Racism is solvable, but that doesn’t mean we will solve it. To close the gap between the probable and possible, we need to have meaningful conversations.

“Conversation is one of the most powerful ways to build knowledge, awareness, and empathy and ultimately, impact change.”

In his award winning book, “The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations”, Dr Robert Livingston PhD provides a compass and a roadmap for individuals and for organizational leaders to solve racism. As a leading Harvard social psychologist, he expertly combines his research and narrative for an audience who is eager to be part of the solution.

Robert talks with us about the lightbulb moment he realized storytelling was a powerful way to engage an audience. By building relationships and using narratives, you can change people’s behavior in a way that facts and graphs simply don’t.

Our conversation with Robert gives us the tools to firstly define racism and recognize its existence. We learn why motivated reasoning tries to protect us from the threat of addressing our own racism. But if we approach the painful conversations with a growth mindset, we can allow ourselves the grace to learn.


© 2022 Behavioral Grooves



(3:13) Welcome and speed round questions.

(4:23) Is racism a solvable problem?

(6:19) Why conversation is so crucial to overcoming racism.

(13:18) How The Press Model can help solve racism.

(19:47) Why are people in denial about racism?

(25:12) How to challenge the “I’m not a racist” relative?

(28:48) How to have a conversation about racism, rather than a debate. 

(36:20) Why do we confuse equity and equality?

(45:03) People are not as concerned about fairness as they are about winning.

(47:52) What music would Robert take to a desert island?



Robert Livingston's book “The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations”: https://amzn.to/3DdQZOc

Episode 232, Katy Milkman: How to Make Healthy Habits that Actually Last: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/katy-milkman-habits-that-last/ 

“Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing” Michael Norton and Samuel Sommers (2011): https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1745691611406922 

Carol Dweck “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”: https://amzn.to/3SBhamm 

Amy Edmondson: https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=6451 

Episode 178, Kwame Christian: On Compassionate Curiosity, Social Justice Conversations, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/kwame-christian-on-compassionate-curiosity-social-justice-conversations-and-cinnamon-toast-crunch/ 

Episode 230, How Good People Fight Bias with Dolly Chugh: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/how-good-people-fight-bias/ 


Musical Links

Stevie Wonder “Songs In The Key of Life”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiG9eiwUpHo 

Miles Davis “So What”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqNTltOGh5c

Close your eyes and visualize a horse. Most people can picture the outline of the body, the color of the horse and the unique features of the animal. But some people simply don’t see any image at all. This lack of a mind’s eye is known as aphantasia


To help explain exactly what aphantasia is, and how it can affect behavior, we talk with Professor Adam Zeman who actually helped identify and name the neurological condition. Adam has a medical degree and a PhD in philosophy from Oxford University. He’s been a lecturer and professor of cognitive and behavioral neurology and has published extensively on visual imagery and forms of amnesia occurring in epilepsy. Adam has also published an introduction to neurology for the general audiences called, A Portrait of the Brain. But the reason we are talking to Adam on this episode is about his research on our “minds eye”. He discusses how a lack of visual imagery (aphantasia) or overly vivid imagery (hyperphantasia) can be identified and what effects it has on our behavior. 


We often ask guests on the show about whether their work is influenced by “me-search”; something of particular interest to them personally. Well, this episode is a little bit of me-search for our own Kurt Nelson who himself has aphantasia. Join both Kurt and Tim as they both find out more about the recent research into the condition and how we should all be aware of how it affects people.


Thank you to all our listeners of Behavioral Grooves, we enjoy sharing unique insights with you. If you have enjoyed this episode, please consider writing a review on your podcast player. Or you can contribute financially to our work through our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/behavioralgrooves


(3:36) Welcome and speed round questions.

(5:15) How Adam discovered the condition aphantasia.

(10:30) How aphantasia can affect all the senses.

(12:45) The prevalence of aphantasia.

(15:38) The behavioral differences that are present with aphantasia.

(19:42) What careers suit people with a lack of mind’s eye?

(23:39) What causes aphantasia? 

(25:51) The differences between voluntary and involuntary visualization. 

(30:41) Visualization is an echo of vision. 

(35:21) What music Adam will take to a desert island.

(37:51) About The Mind’s Eye Project.

(42:49) Grooving Session with Kurt and Tim.


