Our guest in this episode is a prolific writer and observer of the human condition, Chris Matyszczyk (pronounced ma-TIS-chick). We talked with Chris about a variety of topics including

advertising, the psychology of who we are, including an unplanned psychoanalysis of Tim’s desire to be heard as a musician. We also talked about politics and referenced Brexit, life at Google and Facebook, and, hold the phone: how World War will be won by the best nerds.

All of this got started because we saw an article Chris wrote that caught our attention. It was a topic we have discussed in the past: Music and its relationship to getting work done. Is music a stimulant to creativity or is it a buzz kill? Does it enhance the work experience or drown it out? You’ll have to listen to see what Chris has to say about this.

In our grooving session, we focused on the dynamics of why we connect so easily with some people and others, not so much. And we also covered some of the challenges of a digital, high-social-media age where the lines of work and life might be more like how our ancient ancestors live: it’s just life. Or is it? 

We hope you enjoy our conversation with Chris. And please share your thoughts with us and stay in touch.


Chris Matyszczyk:https://www.zdnet.com/blog/technically-incorrect/ and https://www.inc.com/author/chris-matyszczyk and https://www.linkedin.com/in/chris-matyszczyk-935b604/

Brexit: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/brexit.asp

John Cleese: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cleese

Fawlty Towers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcEws7il4EY

On Privacy: “Privacy and human behavior in the age of information,“ by Alessandro Acquisti, Laura Brandimarte, and George Loewenstein https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/sds/docs/loewenstein/PrivacyHumanBeh.pdf

Marvel comics: https://www.marvel.com/

Work-Life Balance was Episode 59 with Jeanie Whinghter and Afra Ahmad: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/jeanie-whinghter-and-afra-ahmad-balance-vs-harmony/

Charlotte Blank: https://www.linkedin.com/in/charlotte-blank-52554a2/

Roger Dooley: https://www.rogerdooley.com/


Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru and https://www.linkedin.com/in/kurtwnelson/

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan and https://www.linkedin.com/in/tim-houlihan-b-e/

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website: https://behavioralgrooves.com/


Cold Play: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coldplay

Pink Floyd: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_Floyd

Ludwig Van Beethoven: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_van_Beethoven

Beethoven’s Violin Concerto: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Cg_0jepxow

Because we're taking a little break, we are republishing one of our favorite episodes: a conversation with Scott Jeffrey, PhD from Monmouth University in New Jersey, recorded in December 2017. Our conversation was so engaging that we wanted to make sure no one misses out on it. The original audio from this was only our third podcast we’d ever recorded, and it was a recorded with the simplest tools available. That said, we hope you enjoy the content.

In this episode, we discuss the concept of justifiability with one of its earliest researchers, Scott Jeffrey, PhD. Scott was early among researchers, including Itamar Simonson at Stanford, to note that part of what makes a thing a 'reward' is its difficulty to be justifiable. In other words, the best reward is something that we would NOT justify spending our own money on. 

Scott took an interesting turn with his theme song and we had also talked about how employee engagement platforms are 'dollarizing' the relationship between the employer and the employee. Scott also brought up Max Bazerman's "Arguing with Yourself and Losing" model which coaxed a spirited discussion among us.

We groove on holiday eats, since we originally recorded this in December and lots of geeky stuff in this episode. We hope you enjoy.



Scott Jeffrey, PhD: https://www.monmouth.edu/directory/profiles/scott-a-jeffrey/

Justifiability: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8da9/c17cecfba7806e00a966009c67e11f14e13f.pdf

A Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith: https://www.ibiblio.org/ml/libri/s/SmithA_MoralSentiments_p.pdf

Cognitive Misers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_miser

Dragon’s Den: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragons%27_Den

Max Bazerman, PhD: https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=6420

Dan Ariely, PhD: http://danariely.com/

Source Attribution: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attribution_(psychology)

Behavioral Grooves: https://behavioralgrooves.com/

Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru and https://www.linkedin.com/in/kurtwnelson/

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan and https://www.linkedin.com/in/tim-houlihan-b-e/


Kurt and Tim groove on where behavioral science shows up in popular music. Social norms, loss aversion…all at its best. The human condition is redolent in popular music and we hope you notice some of your own. Let us know what songs YOU think are great for demonstrating behavioral science principles.



