Robert Cialdini, PhD is counted among the greatest psychological researchers alive today and his published works have been cited thousands of times. His New York Times best-selling book, Influence, from 1984, is considered a classic for classroom and corporate use alike. He is an ardent author and a passionate professor, and his work has impacted millions. In short, Bob Cialdini has shaped the landscape of how sales and marketing workers do their jobs and how researchers frame their studies.

In this episode of Behavioral Grooves, Bob took a few minutes to discuss some of his most underappreciated research and some of the new things he’s working on. We began with a study that used littering as a way to predict, before the polls closed, the outcome of an election by watching how voters treated candidate fliers left on their cars. One of the very elegant aspects of this study was that it required no surveys – merely the observation of behaviors in the parking lots of the polling places. The question the researchers sought to answer was this: How do voters treat the fliers of candidates they favor and of those they oppose? More specifically, do voters keep fliers from candidates they like and litter with the fliers of candidates they dislike?  

Then, our conversation moved to a line of research that he’d investigated for over a decade: the motivations for pro-social behavior, such as giving to those in need. Bob reminds us that there are many motivators at play when one person helps out another, as when a passerby gives money to some asking for money on the street, but there is one motivator that stands out: egoism. Many of us believe that being charitable is an obligation or is driven by guilt, and while that is true to some degree, Bob’s collective research over more than a dozen years revealed that egoism, that selfish desire to feel good about ourselves, is at the heart of helping others.

Then we went a step farther. Bob noted that helping others is more likely to occur when the person in need appears to be in-group or in-tribe. In other words, we’re more likely to be charitable if it appears the person asking for help is “like me.” The primary way we decide if someone is like us is to look at how they’re dressed. What kind of clothes are they wearing? In his studies, Bob found that soccer (football) fans were more likely to assist someone on the street if they were wearing the jersey of their favorite team. It’s unnerving to think that the clothes you wear could determine whether someone helps you or not.

In our grooving session, Kurt and Tim discussed the impact of social identity and self-identity. We discussed articles by Michael Hogg and Roy Baumeister. We brought in books by Harvard Professor Teresa Amabile and Dan Levitan’s great treatise on the neurological effects of music. And on music, we chatted about how music makes us feel and we cited Semisonic’s “Closing Time” and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony as examples.

Lastly, Bob is interested in hearing from YOU! He’d like listeners to send reports on how the principles of influence are being used in the real world to be included in his next book. If you’d like to be considered for his next work, please send your stories to

We hope you enjoy our discussion with Bob Cialdini.

Sponsor: The Creative Group, Inc.

This episode is brought to you by Creative Group Inc.  Kurt and Tim have worked with CGI and have found that their process of co-creation of incentive program provides clients with more robust solutions.  Because their incentive and employee engagement programs are co-created, they reflect the truest aspects of the client’s organization and culture. CGI shares our belief that incentives and rewards shouldn’t be used to create brand mercenaries – but instead, should be about creating brand missionaries.  Check them out at

A Note of Gratitude

We are grateful to Bob for sharing his insights with us in this very fun conversation. However, it wouldn’t have happened without the concerted effort of Bobette Gordon. We thank her for her coordination and support to make put make our conversation with Bob a reality.


Robert Cialdini, PhD and Influence at Work:

The Principle of Continuation in Gestalt Psychology. The Continuity Principle:

Daniel Levitin: This is Your Brain on Music.

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). “The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation,” Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529.

Festinger, L. (1954). “A theory of social comparison processes,” Human Relations, 7, 117–140.

Hogg, M. A. (2001). “Social categorization, depersonalization, and group behavior. In M. A. Hogg & R. S. Tindale (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of social psychology: Group processes (pp. 56–85). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Walton, G., Cohen, G., Cwir, D., and Spencer, S. (2012) “Mere Belonging: The Power of Social Connections,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,, Vol. 102, No. 3, 513–532.

Amabile, T., Kramer, S., Williams, S. (2011) The Progress Principle, Harvard Business Review Press.

Aretha Franklin: “Think”

Semisonic: “Closing Time” 

Ludwig von Beethoven: “5th Symphony”

Cassette tape:


This episode is first in a series called Exploring the Principles of Influence, named for Robert Cialdini, PhD’s principles in his 1984 book, Influence. During this and the next 5 mini-grooving sessions, we will discuss Dr. Cialdini’s principles in light of events that are making headlines.

