisions, can we make a conscious decision like that, I don't want to go to the free wheel, I don't want to go.

L. Gandhi: But that's interesting. I think there's a, so a lot of my work is around Environmental Design, changing every, like your physical environment, your communications, because that enables you to make better decisions, even unconsciously, because I like the, the maze you're going through has shifted, and so you just keep going, but I've already shifted in a better direction. Um, so I would, I would say, it doesn't necessarily have to be conscious. But if you want to be more conscious, I think the biggest thing is slow down, training yourself to slow down, whether it be through mindfulness, breathing, whatever works for you. It a lot of a lot of the negative behaviors are the things that we might judge a suboptimal or even just your auditory your head turning that we talked about with the Dang, I feel like if you if you can allow yourself to slow down, and it helps you not be so reactive. Like for me, I'm a very reactive person. I know, I overreact to small pieces of immediate information, I'm an action already, I want to fix it. I bet. I also know that that's the trigger that usually gets me into trouble. And so I've trained myself to not be so reactive to the stimuli in my environment. And that's something that you can work on physically, emotionally, you can work on it through environmental design. So guess what I have in my email, I have a one minute delay. So everything sits in my outbox for one minute, not because I don't, it's not because I write route emails. It's actually the thing I tend to mess up on is who's in the two in the CC line? I had one terrible incident of that when I was consulting and I think I have PTSD from it. But it was a reminder of slow down who's, who's an email line? Did you write that email the right way? Did you remember the attachment and that's just it's an environmental design that literally requires me to slow down, I can go back and recheck that email. Okay, um, it's slowing down. If you want to be conscious, you need to spend time and attention on the short way environment.

S. Salis: Yeah. Have you ever practice any kind of meditation or those things? Yes.

L. Gandhi: I wish I meditated doing this breathing exercise with my friend last week. That was helpful for me. I do. I like yoga, I love I went through, I went through it and I've done dance intensively, improv intensely I've done Bikram yoga intensively.

S. Salis: So it looks like everything you do you do pretty intense. I

L. Gandhi: know. I kind of go all or nothing.

S. Salis: Yeah, it is.

L. Gandhi: Yeah, it has weird is, it's, it's, it's like, I kind of like if I can't do it intensely. Why would I do it at all?

S. Salis: How did you guys meet you and your husband? If we're gonna Oh, yeah,

L. Gandhi: yeah, we met at school. So at Harvard, we were in the same dorm. So the dining hall you shared and everything. And he, one of his friends is actually someone I went to high school with. And so I met him his senior year and just through, you know, social connection.

Yeah, we bonded over making fun of a mutual friend.

S. Salis: Yeah, that always helps.

L. Gandhi: That always helps someone else to put down their own enjoyment. Yeah,

yeah, we've been together for 10 years now. Oh, cheers. Yeah, thank you. And married for five. It's interesting to watch relationship shift over time. And we're very different people. I'm certainly very different than I was in my 20s Super different. Oh, in a good way. I feel like I have more control but self understanding self acceptance.

S. Salis: Okay. So the work on self improvement is given some fruit.

L. Gandhi: I like to think that

S. Salis: you grew up with siblings, siblings? No, and an only child. Yeah, I'm in Milwaukee, you said, right. Mm hmm. And did your family give you any kind of imprint on spirituality or religion,

L. Gandhi: I am attracted to more Buddhism, I never, I have never, I'm not at all studied in that kind of thing. But there's something attractive about being spiritual and being slower and thinking about how people connect, right, that goes right back to my dad

S. Salis: from the outside, you seem to have all the elements of a person that he's like, it's self reflective, wondering about relationships between human beings, body ethics of choices

L. Gandhi: here, way to kind

S. Salis: and no, I'm not, I'm not saying that. It's a beautiful example of how a person can be infant does not because of the show, a humanist without a, without necessarily being religious or spiritual, a, you can have a strong set of ethics and high values for you, yourself, at least the bar without necessarily, as