Aretha Franklin, “Think”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsL9UL9qbv8

Linkin Park “Numb”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXYiU_JCYtU

Cheap Trick, “Surrender”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sAm5UCJ9vA 

Joan Jett, “Bad Reputation”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RAQXg0IdfI

George Jones, “She Thinks I Still Care”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UquXUYfHYok

Dan Hicks, “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Ever Leave Me”: https://www.lyrics.com/lyric/1136477/Original+Recordings/How+Can+I+Miss+You+When+You+Won't+Go+Away


We met up with Kathleen Vohs, PhD at our Behavioral Grooves Meetup in Minneapolis on the evening that her op-ed article appeared in the Washington Post on July 18, 2019. She had been asked by the newspaper to write a piece explaining how supporters of President Donald Trump could continue backing him in light of his, “send them back” comment in a tweet.

The tweet referred to 4 first-term congresswomen of color. All of them are US citizens and only one of them was born outside the United States: Representative Ilhan Omar from Minnesota. Representative Omar is from Kurt and Tim’s district and we were motivated by the situation to groove on the cognitive dissonance that Dr. Vohs wrote about.

In this short grooving session, we talk about politics, politicians and cognitive dissonance. We also explore the age-old philosophical question about whether or not a piece of art can be viewed (and appreciated) without the context of the artist.


Kathleen Vohs, “The psychological phenomenon that blinds Trump supporters to his racism,” https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/the-psychological-phenomenon-that-blinds-trump-supporters-to-his-racism/2019/07/18/29789344-a8ac-11e9-ac16-90dd7e5716bc_story.html?utm_term=.3cd14b5c4d4b

Kathleen Vohs, PhD: https://carlsonschool.umn.edu/faculty/kathleen-vohs

Leon Festinger, PhD: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_Festinger

Cognitive Dissonance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

Picasso: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Picasso

Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru and https://www.linkedin.com/in/kurtwnelson/

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan and https://www.linkedin.com/in/tim-houlihan-b-e/

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website: https://behavioralgrooves.com/

In this episode, we spoke with Matt Loper, CEO and Co-Founder of Wellth, an app that helps people with chronic conditions improve their health through better adherence to their prescriptions. Matt’s company works with healthcare providers and insurers to provide rewards for patients who need small behavioral interventions to stay on track.

Wellth does this by “giving” patients money at the start of each month to take their pills. To prove they’re on track, they use the Wellth app to take a photograph of their medicines in the palm of their hand. But every day that they miss, they are penalized in the form of fee, which nets them less money at the end of the month. This loss-contract model is gaining notoriety and it should be: Wellth discovered that positive incentives accounted for adherence rates around 60% while loss-contract models account for better than 90% adherence rates.

Matt is quick to point out that the science of behavior change is not like chemistry, where all the inputs and outputs can be measured and is easily replicable. Behavioral science, Matt argues, is much more complex and requires more rigorous testing.

In our grooving session, Kurt and Tim discuss loss contracts in greater depth and the complexities of the human condition.



Matt Loper: matt@wellthapp.com

Kevin Volpp, PhD. Director, Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics, Leonard Davis Institute: https://hcmg.wharton.upenn.edu/profile/volpp70/

Kevin Volpp’s group: https://chibe.upenn.edu/

Eisenberger & Camerer: https://www.deepdyve.com/lp/sage/eisenberger-r-cameron-j-1996-detrimental-effects-of-reward-reality-or-GQliEjHSH0

Teresa Amabile: http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/publication%20files/12-096.pdf

Riding the Bike: http://blog.lanterngroup.com/?s=bike

Ran Kivetz: https://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/cbs-directory/detail/rk566

Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru and https://www.linkedin.com/in/kurtwnelson/

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan and https://www.linkedin.com/in/tim-houlihan-b-e/

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website: https://behavioralgrooves.com/


Musical Links

Fleetwood Mac – Rumors: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumours_(album)

Stevie Nicks would be the IT girl today. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevie_Nicks

Simon & Garfunkel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_%26_Garfunkel

Richard Prior – original, foul language comic. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Pryor

