Cornelia Walther has spent most of her professional career with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP). She was the head of communications in large-scale emergencies in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. She earned her PhD in Law and is a certified yoga instructor and her current work is a remarkable amalgam of her studies and her life’s journey.

In recent years, she developed POZE as a way of exploring the world to help uncover deeper levels of happiness. (POZE is an opening spiral that can stand for, among a few things, to Pause for a moment, Observe what’s going on around you, Zoom in on yourself, and Experience what is going on in the world.) These are wise and weighty thoughts and we thoroughly enjoyed our conversation with her.

We also discussed how we are all interconnected – that your world and my world may be very different, yet we share connections if we only give ourselves the chance to experience them. The hope is that we recognize this connectedness – both at a personal level and at a larger global level – and bring greater meaning and happiness to our lives through this connectedness.

One of our favorite lines from our discussion with Cornelia was this: “So driven was I by the craving for some thing or another, that I omitted to savor the beauty of now.”  We all need to take a moment, pause, and savor the beauty of now.

© 2020 Behavioral Grooves



Cornelia Walther:


Gary Latham, PhD, Episode 147:

Creole Language:

Brad Shuck, PhD, Episode 91:

Development, Humanitarian Aid and Social Welfare. Social Change from the Inside Out (May 2020):

Humanitarian Work, Social Change, and Human behavior. Compassion for Change (June 2020):

Development and Connection in times of Covid. Corona’s Call for Conscious Choices (October 2020):

Social Change from the Inside Out. From Fixation to Foundation. From Competition to Change:

From Individual wellbeing to collective welfare:

Musical Links

Pink “So What”:

Verdi, “Aida”:

Dvorak, “Symphony of the New World”:  

Beatles, “Don’t Let Me Down”:

Depeche Mode, “People Are People”:

Mariza, “Quem Me Dera”:

Ayub Ogada, “Kothbiro”:

Giberto Gil:

Fabiano do Nascimento, “Nana”:

Tim Sparks, “Klezmer Medley”:


Kevin Vallier, PhD is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bowling Green State University, where he directs their Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law programs. Kevin’s interests span a wide spectrum including political philosophy, ethics, philosophy of religion, politics, and economics. He is the author of peer-reviewed book chapters and journal articles, and his recent books include Must Politics Be War? Restoring Our Trust in the Open Society (Oxford UP 2019) and, his newest book, Trust in a Polarized Age (Oxford UP 2020).

We focused our discussion on Kevin’s philosophical viewpoint of political issues, traversing the axes of polarization and trust. We spent some time discussing how focusing on progress and process might be good short-term balms for our broken nation.

We also asked him about potential solutions to our current situation in the United States and his answers might surprise you. Kevin offered approaches that only a political philosopher might have, and we enjoyed his unique perspective. His best tip for healing our nation’s divides (in the short term) might be as simple as joining a church or non-political non-profit organization to help your community.

We hope you enjoy our conversation with Kevin Vallier.

© 2020 Behavioral Grooves



Kevin Vallier, PhD: 

Revolving Door:

Ranked Choice Voting:

Trump/Obama Valedictorian Speech:

Robert Cialdini, PhD:


Coleman’s Boat:

Robber’s Cave Experiment:

Nudge.It North:

Musical Links

Dolly Parton:

Chet Atkins:

Alison Kraus:

Maynard Ferguson:

Sufjan Stevens:

Gregorian chant:

Valaam chant:

Byzantine notation:


“Be Thou My Vision”:

[NOTE: This episode was originally published as a Weekly Grooves podcast. We wanted to share it with our Behavioral Grooves listeners and we hope you enjoy it.]

We were inspired by a recent article on CNBC’s website by Cory Steig, called “ ’Psychological safety’ at work improves productivity–here are 4 ways to get it, according to a Harvard expert.” The piece reviews some research on psychology safety that Kurt and I have been focused on for years.

Psychological safety is a concept that was identified by Harvard Professor Amy Edmondson from work in the 1990’s. Professor Edmondson defines psychological safety as “a workplace where one feels that one’s voice is welcome with bad news, questions, concerns, half-baked ideas and even mistakes.”  One way we experience this is when we feel that the team has my back through both good and bad. 

Kurt and Tim believe that psychological safety is both undervalued and under-implemented in companies today and we hope listeners can apply some of the key points in this brief discussion to their workplace.