In this episode, we tackle principle #4: Consistency. Dr. Cialdini describes consistency in this way: “Once people make a decision, take a stand or perform an action, they will face an interpersonal pressure to behave in a consistent manner with what they have said or done previously.”

Consistency impacts how we view ourselves and how we are viewed by our familial, social and work communities. Consistency is the foundation of trust, a central element to the success of humankind.

Kurt and Tim discuss how consistency plays a role in two political stalemates in the headlines: one in the United States with the government shutdown and the other in the UK with Brexit. We discuss how politicians are known for flip-flopping without impacting the support of their base enthusiasts. But, we ask, how many times can politicians forego consistency before the base supporters begin defecting? And how does context impact a politician’s need to be consistent? 

Listen to this mini grooving session to get a quick snapshot of these two political stalemates through the lens of Robert Cialdini’s 4th principle of influence: Consistency.


In this episode, we had a discussion with Ori Brafman about decentralization and how our brains respond to cash and cocaine. Ori is a multiple New York Times bestselling author and is the founder and president of Starfish Leadership as well as the co-founder of the Fully Charged Institute with Tom Rath. He is a Distinguished Teaching Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and his specialties range from organizational culture, employee engagement, business transformation, leadership, to emerging technologies.

More than many of our guests, our talk with Ori touched on a very wide range of topics. We rambled from from distributed trust, gaining power through ceding control in decentralized industries, making a new blockchain currency – called Groove Coins (which would be cool!) – to how being born in Israel and growing up in El Paso, Texas impacted his life, how communities and tribes impact us, how we do or do not imply intent, and to how we use technology, in many ways, is a huge behavioral science experiment.

We also discussed a new podcast that Ori has launched with his brother Rom called “Psychological Mysteries” and how they’re attempting to wrap up some loose ends in the world of psychology. Sort of a fraternal myth-busters approach to solving some common misconceptions of our minds.

Of course, we discussed music and how Ori’s love for serious music (classical and baroque) became evident at an early age, but he didn’t find enough traction to pursue it professionally. Ironically, he discovered some of his baroque heroes at Burning Man while EDM music (EDM = electronic dance music) played in the background. Burning Man, if you are not familiar, is an annual festival of sorts, that attracts nearly 80,000 people to a playa in the middle of the desert near Reno, Nevada in the western United States. Burning Man promotes principles such as radical inclusion, radical self-expression, radical self-reliance and gifting among their top 10. These make for a unique experience according to friends who have attended the week-long cultural experience.

Our time with Ori passed quickly and was filled with lots and lots of laughter. We found that his intellectual rigor lifted us up with new ideas and fresh perspectives and we are grateful to have had a chat with him.

In our grooving session, we started out discussing Richard Mowday’s book, Employee – Organization Linkages: The Psychology of Commitment, Absenteeism, and Turnover, published by Academic Press in 1982.  We also discussed the Psychometrics of Decentralization, from an article in Psychology Today, from June 14, 2018 and some of Rachel Botsman’s interesting work on trust.

Before you listen, we would like your help.  Stars and written reviews help move us up in Apple’s (and other pod services) algorithms for ratings and rankings.  On Apple, all you have to do is click on “Shows” find Behavioral Grooves, scroll down to the bottom (past all our episodes) to rate us AND write a review.  We would greatly appreciate it.

Please enjoy our discussion with Ori Brafman.

Ori’s Books include:

  • Radical Inclusion: What the Post–9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership
  • The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations
  • Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
  • Click: The Forces Behind How We Fully Engage with People, Work, and Everything We Do
  • The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success


Ori & Rom’s Podcast “Psychological Mysteries” can be found at

To subscribe to Behavioral Grooves, you can do so at any major podcatcher or at Podbean:


In this special edition, we sat down with Barry Ritholtz, a Wall Street investment maven, host of the podcast Masters In Business, a regular contributor to Bloomberg TV, CNBC and The Street, as well as an author whose pieces appear in The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post as well as his blog, The Big Picture.

To say that our conversation with Barry was unconventional is an understatement. We talked for well over an hour about the application of behavioral science in his investment firm, predicting market downturns, Steely Dan, behavioral science researchers, great investors throughout history and personal anecdotes… all of which were as entertaining as they were insightful.

This episode strays from our regular format by including our grooving commentaries as we go through the interview. In other words, we talk about the concepts that our guest brings up as interludes to the live discussion with him.