Glass Animals. https://www.glassanimals.com/

Alabama Shakes. https://www.alabamashakes.com/

Childish Gambino. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Glover

Kendrick Lamar. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kendrick_Lamar

Led Zeppelin. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Led_Zeppelin

The Doors. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Doors

Black Keys. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Keys

Kid Cudi: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kid_Cudi

Haim: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haim_(band)

"Loss Aversion" by Tim Houlihan & Kurt Nelson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyeRNVSWJAI&t=15s 

July 7, 2019

Grooving: On Liking

In this episode, Kurt and Tim explore Robert Cialdini’s Fifth Principles of Influence: Liking. In it, we groove on the very powerful tool for influence and persuasion and give examples of how to apply it.

In short, we like people who like us and are more willing to do things for others who we like. We can find aspects of liking and similarity on a multitude of levels, and this subconscious bias impacts much of what drives our behavior. There are three key things to keep in mind when it comes to maximizing the impact of liking: 1. Don’t give people a reason to say no, 2. Be cooperative, and 3. Be authentic in the way you present yourself.

We hope you enjoy our short grooving session on liking. If you find yourself liking this episode, please be kind enough to leave us a review. Thank you.


Robert Cialdini, PhD on Liking: https://www.influenceatwork.com/principles-of-persuasion/

Negotiation study: https://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/negotiation-training-daily/negotiate-relationships/

Attractive Bankers in Call Center study: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/002224298404800110

Halo effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_effect

Celebrity effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celebrity_branding

Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru and https://www.linkedin.com/in/kurtwnelson/

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan and https://www.linkedin.com/in/tim-houlihan-b-e/

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website: https://behavioralgrooves.com/

In this episode, we spoke with Nurit Nobel, who is living in Stockholm, Sweden where she’s working on her PhD. Nurit is a co-founder of Impactually, along with one of our favorite guests, Christina Gravert, PhD. Impactually is a behavioral science consultancy that is firmly grounded in both academic rigor and real-world experience.

Nurit, who is related by marriage to the family associated with the Nobel Prize, talked about Impactually’s BOOST model, which is a practical tool for behavior change. The majority of our conversation was focused on a client case study about de-biasing the recruitment and hiring processes. Her client’s intentions were all in the right places; however, the firm still ended up hiring new employees that were fundamentally the same as the existing employees.

The research Nurit relied on to de-bias the hiring process was originally conducted by Iris Bohnet at Harvard, and it is focused on modifying the process in order to overrule our natural biases. Nurit and her team put the research to good use and our discussion dove into the nitty gritty of the issues they dealt with as well as the results they’re getting under the new process.

We also talked about the Lindy Hop, a pre-World War II dance developed in Harlem, and Sweden’s fascinating revival of it.

We hope you enjoy our conversation with Nurit


 Nurit Nobel LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nnobel/

Twitter: @nuritnobel

Impactually: http://impactually.se and https://impactually.teachable.com/ for the BOOST online course

Iris Bohnet, PhD, Harvard University: https://scholar.harvard.edu/iris_bohnet/home

Kahneman & Levav on judges after lunch: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2011/apr/11/judges-lenient-break

Christina Gravert: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cgravert/

South by Southwest (SXSW): https://www.sxsw.com/attend/

Richard Thaler: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Thaler

Dan Ariely: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Ariely

April Seifert, PhD: https://www.aprilseifert.com/

Laurie Santos and the GI Joe Effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GimHHAID_P0

Brexit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brexit 

Muzak: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muzak

Lindy Hop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7KO7b9qbfU

Frankie Manning: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankie_Manning

“Sonic Boom,” by Joel Beckerman: https://thesonicboom.joelbeckerman.com/

Tim Houlihan, “Washington Square”: https://soundcloud.com/timhoulihan/washington-square

Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru and https://www.linkedin.com/in/kurtwnelson/

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan and https://www.linkedin.com/in/tim-houlihan-b-e/

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website: https://behavioralgrooves.com/

We are excited to re-share our favorite episodes from time to time and this discussion with Tom was terrifically informative about the sales managers can be more effective at introducing new products to their sales team. 

