Anna Riedl is a master student in cognitive science with primary research focus on individual and collective decision-making and information-processes. Through her various interests in the field of psychology and her theoretical understanding, she finds ways to improve other people’s lives.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background in personal development.
I have been passionate about the questions of what it means to be in this world, but being is a dynamical process and always also means “becoming”. On the topic of personal development I have touched in various ways personally and professionally. I started with a deep dive into positive psychology and what we can learn from philosophy to lead a good life when I was still in school and think one important question is to think life backward: How do I want to have lived my mortal life? The ideas of Peter Singer on ethics influenced me a lot, I do think there is no reason to consume dead sentient beings and one day humanity will look back on factory farming as a mass atrocity.
At university, I studied psychology more scientifically and was filled with endless insights into humans and how to make them better, or as Martin Moder would say, less shitty. When I moved to Vienna for studying psychology I also joined and organized various meetups, for example, Quantified Self Vienna, where we used tracking devices and data to learn about and improve ourselves. My fitness journey was one way in which I learned to deeply transform myself on a level that was not just skin deep.
How does what you currently do contribute to the community?
I educate people, mostly students, on how to think more clearly about doing good. How can we operationalize, measure and maximize impact? And what actions does this mean I have to take?
But I also learned about many unexpected ways in which I have contributed, mostly by bringing together people and ideas that sparked a flame.
In your opinion and based on your experience in cognitive psychology and effective altruism, what steps can we take today to improve ourselves?
- Learning about our cognitive limitations and biases and correcting for them in our decision-making, especially when it comes to influencing others (e.g. read up on Kahneman,Dobelliand Ariely)
- Taking epistemic responsibility for your beliefs and the information you spread (imagine you would believe and seriously convince someone smoking was good for their health and they then start smoking. Lack of epistemic responsibility can be or be close to physical harm as it limits the decision-autonomy of others)
- Whenever you donate money, check out the research and recommendations by “GiveWell“. Read or listen to the content by “80,000Hours”.
What’s the most valuable thing you learned in your personal development journey?
Whatever part of life we work on (whether it’s our fitness or our possessions), it triggers understanding on a deeper level and influences other areas of life.
Breathe deeply and be.
Where can you be reached?