Barry lets us know – right off the bat – that he is not your average Wall Street investment-firm guy. He is insightful and data-driven. He noted one of his earliest influences was Jack Schwager, author of Market Sense and Nonsense. Schwager’s data-driven position was instantly appealing to Barry. Then Tom Gilovich, PhD brought research into Barry’s purview and fueled a deeper dive into behavioral science. Tom is known for his work on biases and heuristics as well as the enlightening research he contributed to on the hot-hand fallacy, which has recently been challenged.

In Barry’s career, he became aware of small differences in his coworker’s approaches making big differences to their results. It was the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a common cognitive bias in which people of low ability mistakenly assess their cognitive skill as greater than it is. We’ve all had the experience of hearing a friend make grand predictions about something we’re pretty sure they know nearly nothing about.

Barry was also impressed by the research-based Fama-French model and how it addresses three critical basics of investing using data. The model uses three factors to describe stock returns:  1. Market risk.  2. Small company stocks tend to provide better returns than larger company stocks. 2. High book-to-market companies perform better than low book-to-market companies.  

Barry also noted how he has been influenced by Ray Dalio, author and investor, and how much Barry’s science-based college education helped him appreciate and focus his investment approach by using data.

Our musical discussion began with Steely Dan and headed into Steely Dan’s co-founder’s first solo effort, The Nightfly. Donald Fagen recorded and produced The Nightfly in 1982 with audiophile-perfect recording techniques.  We also discussed Barry’s quest to discover the Greatest American Band and the constraints he put on the title. Without constraints, we lack focus, he says, so eligibility required that each band be (a) American born and (b) a band, not an individual with a back-up band.

If you like listening to this episode and the way we edited our conversation with Barry, send us a note! We’d love to hear what you think.

Link to Behavioral Grooves:

December 31, 2018

Grooving on Too Much Stuff

After the gift-giving holidays – Hanukkah and Christmas – homes and apartments are bursting at the seams with more stuff.  Knick-knacks, novelties, gewgaws, tchotchkes, odds and ends of all sorts are crowding out space where the familiar stuff currently resides.

For most of us, parting with some old familiar goodies requires a change in behavior.  And if you want to make that change, there’s hope! This episode offers some behavioral science to help you with the process.

One of the biggest things you need to overcome is Status Quo Bias. This is the big hairy elephant in the room. We love to hang on to old stuff, in part because our default is to keep stuff, not get rid of it – that’s the status quo. Ridding yourself of old stuff to make way for the new requires overcoming this intensely powerful default. 

Priming. Begin your journey to unload stuff by opening up 3 or 4 bags or boxes and laying them in plain sight. You’re more likely to fill them if they’re open and ready to use than if you must fetch a new one each time you fill the previous one. Make the choice to give something away as easy as possible. 

Joint Comparison.  If you only look at one item at a time, you’ll find a good reason to keep it. Force yourself to compare two or three like items and to rid yourself of one of them. That way, you’re creating an environment where you might say: “This old cookie-sheet is in worse shape than this other cookie sheet and, since I haven’t used it in a year, I’ll give it away.”

Social Accountability. The best solution for cleaning out a kitchen, bathroom or garage to make way for newer things is to enlist the help of a trusted friend or relative. Ideally, they could become recipients for some of your gently-used items; however, the important thing is that having a comrade-in-arms will reduce the probability of assigning ‘save’ to items best identified as ‘give away.’

When/Then Statement. Use a commitment statement to orient your actions, such as, “When I get home from work on Friday night, then I’m going to set out my packing boxes.” And, “When I wake up on Saturday morning, then I’m going to start cleaning out my closet.”

Getting rid of stuff can be difficult, but when space begins to run short, you’re going to be forced to make some decisions. You want plenty of room for all the new stuff that you just received as gifts, don’t you? Then get started!

If you haven’t subscribed, you can check out all our episodes on iTunes, Podbean, Castbox, Stitcher and lots of other podcatchers.


During 2018, Behavioral Grooves published 44 episodes and expanded our viewers into more than 90 countries. To celebrate our successful first year, Kurt and Tim called out our ten most downloaded episodes from 2018. We hope you check them out.

#10. Behavioral Grooves #1: James Heyman, PhD. In this episode, we discussed research that James conducted with Dan Ariely, PhD while they were both at Berkeley.

#9. David Yokum – Science is Hard. David’s journey from the White House Insights Team to The Lab @ DC, to Brown University (to establish a center for applying behavioral sciences to governmental policies) is remarkable.

#8. Grooving on Cash vs. Non-Cash. For many years, we have been fascinated with why rewards that provide the greatest extrinsic motivation are NOT cash!