Thomas Steenburgh, PhD is a senior professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. Tom spent a good portion of his career in the corporate world and before he departed for academia, he held senior positions at Xerox Corporation, ending his work there as head of the US Direct Incentive Strategy with a budget of $140 million budget for 4,000 salespeople Tom has partnered with Mike Ahearne, PhD from the University of Houston (featured in a June 2018 episode of Behavioral Grooves) on extensive research related to the performance and management of sales reps.

Recently, the two of them developed ground-breaking research on how to help sales reps be more successful when they are asked to sell new products. Tom and Mike invested 5 years in gathering data from sales managers, salespeople, and even customers. The insights they gained were especially valuable for those working in sales leadership positions.

There were three primary discoveries we discussed with Tom. The first is that the best asset for a sales rep to have when it comes to selling new products is a learning mindset. A learning mindset, as described by Tom, is what comes from a sales rep’s innate curiosity about customers, their environment and their needs. As intuitive as that sounds, it’s a lot less common than we imagine.

Reps with learning mindsets spend more time discussing the market trends affecting the customers as well as the situations and the specific needs their customers have before they start into selling new products. This deep investigation into each customer’s situation contributes to increased success when they start selling. The downside is that it takes more time and reduces output while they’re doing that investigation. Sales managers who are anxious to keep the numbers up from month to month may struggle with this. Tom highlighted a few ways to work around this in the short term.

The second big discovery was the disconnect between sales reps and their customers in how they perceive the strengths of the reps. In other words, customers were asked to rate reps on a variety of scales and reps were asked to the same of themselves. When considering the rep’s strengths, customers tended to rate sales reps very differently than reps rated themselves. The only dimension the reps and customers agreed on was on the sales rep’s product knowledge. Customers were more likely to give reps lower scores on reps’ learning mindsets, adaptability and openness than the reps gave themselves. This revealed big blind spots.

The third big discovery was the role of the rep’s emotional wellbeing in the selling process. We recognize that selling new products can be hard on the reps, but it’s vital to the company’s long-term success. Tom’s research revealed that sales reps need to become change agents within the organization as well as masters to change their own selling methods. These changes, along with saving face with clients, can cause significant emotional challenges – a component that has been undervalued in the past.

It turns out that reps were surprised by the stark contrast between how easy it was to get customers to take meetings and how difficult it was to close deals after the initial interest. Unfortunately, most sales reps failed to do the deep investigation to understand who the best target for the new product would be, so many of their meetings were wastes of time.

We also talked about the importance of strategic account reps with their broader viewpoints and longer-term orientations and how they can be leaders in new product introductions. And we discussed Neil Rackham, the creator of SPIN selling and author of books on consultative selling.

Of course, we also discussed Tom’s eclectic tastes in music. Apparently, he has seemingly equal interest in the works of Philip Glass, great American contemporary composer of minimalist orchestral music and John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards, who are responsible for some of the greatest covers of Ornette Coleman’s classic sax tunes. But Tom also listens to the sweet and simple Americana melodies of Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch. Not to be outdone with another left-turn, Tom paid special note to Kurt Weill, the early 20th-century composer of The Threepenny Opera which featured the song Mack The Knife (lyrics by Berthold Brecht). It was popularized by Bobby Darin in 1958, then Ella Fitzgerald in her 1960 performance Live in Berlin, which we’ve referenced before as one of the greatest live recordings – ever. Our own notes included references to The Who’s Tommy and Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

Thomas Steenburgh, PhD: https://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty-research/directory/thomas-j-steenburgh/ 

In our grooving session, we expanded on Tom’s mention of learning mindset and we brought up Carol Dweck’s growth mindset. The intersection of these two concepts is very cool.

Finally, Kurt and Tim help companies with sales compensation, sales incentive structures and selecting the most motivational rewards, don’t hesitate to start a conversation with us. You might be a sales leader with questions, and we can help answer them. We’d love to help your organization improve your bottom line with a behavioral lens.

The role of the User Experience (UX) designer is growing in corporations around the world. UX Designers have a great deal of influence over how a customer CAN take an action. Relatedly, behavioral scientists are interested in addressing the issue of WILL a customer take an action. What if the two were fused?

