Monthly Archives: February 2012

Greed Is Still Good but not for Persuasion

Michael Douglas, the actor, appears in a public service announcement for the FBI warning of the dangers of insider trading. Douglas makes reference to his famous movie role, Gordon Gekko, from the 1987 hit, Wall Street. You’ll recall that Douglas as Gekko intoned that infamous mantra of the go-go 1980s, “Greed is good.” The FBI hopes the PSA with Douglas will inspire current Wall Street denizens to report illegal trading.

The video, shot last November in the Trump Hotel in Manhattan, is also an effort to raise the F.B.I.’s public profile. Or, as David A. Chaves, a supervisor and special agent, said on Monday, “It’s important for us to have the F.B.I. brand out on Wall Street.”

See, the FBI does a fair amount of investigation into financial crimes, but does not receive much awareness for its activities, taking a backseat to more well known Federal agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC. So, the Douglas ad does double duty: First, it solicits tipsters and second, it builds the FBI brand.

I grew up watching Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. in the 1960s hit TV series, the FBI.

The show enjoyed the cooperation of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI and displayed a kind of fictional verité where the good guys always won without being boring. It was great PR and demonstrated just why Mr. Hoover was such a dangerous guy.

Now. Will this media ploy with Michael Douglas provide similar magic for the FBI? Consider this observation from Douglas.

In the wake of the popularity of the first “Wall Street,” Mr. Douglas would receive high-fives and handshakes from real-life traders and bankers when he walked the streets of Manhattan. The Wall Streeters loved Mr. Gekko, who declares in the film that “greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” But the outpouring of love for such a character befuddled Mr. Douglas, who won a best-actor Academy Award for his role in the first Wall Street film. Mr. Douglas wondered why he was being thanked, according to Mr. Chaves, who quoted him as saying: “I’m a criminal in the movie. Don’t they realize that?”

Michael Douglas is popular, famous, likeable, and credible as both a person and an actor. Yet, the FBI may have the wrong man for the Cue. Many Wall Street workers would still find nothing wrong in what Gordon Gekko did other than let himself get caught in an embarrassing situation. Gekko hung himself on a wiretap hidden on a formerly trusted associate. If Gekko had controlled his anger at that associate (Bud, played by Charlie Sheen, remember?), he would have faced no legal problem he couldn’t solve. The lesson of Gekko for many is this: Be careful who you trust.

Hollywood stars are powerful persuasion Cues and earn millions of dollars as endorsers or speakers or models. They attract Reception and Exposure in the first stage of the Cascade and can Cue the desired TACT to hit the ultimate downstream behavior. But, they are not automatic persuasion plays. The FBI might actually make it harder to catch financial criminals and buff their brand with this PSA.

P.S. Take a YouTube blast from the past with Gekko and greed!

Facebook Is Like Married Sex

WSJ offers a nice Point-Counterpoint piece on the value of social media for small business. I’m not sure if the writers were specifically chosen to make a persuasion point, but they did. Start with the Con position.

My own success with social media makes me think twice of whether it is all worth the time. If I sold t-shirts, margaritas or dance lessons I would absolutely bring my buzz to the beat of tweets; however, I sell research and recruiting efforts and I am not sold that my audience is actively listening via tweets, likes or shares.

This from Karen Russo, a scientific consultant.

Now the Pro side of things.

We produce fashionable bracelets ($25 – $45) that are made in America and can help you survive whatever life throws at you. We spent countless evenings spreading the word about our mission and our products through several social media channels, primarily Facebook. It was a great way to get the company out in front of thousands of people, and it cost us nothing but our time!

Kurt Walchle runs Survival Straps and apparently survives on social media.

Clearly both writers are pointing to the same use of social media, small consumer goods. Walchle asserts he’s making money primarily through social media and thus demonstrates how it can be done. Russo sees the same application and asserts that it cannot be done for her.

