Monthly Archives: October 2011

The soundtrack of your life

I was in Christchurch, New Zealand a few months ago. Walking downtown, they had classical music playing. I thought it a little odd and so I asked one of the locals about it.

Turns out, they did some experiments and showed that by having classical music lightly playing throughout the downtown core, a decrease was seen in the number of petty crimes.

This to me is hilarious. If music can have this effect on the actions of people, what else can your selection of moment by moment stimuli have on your life? What will you consciously chose to put in your life that will unconsciously have an effect on your life?

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Implicit marketing – dirty!

I was watching TV last night and I saw an interesting commercial. It was for an insurance company. Part way through the commercial, the narrator said something along the lines of “We have our OWN claims adjusters.”

Seems pretty mundane right?

Seems like a nice thing that they have their own claims adjusters, while the others don’t.

But what’s interesting about this is not the direct information they’re trying to convey. It’s the implicit information! The direct info is that they have their own adjusters. But due to the emphasis on the word “own”, the implicit information is that the competition DOES NOT have claims adjusters, when they could very well have them.

The ad doesn’t make you think “Oh, I wonder if the other guys have their own claims adjusters.” It makes you think right away, through their assumptive wording, that the other guys DON’T have their own claims adjusters and that that is a bad thing. And you don’t even think to ask, “Well DO the other guys have their own claims adjusters?”
It’s a very subtle, but very powerful tactic. In a world that’s as boring, convoluted and confusing as insurance, it’s all about the small edges in your trust of a company. Insinuating that the other guys don’t have something (that they very well may have), can put you a leg up.

 

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Detecting intention

All right, new study.

The intention and staring detection studies I’ve been reading about have been blowing my mind.
The basic idea is that a person can sit in front of someone who is socially close to them and say whether the close friend behind him/her is looking at their head or back. And they can do it in a statistically significant percentage of the time.
Even crazier is that the person standing behind can even close their eyes and IMAGINE looking at their friend’s head or back. And the results are the same.
This ability ranged from person to person in the study. It went from 50% correct (flipping a coin and guessing) to the upper ranges of prediction (where statistically significance proved they had some ability to detect).

I think the weirdest thing though is that participants were given a questionnaire before hand asking things like whether they believed in a god or had had previous contact with spirits. But the question that most predicted the participants ability to detect whether their friend was looking at their head or back, was whether they had felt some connection to relatives who had passed away.

I’ll let you discern or interpret what you will from this.

All I know is that it points to a lot more going on out there…

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If, then and a little study

Interesting study. Find some fresh lottery winners. You know, the kind of people are just buying their new cars and homes after having quit their jobs and run out into the world smiles-a-blazing. Ask them how happy they are on a good old rating scale of 1 to 10. Maybe they say 9, maybe 10. Then ask how happy they were before winning the lottery.

Now, wait 3-6 months. Find those same people and ask them the same question. How happy are the now? And how happy were they before they won the lottery?

For the majority of winners – general happiness will much the same as it was before they won the lottery.

It all has to do with human’s incredible ability to adapt to our circumstances. In Adaptation level theory,  the concept is referred to as habituation.

The other interesting side of this is that the exact same (opposite?) effect happens with accident victims. The same type of habituation occurs, except it goes from a low happiness post accident and reverts backwards.

The study abstract can be seen here, there are numerous similar studies. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/690806

There are many more interesting nuances of these effects. But I think the biggest idea here is how much people generally use “If, then” logic to attempt to gain happiness. I used to always think, “If I just get this, that’s when I’ll be set and happy.” And I think we use this logic all the time.
When I just get that new pair of jeans or new coffee maker or new condo. Then I’ll be happy.

But the above studies show that this is completely wrong. Once we get that new pair of jeans, we’ll just start focusing on the next temporary high.

This is not to say that a certain standard of living isn’t important (Daniel Kahneman’s work on this is fantastic: meta studies showing that the magic number is $65k, that cash takes care of your basic food and shelter needs and any more doesn’t increase your happiness). But it means that you have to choose to be happy now and appreciate THAT you’re on the path to achieving more. Achieving more should just be the carrot at the end of the path. It’s the path that you need to construct such that it makes you happy.

This means finding the things in life that make you happy in a consistent and enduring fashion. Not just happy for a few months or weeks while you haven’t adjusted to your new jeans.

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