© 2022 Behavioral Grooves



Aphantasia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphantasia 

Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ): https://aphantasia.com/vviq/ 

Professor Adam Zeman: https://psychology.exeter.ac.uk/staff/profile/index.php?web_id=adam_zeman 

The Mind’s Eye Project: https://www.gla.ac.uk/research/az/cspe/projects/the-eyes-mind/ 

“Picture This? Some Just Can’t” by Carl Zimmer, 2015: https://carlzimmer.com/picture-this-some-just-cant-101/ 

Prosopagnosia: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/prosopagnosia#:~:text=Prosopagnosia%20is%20a%20neurological%20disorder,face%20blindness%20or%20facial%20agnosia.  

Hyperphantasia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperphantasia#:~:text=Hyperphantasia%20is%20the%20condition%20of,as%20vivid%20as%20real%20seeing%22. 

Ed Catmull: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Catmull 

Craig Venter: https://www.jcvi.org/about/j-craig-venter 

Blake Ross: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blake_Ross 

Think of a horse: https://aphantasia.com/think-of-a-horse/ 

Musical Links

David Gray “Sail Away”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oyBnvibWEY 

Bach “Cello Suite No.1 in G Major”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1prweT95Mo0 

Mendelssohn “Overture: The Hebrides”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdQyN7MYSN8 


“The primary source of unconscious priming…is your conscious experience.” Our consciousness is where we bring everything together, where we integrate and form a rich integration of our experience. This result is that this experience gets spread out to all the processes of the mind which is pivotal to how priming, an unconscious effect, actually works.

Dr John Bargh PhD is a researcher and professor at Yale University and is probably the leading researcher on behavioral priming and has been studying this topic for almost 40 years. Not only that but he is a long term friend of Behavioral Grooves Podcast.

In this episode with John, we explore with him both the past and future of priming as well as some of the controversies surrounding it. 

The more important the goal, the more primable it is”



(4:36) Welcome and speed round questions.

(7:50) Why priming gets a bad rap.

(13:01) What exactly is a prime?

(16:17) Where does future research in priming need to go?

(19:46) How does priming differ from expectation theory and the placebo effect?

(22:33) How is framing not priming?

(24:07) What is the summation of experience?

(32:02) The stupid reason John went into social psychology.

(40:51) What the meta analysis studies on priming have found.

(45:50) Science communication: how to tell the good science from the bad.

(49:03) The importance of podcasting to bridge the gap between science and people.

(1:00:03) Grooving session with Tim and Kurt on priming. 


© 2022 Behavioral Grooves



John Bargh's book “Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do”: https://amzn.to/3yUHka8

Episode 248, Do We Control Situations or Do Situations Control Us? With John Bargh: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/control-situations-with-john-bargh/ 

Episode 155, John Bargh: Dante, Coffee and the Unconscious Mind: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/john-bargh-unconscious-mind/ 

Global Workspace Theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_workspace_theory 

Bargh JA. “What have we been priming all these years? On the development, mechanisms, and ecology of nonconscious social behavior.” Eur J Soc Psychol. 2006: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19844598/ 

Shinobu Kitayama, University of Michigan: https://lsa.umich.edu/psych/people/faculty/kitayama.html 

Daphna Oyserman, University of Southern California: https://dornsife.usc.edu/daphna-oyserman 

Paul J. Reber, Northwestern University: https://www.reberlab.psych.northwestern.edu/people/paul/ 

Daniel Schacter, “Amnesia observed: Remembering and forgetting in a natural environment” (1983): https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1983-26025-001 

Parafoveal Processing: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/psychology/parafoveal-processing 

Jeffrey W. Sherman (2017) “A Final Word on Train Wrecks”: https://psychology.ucdavis.edu/people/sherm/cv 

Evan Weingarten, Qijia Chen, Maxwell McAdams, Jessica Yi, Justin Hepler, Dolores Albarracin (2016) “On Priming Action: Conclusions from a Meta-Analysis of the Behavioral Effects of Incidentally-Presented Words”: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27957520/ 

Xiao Chen, Gary P. Latham, Ronald F. Piccolo, Guy Itzchakov (2019) “An Enumerative Review and a Meta-Analysis of Primed Goal Effects on Organizational Behavior”: https://iaap-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/apps.12239 