The persuasion point of the debate aims at the Local and the Box and Play. Social media are not a Universal, Eternal, and Boundless new persuasion, but rather a feature of the here-and-now where you find your Other Guys hanging out. It’s an element in that mess of life that stimulates different kinds of persuasion Boxes and Plays you can make to get the Change.


An old Billy Crystal joke goes . . . so you ask a married woman how often she has sex and she says, “All the time, at least 3 times a week.” Then you ask her husband and he says, “Hardly ever, maybe 3 times a week.”


Got a million of ‘em.

Be here all week.

Cascading on Sound Cues

Persuasion science evolves!

A startup called SonicNotify embeds inaudibly high-pitched audio signals within music or any other audio track. When a compatible app hears that signal, it triggers any available smartphone function to link you to websites, display text, bring up map locations, display a photo, let you vote on which song a performer plays next and so on.

This technology is proposed as a concert trick. If you have this app on your iGizmo while attending a concert, the performer can trigger it with an inaudible cue that then delivers tons of content to your device. Consider this fun application.

Location is also a part of this, because each speaker in a venue can transmit a different tone, opening up new possibilities for live concert participation along the lines of what we saw with inConcertApp. “We can also target sections through radius with frequencies, so we can have Section C’s phones turn into purple hearts, while Section F on the other side of the arena has red squares,” added Israel.

Way back in the day, remember when you’d fire up your Zippo lighter and hold it up during a power ballad? And those card tricks at stadium games where people find a square under their seats, hold it up on cue, and spell out BEAT PITT! Well, now you can do that with your iGizmo.

Mavens. Tell me you see how this technology works with both the Cascade and persuasion. It’s another kind of electronic dog collar only when you sense the iGizmo you chirp at it inaudibly and make the iGizmo send a message to the Other Guy. You can mix ‘n match like dressing up Barbie! Think of the possibilities mavens!

Can’t wait for the Hollywood movie where the hidden Bad Guy surreptiously gets this app on his phone then the Good Guy accidently triggers the chirp. Surprise for everyone!

Hey, include sounds in your branding. Include these inaudible chirps within your sonic logo.

And people wonder why I don’t have a smartphone.

P.S. Thanks for a valued network that pointed this out to me!

Airy Persuasion

China has a serious air pollution problem as it makes the PostModern Great Leap from Agricultural to Industrial and Information society. China wants to live in the 21st century and that means mining, power, construction, and motors, big motors all of which produce enormous amounts of particles that can have deadly effects when concentrated in the air for long periods of time. Add in the huge population of many Chinese cities and you’ve got a major public health problem.

Of course, the Chinese government is working on it. When I was at NIOSH 1998-2002, we regularly had exchanges with Chinese scientists, administrators, and manufacturers about these problems. We had American personnel in China providing advice and experience on working projects. Such collaborations continue today.

I’d argue that given the scope and speed of change in China, the country is doing better at controlling air pollution than say America in the 1890s, maybe even America in the 1950s. Thus, compared to contemporary Western society, China has a major air pollution problem. Compared to Western societies during their transitions from farm to factory, China may be doing better. Relative comparisons, however, are less important than the large, serious, and immediate risk.

And, how does the New York Times choose to exemplify that risk? Meet baby Zhang Hao.

He’s got rhinitis, a runny nose. Which, as the photo caption notes “may be caused” by air pollution. Later we learn just how seriously the Chinese population is taking the air pollution problem.

Such sentiments are increasingly common on weibos, the Chinese version of microblogs like Twitter, especially among elites. International schools here are doming their athletic fields because pollution so often requires that students stay indoors.

Gee. Microbloggers! Domed athletic fields. All, Elite!

And the NYT narrates the role of social media in the hands of plucky advocates. One bought their own air monitor and published their results daily on the Internet. This led activists in other cities to do the same. What happened?

But faced with an Internet-led brushfire of criticism, the edifice of environmental propaganda is collapsing. The government recently reversed course and began to track the most pernicious measure of urban air pollution — particulates 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less, or PM 2.5. It decreed that about 30 major cities must begin monitoring the particulates this year, followed by about 80 more next year.

