Time is money. That, at least, is the principle behind an innovative scheme being tested in Estonia to deal with dangerous driving. During trials that began in 2019, anyone caught speeding along the road between Tallinn and the town of Rapla was stopped and given a choice. They could pay a fine, as usual, or take a ‘timeout’ instead – waiting going when stopped. In other words, they could pay the fine in time rather than money.
The aim of the experiment was to see how drivers perceive speeding, and whether loss of time might be a stronger deterrent than loss of money. The project is a collaboration between Estonia’s Home Office and the police force, and is part of a program designed to encourage innovation in public services. Government teams propose a problem they would like to solve – such as traffic accidents caused by irresponsible driving – and work under the guidance of an innovation unit. Teams are expected to do all fieldwork and interviews themselves.
If you’ve ever wondered why every poster and every trailer and every TV spot looks exactly the same, it’s because of testing. It’s because anything interesting scores poorly and gets kicked out Now I’ve tried to argue that the methodology of this testing doesn’t work. If you take a poster or a trailer and you show it to somebody in isolation, that’s not really an accurate reflection of whether it’s working because we don’t see them in isolation, we see them in groups. We see a trailer in the middle of five other trailers, we see a poster in the middle of eight other posters, and I’ve tried to argue that maybe the thing that’s making it distinctive and score poorly actually would stick out if you presented it to these people the way the real world presents it. And I’ve never won that argument.
In the first few decades of cinema, patrons would buy a ticket that granted general admission to the theatre. Several features would be playing on a loop, and you could choose whichever you fancied. You might enter halfway through the main movie, watch it until the end, see the cartoons and the newsreel and then start from the beginning to catch what you’d missed. It functioned rather like a big public television. Then, in 1960, a director decreed that no one would be permitted to enter screenings once his new film had begun: the integrity of the viewing experience was paramount. The film was Psycho and Alfred Hitchcock’s edict – part artistic statement, part marketing ploy – placed new emphasis on plot twists in the final act. (He also asked critics not to discuss those key details.)
Consider a study I helped conduct, led by my doctoral student Aneesh Rai, which involved thousands of volunteers at a large nonprofit who had promised to work two hundred hours within a year of joining but were falling short of their pledge. Knowing that facing such a massive goal can be demotivating, my collaborators and I instead asked the volunteers to comm it to four hours each week or eight hours every two weeks-which, of course, is basically the same as two hundred hours a year. But these smaller commitments, despite amounting to the same annual pledge, yielded 8 percent more time volunteering overall than simply prompting people to make progress on a yearly commitment. (Likewise, the online financial services company Acorns has found that it’s more effective when people are asked to set aside monthly even though these amount to the same thing.) If a commitment is bite-size, it appears less daunting to us, and we’re more likely to stick to our world.
A team of researchers in the United States designed a study to determine whether more people would trust a self-driving car if it had anthropomorphic features. A hundred participants were divided into three groups and asked to sit in a highly sophisticated driving simulator. The first group, the control, were driving a ‘normal’ vehicle. The second were in a driverless vehicle but with no anthropomorphic features. The last were in the same vehicle but it was called ‘Iris’ and given a gender (notably female). A soothing voice played at different times. The participants were asked an array of questions during the course, such as ‘How much would you trust the vehicle to drive in heavy traffic?’ and ‘How confident are you about the car driving safely?’ As the researchers predicted, when participants believed Iris was behind the wheel, it significantly increased their trust in the driverless vehicle. Remarkably, after the cars got into a preprogrammed crash, those in the Iris group were less likely to blame the car for the accident.
A team led by psychologist Professor Michael Norton contacted over two thousand people whose net worth started at one million dollars and rose to an awful lot more. They were asked to rate their happiness on a ten-point scale, then say how much cash they’d need to be perfectly happy. ‘All the way up the income-wealth spectrum,’ Norton reported, ‘basically everyone says two or three times as much.’
Recent research suggests that anything more than a short lapse in a behavior we hope to make habitual (say, multiple missed visits to the gym rather than just one) can be costly. Seinfeld’s mantra “Don’t break the streak” is astute. It also helps explain the logic behind twenty-eight-pill packages of birth control. Scientifically speaking, the pills are necessary only on the first twenty-one days of a twenty-eight-day menstrual cycle. However, most birth control packages include seven sugar pills along with twenty-one hormone pills to ensure that people on birth control won’t fall out of the bit.
