💎 On how humour boosts trust

In one study, researchers Alan Gray, Brian Parkinson, and Robin Dunbar had pairs of strangers sit together for five minutes and watch a movie clip. Half watched a blooper reel from a popular TV comedy—one that had been pretested to get lots of laughs. The rest watched an emotionally neutral clip—think a nature channel documentary, or the lesser-known “Fifty Shades of Grayscale.”

When researchers asked participants to write a message to the person they had just met, the pairs who had watched the blooper clip disclosed significantly more personal information. And when a panel of observers watched these pairs converse, they rated their reactions between the blooper clip pairs as 30 percent more intimate than the ones between the pairs who had watched the neutral clip.

Excerpt from: Humour, Seriously: Why Humour Is A Superpower At Work And In Life by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas

💎 Three rules for writing (do you know them?)

I suppose if I had to pick a favorite rule, I would paraphrase a man with a particular genius for scattering the alphabet on the page, W Somerset Maugham: there are three rules for copywriting. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Excerpt from: Copywriting Is…: 30-or-so Thoughts on Thinking like a Copywriter by Andrew Boulton

 

💎 On steering clear of the thesaurus when writing copy (simplicity)

Likewise, Roddy Doyle’s quip about keeping your thesaurus in a shed or behind the fridge – ‘somewhere that demands travel or effort’ – is a handsome piece of copywriting advice. Doyle’s belief that the word you think of first is most often the best is reinforced by the kind of anxious copy that reads as if every word has been ground through the synonym sausage machine.

Excerpt from: Copywriting Is…: 30-or-so Thoughts on Thinking like a Copywriter by Andrew Boulton

💎 On strategic padding to set expectations

researchers at the Kellogg School of Business. The researchers found that published flight times had increased over 8 percent in the past twenty years. But this increase was due not to changes in the time it actually takes to get from point A to point B. Rather, they found that this extra time was “strategic padding.” Airlines intentionally reported flight times as being longer than expected so that they could positively surprise customers in flight when they announced the early arrival time (which was-actually the: real estimated arrival time all along). On-time or ahead-of-schedule flight arrivals result in happy customers. And our idea about what is on time or ahead of schedule has everything to do with the expectations that are set.

Excerpt from: Blindsight: The (Mostly) Hidden Ways Marketing Reshapes Our Brains by Matt Johnson and Prince Ghuman

💎 On the value of changing your mind

With all due respect to the lessons of experience, I prefer the rigor of evidence. When a trio of psychologists conducted a comprehensive review of thirty-three studies, they found that in every one, the majority of answer revisions were from wrong to right. This phenomenon is known as the first-instinct fallacy.

In one demonstration, psychologists counted eraser marks on the exams of more than 1,500 students in Illinois. Only a quarter of the changes were from right to wrong, while half were from wrong to right. I’ve seen it in my own classroom year after year: my students’ final exams have surprisingly few eraser marks, but those who do rethink their first answers rather than staying anchored to them end up improving their scores.

Excerpt from: Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant

💎 On using our understanding of the natural world to your advantage

In another life-and-death situation, in 1989 Bengal tigers killed about 60 villagers from India’s Ganges delta. No weapons seemed to work against them, including lacing dummies with live wires to shock the tigers away from human populations.

Then a student at the Science Club of Calcutta noticed that tigers only attacked when they thought they were unseen, and recalled that the patterns decorating some species of butterflies, beetles, and caterpillars look like big eyes, ostensibly to trick predators into thinking their prey was also watching them. The result: a human face mask, worn on the back of head. Remarkably, no one wearing a mask was attacked by a tiger for the next three years; anyone killed by tigers during that time had either refused to wear the mask, or had taken it off while working. — sidebar: Occam’s Razor in the Medical field

Excerpt from: The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts by Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien

💎 If your ads make people laugh you’ll boost the chance your message is remembered

This finding was illustrated in a Pew Research poll, showing that viewers of humorous news show like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report remembered more about current events than people who consumed information from newspapers, cable news, or network news. And in one study, researchers found that people who watched a humorous film clip before taking a brief short-term memory test recalled more than twice as much information as people who took the same test after simply sitting doing nothing for the same duration.

