Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (1993) – book

book

Just finished reading Dr. Robert Cialdini‘s 1993 classic – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and would like to recommend it to anyone interested in applied psychology and cognitive science. Cialdini was interested why people comply with requests that do not necessarily benefit them. According to Wikipedia, he spent 3 years applying for jobs and training at used car dealerships, fund-raising organizations and telemarketing firms to find that out. Now he’s a Distinguished Professor of psychology in Arizona State University.

From Wikipedia, Cialdini’s “6 weapons of influence”:

  • Reciprocation – People tend to return a favor. Thus, the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1937.
  • Commitment and Consistency – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. For example, in car sales, suddenly raising the price at the last moment works because the buyer has already decided to buy. Seecognitive dissonance.
  • Social Proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic. See conformity, and the Asch conformity experiments.
  • Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents, such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre.
  • Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Some of the many biases favoring more attractive people are discussed. See physical attractiveness stereotype.
  • Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a “limited time only” encourages sales.

[russian]

Закончил читать одно из классических произведений по психологии Роберта Чалдини – “Психологию влияния”, и рекомендую к прочтению каждому. Чалдини всегда интересовало, почему люди выполняют просьбы и требования, далеко не всегда им самим выгодные.  По информации из Wikipedia, чтобы получить ответ на этот вопрос, он провел три года на разных позициях в фирмах, торгующих подержаными машинами, агенствах по телемаркетингу, рекламных агенствах и т.д. Сейчас Чалдини Заслуженный Профессор психологии государственного университета Аризоны.

Естественно, эта книга отсканирована и выложена в Рунете в многочисленных экземплярах. 🙂

New episode of CrAP

Andromeda’s Wake posted a new episode of CrAP (Creation Astronomy Propaganda debunked):

I’ve also updated my original post where you can see them all.

TED: Apes that write, start fires and play Pac-Man by Susan Savage-Rumbaugh

Apes are not really that much dumber than us, especially the great ones. 🙂 Susan Savage-Rumbaugh has been studying Bonobo that understand human language, can draw symbols, start fires and even play Pac-Man. Susan thinks that the level of intelligence is determined by culture (vs. biology) to a much greater extent than it is currently thought.

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).

Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life (2008) – book

welcome

I’ve just finished reading this book, and would like to recommend it to anyone. This is a very fun and easy reading on everyday’s brain puzzles. Common myths and unknown truths, brain’s birth and development, emotions and rationality – the book if full of surprises and useful tips. Not very detailed in its scientific explanations, “Welcome to Your Brain” feels more like a manual going only through the very general principles that will help you use your own brain right. 

Top 6 myths about the brain (from Welcome to Your Brain Blog):

  1. You only use 10 percent of your brain
  2. Playing classical music to an infant can make the child smarter
  3. Drinking alcoholic beverages kills brain cells
  4. Games like Sudoku and Brain Age keep your brain young
  5. In a noisy place, you can hear better on your cell phone by covering your other ear
  6. Vaccines cause autism

The authors, Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt gave a talk about the book at Google, and this is actually how I found out about it. If you like the talk, you’ll most definitely like the book:

The book mentions some experiments that show how limited our scope of attention is. Here’s an example from YouTube:

MC Hawking on Entropy

mchawking1hawking

Wow, this is just hilarious. MC Hawking does gangster rap parodies on Stephen Hawking. And yes – his lyrics is also synthesized! 🙂 Here’s his take on entropy:

Some of the best lyrics quotes from Wikipedia:

“I explode like a bomb. No one is spared. / My power is my mass times the speed of light squared.” — from “E=MC Hawking”
“In the beginning there was nothing, not even time / No planets, no stars, no hip-hop, no rhyme. / But then there was a bang like the sound of my gat; / The universe began and the shit was phat.” — from “The Big Bizang”
“You ever drop an egg, and on the floor you see it break? / You go and get a mop so you can clean up your mistake. / But did you ever stop to ponder why we know it’s true? / If you drop a broken egg you will not get an egg that’s new?” — from “Entropy”
“I’ll stuff you in the box like Schrödinger’s cat / You’ll be dead and alive until such a time as that / I check and make the wave function collapse /And if you ain’t dead I’ll cap your ass…” – from “Rock Out With Your Hawk Out”

Here’s a comics video which, according to the YouTube comment, is the official video for the song “What We Need More Of Is Science”:

BTW, you can buy MC Hawking’s greatest hits CD on Amazon.

TED: How juries are fooled by statistics by Peter Donnelly

If you have a disease test which is 99% accurate, and it’s diagnosed a patient positive, what is the probability that a patient indeed has the disease? 99%? Wrong! Think again! You really can’t tell unless you know the probability of the disease itself, i.e. how likely a random patient is to have the disease. For a quite uncommon one, this single test may present confidence of 1% or even less. Although obvious to a statistics specialist, common people are usually totally stumbled by it, and find it very hard to grasp. I won’t explain here why it is so, since I doubt I’ll do a better job than the speaker I’m about to present.

Peter Donnelly is an Oxford mathematician, specializing in applied probability. In this highly educational (and quite jaw-dropping for most) talk, he reveals common mistakes in interpreting statistics – and the devastating impact they can have. This is a great presentation of how important statistics is, and how crucial, and yet so uncommon, it is to understand it.

There are so many ways to misuse or misinterpret statistics, with one of the favorites being, of course – correlation implying causation. And yet, I believe statistics is a cornerstone of modern science. It may not play such a central role in theoretical physics, of course, but medicine, sociology, cognitive science, etc. etc. all depend on it to interpret the results of experiments correctly. If we all had better education in this area, we maybe wouldn’t be interviewing successful people so much.

Please watch this talk. It might be a little boring in the beginning, but it gets much more fun pretty soon.

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).

TED: A journey to the center of your mind by Vilayanur Ramachandran

Neurologist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran is known for his work in behavioral neurology and psychophysics. In this 2007 TED talk, he explores how brain damage can reveal about the connections between the internal structures of the brain and the mind. He talks about phantom limb pain, synesthesia (when people hear color or smell sounds), and the Capgras delusion. Ramachandran was the original inventor of the “Mirror Box” (but don’t click on the link, better watch the talk first!). Extraordinary talk.

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).