Luke Battye is a product/service consultant with a background in Experimental Psychology and innovation. Luke founded a behavioral design consultancy, called Sprint Valley in the UK, that helps businesses use behavioral science and human-centered design to create better products and services for customers and employees.

In Our Conversation with Luke

We chatted on a cold afternoon in both Birmingham and Minneapolis and we hunkered down to some great conversation about the very positive applications of behavioral science.

Our discussion started with Luke’s consultancy, then we talked through his recent article projecting the future of fast food restaurants called “Why We’re Loving It: The McDonalds Restaurants of the Future” featured on The article is insightful because of its thoughtful observations and clever ideas about how a behavioral lens provides a fresh look at retail restaurants. And, frankly, we found the conversation to be scintillating.

That moved us naturally into addressing the peak and end experiences for customers at fast food restaurants and the Peak-End Effect. Luke noted that there are more people checking in at McDonald's than on Facebook every month.

We covered the delightfully-named Bouba Kikki test, the impact of embodied cognition and the work of Charles Spence (and others), the placebo effect and even blind taste tests of fine wines. 

In our music discussion, Luke brought up EDM groove-sters Nils Frahm and Chris Clark as well as Grizzly Bear and our common affection for analog synthesizers made by Moog.

In Our Grooving Session

Following the discussion with Luke, Kurt and Tim grooved on a variety of topics starting a solid discussion on The Peak-End effect. This led into Danny Kahneman’s discussion of the remembering self vs the experiencing self, and of course, we turned to priming. In our discussion about priming, we addressed which prime might be more impactful in driving behavior: self-primes (conscious and self-created) or hidden primes (totally subconscious)? Listen to see where we landed on this!

We discussed the impact of the MOOG synthesizer on music history and how The Monkees are reportedly the first band to record a Moog synthesizer on a major label record.


Paper on the future of fast food retailing: Why we're loving it 

Peak-End Effect:

Bouba Kikki: Bouba Kiki Effect

Paper on embodied cognition: Charles Spence - Cross-Modal Research 

Kahneman: experiencing self vs. remembering self.

Blind Taste Tests of Wine:

Placebo Effect – it works:


Nils Frahm: Mix of EDM and acoustic piano

Chris Clark: . Heavy EDM

Grizzly Bear:  While You Wait For Others (2009)

Original Moog synthesizer:

Yamaha DX7:

Korg: Buy a Korg Volca it's the best toy you'll ever get!! They're so cheap! 


Contact Info

Luke Battye Sprint Valley:

Kurt Nelson, PhD 

Tim Houlihan


Saurabh Bhargava, PhD is a professor and researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and he joined us in the Behavioral Grooves studio during a visit to Minnesota over the holidays. Saurabh has also taught at the Booth School at the University of Chicago and worked in corporate consulting for McKinsey & Company.

His work history, and the fact that he hails from the very sensible state of Minnesota, adds credibility and practicability to his work.  In recent years, much of his research has focused on examining policies and programs that shape financial and health wellness. His curiosities have ranged from how we make health insurance choices from complicated menus to the effects of emotion on political beliefs and voting.

Saurabh’ research is best summed up using his own words. His research, he says, “uses natural field experiments to better understand the systematic ways in which people's behavior departs from what economists would think of as a rational benchmark. Then, using some of these insights to help improve how we think about the design of policies and programs that are intended to help them.”

In this conversation, Saurabh talked about findings he’s made, with his colleague Lynn Conell-Price, in how people prepare (or don’t prepare) for retirement. Planning for retirement is complex: we don’t know how long we’re going to live, we don’t exactly know how much we’re going to spend, and we don’t know how the economy will treat our savings. All are difficult – if not impossible for ordinary Jane’s and Joe’s – to estimate. Their working paper wrestles with these issues and offers findings that will help people, who have not really engaged in their retirement, to get started.

Their work tests three candidate explanations offered by Behavioral Economists as to why employees do not save sufficiently for retirement through their 401(k) plans:

  • Financial literacy. Because decisions about saving are made very rarely, it’s common to lack the skills required to make the most effective decisions. But like the GI Joe fallacy, knowing is not even close to being half the battle. 


  • Complexity. Kahneman and Tversky demonstrated that the more complex the problem, the less likely people are to solve it well and decisions that require managing complex online forms could deter us from making the decision at all.


  • Self-Control (Procrastination). This is a biggie. Our present bias can be so strong that we’re willing to forego the pain of a few dollars less each paycheck (today) in exchange for a more comfortable future (tomorrow).

We discussed his findings and a surprising micro-behavioral intervention aimed at those who were not enrolled. Incentives cannot be offered to get people to enroll, but they can be aimed at PRE-enrolling behavior: logging in. Saurabh’s discussion of the results are terrific!

We hope you enjoy our discussion with Saurabh and would be very grateful for a positive rating on your favorite podcatcher. It goes a long way with us and our efforts to expand our audience.



Saurabh Bhargava, PhD: Department of Social & Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University.  

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Kurt Nelson, PhD:

Tim Houlihan:

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John Sweeney is the author of Innovation at the Speed of Laughter: 8 Secrets to World Class Idea Generation, corporate keynote speaker, improvisational impresario, the actor known for his character Jiggly Boy, a brainstorming and innovation maniac, and the owner of the Brave New Workshop, an improvisational theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota for more than 20 years.

More importantly, John is an accidental behavioral scientist. His worldview is based on observations he has made about human interactions in group settings and those interactions are, as you guessed, behaviorally based. John and his colleagues lead workshops on innovation that leverage principles from behavioral science and they do it with lots of laughter.