Excerpt from: Humour, Seriously: Why Humour Is A Superpower At Work And In Life by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas

💎 How a little friction can aid memorability

Next Diemand-Yauman wanted to see if the same effect would true in a more realistic setting. He took the study to a high school Ohio in the United States) and tested 220 students. He screened classes for those where the same teacher had been teaching at least two classes of the same subject and difficulty level and with the same learning material. The experimenters took all the worksheets and PowerPoint slides and changed the font. (The experimenters did not meet the teachers or the students or visit the class.)

Classes were randomly assigned to either a disfluent or a control category. The disfluent classes used material that was switched to one of these fonts:

Resttonschweler

Monotype Corsiva

Comic Sans Italic

In the control classes, no changes were made to the fonts. Teachers and students didn’t know the hypothesis that was being studied. They didn’t know whether they were in a fluent or disfluent group. The Material was taught the same way it normally was taught. No other changes were made in the classrooms or the instruction. Students in the disfluent condition scored significantly higher on their regular classroom tests. On a survey asking if they liked their course or course material, there were no differences in these preference ratings. There was no difference among the different disfluent fonts.

Excerpt from: 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Voices That Matter) by Susan Weinschenk

💎 On the different characteristics of successful versus average negotiators

The average negotiators went in armed for battle, hardly picking note of any anticipated areas of agreement. The experts, in contrast, mapped out a series of dance steps they might be able to take with the other side, devoting more than a third of their planning comments to finding common ground.

As the negotiators started discussing options and making proposals, a second difference emerged. Most people think of arguments as being like pair of scales: the more reasons we can pile up on our side, the more swill tip the balance in our favor. Yet the experts did the exact opposite: They actually presented fewer reasons to support their case. They didn’t want to water down their best points. As Rackham put it, “A weak argument generally dilutes a strong one.”

The more reasons we put on the table, the easier it is for people to discard the shakiest one. Once they reject one of our justifications, they can easily dismiss our entire case. That happened regularly to the average negotiators: they brought too many different weapons to battle.

Excerpt from: Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant

💎 On the danger of only measuring the first order effects of an intervention

In 1963, the UC Santa Barbara ecologist and economist Garrett Hardin’ Proposed his First Law of Ecology: “You can never merely do one thing.” We operate in a world of multiple, overlapping connections, like a web, with many significant, yet obscure and unpredictable, relationships. He developed Second-order thinking into a tool, showing that if you don’t consider “the effects of the effects,” you can’t really claim to be doing any thinking at all.

When it comes to the overuse of antibiotics in meat, the first-order consequence is that the animals gain more weight per pound of food consumed, and thus there is profit for the farmer. Animals are sold by weight, so the less food you have to use to bulk them up, the more money you will make when you go to sell them.

The second-order effects, however, have many serious, negative consequences. The bacteria that survive this continued antibiotic exposure are antibiotic resistant. That means that the agricultural industry, when using these antibiotics as bulking agents, is allowing mass numbers of drug-resistant

Excerpt from: The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts by Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien

💎 On the illusion of explanatory depth

isolation is powerful but misleading. For a start, while humans have accumulated a vast store of collective knowledge, each of us alone knows surprisingly little, certainly less than we imagine. In 2002, the psychologists Frank Keil and Leonid Rozenblit asked people to rate their own understanding of how zips work. The respondents answered confidently — after all, they used zips all the time. But when asked to explain how a zip works, they failed dismally. Similar results were found when people were asked to describe climate change and the economy. We know a lot less than we think we do about the world around us. Cognitive scientists call this ‘the illusion of explanatory depth’, or just ‘the knowledge illusion’.