L. Gandhi: I said, I've always been in search of a religion, I don't, I don't, I don't, I don't like the idea of an institution. There's the hippie and me, but like, when I did bottom, it was, it really was like a religion. It was like, that became a religion to me. And then improv and how we relate on stage and seeing and hearing and connecting and, and very focused on the other like, with the big toe on stage that became a religion

just, I don't say, behavioral science isn't really a religion for me. But and it's interesting how, like, going all in on something, you take the mores of the principles of it, and it becomes a way of life,

S. Salis: that's a good way to put a thing, they you take a set of values, you look into them, you believe so strongly into them, that they become like a guiding light and reference

L. Gandhi: and they overlap. I think, for me, we talked about being kinesthetic, like touch has been a big thing in my life. And I really only come into self awareness of that lately, and the dog has been, it's so it's, it's me, not not alone anymore. I'm usually alone during the week, my husband traveling and I'm used to it being an only child, but then having now I have another entity there, and there's so much touch involved. And it's very therapeutic of like, hugging and kissing, and rubbing. And there's something about touch and physicality that I did. brings me back to my days with dance. And how do you touch another being, and like, the way you pass energy back and forth now, can I really sound like a hippie

is it's it's, it's, it's, it's nice to explore that with this animal.

S. Salis: No, I believe that's really nice. What do you what do you look for holder? You ish? You're in your early 30s

L. Gandhi: best number ever? Yeah.

S. Salis: Yes. Tell justice about that.

That specific point, what do you look for? What do you hope you will do in the future? Let me explain better I leave with a constant thing that I probably am not going to be able to answer it that we all have an expiration date, right? You can turn me into Spock, you can like

put that expiration date on mortality far away in time for what it is. And so I believe that that is a good reminder, a memento mori of what we should be trying to pursue now, we will not necessarily succeed but I think it's a great way to try to set at least a goal and then he will not be that for yourself something that you want to work on know you want to achieve. Because you don't know if you what it is that you want to work on, you have been thinking about lately you said about your current things, what what matters to you like, I know it's not it's, it's a

L. Gandhi: I mean, I could name a bunch of endpoints. So this go back to my days being a philosophy major, we could talk about being something or becoming like, there are endpoints that I kind of care about, I love to develop as a professor and, and, and make that into a more than just an adjunct position at some point in the next decade. And I'd like to become more and more towards decision therapy. I love individual coaching. So thinking and exploring that path but from like a becoming standpoint of like what this there's like a state of being I think I'm I'm I'm after as well, which is being slower, I'm naturally more high energy and I used to revel in that and I realize therapy through the dog even I am better self when I'm slower when I slow down, not just more rational, but just calmer and more reflective and more humble and more present and there for other people and myself.

S. Salis: So the end being slower allows you to be there for for other people it for yourself more easily and more fully

L. Gandhi: maximize and even my attention to bring it back to that versus the attention of my attention would fly and find flying fly. And I used to think Oh, I'm so fast like an improviser honest, he was fast and witty and quick. Not that I was that as a terrible advisor. I think it's more going to slow form like TJ and Dave, you know, like, that's exactly it moved to this too long form. There's something that vibe is what I'm trying to transform myself away from, from the, you know, improvised Shakespeare sure group which I like that kind of improv and feeling and being but being able to flex my muscle in both directions and have more control over what do I want to be high energy and fast and quick and boom, boom, boom. Or is this a time to just you know, chill and and be in the moment and be present having more control over the different versions of me that come down stage.

S. Salis: Alright, behavioral side phone, they're a dime professor at a booth, University of Chicago and slower and slower thinker and human being

can be thank you so much today for being on the homeschooling.

L. Gandhi: My pleasure, Simone. Thank you.

S. Salis: Linear. Gandy teaches students and leaders how to better understand how humans distribute their attention span in decision making, helping businesses and individuals to achieve an improved understanding of their process thanks to behavioral science.

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