In our conversation with John, we talked about things he’s passionate about. We talked about how his character, Jiggly Boy, that was created to raise awareness for Minnesota’s professional basketball team, became a conduit to raise money for the Smile Network, an international humanitarian organization that provides life-altering reconstructive surgeries. The 11 million YouTube hits have contributed, via a link on the Jiggly Boy page, to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Smile Network. Very cool, indeed.

John also shared stories about how an in-person knife throwing demonstration was used in pitching his book at a book buyer’s convention (talk about vividness!) and how he brings new and novel ideas to corporate clients.

Aside from being gut-splitting funny, we discovered John shared important behavioral science principles to groove on after our conversation. One was the power of “Yes, and…” and how, with practice, it can become a way of life. Another was the importance of psychology safety and how it’s sorely missed in the corporate world today.

The last topic we grooved on was the concept of how you practice improv when it is unpracticable and how we can use narrative to engage and persuade. 

This episode was recorded LIVE during our Behavioral Grooves meetup at John’s theatre, the Brave New Workshop. We wanted to bring John’s outsized personality to life, so a live audience seemed most fitting and we are grateful that he offered up his theatre as the venue. Thank you to John, Renee Scott, Matthew Vichlach and Craig Anderson for their support.

We laughed and laughed. A LOT. And we suspect you will, too. We hope you enjoy our conversation with John Sweeney.  


John Sweeney:

 Brave New Workshop:  Motto: “Promiscuous hostility, positive neutrality.”

Jiggly boy:

Smile Network:

Innovation at the Speed of Laughter: 8 Secrets to World Class Idea Generation, (2007) Aerialist Press.

Brainstorming: According to Wikipedia, “…brainstorming is a situation where a group of people meet to generate new ideas and solutions around a specific domain of interest by removing inhibitions.” A dozen top websites echo this requirement to remove inhibitions, but none really address it. Sweeney does.

Yes, and…:,_and...

On role-playing and brainstorming: “Take it to the next stage: the roles of role-playing in the design process” by Kristian T. Simsarian, IDEO (2003) published in CHI '03 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pages 1012-1013.  Role-playing is complementary to traditional design techniques providing additional team dynamics and insights that bring the process and designs to another level. 

Project Aristotle:

Bell, David A., “Regret in Decision Making Under Uncertainty,” Operations Research Society of America, 1982.

Davis, Miles: Kinda Blue: Or, if you can, check out the 1997 reissue of the record featuring an alternative version of “Flamenco Sketches” to compare to the one released on the original 1959 recording. This comparison provides great insight into the tremendous improvisational power of Davis and his talented band.

Dr. Dimento:

Dr. Science:

Kurt and Tim help companies positively apply behavioral insights into their organizations - let's have a conversation about how we can help your company. You can reach us at or We’d love to help your organization improve your bottom line with a behavioral lens.

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The safety insights from our guest could save your life

Rodd Wagner is The New York Times bestselling author of the book "Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees as If They're Real People." A contributor to Forbes, he is one of the foremost authorities on employee engagement and collaboration. Wagner's books, speeches, and thought leadership focus on how human nature affects business strategy. He and his aerospace engineer son, Rodd Parks Wagner, are currently completing work on a book on the psychology of safety.

We talked with Rodd about a wide variety of topics from writing books to the impact sleep has on behavior, the impact of checklists, and Zen Buddhism.  But what really excited us was our discussion of hedonic adaptation and how it applies to safety…and to so much more.

We also discussed the moral code of self-driving cars and who will program (and what decisions they’ll make when programming) the robots to act. We talked about the famous Trolley Car Study (1967) and how self-driving cars will need to be taught to make tough moral decisions. 

Our discussion with Rodd was followed by our grooving session, which focused on both hedonic adaptation and the morality of machines.  

By listening to Behavioral Grooves, you are part of a community of people interested in behavioral science – a community that we are trying to build.  We would be grateful if you can help expand that community by recommending this episode, or another Behavioral Grooves episode, to a friend.

Also, Kurt and Tim help companies apply positive and ethical behavioral insights to their organizations. If you’re interested in starting a conversation, you can reach us at or We’d love to help your organization improve your bottom line with a behavioral lens.



You can reach Rodd Wagner at

Rodd’s Forbes columns can be found here:

Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees as if They’re Real People, by Rodd Wagner, McGraw-Hill (2015).


Books We Discussed

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Phillip Dick (1996). Kurt referenced this book by Phillip Dick when Tim mistakenly thought he was speaking of Isaac Asimov’s classic I Robot

I Robot, by Isaac Asimov (1950).,_Robot

The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande, Picador (2011).

Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker, Simon & Schuster (2018).

Why Buddhism is True, by Robert Wright, Simon & Schuster (2018).


Papers & Studies We Discussed

Ariely, Dan. On Why Religion Makes You Behave Better, Slate.

Brickman & Campbell, The Hedonic Treadmill (1971).  …and… 

Hyman, Ira E., Jr., et. al. “Did You See the Unicycling Clown? Inattentional Blindness while Walking and Talking on a Cell Phone.” Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24: 597–607 (2010) 

Loewenstein, George. On bereavement and hedonic adaptation: from Kahneman, Diener & Schwarz, Wellbeing: the foundations of hedonic psychology, Sage Foundation, 1999. 

Lyubomirsky, Sonja. On the key elements of happiness:

Eye Tracking Experiment:

Trolley Car Study:

MIT Moral Machine:


Music We Discussed

Angus & Julia Stone.

Pat Metheny, “One Quiet Night.”

Damien Rice

Nine Inch Nails


Lynyrd Skynyrd "Freebird" 

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