Excerpt from: Conflicted: Why Arguments Are Tearing Us Apart and How They Can Bring Us Together by Ian Leslie

💎 How good negotiators focus on the image, or face, that their opposite number wants to portray

As you start talking, what impression of yourself do You want to convey? The sociologist Erving Goffman called this desired impression your face: the public image a person wants to establish in a social interaction.

We put effort into establishing the appropriate face for each encounter. The face you want to show a potential boss will be different to the face you want to show someone on a date. Goffman called this effort facework. With people we trust and know well, we don’t worry so much about face. With those we don’t know— especially if those people have some power over us — we put in the facework. When we put in the facework and we still don’t achieve the face we want, it feels bad. If you want to be seen as authoritative and someone treats you with minimal respect, you feel embarrassed and even humiliated.

Skillful disagreers don’t just think about their own face; they’re highly attuned to the other’ face. One of the most powerful social skills is the ability to give face: to confirm the public image that the other person wishes to project. You don’t need to be selfless to think this is important. In any conversation, when the other person feels their desired face is being accepted and confirmed, they’re going to be a lot easier to deal with, and more likely to listen to what you have to say.

Excerpt from: Conflicted: Why Arguments Are Tearing Us Apart and How They Can Bring Us Together by Ian Leslie

💎 On self-praise being no commendation

Self-praise is no commendation. (If I say I am the best copywriter in Britain, you wouldn’t listen, if Dan Wieden said so, you might be fooled into believing it.) Also, raw statistics are more convincing than polished opinions. (A car that does 68 MPG sells better than one that’s “outstandingly economical”.) Beware of adjectives. They don’t always do what you think. (You’re all concerned about kitchen cleanliness but would you fancy a snack bar called “The Hygienic Café”?)

Excerpt from: D&Ad Copy Book by D&AD

💎 On the advantage of being familiar with a number of accurate models of human behaviour, rather than just knowing a series of unrelated facts

In a famous speech in the 1990s, Charlie Munger summed up this approach to practical wisdom: “Well, the first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ‘em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form. You’ve got to have models in your head. And you’ve got to array your experience both vicarious and direct on this latticework of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head.”

Excerpt from: The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts by Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien

💎 Bayesian thinking and the importance of applying a base rate when interpreting new data

The core of Bayesian thinking (or Bayesian updating, as it can be called) is this: given that we have limited but useful information about the world, and are constantly encountering new information, we should probably take into account what we already know when we learn something new. As much of it as possible. Bayesian thinking allows us to use all relevant prior information in making decisions. Statisticians might call it a base rate, taking in outside information about past situations like the one you’re in.

Consider the headline “Violent Stabbings on the Rise.” Without Bayesian thinking, you might become genuinely afraid because your chances of being a victim of assault or murder is higher than it was a few months ago. But a Bayesian approach will have you putting this information into the context of what you already know about violent crime. You know that violent crime has been declining to its lowest rates in decades. Your city is safer now than it has been since this measurement started. Let’s say your chance of being a victim of a stabbing last year was one in 10,000, or 0.01%. The article states, with accuracy, that violent crime has doubled. It is now two in 10,000, or 0.02%. Is that worth being terribly worried about? The prior information here is key. When we factor it in, we realize that our safety has not really been compromised.

Excerpt from: The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts by Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien

💎 On copywriting (briefly)

So, gather your facts and get under the skin of your target. Talk to them in their language, not the Queen’s. What else? Be brief. I believe it was Pascal who added an apology to the bottom of a long letter, explaining that he hadn’t had time to write a short one. Why take twenty words to say what you could say in five? Why decide on a long copy ad when a poster-in-the-press will do? For most people, and particularly women who work outside as well as inside the home, money isn’t the most precious commodity these days; time is. We copywriters would do well to respect that.

