Groovers, a couple of announcements for you:

1. Kurt and I are hosting a meetup immediately after Customer Focus North in Minneapolis on September 19, 2019: Rodd Wagner will be speaking! Make sure you use this code to get 10% Off your registration to Customer Focus North: BEHAVIORAL

2.  We're celebrating our 100th Episode and want you to join us in Philadelphia at the live event. Annie Duke will be onstage for our discussion! The link for the 100th Episode Meetup in Philadelphia on October 17, 2019:

Christian Hunt is the founder of Human Risk, a Behavioral Science Consulting and Training firm specializing in the fields of Risk, Compliance, Conduct & Culture. Before this, he was the head of Behavioral Science at UBS and before that, Chief Operating Officer of the Prudential Regulation Authority, a subsidiary of the Bank of England responsible for regulating Financial Services.

Christian shared his 5 principles of human risk – myths that humans cling to that don’t help us do what we ought to be doing. They are all founded on the notion that very few people are doing things they shouldn’t be doing – and yet most of the rules in corporate culture are created to prevent, rather than uplift. And Christian’s biggest beef is that many, many people are NOT doing the things they SHOULD be doing – again, in part because of context and culture.

We encountered some internet gremlins that mucked up the portion of our discussion with Christian that was about music. Regrettably, we are unable to bring you Christian’s Top 10 Behavioral Science Hits but we promise to return to it in the future. 

In our grooving session, we discuss the implications of the mental algorithms and what we can do about them. We hope you enjoy our conversation with Christian Hunt.



Christian Hunt:

Human Risk:

Harley Davidson:

BMW Motorcycle:

Royal Enfield:

“Predictably Irrational,” by Dan Ariely:

Franz Kafka:

Daniel Kahneman:

Prison Experiment:

Game of Thrones:

Chernobyl (TV Show):

Henrik Ibsen:

Somerset Maugham:

Sinclair Lewis:

Inner Emigration:

William Shakespeare:


“The Culture of Responsibility” Netflix:

“Shawshank Redemption,” by Stephen King:


Buckminster Fuller:


Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru 

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website:

Brian Ahearn is Behavioral Grooves’ first repeat guest. (He was first featured in Episode 39: The Heart of Reciprocity.) We recently reconnected with him to discuss his new book, Influence PEOPLE. The book explores the science behind the influence process – what drives people to take the actions you want them to take, without manipulation or trickery. The book is about changing people's behavior. Positive thoughts, and even agreement from others, only go so far – and seldom lead to a change in behavior. Our conversation with Brian focused on specific ways to make that happen.

Brian’s book is not intended as an academic replay of all the aspects of the science of persuasion. While the science is foundational, the book focuses on the practical aspects of application with lots of great examples and case studies, many of them from Brian’s personal experiences. We recommend you check it out if you’re uninterested in the science but care deeply for the “how-to” part of the story.

We also returned to music and revisited Brian’s eclectic playlists. We focused on his predilection to combine Frank Sinatra and Coldplay into a single “clean” playlist that he uses in client workshops and presentations.

In our grooving session, we discussed whether the tool can be held accountable or is it only the user of the tool? And are you familiar with the Wilhelm Scream? Listen in to find out.

For those of you listening before October 2019, Kurt and Tim will be celebrating our podcast’s 100th episode in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of Performing Arts on October 17th. Our lead guest will be Annie Duke.



Brian Ahearn:

Influence PEOPLE:

Daniel Kahneman:

Robert Cialdini:

Dan Ariely:

Ellen Langer study:

Record Store:

Michael Kerrison:


100th Episode Meetup in Philadelphia on October 17, 2019:

Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru 

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website:




Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody:

Frank Sinatra: 



Johnny Cash:


Alex Blau is a vice president at ideas42 with projects in consumer finance, design and decision-making, and international development. In our discussion, we focused on a new project he’s working on in the area of supervision of people after they're released from incarceration, or what we commonly refer to as parole.

The cost of incarceration and supervision is more than just social – it comes with a big price tag. Nearly $7 billion is spent annually to supervise individuals coming out of the prison system and another $9 billion is spent on incarceration. More than 4.5 million people in the United States are under supervision and government data indicate that roughly two-thirds of those released from prison will be arrested within 3 years.

Roughly 50% of the arrests are for rule violations (the other 50% for committing new crimes). Alex and his colleagues at ideas42 are researching ways to change the context of the world the parolees return to with the hope of reducing recidivism. We talked about the novel interventions they’re testing.

