Do you approach the world and the challenges it imposes more like a scout or a soldier? What’s the difference? Both are mindsets, and bot are appropriate in particular situations, according to guest Julia Galef. In this episode, host Russ Roberts welcomes Galef to talk about her new book, The Scout Mindset, and explore these questions.

Galef suggests we would be better served by utilizing scout mindset more often than we do. Fortunately, she says, it’s also something we can learn and train ourselves to do. We easily employ scout mindset when, for example, we mentally survey the best way to get to the library. Yet in bigger- and perhaps more significant- situations, such as whether to observes a religious tradition or who to vote for in an upcoming election, we tend to operate with soldier mindset. So, what’s the problem with that, and why might you want to learn to be more scout?

Help us continue the conversation, and let us know your reaction to the prompts below. As always, we love to hear from you.



1- How do you understand the difference between the scout and soldier mindsets? What are some examples of situations in which you thought you needed a soldier mindset, but you didn’t? What might you have done in these instances to be more “scout?” How about the reverse?


2- To what extent do you think Galef is right when she says scout mindset has positive externalities? Would the world really be a better place? Why?


3- How does the scout-soldier contrast help explain why it’s often so hard to say, “I don’t know” and/or admit you were wrong? How might this have been helpful in an evolutionary sense, according to Galef? It it still an adaptive behavior? And how might this episode help Russ with the dinner party conversation on minimum wage we asked about in this Extra?


4- How might scout mindset help you in situations where information is hard to find or not of the sort you need, such as whether to have children?


5- Early in the episode, Roberts confesses he’s become much more pessimistic about the efficacy of widespread economic literacy. How might scout mindset help Russ (and the rest of us!) recover hope? (Or, should we lose hope, and why?) Are we holding our identity as economic educators too tightly?