©2020 Weekly Grooves / ©2020 Behavioral Grooves



Kurt Nelson, PhD:

Tim Houlihan:  

Psychological Safety at work improves productivity:

How Making a Mistake in the Interview Could Land You the Job:

Re:Work – Google shares much of the insights that they learned from Project Aristotle and how to implement those ideals:

Forbes article by Shane Snow that overviews Psychological Safety and describes what it is and is not – nice summary that helps clarify key aspects of this concept:

How to foster psychological safety in virtual meetings:

Elliot Aronson, PhD Coffee Study:

Bill von Hippel, PhD is an evolutionary psychologist from Alaska who has lived in Australia for more than 20 years. Bill teaches at the University of Queensland and his body of research is so wide we struggled to focus our conversation. We spoke with him about his research into the ways in which our species’ behaviors have evolved over millions of years into the behaviors we see in our present-day lives. His insights are clever, thoughtful, and thought-provoking.

We talked about reciprocity, collectivism, and most importantly, how being cooperative and social propelled our species forward well beyond anything else in the animal kingdom. We discussed Bill’s latest book, “The Social Leap.” It’s a groundbreaking thesis that applies evolutionary science to help us understand how major challenges from our past have shaped some of the most fundamental aspects of our being.

One of the book’s key lessons is for us to remember that it is our collaboration, our collective abilities as a species, that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. This unique capability for humans to cooperate is an important reminder these days and Bill articulated the evolution of collaboration and competition in memorable terms.

We talked about the futility of not trusting your friends and the likely risk of getting lots of false positives from motivated thinking. And we discussed how social context matters when it comes to happiness. Bill explained how we choose our contexts wisely, and we do so to compare ourselves favorably to those around us. In this way, we tend to avoid comparisons with those we wouldn’t compare well to.

Lastly, Bill shared an evolutionary perspective that really struck us. He noted that, as we age, we are likely to increase our reliance on stereotypes and that can lead to prejudice. As Bill suggested, to stop ourselves from this unnecessary psychological deterioration, we should slow down our judgments and ask if we’re feeling this way because of that person’s group membership or gender or whatever. Stop, pause, and give it some consideration.

Bill was recommended to us by Roy Baumeister and we’re grateful for the introduction as well as Bill’s generous conversation. We hope you enjoy our conversation with Bill and that you go out and find your groove this week.

© 2020 Behavioral Grooves



Bill Von Hippel, PhD:

University of Queensland:

“The Social Leap”:

Peter Singer, PhD:

Homo Erectus:

Michael Tomasello, PhD:

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz “Everybody Lies”:

Dan Ariely on comparison:

Ed Diener on “Wealth and happiness across the world”:



Musical Links

Lynyrd Skynyrd:


Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”:

Mozart: Sonata in C, K. 545, Allegro:

Keith Moon:

Rush “Tom Sawyer”:

Neal Peart:

Max Weinberg:

Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven”:

Bob Dylan “Like a Rolling Stone”:

Al Kooper:

Max Weinberg Experience:

World Kindness Day is November 13th and has been celebrated in many countries around the world since 1998. World Kindness Day was developed to promote good deeds in communities and focus on how kindness binds us together. Around the world are efforts to encourage “random acts of kindness” for others and acting in a more kind way.

We decided to look at kindness in general through a behavioral science lens. 

Webster’s definition of “kind” is “of a sympathetic or helpful nature; being gentle.” In other words, kindness is basically doing something nice for someone. A Mother Jones article about World Kindness day, by Daniel King, states, “Don’t worry, kindness is not niceness,” so we looked at how the University of Santa Clara differentiates between KIND and NICE.

They used an example of how holding the door for others can be described as either “nice” or “kind.”  If the underlying motivation is to create a favorable impression for the purpose of asking for a favor later, then the action can be considered NICE due to its pleasing effect.

On the other hand, if the motivation is to spare the other person from extra effort or inconvenience, then the action can be considered KIND (as well as nice) if it pleases the other person.

We encourage each and every one of you around the world today to show some act of kindness to a loved one, friend or stranger. And we hope you enjoy this episode.