We also discussed a brief history of Jamaican music with an emphasis on the rich catalog of the island nation’s artists, emerging near the middle of the 20th century. In our grooving session, Kurt and Tim cover the implementation-intention framework and how reminders via association can be more powerful than specific triggers, especially when triggers are difficult to identify.

We hope you enjoy our discussion with Alex Blau.



Alex Blau:


Annie Duke:

Todd Rogers & Katy Milkman “Reminders through Association”

Sendhil Mullainathan:

Laurie Santos, GI Joe Effect:






David Hussman episode #17:


Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru 

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website:



Bob Marley:

Desmond Decker:

Toots and the Maytals:


Steven Sisler may not be a household name, but he should be. Steve is a Master Level Behavioral Profiler and the lead Behavioral Analyst at The Behavioral Resource Group. He consults on personality, career strategy, leadership strategy, culture, spiritual growth, relationship management, and temperament strategy.

We were introduced to Steve by one of our listeners and we were happy to invite him on the show. His wit and wisdom were both entertaining and rewarding in ways that only a guy who has held jobs as diverse as roofing a house to authoring seven books and speaking at conferences can be. Steve’s behavioral focus emerges from his work with personality assessments, and this brought a fresh perspective us as we rarely dive into the tools of the trade. We discussed the value of understanding who we are as individuals to help us better understand how others are. As Steve said, “We don’t see people as they are, we see people as we are.” 

We hope you enjoy our conversation with Steve and we’ve shared links to many of the references – and there were many – for those unfamiliar with this field of study.




Steven Sisler:

King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 9:11):

Descriptive Self:

Normative Self:

The Prince of Egypt (Disney):

Robert S. Hartman, PhD:


Bad Players Make Great Coaches:

Turning into a Skid:

Dave Ramsey (radio host):

John G. Geier & Dorthey E. Downey, Aristos:

DISC Assessment:

Hyper Empathy:

Emotional Intelligence:

GI Joe Fallacy:


Pinky & The Brain:

“Quiet” by Susan Cain:

“9 Lies About Work” by Marcus Buckingham & Ashley Goodall:

Meyers Briggs Personality Assessment:

Kimberlé Crenshaw – Intersectionality:



“A Star is Born” soundtrack:

Lady Gaga:


Electric Light Orchestra:


Dredg “The Pariah, the Parrot, the Illusion”:

“Down to the Cellar”:

“The Times They Are A Changing” by Bob Dylan:

“Purple Rain” by Prince:

“Love Will Never Do Without You” by Janet Jackson:

“Candy Apple Gray” by Hüsker Dü:

The Replacements:

The Suburbs:


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: and and


John Cleese:

Fawlty Towers:

On Privacy: “Privacy and human behavior in the age of information,“ by Alessandro Acquisti, Laura Brandimarte, and George Loewenstein

Marvel comics:

Work-Life Balance was Episode 59 with Jeanie Whinghter and Afra Ahmad:

Charlotte Blank:

Roger Dooley:


Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru and

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan and

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website:


Cold Play:

Pink Floyd:

Ludwig Van Beethoven:

Beethoven’s Violin Concerto:

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:


A Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith:

Cognitive Misers:

Dragon’s Den:

Max Bazerman, PhD:

Dan Ariely, PhD:

Source Attribution:

Behavioral Grooves:

Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru and

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan and


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”:

Linkin Park “Numb”:

Cheap Trick, “Surrender”: 

Joan Jett, “Bad Reputation”:

George Jones, “She Thinks I Still Care”:

Dan Hicks, “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Ever Leave Me”:'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,”

Kathleen Vohs, PhD:

Leon Festinger, PhD:

Cognitive Dissonance:


Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru and

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan and

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website:

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:

Kevin Volpp, PhD. Director, Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics, Leonard Davis Institute:

Kevin Volpp’s group:

Eisenberger & Camerer:

Teresa Amabile:

Riding the Bike:

Ran Kivetz:

Kurt Nelson: @motivationguru and

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan and

Check out the Behavioral Grooves website:


Musical Links

Fleetwood Mac – Rumors:

Stevie Nicks would be the IT girl today.

Simon & Garfunkel

Richard Prior – original, foul language comic.

Glass Animals.

Alabama Shakes.

Childish Gambino.

Kendrick Lamar.

Led Zeppelin.

The Doors.

Black Keys.

Kid Cudi:


"Loss Aversion" by Tim Houlihan & Kurt Nelson: 

Load more