💎 On photos of people with dilated eyes are more attractive (but men are not sure why)

In a recent experiment, men were asked to rank how attractive they found photographs of different women’s faces. The photos were eight by ten inches, and showed women facing the camera or turned in three-quarter profile. Unbeknownst to the men, in half the photos the eyes of the women were dilated, and in the other half they were not. The men were consistently more attracted to the women with dilated eyes. Remarkably, the men had no insight into their decision making.

Excerpt from: Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman

💎 On using unnecessarily complicated language looking stupid (not clever)

In a series of five studies, Oppenheimer systematically examined the complexity of the vocabulary used in various passages (including job applications, academic essays and translations of Descartes). He then asked people to read the samples and rate the intelligence of the person who allegedly wrote them. The simpler language resulted in significantly higher ratings of intelligence, showing that the unnecessary use of complex language sent out a bad impression.

Excerpt from: 59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot by Richard Wiseman

💎 On producing content being the easy part (getting anyone to listen is the hard part)

Ideas that are allocated no attention at all – those that are never exposed to anyone – make no impact on the world, by logical extension, since no one sees them. The 50 per cent of YouTube videos with less than 500 views don’t individually make much impact on culture. So attention is a powerful thing – but what kind of thing is it?

Excerpt from: Paid Attention: Innovative Advertising for a Digital World by Faris Yakob

💎 On our tendency to explain behaviour through personality rather than context (fundamental attribution error)

Fundamental attribution error was conducted in 1967 by Edward Jones and Victor Harris at Duke University. They had students read speech transcripts of debaters both in support of and in opposition to the political ideologies of Fidel Castro. (Today they might have used Osama bin Laden.) The students correctly attributed the speechwriter’s ideas as influenced by the speechwriter’s internal feelings when told the person who gave the speech had chosen his own position. If, for instance, the debaters said they disagreed with Castro, the students said they believed them. When the students were told the debater had no choice in the matter and was assigned the position as either pro- or anti-Castro, the students didn’t buy it. If the debater was assigned a pro-Castro position and then gave a pro-Castro speech, the students reading that speech told the researchers they thought the debater really believed what he or she was saying. The situation’s influence didn’t play into their assumptions; instead they saw all the debaters’ words as springing from their character.

Excerpt from: You Are Not So Smart: Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, Why You Have Too Many Friends On Facebook And 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David Mcraney

💎 On how we’re more likely to behave immorally if we think others have misbehaved (graffiti and littering)

In their field experiments Keizer and his colleagues tested to what extent various subtle signs of disorder in an environment could influence the proliferation of other undesirable behaviors. In one study the researchers found the perfect setting for their test: an alleyway near a Dutch shopping mall where shoppers typically parked their bikes. While the shoppers were at the mall, the researchers affixed one of the store’s advertisements on the handlebar of each bicycle with an elastic band. In one condition, the researchers left the alleyway just as they found it; in a second condition, they added graffiti to the alleyway. Because there were no garbage bins in the area, shoppers returning from the mall to find a printed advertisement attached to the handlebars of their bicycle had a simple choice. Do they remove the advertisement and take it home with them—or do they instead drop it on the ground?

The results revealed that 33 percent of the bicycle owners littered the paper when there was no graffiti to be seen in the alleyway. However, 69 percent did so when graffiti was present.

Excerpt from: The Small BIG: Small Changes that Spark Big Influence by Robert Cialdini, Noah Goldstein, and Steve Martin

💎 On how we’re more likely to help those similar to ourselves (dress like us)

Several studies have demonstrated that we are more likely to help those who dress like us. In one study, done in the early 1970s when young people tended to dress either in “hippie” or “straight” fashion, experimenters donned hippie or straight attire and asked college students on campus for a dime to make a phone call. When the experimenter was dressed in the same way as the student, the request was granted in more than two thirds of the instances; but when the student and requester were dissimilarly dressed, the dime was provided less than half the time. Another experiment shows how automatic our positive response to similar others can be. Marchers in an antiwar demonstration were found to be not only more likely to sign the petition of a similarly dressed requester, but also to do so without bothering to read it first. Click, whirr.

Excerpt from: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

💎 On how we learn through mimicry (observing others guide for action)

Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.

Excerpt from: The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behaviour by Adam Ferrier

💎 On how rewards can crowd out intrinsic motivation (encouraging people in relation to tasks they dislike)

To test this theory, a few years ago I ran a study in which two groups of people were asked to take part in an experiment in which they spent an afternoon picking up litter in a London park. Participants were told that they were taking part in an experiment examining how best to persuade people to look after their local parks. One group were paid handsomely for their time, while the others were only given a small amount of cash. After an hour or so of backbreaking and tedious work, everyone rated the degree to which they had enjoyed the afternoon. You might think that those clutching a large amount of well-earned cash would be more positive than those who had given their time for very little money.

In fact, the result was exactly the opposite. The average enjoyment rating of the handsomely paid group was a measly 2 out of 10, while the modestly paid group’s average ratings were a whopping 8.5. It seemed that those who had been paid well had thought, ‘Well, let me see, people usually pay me to do things I don’t enjoy. I was paid a large amount, so I must dislike tidying the park.’

Excerpt from: 59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot by Richard Wiseman

💎 On why brands need to make the best possible first impression (primacy error)

One of the first experiments on the topic was run in the USA by Solomon Asch. He asked subjects to evaluate a person simply on the basis of a list of six adjectives describing him. They might be told that he was ‘intelligent, industrious, impulsive critic, stubborn and envious’. Other subjects were given exactly the same six words but in the opposite order, ‘envious, stubborn, critical, impulsive, industrious and intelligent’. All subjects were then I asked to fill in a rating sheet in order to evaluate the person. For example, they had to indicate how happy they thought he was, how sociable he was, and so on. The subjects who heard the first list, which began with favourable adjectives evaluated the person considerably more highly than did those given the list beginning with the derogatory words. This effect – being more heavily influenced by early than by late item – is called the ‘primacy error’.

Excerpt from: Irrationality: The enemy within by Stuart Sutherland