Roy F. Baumeister and Kathleen D. Vohs (2003): “Sobriety Epidemic Endangers Nation’s Well-Being”: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/sobriety-epidemic-endangers-nations-well-being 

Episode 147, Gary Latham, PhD: Goal Setting, Prompts, Priming, and Skepticism: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/gary-latham-goal-setting-prompts/  


Musical Links 

AC/DC “Hells Bells”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etAIpkdhU9Q 

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets “Acid Dent”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuQyIQ0NA0k 

Acid Dad “Searchin’”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzSwzUAqVWw 

The Orb “Blue Room”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQ8nTbS9mOE 

Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTWKbfoikeg 

Pearl Jam “Black”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgaRVvAKoqQ 

The Who “Who You Are”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNbBDrceCy8 

Led Zeppelin “All My Love”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXC87EABywo 

Dead Pirates “Alexis”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9FsgAyZop4 

Hadestown Broadway Show “Way Down Hadestown”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJIc3RtJK7U 

Rory Sutherland is a British advertising executive who became fascinated with behavioral science. Between his TED talks, books and articles, he has become one of the field’s greatest proponents. Rory is currently the Executive Creative Director of OgilvyOne, after gigs as vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK and co-founder of the Behavioural Sciences Practice, part of the Ogilvy & Mather group of companies. He is the author of The Spectator’s The Wiki Man column and his most recent book, which we highly recommend, is Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life.

Our discussion with Rory was original published in January 2020, but Rory’s evergreen insights continue to be popular with our listeners so we decided to republish this episode. You can also listen to Rory discuss his latest book Transport for Humans: Are We Nearly There Yet? alongside his co-writer Pete Dyson, in episode 290.

We start this discussion with Rory by asking him about his book and some of his insights from it. His approach to advertising, marketing and product design is informed by his ability to look for the things that aren’t there. He once described a solution to improving customer satisfaction on the Chunnel Train between London and Paris by suggesting that a billion dollars would be better spent on supermodel hosts in the cars than on reducing ride time by 15 minutes. He’s a terrifically insightful thinker.

Our conversation ran amok down all sorts of rabbit holes, as expected, including ergodicity, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Silver Blaze,” high-end audio and the dietary habits of the world-famous runner, Usain Bolt.

In Kurt and Tim’s Grooving Session, we discuss some of our favorite takeaways from Rory’s conversation including, “The Opposite of a Good Idea is a Good Idea” and others. And finally, Kurt teed up the Bonus Track with a final reflection and recap of the key points we discussed.

As always, we would be grateful if you would write us a quick review. It helps us get noticed by other folks who are interested in podcasts about behavioral science. It will only take 27 seconds. Thank you, and we appreciate your help.

© 2022 Behavioral Grooves



Rory Sutherland: https://ogilvy.co.uk/people/rorys

“Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life”: https://amzn.to/3xbibt3

“Transport for Humans: Are We Nearly There Yet?”: https://amzn.to/3cZPyIy

Episode 290, Transport Your Thinking; Why We Need To Reframe Travel | Rory Sutherland & Pete Dyson: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/transport-rory-sutherland-pete-dyson/

“Friction”: https://www.rogerdooley.com/books/friction/

Murray Gell-Mann, PhD: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_Gell-Mann

Robin Williams “Scottish Golf”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jx8TzR1-n4Q

Don Draper: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Draper

Ergodicity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergodicity

John James Cowperthwaite: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_James_Cowperthwaite

SatNav: https://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/dictionary/american/satnav

Daniel Kahneman, PhD: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kahneman

What You See is All There Is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking,_Fast_and_Slow

Arthur Conan-Doyle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Conan_Doyle

Sherlock Holmes “Silver Blaze”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventure_of_Silver_Blaze

Tim Houlihan’s Blog on “Silver Blaze”: https://tinyurl.com/ufumkj6

Ben Franklin T-Test: https://tinyurl.com/wocdsdk

Volkswagen Fighter: https://tinyurl.com/qpyqh87

David Ogilvy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Ogilvy_(businessman)

Jock Elliot: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2005/dec/01/guardianobituaries.media

Battle of Leyte Gulf: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Leyte_Gulf