Excerpt from: D&Ad Copy Book by D&AD

 

💎 On how the serial-position effect (we remember beginnings and ends best) can improve your presentations

Accept that many things in the middle of your presentation may be lost. If the middle is more than 20 minutes long, break it up with activities and exercises. By doing this you are essentially creating several small presentations within your presentation. That means each of these small presentations also has a beginning, middle, and end. Since people tend to remember beginnings and endings,

Try breaking up a presentation into several small “presentations” means that people will have a lot more beginnings and endings than middies—they will remember more information.

Excerpt from: 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Voices That Matter) by Susan Weinschenk

💎 On how we can be trapped by our own perspective

The first flaw is perspective. We have a hard time seeing any system that we are in. Galileo’ had a great analogy to describe the limits of our default perspective. Imagine you are on a ship that has reached constant velocity (meaning without a change in speed or direction). You are below decks and there are no portholes. You drop a ball from your raised hand to the floor. To you, it looks as if the ball is dropping straight down, thereby confirming gravity is at work.

Now imagine you are a fish (with special x-ray vision) and you are watching this ship go past. You see the scientist inside, dropping a ball. You register the vertical change in the position of the ball. But you are also able to see a horizontal change. As the ball was pulled down by gravity it also shifted its position east by about 20 feet. The ship moved through the water and therefore so did the ball. The scientist on board, with no external point of reference, was not able to perceive this horizontal shift.

This analogy shows us the limits of our perception. We must be open to other perspectives if we truly want to understand the results of our actions. Despite feeling that we’ve got all the information, if we’re on the ship, the fish in the ocean has more he can share.

Excerpt from: The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts by Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien

💎 On the seemingly elusive aspect of money

At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, “Yes, but I have something he will never have … enough.”

Enough. I was stunned by the simple eloquence of that word—stunned for two reasons: first, because I have been given so much in my own life and, second, because Joseph Heller couldn’t have been more accurate.

For a critical element of our society, including many of the wealthiest and most powerful among us, there seems to be no limit today on what enough entails.For a critical element of our society, including many of the wealthiest and most powerful among us, there seems to be no limit today on what enough entails.

Excerpt from: The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness by Morgan Housel

💎 Why conflicts can escalate quickly despite the illusion of proportionately

A team of psychologists at University College London invited subjects into the lab in pairs. The first person was hooked up to a little squeezing machine, which applied a very small force on her finger. She was then instructed to press down on the other person’s finger using exactly the same amount of force. Crucially, the other person had no idea about this part of the instruction.

‘The second person was then instructed to push back on the first person’s finger, using exactly the same amount of force as they felt. The two individuals traded finger pushes, while the scientists measured the precise force they used. In every pair of pushers tested, the use of force escalated quickly, until the two people were pushing down on each other’s finger with about twenty times the original force.

It’s an experiment that offers an ominous glimpse into the dynamics of human escalation. Each participant thought they were behaving proportionately to the other, and while nobody was deliberately raising the stakes, somehow the pressure rose anyway.

Excerpt from: Conflicted: Why Arguments Are Tearing Us Apart and How They Can Bring Us Together by Ian Leslie

💎 The power of using nouns (being a voter) over verbs (voting)

You can stimulate group identity just by the way you have people talk about themselves or the way you phrase a question. For example, Gregory Walton’s research shows that if people say “I am a chocolate eater” versus “I eat chocolate a lot,” it affects the strength of their preference for chocolate. “Eater” is a noun. “Eat” is a verb. People who say “I am a chocolate eater,” who use the noun instead of the verb, show a stronger preference for chocolate.

In a survey about voting, Walton’s experimenters asked, “How important is it to you to be a voter in tomorrow’s election?” versus “How important is it to you to vote in tomorrow’s election?” When the noun (voter) was used instead of the verb (vote), more people actually voted the following day. Feeling that you belong to a specific group affects your behavior.

When you ask people to do stuff, use nouns rather than verbs. Invoke a sense of belonging to a group and people are much more likely to comply with your request.