© 2020 Behavioral Grooves



Science Made Fun: Celebrating World Kindness Day:   

World Kindness Day:

Mother Jones: Kindness Day is Actually a Day:

World Kindness Day in Wikipedia:

Psychology Today: The Importance of Kindness:

Time: Random Acts of Kindness make Marriage Better:

Rewards of Kindness  Hui, B. P. H., Ng, J. C. K., Berzaghi, E., Cunningham-Amos, L. A., & Kogan, A. (2020). Rewards of kindness? A meta-analysis of the link between prosociality and well-being. Psychological Bulletin.:

Psychology Today: Random Acts of Kindness Matter to Your Well Being:

Being Kind, Not Nice:,way%20they%20treat%20each%20other.

[NOTE: This episode was originally published under our sister-podcast, Weekly Grooves. We are republishing it here to share relevant behavioral science information. We hope you enjoy it.]

We saw an article in The Atlantic that caught our attention because of its hook into behavioral science: our willingness to believe disinformation. In this week’s episode, we talk about the underlying behavioral science into why we humans are so susceptible to information that is not accurate.

What can we do? We can use the OODA loop to interrupt our too-quick decision to simply accept suspicious content: Observe – Orient – Decide – Act. The OODA loop, in a very simplistic manner uses these four elements in this way: to take in and observe the context in which you’re seeing this information; orient yourself with the source in a critical way; make a decision by asking, “if this is from someone I might not trust, would I still believe it?”; and take action by deleting content created to DIS-inform you.  

And since our podcast is relatively new, we are very interested in knowing how you think we’re doing. Please leave us a review or drop us a line. @THoulihan or @WhatMotivates

Disinformation: “False information, which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media.”

Misinformation: “False or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.”

Conspiracy Theory: “A belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for a circumstance or event.”

© 2020 Weekly Grooves / © 2020 Behavioral Grooves



“The Billion Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President,” by McKay Coppins in The Atlantic:

The Donation of Constantine:

The National Enquirer:

The Daily Mail:

The Messenger Effect:

OODA Loop:

Leveraging the OODA Loop with Digital Analytics to Counter Disinformation, by Jami Carroll (2019):

Viktor Frankl:


Gallup Polls Believing in the Media:

CORRECTION: In this episode, we incorrectly state that Michael Hallsworth started the BIT North American team.  In fact, the BIT North America team was founded in 2015 by Elspeth Kirkman. Under Elspeth’s leadership, the team delivered over 100 trials to cities across the US before she returned to the UK in 2018, which was when Michael Hallsworth came to Brooklyn to manage the group. We regret the error and thank Elizabeth Linos, PhD for calling attention to it.

In their book, “Behavioral Insights,” Michael Hallsworth and Elspeth Kirkman took time to think through the critical steps in the design and execution of a behavioral intervention. It’s a framework that could be applied to any significant behavior change you might consider and it comes from a book that Kurt and Tim consider among the best of 2020.

Michael Hallsworth is the Managing Director of the North American Behavioral Insights Team and has helped develop frameworks such as MINDSPACE and EAST. He is a thoughtful researcher with outstanding work to his credit; at the same time, he’s quick to point out when his research ideas don’t play out as he expected them to.

Elspeth Kirkman helped open the North American BIT unit but is now back in London, where she is responsible for BIT’s work on health, education, and local government. We first featured Elspeth for her work on frameworks and models in Episode 166 and we're so happy to see that she and Michael co-authored what we consider one of the best behavioral science books of 2020.

Their book, “Behavioral Insights,” was commissioned and published by MIT Press for their Essential Knowledge Series. The book very explicitly outlines HOW to design and implement a behavior change initiative. Their 10-step model carefully lays out this process and we were extremely happy to see that the first 7 steps are all about design.

We discussed ethics and transparency in the way interventions are implemented. These considerations are central to much of the work that they do, especially when it comes to the development of governmental policies.

We also discussed rationality and who gets to decide what is rational and what isn’t. This was a particularly powerful concept since we know that humans do a great job defending their actions. To what degree is it rational or rationalizing?

Regrettably, due to time constraints, we were not able to chat about music. We’ll save it for next time. Right now, we hope you enjoy our conversation with Elspeth and Michael.

