Saturday, February 28, 2015

Interviewing Athletes

On the PBS Newshour Weekend, William Brangham interviewed Brandi Chastain, the extraordinary soccer player, about heading the ball in youth (under age 14) soccer and the risk of injury.  She said that there is no reason that kids this age should be heading the ball; the risk of concussion or other brain trauma just isn’t worth it.  The interviewer replayed an interview from a few years ago where she responded to the same question with the opposite answer – that heading the ball was perfectly safe for youth.  She explained that the emerging science has convinced her that it was too dangerous.

What I would really have appreciated would be the honest answer:

“I am following in a long standing tradition of athletes answering questions for which we have absolutely no relevant information or expertise, but who get asked anyway because of dim-witted interviewers who think that because we are athletes we have some clue about the legal, political, economic, biological, psychological, social, or educational aspects of sports. We have never taken so much as a class in any of these subjects, and even if we did we probably didn’t study much.  This is similar to Jenny McCarthy being an expert on childhood vaccinations and immunology because she is a parent.

But getting asked the question makes us feel smart.  We give the answer that we want/hope to be true as a way of rationalizing our behavior to the public and to ourselves. And to look much smarter than if we admitted ignorance.

Truth be told, I have just as little information today that the opposite is true and heading is dangerous.  I heard about the new science about concussions on TV.  And it is more popular to be worried about concussions in youth sports this year than to play the confident superstar sports hero like it was in past years.  So I changed my opinion.  And anyway, you foolishly asked me the question so what do you expect me to do?  Admit ignorance and disappoint my fans?

This Week in EID - Episode 43

I had a lot of fun writing the articles for EID this week.  We covered a lot of very diverse subjects and the discussion that some of the posts generated on the LinkedIn Groups where we repost the links was vibrant.  Here is the weekly recap:

On Monday, I made what I thought was a very astute parallel between showing my students respect by learning how to pronounce their names and doing the opposite to terrorist groups by creating disrespectful names for them. This train of thought was instigated by the ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State argument that was going on in Washington, but I like my name better than all of their choices.

Tuesday’s post on legacy icon images is the one that stimulated the most online comment.  I cross posted this to some UX-focused groups, HF-focused groups, and psych-related groups.  This was a great example of how professionals with different backgrounds will have different perspectives.  All of the discussion had supporters and haters.  But all from very different points of view.  It would have been interesting to mix them all up and have them debate each other.  That is one of the limitations of using LinkedIn groups I suppose.

The brain stimulation idea in Wednesday’s post on multitasking is a good example of why it helps to have at least moderate exposure to many different sciences and sectors if you want to be effective at divergent-convergent thinking.  There is a lot of research on how important this combination is for innovation.  That is one of the reasons I enjoy composing articles like this one.

And then I had to get in touch with my touchy-feely side with the post on Thursday about Patagonia and Recaptcha’s business models.  They both do something with social good as part of their regular course of business.  And this is partially how they attract business, even though the social benefits are not really part of the transaction.  But many consumers (including me) feel good when we do business with a company that does good.  Not as a quid pro quo for the transaction, but just because it is the right thing to do.  There is actually some solid research on how this ‘reciprocity by proxy’ effect happens.

See you next week!!