#7. Grooving on Applying Behavioral Sciences at Your Office. In this episode, we offer tips on how to put your behavioral science desires into action at the office. 

#6. Nudge-A-Thon with Dr. Christina Gravert. Christina discussed the difference between a nudge and a sludge in this fun conversation. Also, she established Impactually, a behavioral sciences firm with Nurit Nobel, to offer consulting and online classes.

#5. Caroline Webb: Having a Good Day. Our conversation with Caroline rambled from her terrific book to speaking at Davos to singing at Carnegie Hall and even Burning Man! What a life!

#4. Don’t Be Creepy – Data Transparency with Charlotte Blank. Charlotte is the Chief Behavioral Officer at Maritz, Inc., and we had a great discussion about how to use data appropriately.

#3. Grooving on Books: Our Top 10 Recommended books on Behavioral Science. We were pleasantly surprised to hear from so many listeners around the world who shared their own top 10 lists with us. 

#2. Michael Hallsworth: From MINDSCAPE to EAST. Michael’s discoveries of behavioral interventions that worked went hand in hand with many studies that demonstrated what didn’t work. This episode highlights both.

#1: Leaving the Matrix: Annie Duke and insights on how you can improve your thinking! Author and poker player extraordinaire, Annie was a delightful guest offering great insights and great laughs. Note: Check out her mentor Lila Gleitman’s contribution to the English Dictionary!

Thank you all for a wonderful 2018!

If you’ve not subscribed, you can do so with your favorite podcatcher including iTunes, Stitcher, Castbox, Spotify, YouTube and others!

Podbean host:

December 24, 2018

Sam Tatam: Smelling the Brand

Sam Tatam is the behavioral strategy director at Ogilvy in London. Sam helps his clients develop new ways to manage behavioral issues they have with their employees and customers.

We were introduced to Sam in San Francisco where he wowed us with his presentation about how applying behavioral science was like writing a song. Sam is an Aussie living in London and his references to songwriting and Jimi Hendrix were at the very least unconventional and instantly made him someone we wanted to meet.

Sam’s journey into behavioral science began when he chose to study clinical psychology over graphic design and was formalized when one of his managers recommended Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Tipping Point. Sam found it inspirational. Ironically, his work at Ogilvy has reunited his passions for both psychology and graphic design 

From a very early age, Sam indicated he believed in asking people the right questions over telling people what to do. He gave us examples of how asking the right questions allow people to respond authentically which got Sam thinking about how asking consumers the right questions could impact the data they gathered. He’s a regular Socrates for the 21st century!

Sam also shared a terrific story about leveraging social proof to increase hand washing among food-processing employees. Sam told us about plant employees who were not thoroughly washing their hands even with lots of reminders. But the GI Joe Fallacy was in full play as knowing was not moving the needle on clean hands. Ogilvy’s very clever solution was to put an inexpensive organic ink stamp on every employee’s hands before they started their shift, immediately before they were supposed to wash their hands. Once they were on the factory floor, it was instantly clear who DID and who DIDN’T wash their hands correctly. Social proof was an important element to increase the rate of proper hand washing, but providing a salient feedback loop for each worker was critical.

Like the hand-washing case where awareness was simply not enough, Sam shared some tips on implicit hiring bias that caught our attention: 1. Focusing on process over outcome can lead to higher-quality new-hires. And, 2. Exploiting the diversification heuristic – by slowing down and hiring for more than one position at a time – can bring significantly better new employees your company.

We were not surprised that Sam’s eclectic tastes in music bounce between Ronin Keating (from the Irish pop group Boyzone) for his recording of Alison Kraus hit for the Notting Hill movie: “When you say nothing at all” to Aussie bands including Powderfinger, and the great AC/DC. But he also called attention to UK-based singer-songwriter, David Gray.

We hope you enjoy this episode. If you’re not already a subscriber, check out all the episodes at

And if you enjoy this conversation with Sam, please share your thoughts in the form of a positive rating with your favorite podcatcher.


Will Leach is a marketer, econometrician and author whose recent book, Marketing to Mindstates, captured our attention before it was even published. His clever, behaviorally-focused marketing messages were provocative and we were excited to have him as a guest. 

Will’s book focuses on 4 key mind states: Activating a goal, priming the need, framing the choice and triggering the behavior. The book was written as a practical guide for marketers looking to integrate behavioral sciences into their work.