Croft Audio: http://www.croftacoustics.co.uk/main.html

Mu-So single speaker: https://www.naimaudio.com/mu-so

WFMT Chicago: https://www.wfmt.com/

TK Maxx: https://www.tkmaxx.com/uk/en/

Berlin Hotel with Big Lebowski: https://www.michelbergerhotel.com/en/

Shure: https://www.shure.com/en-US/products/microphones?lpf[top][types][]=microphones

Zoom: https://zoom.us/

Satisficing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisficing

Usain Bolt: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usain_Bolt

Sheena Iyengar, PhD: https://www.sheenaiyengar.com/

Jelly Jar Study: https://tinyurl.com/oo6g6eb

Big Band Music: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_band


Musical Links

Aretha Franklin: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aretha_Franklin

Southern California Community Choir: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_California_Community_Choir

Abba: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABBA

Felix Mendelssohn: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Mendelssohn

George Frideric Handel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Frideric_Handel

Johann Sebastian Bach: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Sebastian_Bach

Johann Christian Bach: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Christian_Bach

Psychology and neuroscience have proven that our minds do things on autopilot. These shortcuts (or heuristics) are laden with unconscious biases, which are juxtaposed to our self identity as a “good” person; one that isn’t racist, sexist or homophobic. Dolly Chugh believes we should set a higher standard for ourselves by being good-ish people. By implementing a Growth Mindset, a concept pioneered by Carol Dweck, we don’t hang on too tightly to our identity. We learn to change, and to be taught and to grow.


Dolly Chugh is an award-winning associate professor and social psychologist at the Stern School of Business at New York University. Her research focuses on the “psychology of good people”. How and why most of us, however well-intended, are still prone to race and gender bias, as well as what she calls “bounded ethicality.”  


Kurt and Tim sat down with Dolly for this episode in Spring 2021 to talk about the concept of “good-ish” which is a central theme to her book The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias. In subsequent episodes we have referenced Dolly's interview and work many times, so we wanted to republish her episode so you can enjoy listening to her insights again.


In our conversation with Dolly we learn about her beautiful analogy of headwinds and tailwinds that describe the invisible biases and systemic issues that many people in our world face. She explains the “Hmmm Framework” that she came up with after the January 6th Attack on the Capitol. And, of course, we discuss music and how Dolly incorporates it into her teaching and her writing.


In our focused Grooving Session, Tim and Kurt extract the meaningful ways that we can apply Dolly’s work into our everyday lives. We summarize the key parts of our interview with her and how we can each challenge ourselves to find our good-ish groove!


What You Will Learn from Dolly Chugh 

(2:41) Speed round questions

(4:12) What is the difference between good and good-ish? 

(9:09) Why is a growth mindset so difficult?

(12:28) Why we should integrate psychology more into our educational and political systems

(15:48) How systemic racism and unconscious bias are related

(29:12) Hmmm Framework and thought experiments

(34:04) How do we discover our own blind spots?

(38:58) How Dolly incorporates music into her teaching and writing

(43:21) Applications from our interview with Dolly in our Grooving Session:

  1. Step back and be intentional, use “when...then…” statements.
  2. Don’t hold on so tightly to our identity and the status quo.
  3. Thought experiments to unveil our own ignorance. 
  4. The Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT).
  5. Self audit - look at our library, our magazines, our TV shows, what we talk about with friends. How are we showing up in the world? Are we being intentional with where we put our effort?

© 2022 Behavioral Grooves



Dolly Chugh: http://www.dollychugh.com/about-dolly 

Dolly Chugh, The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias https://amzn.to/35tGwMe 

Carol Dweck, Mindset, The New Psychology of Success https://amzn.to/3wDv10I 

Episode 196: Living Happier By Making the World Better with Max Bazerman https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/living-happier-by-making-the-world-better-with-max-bazerman/

Mahzarin Banaji https://psychology.fas.harvard.edu/people/mahzarin-r-banaji 

Molly Kern https://www.molly-kern.com/ 

Happy Days https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ee0gziqT2Yk&ab_channel=ChiefScheiderChiefScheider 

Grey’s Anatomy https://youtu.be/dSGLObjyFvA 

Steve Martin and Nuala Walsh, Episode 209: GAABS and Improving the Future for Every Applied Behavioral Scientist https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/improving-the-future-for-every-applied-behavioral-scientist/