Many times, we think we are multitasking well and we aren’t. A study by Ira Hyman (2009) showed that people walking while talking on cell phones ran into people (literally) more often, and were less likely to notice what was around them than people who were not talking on cell phones. The researchers had someone in a clown suit ride by on a unicycle. The people talking on a cell phone were much less likely to notice or remember the clown than those who were not multitasking,
“Your first two courses are already on the table.” Yes, that’s what the diners are told by the waiter at Noma after being seated. This all seems very strange however, as there is nothing on the table. Well, nothing that is other than a collection of plant pots in the center (the clue being the fact that there are exactly as many flowerpots as there are diners at the table). The diner is expected to bring the pot closer and then to start digging with nothing else but their hands into the ‘soil’, eating everything they find, including the roots! This starter, camouflaged as it is in a terracotta flower pot, consists of carrots and radishes planted in a dark brown, crunchy edible mixture of malt and hazel· nut flour (which gives a pretty good visual impression of soil) and a greenish yoghurt-based sauce lying at the very bottom (see Figure 4.9a). As a friend who was lucky enough to try this dish put it: “The crunch malt crumble hit the palate followed by the creamy dip and the spicy and fresh crunchy radish. It was a good harvest.” This dish, in the way that it is presented and in the given hidden conceptual incongruity as we’ll discuss in Chapter 7.
Using data on more than 1m babies born in Washington state between 1996 and 2009, and records of thousands of crimes committed there between 1992 and 2015, the authors find that when women become pregnant, they are much less likely to be arrested, for a wide range of crimes. The effective most marked for “economic” crimes, such as theft and burglary, but is also true of assaults, vandalism, and alcohol and drug offences. Arrest rates fall by 50%, almost as soon as women become pregnant and fall much further as the pregnancy goes on. Although they bounce back somewhat after childbirth, arrest rates stabilize at about half pre pregnancy levels.
More surprisingly, the same pattern holds for fathers. Men are much likelier than women to commit crimes of all sorts in the first place, and the decline in some types of crime is less dramatic for dads than for mums. But arrest rates drop by around 15% once their partners become pregnant, and stay around this mark even after birth. In a blog post commenting on the paper, Alexander Tabarrok of George Mason University described the effect as “astoundingly large”. A study by Mr. Tabarrok published in 2007 concluded that the threat of an additional 20 years of prison made criminals 17% less likely to reoffend; the prospect of fatherhood, it seems, is more salutary than that of two decades of incarceration.
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.
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.
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
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But there’s a way to maximize the pleasure of that second confection. Temporarily giving up chocolate can restore our ability to enjoy it. After an initial chocolate tasting, students promised to abstain from chocolate for one week. Another group of students pledged to eat as much chocolate as they comfortably could, and they received a two-pound bag of chocolate to help them fulfill their pledge. The students who left with this reservoir of chocolatey goodness may seem like the lucky ones. But their sweet windfall came at a price. When they returned the following week to sample additional chocolate, they enjoyed it much less than they had the week before. People only enjoyed chocolate as much the second week as they had the first if they had given it up in between.”
The apples-and-oranges quality of experiences also makes it easier to enjoy them in the moment, unfettered by depressing comparisons. Researchers at Cornell gave students a Pilot G2 Super Fine pen as a prize and asked them to try it out. When it was surrounded by inferior prizes, including an unsharpened pencil and a bag of rubber bands, the students gave the pen rave reviews. Other students saw the same pen alongside a USB drive and a leatherbound notebook. The presence of more desirable goods significantly diminished the pen’s appeal. This simple study illustrates one of the major barriers to increasing human well-being. We are happy with things, until we find out there are better things available.
Luckily, this tendency may be limited to things. Even the simplest experiences, like eating a bag of crisps, are relatively immune to the detrimental effects of attractive alternatives. Offered the chance to eat a bag of crisps, students enjoyed the crisps’ crunchy goodness regardless of whether the surrounding alternatives included Cadbury’s chocolate or clam juice.
Graham and I thought it was rather a good sketch. It was therefore terribly embarrassing when I found I’d lost it. I knew Graham was going to be cross, so when I’d given up looking for it, I sat down and rewrote the whole thing from memory. It actually turned out to be easier than I’d expected.
Then I found the original sketch and, out of curiosity, checked to see how well I’d recalled it when rewriting. Weirdly, I discovered that the remembered version was actually an improvement on the one that Graham and I had written. This puzzled the hell out of me.