Excerpt from: 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Voices That Matter) by Susan Weinschenk

💎 A simple but creative nudge that helped reduce workplace accidents (gold coin decals)

Globally, there are an estimated 340 million workplace accidents each year. These accidents are enormously damaging to both individuals’ lives and their contribution to the economy. While some accidents are a result of poor working conditions, others stem from the behavior of workers. For example, employees in a Chinese textile factory were in the habit of throwing waste scraps of cloth on the floor next to them, creating a slipping hazard. An explanation of why this habit had formed was that workers were financially motivated to continue working without breaks. Initially, the factory tried a traditional approach to influence behavior: offering monetary incentives to workers if they put waste in trash cans. The effect was disappointing: scraps were still thrown on the floor, and the danger remained.

Sherry Jueyu Wu and Betsy Levy Paluck, researchers partnering with the factory, thought that meaningful visual cues on the floor might help change behavior. Specifically, they introduced decals depicting golden coins on the production floors. Culturally, golden coins are considered to symbolize fortune and luck, meaning the employees would have a disincentive to cover them with waste. Introducing these decals led to a 20 percent decline in waste on the floor. A small, contextually meaningful change to the design of the environment was enough to overcome a seemingly entrenched habit.

Excerpt from: Behavioural Insights by Michael Hallsworth

💎 Advertisers would do better to fear indifference than alienating consumers (real people don’t much care)

  • When it comes to ads, though, remember that real people don’t much care about them. So negative effects are rare.
  • We know of no evidence of any advertising that has had a negative effect on sales.
  • Don’t worry about ‘alienation’. Negative effects among existing buyers but not new buyers or vice versa won’t happen; we can’t think of any examples.
  • So don’t hold back from bold, provocative ideas through fear of alienation. You should be much more fearful of indifference – and that’s wonderfully liberating creatively.

Excerpt from: How not to Plan: 66 ways to screw it up by Les Binet and Sarah Carter

💎 The fallibility of memory (even for big events)

Although flashbulb memories are vivid, they are also full of errors. In 1986 the space shuttle Challenger exploded. If you to recall that event, you probably remember it vividly. The day after this tragic event, Ulric Neisser, a professor who researches memories like these, he had his students write down their memories of what had happened. Three years later he asked them to write their memory of the event again (Neisser. 1992). Over 90 percent of the later reports differed from the originals. Half of them were inaccurate in two-thirds of the details. One person, when shown the description she had written three years earlier, said, “I know that’s my handwriting, but I couldn’t possibly have written that.” Similar research has been conducted on individuals with memories of the 9/11 attacks, with similar results.

Excerpt from: 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Voices That Matter) by Susan Weinschenk

💎 Beware claimed data (people don’t like to admit they ‘don’t know’ when questioned)

However, serious academic consideration of public opinion about fictitious issues did not start until the ’80s, when George Bishop and colleagues at the University of Cincinnati found that a third of Americans either favoured or opposed the fictitious Public Affairs Act. Bishop found that this figure dropped substantially when respondents were offered an explicit don’t know’ option. However, 10 per cent of respondents still selected a substantive answer, even when given a clear opportunity to express their lack of familiarity. Similar findings were reported in the US at around the same time by Howard Schuman and Stanley Presser, who also found that a third of respondents to their survey expressed positions on issues which, though real, were so obscure that few ordinary citizens would ever have heard of them.

Excerpt from: Sex, Lies and Politics: The Secret Influences That Drive our Political Choices by Philip Cowley and Robert Ford

💎 Beware interpreting stats on anything you have a strongly held view about (from politics to Covid and beyond)

It’s much more challenging when emotional reactions are involved, as we’ve seen with smokers and cancer statistics. Psychologist Ziva Kunda found the same effect in the lab when she showed experimental subjects an article laying out the evidence that coffee or other sources of caffeine could increase the risk to women of developing breast cysts. Most people found the article pretty convincing. Women who drank a lot of coffee did not.