Katy Milkman, How to Change https://amzn.to/3wDZHzc 

Confronting the legacy of housing discrimination https://www.cbs.com/shows/cbs_this_morning/video/vLnaRgBIed_ph_NxZa2ZaivfdC_FeD1f/white-americans-confront-legacy-of-housing-discrimination/ 

Harvard Implicit Association Test https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ 

Alec Lacamoire https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Lacamoire 

Lake Wobegon Effect https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Wobegon 

Episode 214: Observing the Non-Obvious: How to Spot Trends Around You with Rohit Bhargava https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/the-non-obvious-rohit-bhargava/


Musical Links

Hamilton “Alexander Hamilton” https://youtu.be/VhinPd5RRJw 

In the Heights “Blackout” https://youtu.be/T0V2cCjf1Tk 

Something Rotten! “A Musical” https://youtu.be/1KFNcy9VjQI 

Bruno Mars “The Lazy Song” https://youtu.be/fLexgOxsZu0 

38 Special “Hold On Loosely” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJtf7R_oVaw 

Buffalo Springfield “For What It’s Worth” https://youtu.be/80_39eAx3z8 

For many years, the general consensus by many researchers and practitioners was that providing people with short-term extrinsic rewards sapped their long-term motivation. This led to some organizations reducing or not using short-term rewards at all. However, this perspective has always had some detractors and now even more research shows that this belief is misleading.

In this episode, Kurt and Tim explore the research paper by Indranil Goswami and Oleg Urmisky with the lovely title of “The Dynamic Effect of Incentives on Post-Reward Task Engagement” that shows that while short-term incentives drive an immediate reduction in task engagement, this only lasts for a short time and that engagement rebounds to the baseline relatively quickly.  

We examine some of the backstory to this belief, what the study showed, and review the implications of this.    



The Dynamic Effect of Incentives on Post-Reward Task Engagement: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312100138_The_dynamic_effect_of_incentives_on_postreward_task_engagement 


© 2022 Behavioral Grooves

The GodFather of Influence, Robert Cialdini joins us on Behavioral Grooves to share his motivation for expanding his bestselling book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion which now includes a completely new Seventh Principle of Influence: Unity. This additional principle can help explain our political loyalties, vaccine hesitancy and why media headlines can be so inflammatory.

Another motivation for the revised edition to the book is to include more application to the Principles of Influence. So our conversation highlights some of Bob’s advice for start-up businesses and how they can harness the principle of Social Proof. And as general advice, Bob recounts how he recently advised a teenager to be generous to others – this in turn stimulates the Rule of Reciprocity, nurturing a relationship which is mutually beneficial.

No episode of Behavioral Grooves would be complete without discussing music, even with guests we’ve interviewed before! But the theme of unity has a special significance with music and Bob highlights how music and dance bring people together and help them feel unified. Plus we get an interesting story of an experiment in France, and how a guitar case played a crucial part in one man’s luck.

We hope you enjoy our discussion with The Godfather of Influence, Robert Cialdini. Since we generously share our great content with you, perhaps you feel influenced by the Rule of Reciprocity and will become a Behavioral Grooves Patreon Member!

[This episode was originally published in May 2021 and you can also listen to our first interview with Robert Cialdini in Episode 50].

© 2022 Behavioral Grooves

Topics we Discuss on Influence with Robert Cialdini

(3:55) Speed round

(6:50) Ideal number of stars on your online review

(9:00) Why Cialdini wrote a new edition of Influence

(12:13) The new Seventh Principle: Unity

(15:10) How to harness social proof as a start-up

(20:02) A new color of lies

(22:22) Principle of Unity with politics

(24:42) Tribalism and vaccine hesitancy

(28:35) Why Trump getting vaccinated hasn’t influenced his voters

(30:50) How framing of media headlines influences our perception of the news

(33:24) The Petrified Forest Wood Principle

(36:56) Where will the next generation of research go with Cialdini’s work?

(40:52) What advice would Cialdini give your teenager?