In this episode, Jonathan Mann explores ways in which the UX designer and the behavioral scientist can merge into one, combining the CAN and WILL elements for more effective – and ethical – marketing messages. He relates his experiences from studies he performed at PayPal under the direction of renowned researcher Robert Cialdini, PhD. Their work applied the element of social proof to advertising that increased validation – the act of connecting a bank account to a PayPal account – with a dramatic effect. Millions of dollars of compounding annual revenue materialized after A/B testing a variety of messages.

Jonathan cleverly leverages The Year of the Shark and the terrific elephant & rider metaphor to drive home the important message that marketing will be most successful when it appeals to both the rider (the rational part of the brain) and the elephant (the emotional part of the brain).

In the grooving session, Kurt & Tim discuss the ethical application of such powerful tools and what songs we might use for priming in particular situations.

Special thanks to Stefani Simon, president of Inprela Public Relations, for hosting this event: https://inprela.com/


Jonathan Mann: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jdmann/

Jonathan’s Deck from the presentation: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1pa1CvMOQzWUpreQpirDGSjTEoDl3gPCg


Robert Cialdini, PhD: https://www.influenceatwork.com/

Galeophobia: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=12518

Summer of the Shark Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzVC6tBTaQ8

Jonathan Haidt / Elephant and the Rider: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9KP8uiGZTs

Ovid, Metamorphisis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metamorphoses

Discount Distance Congruity Effect (Coulter & Norberg): https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1057740809000266

Visual Depiction Event (Coulter): https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3760/a10d0adf5636bbd18f9804fb11ce77a02195.pdf

Auditory Price Perception Effect (Coulter): https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1016/j.jcps.2011.11.005


All definitions of Behavioral Science Principles including Present Bias, Availability Heuristic, Social Proof among others can be found at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XHpBr0VFcaT8wIUpr-9zMIb79dFMgOVFRxIZRybiftI/edit#

Cialdini Hotel Towel reuse: https://assets.csom.umn.edu/assets/118359.pdf

Cialdini 6 Principles of Persuasion: https://www.influenceatwork.com/principles-of-persuasion/


“Don’t Make Me Think,” by Steve Krug: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_Make_Me_Think

“People are People,” By Depeche Mode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzGnX-MbYE4

EDM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_dance_music


Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru and https://www.linkedin.com/in/kurtwnelson/

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan and https://www.linkedin.com/in/tim-houlihan-b-e/

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website: https://behavioralgrooves.com/

June 9, 2019

Grooving: On Scarcity

This episode is a discussion on the principle of scarcity. Kurt and Tim illuminate the power of this very fundamental effect in behavioral science with some real-world examples. Simply put, the scarcity effect is that people want more of those things they can have less of. It’s terribly powerful and is evident in many aspects of our lives.

“Sale ends tomorrow” is one of the strongest tools in a marketer’s handbook, and Kurt and Tim discuss that and others and the ways they impact behavior. We also talk about the implications of scarcity and how scarcity helps us prioritize and can actually increase focus in our lives.

This episode is the third in our series on the Principles of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, PhD. The other principles from Cialdini’s work have been discussed in previous episodes and you can check them out at the Behavioral Grooves website. The principle of Reciprocity was overviewed in episode #57 and the principle of Consistency was discussed through the lens of politicians and politics in episode #49. Please check them out if you’re interested in Cialdini’s Persuasion Principles.

Also, please leave us a quick rating and review. We benefit greatly from your support and you only have a few minutes left to do it today!


Principles of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini, PhD: https://www.influenceatwork.com/principles-of-persuasion/

Stephen Worchel, Jerry Lee & Akanbi Adawole, (1975) “Effects of supply and demand on ratings of object value” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32(5), 906-914. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1976-03817-001

Sendhil Mullainathan& Eldar Shafir, (2013) Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, Times Books. https://www.amazon.com/Scarcity-Having-Little-Means-Much/dp/0805092641/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Tim Urban blog: Wait But Why? https://waitbutwhy.com/


Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru and https://www.linkedin.com/in/kurtwnelson/

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan and https://www.linkedin.com/in/tim-houlihan-b-e/

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website: https://behavioralgrooves.com/

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