We often find ways to dismiss evidence that we don’t like. And the opposite is true, too: when evidence seems to support our preconceptions, we are less likely to look too closely for flaws.

The more extreme the emotional reaction, the harder it is to think straight.

Excerpt from: How to Make the World Add Up: Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers by Tim Harford

💎 Beware the Rosser Reeves effect when interpreting tracking data (communication effectiveness)

Research routinely shows that people who’re aware of communication from brand X are more likely to buy that brand. Sometimes used as evidence that communication drives sales, in fact causality usually runs the other way: buying brand X makes you more likely to notice its communications. This phenomenon (the so-called ‘Rosser Reeves effecť – named after the famous 1950s adman) has been known for decades, yet is still routinely used to ‘prove’ communication effectiveness (most recently to justify social media use).

Excerpt from: How not to Plan: 66 ways to screw it up by Les Binet and Sarah Carter

💎 On the discrepancy between how important music is in ads and how little attention it gets from marketers (less than 0.1%)

Our disregard for the importance of music shows when we look at research literature. Of over 48,000 articles on the WARC database, only 10% of them mention music at all. Only 29 (less than 0.1%) discuss it in any detail. But the research that has been done on the effects of music suggests these are far greater than we seem to assume.

Research shows that music increases the attention paid to ads as well as recall of brand and message. We suspect these effects may be very long term. Think about the ads we remember word for word from childhood – it’s highly likely they used music.

It’s striking how often music is central to these famous campaigns. It’s estimated that the free media exposure arising from the music in John Lewis’s Christmas ad each year increases campaign impact by around 75%.

Given all this, it’s perhaps not surprising that the IPA Databank shows that TV ads using music prominently are significantly more effective than ads that don’t, enhancing effectiveness by 20-30%.

So, over a fifth of the effect of an ad may come from its music – meaning choice of music can easily determine whether or not the ad pays for itself.

That’s too important to leave to the last minute.

Excerpt from: How not to Plan: 66 ways to screw it up by Les Binet and Sarah Carter

💎 On the tendency of marketers to exaggerate the amount consumers change (social trends)

Marketing and advertising people can talk a load of nonsense at the best of times. But if you want to hear them at their worst, ask them to talk about social trends. The average social trends presentation is a guaranteed mix of the obvious, irrelevant and false.

Recently, we were listening to a conference speech about changing lifestyles’. Life nowadays is faster than ever, said the speaker. We work longer hours. We have less free time. Families are fragmenting. Food is eaten on the run..

We’ve been listening to this bullshit for 30 years. And it’s no more true now that it was then. The inconvenient, less headline-worthy truth is that people have more free time than ever. Economic cycles wax and wane, but the long-term trend in all developed economies is toward shorter, more flexible working hours. And longer holidays. People start work later in life and spend much longer in retirement. Work takes up a smaller percentage of our life than it used to.

Related myths about pressures on. family time are equally false. Contrary to popular belief, in developed economies parents spend more time with their children these days. Not less. Research shows the amount of time families spend eating together has stayed remarkably constant over the years, As has the amount of time they spend together watching TV.

Excerpt from: How not to Plan: 66 ways to screw it up by Les Binet and Sarah Carter

💎 Titles and headlines are critical (frame the message)

Read this paragraph:

First you sort the items into like categories. Using color for sorting is common, but you can also use other characteristics, such as texture or type of handling needed.. Once you have sorted the items, you are ready to use the equipment. You want to process each category from sorting separately. Place one category in the at a time

What is the paragraph about? It’s hard to understand. But what if I give you the same paragraph with a title:

Using your new washing machine

First you sort the items into like categories. Using color for sorting is common, but you can also use other characteristics, such as texture or type of handling needed. Once you have sorted the items, you are ready to use the equipment. You want to process each category from the sorting separately. Place one category in the machine at a time.

The paragraph is still poorly written, but now at least it is understandable.

Excerpt from: 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Voices That Matter) by Susan Weinschenk