(48:23) Music and influence

(53:05) Grooving session

Robert Cialdini’s Books

Influence, New and Expanded: The Psychology of Persuasion https://amzn.to/3tyCpZ6

Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade https://amzn.to/3eGdyOW



Episode 50: Robert Cialdini, PhD: Littering, Egoism and Aretha Franklin:  https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/robert-cialdini-phd-littering-egoism-and-aretha-franklin/

Increase Your Influence: https://www.influenceatwork.com/ 

Godfather 2 Movie: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Godfather_Part_II 

Richard Thaler: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Thaler 

Daniel Kahneman: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kahneman 

Episode 222: How Delusions Can Actually Be Useful: Shankar Vedantam Reveals How: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/shankar-vedantam-useful-delusions/

Donald Trump vaccine: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackbrewster/2021/04/20/trump-i-dont-know-why-republicans-are-vaccine-hesitant-again-floats-pfizer-conspiracy-theory/ 

Mike Pence: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/pence-set-receive-covid-vaccine-televised-appearance-n1251655 

Petrified Forest Wood Principle: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-shaping-us/201909/the-petrified-wood-principle 

Stanley Schachter: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Schachter 

Jerome Singer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome_E._Singer 

Episode 220: How Do You Become Influential? Jon Levy Reveals His Surprising Secrets: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/how-to-be-influential-jon-levy/

The psychology of misinformation: Why it’s so hard to correct: https://firstdraftnews.org/latest/the-psychology-of-misinformation-why-its-so-hard-to-correct/ 

How to combat fake news and  misinformation: https://www.brookings.edu/research/how-to-combat-fake-news-and-disinformation/ 

Teaching skills to combat fake news and misinformation: https://www.washington.edu/trends/teaching-skills-to-combat-fake-news-and-misinformation/ 

Episode 102: Cristina Bicchieri: Social Norms are Bundles of Expectations: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/cristina-bicchieri-social-norms-are-bundles-of-expectations/

Episode 214: Observing the Non-Obvious: How to Spot Trends Around You with Rohit Bhargava: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/the-non-obvious-rohit-bhargava/

Behavioral Grooves Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/behavioralgrooves


Priming studies have had some negative press over the past ten years - some of it justified, some of it not. In this groove track, Kurt and Tim examine a 2018 study done by Alexander Stajkovic, Kayla Sergent, Gary Latham, and Suzanne Peterson called “Prime and Performance: Can a CEO Motivate Employees Without Their Awareness?” 

This field study, with real-world implications, demonstrated that the choice of words had an impact on company performance. The impact was not just statistically significant, but it had real-world significance as well. The researchers replaced 12 words in a company President’s e-mail message to his employees. The impact that those 12 words had on performance was wild.  

Kurt and Tim examine how the study was set up, the type of priming used, how performance was measured, and explore some of the key findings. We try to peel back the reasons why the interventions worked as it did, and discuss both the positive implications of this study, as well as things we should be wary of.  

Listen now or find out more about this paper in our blog post. Enjoy! 

Shankar Vedantam is the host of the wildly popular podcast, Hidden Brain and esteemed author of the book Useful Delusions: The Power and Paradox of the Self-Deceiving Brain. We initially interviewed Shankar in mid 2021 but want to highlight this discussion for you again as it is one we still discuss in more recent episodes.

Before reading Shankar’s book and interviewing him for this podcast we were, as Shankar describes himself, card-carrying rationalists. We were firmly in the camp of believing rational, scientific findings and believing that lies and deception are harmful to ourselves and to our communities. However, Shankar walks us through a compelling argument, that paradoxically, self-deception actually plays a pivotal role in our happiness and well-being.

In our discussion with Shankar we cover:

  • (6:38) Speed round questions.
  • (11:04) The difference between self delusions being useful and being harmful.
  • (16:23) How nations are a delusional construct.
  • (23:00) Awareness of self-delusions and how daily gratitudes can shift our perspective of the world. 
  • (25:56) Shankar’s personal story of delusional thinking. 
  • (29:58) The role emotions play in our mood and delusions.
  • (35:23) How avoidance of delusional thinking is a sign of privilege.
  • (37:30) Why our perceptions play an important role in understanding delusions.
  • (44:36) Shankar’s unique approach to conspiracy theories.
  • (52:28) What music Shankar has been listening to during COVID.
  • (52:15) Grooving Session and Bonus Track with Kurt and Tim.

We really hope you find Shankar’s unique insight on how delusions are useful as compelling as we did. If you’re a regular Behavioral Grooves listener, please consider supporting us through Patreon. Thank you! 