© 2020 Behavioral Grooves



Michael Hallsworth: @mhallsworth

Elspeth Kirkman: @karminker

“Behavioral Insights”:

Menorca Island:

Gerd Gigerenzer:

Dan Ariely, “Predictably Irrational”:

Common Biases and Heuristics:

Eugen Dimant, Episode 169:

NYC Cab Driver Study (Loewenstein, Thaler, Babcock and Camerer):

Behavioral Grooves Episode 41 on Hallsworth:

Behavioral Grooves 100th Episode:

Behavioral Grooves Episode 166 on Kirkman:


Nudge.It North:

Kurt Nelson, PhD: @whatmotivates

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan

[NOTE: This episode was originally published under our sister-podcast, Weekly Grooves. In our effort to share relevant behavioral science information, we are republishing it here. We hope you enjoy it.]

Listeners, especially in the United States, are already aware of the debacle from the Iowa Caucuses and how the Iowa Democratic party used a new app to help streamline the caucus results. You’re probably also aware that the processes and technologies failed, and results were not available for days afterwards.

The delay has caused a plethora of online conspiracy theories and that’s our topic for this week. In the absence of good data, we make it up.

Some of the richest conspiracy theories Kurt and Tim found include: 1.) The Democratic party didn’t like the results that they were seeing, so they were changing them. 2.) The Russians or the Chinese had hacked the app and were messing with us. 3.) The Republicans had hacked the app and were trying to rig the election. 4.) Hillary Clinton had helped build the app and was using it to get back at Sanders. And our all-time favorite conspiracy theory (5.) involves the Illuminati and how they were controlling the outcome. 

With all this swirling around, Kurt and Tim discuss why it’s humans to engage in conspiracy theories and some of their psychological underpinnings, the personality types that are most prone to believing a conspiracy theory, and what we can do to inoculate ourselves from this sort of thinking.

We are reason-seeking machines and are more likely to ask “why” before we fully understand “what” happened.

Join us for a quick review of why we experience conspiracy theories in the first place and what we can do about them.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves / © 2020 Behavioral Grooves

Kurt Nelson, PhD: @WhatMotivates

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan


Online conspiracy theories flourish after Iowa caucus fiasco:

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories, 2017, Douglas, Sutton and Cichocka:

The psychology of conspiracy theories: Why do people believe them, John Grohol PsyD:

Closed Belief System:

Conspiracy theories: the science behind belief in secret plots, The Guardian,

Fundamental Attribution Error:

Hanlon’s Razor:


Lantian, A., Muller, D., Nurra, C., Douglas, K. (2017). “‘I know things they don’t know!’: The role of need for uniqueness in belief in conspiracy theories,” Social Psychology, 48, 160-173

Mercier, H. & Sperber, D., “Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory” BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES (2011) 34, 57–111 doi:10.1017/S0140525X10000968

Motivated Reasoning:

Oliver, Eric on “Big Brains” Episode 25:


Pattern Recognition:

Pattern Recognition: The Science Behind Conspiracy Theories, Steven Novella:

Project Mogul:

Resulting (Annie Duke):

Jez Groom and April Vellacott, our guests in this episode, are co-authors of “Ripple - The Big Effects of Small Behavior Changes in Business.” It’s a practical, application-focused romp that uses a behavioral science lens to solve all sorts of real-world problems.

Jez Groom is the founder of Cowry Consulting and has established himself as one of the world's leading practitioners in the field. Jez has played instrumental roles in projects like Babies in the Borough – which we featured in Episode 167 – that used murals of babies faces to fight crime, to changing handwashing behavior in a slaughterhouse in Santiago, to using bright pink walls to reduce unsafe behavior on a high-rise construction site in London. He is also an Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Psychology at City University, London.

April Vellacott is the Behavioral Consulting Lead at Cowry. Aside from being a dedicated and experienced practitioner, she holds degrees in Psychology and Behavior Change. Owning the heavy lifting for the book, April stole the show with some of the best lines (see “you can’t make a bucket without bucketloads of money”). We urge you to check out their book as it’s more than just informative, it’s also a pleasure to read.

In our conversation with Jez and April, we discussed the salient points from the book, the case study format they used, the very international feel from those case studies, and some of the techniques they’ve used to get business professionals to adopt behavioral science.

We also covered a key pillar of their personal and professional missions: to demystify and democratize behavioral science. It’s a terrific conversation and we hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.

© 2020 Behavioral Grooves



Jez Groom:

April Vellacott:

Cowry Consulting:


Rory Sutherland:

Daniel Levitin “This is Your Brain on Music”:

Adam Hansen:


Episode 167 – Babies in the Borough:


Musical Links

John Legend “Wild”:

House Music:



Flava Flav:

Public Enemy:


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