To lay the foundation for the book, Will relied on his experience at the PepsiCo SMART lab. There, they tested prices, planograms, promotional messages and packaging on real-life consumers in a simulated shopping experience. There his curiosity was peaked about why people do what they do. He discovered gold in books like Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, and in Tory Higgins and Heidi Grant Halverson’s book on regulatory fit, Focus. (Both are recommended reading!)

In his years following PepsiCo, Will has taken on some very cool clients and introduced us to Phil Kusak, the founder of Wicked Crisps. Will and Phil worked on the development, branding and marketing of a healthy snack food targeted at Millennial Mom’s leveraging the regulatory fit model. Will was struck by Phil’s caring approach to the people in his organization by modifying machines at Wicked Crisps to accommodate the special physical needs of his employees. We were pleased to be introduced to Phil’s work, as well, and hope you support his wonderful work.

Before we signed off, Will shared three tips with us: 1. Set goals. It’s important that our first step be to actually set and own the goal.  2. Manage regulatory fit. Will reminded us of the importance of making decisions frictionless.  3., Use behavioral triggers. Together, these tips help tell the mind what to do and when to do it.

Our musical discussion had a very eclectic mix to it. We talked about how Will grew up with the sounds of Motown – Aretha Franklin and Bill Withers and he even uses the song Lovely Day as a prime for getting up in the morning. But once he moved to Texas, he realized that the prettiest girls listened to George Strait, Pat Green, and Robert Earl Keen. It always starts with a girl!

In our grooving session, we discussed the importance of the ethical application of these tools. The application of regulatory fit and the use of behavioral triggers can be very powerful, and we recommend careful consideration before implementing them.


Every year, millions of people make resolutions at the start of the new year and researchers indicate that 91% of those resolutions are sunk by the end of the second week in January.

In this grooving episode, we highlight 10 tips on how you can keep your New Year’s resolutions and how you can manifest an even more amazing version of the already-wonderful YOU. To do so, we’re providing 10 tips and hacks that can help you maintain your resolutions and achieve your goals. We are also taking this medicine to make our own new year’s resolutions more successful! Let’s do it together so we can all stay on the resolution bandwagon!


The Ten Tips Are:

Make it emotional. Don’t create a resolution that is completely rational and lacks emotion. Make sure that you engage an emotional trigger and find the larger meaning.  People often talk about SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) and for good reason: because they work and the key piece in SMART is that they are relevant

Adopt your future self as your present identity – “I’m not losing weight, I’m being the healthy, active person that I want to be” – bring your ideal future self to today. Start talking about yourself and referring to your lifestyle today as if you were already living your I’ve-succeeded-with-my-resolution self.  

Start small. The first level of starting small is to keep the number of resolutions small – no more than three! You’re destined for failure if you have a dozen resolutions to try to adhere to. The second level is to break down larger goals into manageable chunks – what are the behaviors that you need to do each week/day/hour that will make you achieve your goal.

Tie triggers into current habits to make the modifications you need to adopt the new behavior.  A good way to do this is to use when ______, then _______ statements. “When I go to brush my teeth, then I will pick up the dental floss.” Research indicates we are three times more likely to do the desired behavior if we tie it to a trigger from our current behavior.

Remove friction. Once you’ve uncovered what might derail you, use if _____, then ______ statements to help figure out what to do when derailments happen. “If I feel like not going to the gym, then I will rely on my commitment to get three visits in this week.” Add friction to things you don’t want to do (move the Oreo cookies to the basement) and reduce friction for things you want to do (put your workout shoes at your bedside before you sleep).  

Enlist Social Support. It’s best to have three kinds of people that can help you on your journey: the cheerleader, the coach, and the referee. Build a small group of people to hold you accountable and reward them for focusing on accuracy, not just warm feelings.

Measure your progress. It could be as simple placing check marks on a diary or to use an app to automate the process. Measure at a rate that is appropriate for the behavior change you’re undertaking: use daily or weekly measures for shorter-term resolutions and weekly or monthly for longer-term resolutions.

Reward your progress. If you’re set milestones along the way, make sure you reward yourself as you achieve these milestones. Don’t hold all your rewards until the very end. These rewards can coincide with the way you’ve broken down your resolution into smaller parts. And they need to be the right kinds of rewards. 

Give yourself a break. We are human, not machines and the world is complex. Not everything will go as planned. It’s ok to not be 100%, but “don’t miss twice,” as James Clear says. One of our biggest biases is to underestimate how much time any given task will take. Don’t punish yourself for missing a date – just do the work.