© 2022 Behavioral Grooves



  • The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars and Save Our Lives https://amzn.to/3e1qgWY


Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Kahneman, Sibony and Sunstein, 2021 https://amzn.to/3heyr5r 

Richard Dawkins https://richarddawkins.net/ 

Mahabharata https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata 

Lake Wobegon Effect https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Wobegon 


Other Episodes We Talk About

The Myth of the “Relationship Spark” with Logan Ury (featuring a guest appearance by Christina Gravert, PhD): https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/the-myth-of-the-relationship-spark-with-logan-ury-featuring-a-guest-appearance-by-christina-gravert-phd/

Robert Cialdini, PhD: Littering, Egoism and Aretha Franklin: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/robert-cialdini-phd-littering-egoism-and-aretha-franklin/ 

Self Control, Belonging, and Why Your Most Dedicated Employees Are the Ones To Watch Out For with Roy Baumeister: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/self-control-belonging-and-why-your-most-dedicated-employees-are-the-ones-to-watch-out-for-with-roy-baumeister/

George Loewenstein: On a Functional Theory of Boredom: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/george-loewenstein-on-a-functional-theory-of-boredom/

Gary Latham, PhD: Goal Setting, Prompts, Priming, and Skepticism: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/gary-latham-phd-goal-setting-prompts-priming-and-skepticism/

John Bargh: Dante, Coffee and the Unconscious Mind: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/john-bargh-dante-coffee-and-the-unconscious-mind/

Linda Thunstrom: Are Thoughts and Prayers Empty Gestures to Suffering Disaster Victims? https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/linda-thunstrom-are-thoughts-and-prayers-empty-gestures-to-suffering-disaster-victims/ 

Three things generate a sense of meaning IN life;

  1. Coherence - can you make sense of the world?
  2. Purpose - do you feel a sense of purpose with what you do? And
  3. Significance - does your life matter?

Having meaning in your life is correlated with a sense of self certainty. Knowing who you are and having a sense of self, gives you structure and a stable way of seeing the world.


But how do you answer the question “who am I?” Our guest, Dr Brian Lowery PhD says the answer isn’t as individualistic as we may have been led to believe. Not only do those around us; our friends, co-workers and parents contribute to who we are, Brian claims they actually create who we are. Putting it bluntly, there is no way of separating “you” from your relationships.


We’ve waited a long time to talk to Brian, who is the Walter Kenneth Kilpatrick Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is a social psychologist by training, but Brian’s work is by no means traditional in that field. He studies how individuals perceive inequality, and his research explores individuals' experiences of inequality and fairness in a way that sheds light on intergroup conflict and the nature of social justice. Brian is also a fellow podcaster, hosting the show Know What You See which is definitely worth checking out.


Listeners can become a Behavioral Grooves supporter by donating to our work through Patreon. Or please consider writing us a podcast review on your app. Thanks!



(5:21) Welcome to Brian Lowery and speed round questions.

(7:34) The meaning IN life vs. the meaning OF life.

(9:23) How meaning in life is linked to a sense of self certainty.

(13:30) Context matters: those around us create who we are.

(17:13) What are you referring to when you talk about you?

(19:23) The responsibility we have when interacting with others. 

(21:27) Does authenticity assume a stability of self?

(26:17) Our relationships define us while also limiting our freedom.

(30:59) The myth of rugged individualism.

(36:35) Do we really have freewill?

(42:06) What Brian talks about on his podcast, Know What You See.

(43:42) What role does music play in the identity of self?

(51:43) Grooving Session with Kurt and Tim discussing the meaning in life.


© 2022 Behavioral Grooves



Know What You See Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/know-what-you-see-with-brian-lowery/id1580636076 

Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAwDWZoETk4&ab_channel=MontyPython 

Episode 67, George Loewenstein: On a Functional Theory of Boredom: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/george-loewenstein-on-a-functional-theory-of-boredom/ 

Episode 248, John Bargh: Do We Control Situations or Do Situations Control Us? https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/control-situations-with-john-bargh/ 

Kimberle Crenshaw: https://www.law.columbia.edu/faculty/kimberle-w-crenshaw 

Episode 307, Groove Track | Mind Over Milkshakes: Why Expectations Matter A Lot: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/mind-over-milkshakes-groove-track/ 

Behavioral Grooves Patreon:  https://www.patreon.com/behavioralgrooves


Musical Links

Killer Mike “Untitled”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNsAfGDkUtk 


Load more

Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App