Again I was forced to the conclusion that my mind must have continued to think about the sketch after Graham and I had finished it. And that my mind had been improving what we’d written, without my making any conscious attempt to do so. So when I remembered it, it was already better.
Chewing this over, I realised it was like the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon: when you can’t remember a name, and you chase after it in your mind
Excerpt from: Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide by John Cleese
Goldman has never written a commercial in his life yet you’ll learn more from his storytelling on how to write for the screen than you will from some advertising expert. And you’ll learn in a memorable and entertaining way – what could be better? There is one piece of advice he offers, in particular, about writing a scene that I love. || It’s a piece of advice that could be well employed by most writers: ‘Come in late, leave early’. || And Goldman’s not talking about the hours you keep. His point is that most writers leave nothing for the audience to do – the writer over explains. || When you write a scene, and it could be a screenplay or it could be a television commercial, whatever you do, you must leave room for the audience to participate. You have to get them engaged in the process – that way you’ll get them wanting more. || With screenwriting you move from scene to scene, twisting, turning and surprising, so predictability is the death of a screenplay, as it is for those of us who write television commercials.
If I can work out what’s coming why bother watching? Surprise is a fundamental factor in making something memorable.
Mark Lepper, David Greene, and Richard Nisbett (1973) conducted research on this question. They divided children into three groups:
- Group 1 was the Expected group. The researchers showed the children the Good Drawing Certificate and asked if they wanted to draw in order to get the certificate.
- Group 2 was the Unexpected group. The researchers asked the children if they wanted to draw, but didn’t mention anything about a certificate. After the children spent time drawing, they received an unexpected drawing certificate.
- Group 3 was the Control group. The researchers asked the children if they wanted to draw, but didn’t mention a certificate and didn’t give them one.
The real part of the experiment came two weeks later. During playtime the drawing tools were put out in the room. The children weren’t asked anything about drawing; the tools were just put in the room and available. So what happened? Children in the Unexpected and Control groups spent the most time drawing. The children in Expected group, the ones to had received an expected reward, spent the least time drawing. Contingent rewards (rewards based on specific behavior that is spelled out ahead of time) resulted in less of the desired behavior if the reward was not repeated. Later the researchers went on to do studies like this, with adults as well as children, and found similar results.
In one study, some of our colleagues from the Second city retreat—Brad Bitterly, Maurice Schweitzer, and Alison Wood Brooks—recruited participants to write and present testimonials for Visit Switzerland, a fictional travel company. What the group didn’t know is that the first two “participants” who read their testimonials were research assistants. Half of their prewritten testimonials were serious, the other half were funny (eg., serious testimonial “The mountains are great for skiing and hiking. It’s amazing!” vs. humorous testimonial “The mountains are great for skiing and hiking, and the flag is a big plus!”). …*
When participants were asked to rate the presenters on a handful of qualities, those presenting the humorous testimonial were perceived as 5 percent more competent, 11 percent more confident, and 37 percent higher in status.
In other words, a six-word throwaway pun at the end of a testimonial meaningfully swung opinions.
Tuck your chin into your chest, and then lift your chin upward as far as possible. 6-10 repetitions.
Lower your left ear toward your left shoulder and then your right ear toward your right shoulder. 6-10 repetitions.
The ‘winter detector’ problem is common in big data analysis. A literal example, via computer scientist Sameer Singh, is the pattern-recognising algorithm that was shown many photos of wolves in the wild, and many photos of pet husky dogs. The algorithm seemed to be really good at distinguishing the two rather similar canines; it turned out that it was simply labelling any picture with snow as containing a wolf. An example with more serious implications was described by Janelle Shane in her book You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: an algorithm that was shown pictures of healthy skin and of skin cancer. The algorithm figured out the pattern: if there was a ruler in the photograph, it was cancer. If we don’t know why the algorithm is doing what it’s doing, we’re trusting our lives to a ruler detector.
The Big Ben Problem suggests that introducing a limited time window may encourage people to seize opportunities for treats. Imagine you’ve just gotten a gift certificate for a piece of delicious cake and a beverage at a high-end French pastry shop. Would you rather see the gift certificate stamped with an expiration date two months from today, or just three weeks from now? Faced with this choice, most people were happier with the two-month option, and 68 percent reported that they would use it before this expiration date. But when they received a gift certificate for a tasty pastry at a local shop, only 6 percent of people redeemed it when they were given a two month expiration date, compared to 31 percent of people who were given the shorter three-week window. People given two months to redeem the certificate kept thinking they could do it later, creating another instance of the Big Ben Problem