Annie Duke’s latest book, Thinking in Bets, Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts, is a masterful mash-up of her life as a researcher, poker player and charitable organization founder. In it, she explores new ideas on how to make better decisions.  Our interview with her expanded beyond the book and we talked extensively about probabilistic thinking and having people hold us accountable for our decision making. As expected, our interview covered an eclectic mix of behavioral biases, sociology, language development and, of without fail, music.

  We noted some remarkable researchers including Anna Dreber, Phil Tetlock, Barb Miller, Stuart Firestein and Jonathan Haidt. We went deep into Annie’s personal history with her mentor Lila Gleitman and their work on Syntactic Bootstrapping, with the help of Donald Duck. Our music discussion included Jack White, Willie Nelson, Jonathan Richman, Prince, Alex Chilton and the Violent Femmes. If you find any of these names unfamiliar, we urge you to check them out.

  We used the movie The Matrix and the blue pill/red pill metaphor for looking at the world as accurate vs. inaccurate, rather than right or wrong. We discussed how tribes can offer us distinctiveness and belongingness but also confine us with the tribe’s sometimes negative influences. We also examined learning pods and how they can be used to keep our decisions more in line with reality.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sarita Parikh is the Senior Director of Consumer Experience and Strategy at GED Testing Service, a business that helps adults use education as a path to a better life. The GED, or General Education Development, is a series of tests administered in the United States and Canada to give credentials to those who don’t matriculate through high school the same footing as those who did.  

We talked about how completion rates are low. They hover around 20%, so there’s plenty of room to grow; however, the factors influencing completion are complex. Making the tests easy to find and removing cost were not enough. Social issues and self-identities needed to be addressed to positively impact completion rates. In this episode, Sarita shares her frustrations in developing interventions that failed and how a new model that she and her team developed is finally driving improvements in completion rates. We discussed the myths that are commonly held about people taking the GED and that part of the conversation was simply mind-blowing. Of course, we talked about music. Sarita’s complex musical tastes range from Beyoncé to Vampire Weekend. (PS: Have you ever visited either of these websites? You’ve GOT to check them out!) So, we urge you to take a listen to Sarita as she shares her secrets to applying behavioral interventions at scale.

Finally, we’d love it if you’d forward this episode (or any of your favorite episodes) to a friend. You’ve probably got someone you like to talk to about psychology and behavioral sciences…please share this with them to grow our community.

Behavioral Grooves 

Bri Williams is an Australian pioneer in the application of behavioral sciences. She was an early follower of Dan Ariely, BJ Fogg and Richard Thaler, but soon believed the business community needed something more than a framework: they needed tools. She founded PeoplePatterns to turn the esoteric philosophies of behavioral science into practical applications for business leaders. In our discussion with Bri, we discussed her model that uniquely focuses on three key elements for removing barriers to behavior change: apathy, paralysis and anxiety. We talked about priming and Lou Carbone's work on the origami of toilet paper along with Bri's incredible observations of nudges in the world. Bri's most recent book, "Behavioural Economics for Business," was highlighted and, of course, we went down some rabbit holes! In our musical discussion, we touched on one of Kurt's favorite bands (a secret you must listen for), as well as a classical guitar busker in Sydney named Santos Bocelli. (Love that street music vibe!) In our grooving session, Tim mentioned an emerging EDM artist, Pauline Herr. Her fresh and melodic approach is thoroughly engaging. 

We hope you enjoy the discussion with Bri and please share this episode with a friend. It goes a long way in expanding the community of behavioral science nerds!

Behavioral Grooves 

Priming is a technique whereby exposure to one stimulus influences a response to a subsequent stimulus without conscious guidance or intention. In other words, it’s a subconscious influence on our behavior. And it’s powerful.

In this grooving session, Kurt and Tim discuss the power of priming and how the socks you wear can influence your day. We discussed how replicability of many studies has been a challenge for several research projects; however, the effects of priming are no less robust.

We talked about the amazing research that Gary Latham, PhD and his colleagues conducted on how a watermark on a tip sheet had dramatic effects on the results achieved. Amazing stuff.

CONTEST ALERT! If you’d like a free pair of Einstein “Today I am smart!” priming socks, share this episode on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook with: #IWANTSOCKS. We’ll pick randomly to identify 3 winners and we’ll be in touch by the end of the September.

Behavioral Grooves 

Goals are as common and as misunderstood as mobile phones. We think we know how to use them, but we don’t get it right every time. And if we were asked to explain how they work, we’d be clueless.

In this grooving session, Kurt and Tim discuss the magic of goals and how to best utilize them. We discuss some goal-setting studies – both published and unpublished – and some fundamental reasons why goals are important. We also get into some complementary research on the illusionary progress to goal and the goal gradient theory, both linked to the work of Ran Kivetz, from Columbia University. It’s a quick discussion of some important applications of how to make goals work better for YOU!

CONTEST ALERT! And as a special thank-you, we’re going to select a single listener to be our special guest on a future podcast. To let us know you’re interested in being our special guest, use #IWANTTOBEYOURSPECIALGUEST when you forward this episode on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook and we’ll select a winner by the end of September. We want YOU to be our special guest to hear YOUR questions about behavioral sciences.

Behavioral Grooves 

Ruchir Sehra is an entrepreneur, cardio physiologist, MBA and a curious and caring human being. Our interview with Ruchir was set in the discussion of Resonea, Inc’s new product, Drowzle. This phone-based app analyzes sleep patterns in the comfort of their own homes, without electrodes and invasive cameras – just a microphone.


We found this behavioral approach very interesting and our conversation reflected it. We discussed the behavioral effects of current sleep technology and how making a cpap machine look more like a Darth Vader mask might increase usage because it had some style!


Sadly, sleep apnea is a hub disease for a variety of conditions including obesity and erectile dysfunction and the behavioral implications include poor job performance, absenteeism, ineffective decision making and hazardous driving, among others. Ruchir is focused on helping people with sleep apnea whether they know it or not.  It’s difficult to be an engaged employee if you’re tired all day.


Our discussion with Ruchir offers enlightening ideas on how to solve behavioral challenges with a good night’s sleep or some time on the didgeridoo.

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