Every Friday, KUT producer Rebecca McInroy hosts “Two Guys On Your Head,” a podcast with UT Austin psychologists, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke. The conversations cover everything from procrastination, to why you feel younger than you actually are, to why breaking up is hard to do. Thinking in Public caught up with Art Markman to talk about the podcast and its impact on his own research and teaching.
How did the idea for Two Guys On Your Head come about?
Bob and I did a Views and Brews at the Cactus Café. [Views and Brews is a public conversation between UT Austin faculty and the community. They’ve done sessions on Jazz and the Spiritual Journey through the music of John Coltrane, Drugs and the Olympics, Texas Politics, the History of Radio, Women in the Jazz Conversation, Texas high school football, and the life of Tennessee Williams].
The conversation focused on effective thinking. After we did it, Rebecca McInroy, the producer of Views & Brews as well as 2GoYH, invited us to do another Views and Brews. When we came to the second event, she asked us if we were interested in doing a show for the station. Her pitch was to “think of Car Talk, but for the mind.”
We were intrigued by Rebecca’s proposal, so we went into the station and taped a 1-hour pilot (which, thankfully nobody but the station staff heard). After the pilot, we settled on the 7-and-a-half minute format we use for the show and they decided to run the show for a month. About midway through the month, they asked for a few more episodes, and they never told us to stop, so we keep going.
Do you get feedback from listeners? If so, do people respond the way you expect?
We do get feedback from listeners via email, Twitter, and Facebook. There are times when people interpret something we said differently than we intended. Sometimes, a listener wants a more nuanced view of the science than we can provide in the segment. We often respond to comments view email or social media. Recently, we started a Talkback segment that is only available on the podcast in which we respond in more detail to listener feedback.
Does this program have an impact on your own research and/or teaching? In other words are there scholarly benefits of public scholarship?
I think that doing public outreach makes us better communicators about our work in general, so it definitely improves our teaching. In particular, it forces us to think about how the research we discuss is related to particular topics of the day. So, we have become more adept at thinking about both the theoretical and practical aspects of the work. In addition, every once in a while someone asks a question that does not have a ready answer from the existing literature. Those questions become the source of potential research questions in the future.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Our experience has been that the broader public is really hungry for interesting insights from research. Of course, many people are just interested in their own psychology, but I think there is a fascination for many of the topics studied at the university. I think most people who try to do public outreach about their work find that there is an audience for it out there.