Make it fun. Be intentional about laughing and enjoying the process of the change you’re in. When things don’t go as planned, laugh it off and learn from it. Share your hardships and successes with your social networks. Laughing releases endorphins in the brain that cause you to feel less pain and anxiety, which actually makes you more resilient and happier.



The resolution solution: Longitudinal examination of New Year's change attempts, by JC Norcross at the University of Scranton. Or Forbes article titled “Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year's Resolutions. Here's How They Do It.” 

Atomic Habits,” by James Clear.

How to Have a Good Day,” by Caroline Webb.

Large Stakes and Big Mistakes,” by Loewenstein, Gneezy, Mazar & Ariely.

Tiny Habits,” by B.J. Fogg.

 “Thinking in Bets,” by Annie Duke.


In this episode, we spoke with Dr. Michael Hallsworth PhD, the Managing Director of the North American Behavioral Insights Team. We met up with him at his office in Brooklyn which gave the audio a bit of an echo-chamber vibe.

Michael was an early member of the UK’s Behavioral Insights Team. Along with Paul Dolan, Dominic King, Ivo Vlaev, and David Halpern, Michael created MINDSPACE in 2009 and later, the EAST model. Both are mnemonic tools for remembering key elements of behavioral science.

To ensure that everyone is comfortable with the MINDSPACE and EAST models, we recommend this link to an overview from the Behavioural Insights Team: The paper is brief, informative, easy to read and offers one of the best explanations on how to apply behavioral insights we’ve read. However, in quick recap form, the mnemonic MINDSCAPE stands for:

Messenger. We are heavily influenced by who communicates information

Incentives. Our responses to incentives are shaped by predictable mental shortcuts such as strongly avoiding losses

Norms. We are strongly influenced by what others do

Defaults. We “go with the flow” of pre-set options

Salience. Our attention is drawn to what is novel and seems relevant to us

Priming. Our actions are often influenced by sub-conscious cues

Affect. Our emotional associations can powerfully shape our behaviors

Commitments. We seek to be consistent with our public promises and reciprocate acts

Ego. We act in ways that make us feel better about ourselves


EAST is an updated and simplified version of MINDSPACE. EAST is a powerful tool because it is so easy to remember and it stands for:

Easy. Harness the power of defaults; reduce the ‘hassle factor’ of taking up a service; simplify messages

Attractive. Attract attention; design rewards and sanctions for maximum effect

Social. Show that most people perform the desired behavior; leverage the power of networks; encourage people to make a commitment to others

Timely. Prompt people when they are likely to be most receptive; consider the immediate costs and benefits; help people plan their response to events


Michael is a relentless researcher. He never fatigues of testing new ideas or recycling old ones and he’s open about situations where replications of his earlier studies worked well and not so well. His candidness about his successes and failures, when it comes to replicating results, is a breath of fresh air in the scientific community. To highlight this fact, we discussed how changes to the format of the letter used by the British tax authority to collect taxes from delinquents generated great results. However, when he applied the same approach to collect dues in Albuquerque, New Mexico with a different audience, the formality effect failed miserably.

Michael shared his observations on framing, political systems, confirmation bias and motivated reasoning. All are prominent in the world today, increasing our need to pay attention to them and to be aware of their effects on our decisions and behaviors.

He also shared two tips on how to prepare to conduct a study. He teed these two up in a fashion that was highly intentional, so we recommend following his direction if you are interested in conducting a study of your own.

  1. Pay attention to details as the human condition (and our world) is complex
  2. Ask for written predictions from the experts prior to collecting data – hindsight bias is a powerful effect


We also discussed how Michael came to play piano “quite late” as a child because, unlike many kids who are thrown into piano lessons, he volunteered to study the instrument. Quite simply, he loved music and still does. He still plays a bit today at holiday gatherings and when he’s in close proximity to a piano. Also, he introduced us to a band neither of us had heard of - Okkervil River. A very chill Americana band out of Austin, Texas.

That led us to discuss Texas bands and Texas music festivals in our Grooving Session. We remind listeners of 3 great Texas-born songwriters, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaugh, and Buddy Holly and discussed how the festival known as South by Southwest (SXSW) has become a highly commercialized event in Austin. Is it still fun, entertaining and rewarding for music fans? Certainly, but it’s become a corporate marketing event and is a bit overwhelming for those hoping to the next musical superstar in a small saloon.

We hope you enjoy our discussion with Michael Hallsworth, PhD.


Check out our website, if you’re interested in more episodes. And stop by the Podbean hosting site if you’d like to see the episode notes with all the live links in it. The complete and original version is located at


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