There is a source of environmental propaganda in this story and it ain’t the Chinese government. It’s the NYT writer who thinks the story is important because he’s got a picture of a baby with a runny nose, elite microbloggers, activists using monitors that require more training than they’ve got, and all those rich kids in domed athletics stadia.

All Red Carpet Is Sincere?

The big PR moment on the Oscar’s Red Carpet last night was surely Sacha Baron Cohen’s Dictator accident with Ryan Seacrest.

One of the few surprises came before the ceremony began, when Sacha Baron Cohen approached the E! host Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet. The comedian was in character from his new movie, “The Dictator,” and carried an urn filled with what he described as the ashes of Kim Jong-il, the deceased leader of North Korea. The comedian spilled the ashes all over a shocked Mr. Seacrest, saying, as he was hustled off by security guards, “When someone asks you what you are wearing, you will say Kim Jong-il.” Mr. Seacrest was not amused.

Sure. Seacrest was shocked, SHOCKED (YouTube)!

Two Univariates > One Multivariate!

Everyone wants to live longer, but living longer likely involves ailments like diabetes, hypertension, or dementia. Mere longevity means more morbidity and no one wants more longevity with more morbidity. Can’t you age without getting old? Today, we want to age without dementia.

Try running. Look at this graphic.

People with a gene positive for dementia who don’t exercise stick up like that proverbial nail awaiting the hammer. Here’s how the pop press sees it.

The carriers of the gene who reported walking or jogging for at least 30 minutes five times a week had plaque accumulation similar to that of volunteers who were e4-negative. In essence, the APOE-e4 gene carriers mitigated their inherited risk for developing Alzheimer’s by working out. Or, as the study authors wrote, a “physically active lifestyle may allow e4 carriers to experience brain amyloid levels equivalent to e4-negative individuals.”

Running to save your mind! Except that’s probably not true. Two big problems.

First, this is an observational study with no experimental control and worse still, a Smallish effect size (about a 40/60 Windowpane). That graph sure looks like something big is going on, but the statistical analysis is the point. And it’s a Small point. Recall the Higgins Exhortation: Never Make Decisions Based On Graphic Data! So even with that groovy graph and some statistical support, the weakness in the method makes you wonder whether there’s any effect there at all.

Second, and worse, the researchers collected two different physiological correlates of amyloid build up: 1) cortical binding measure (CBP) as assessed with PET scans, and 2) cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) as measured with a spinal tap. That dramatic graph shows the positive results for CBP. The results for the other indicator, CSF, were null. If you’re playing according to Hoyle, you shouldn’t run two univariate analyses and report the results separately. You should run a single multivariate analysis (like canonical correlation) on both simultaneously. I’m pretty sure that if the researchers had run that multivariate analysis, they would have found overall null results. Hey, ask the stat boy about that.

The authors acknowledge the success with CPB and the failure with CSF in their discussion. They note:

The reason for the discrepancy between MCBP and CSF Aβ42 is uncertain. The 2 largely reflect complimentary estimates of the same process of amyloid plaque development in the brain and are strongly associated.38, 49 However, [11C]PiB PET identifies only fibrillar Aβ, whereas CSF Aβ42 levels may reflect nonfibrillar Aβ species as well.50-52 In addition, although CSF Aβ42 estimates could conceivably reflect amyloid deposition in various regions of the brain, the MCBP estimate represents select regions of high amyloid deposition, and this difference may contribute to our findings. It is also possible that our sample size was insufficient to detect differences in exercise effects on APOE groups in terms of CSF Aβ42.

I appreciate the thought, but why not also consider the chance that we are being fooled by randomness. One indicator shows a Smallish effect and the other fails. And, if you combined the two in a simultaneous test, the overall effect would probably fail. So, if instead of taking the more conservative and more proper multivariate test, you run two univariate tests, and then pull the one that is merely “significant” you are essentially saying that you’re taking a chance that it’s all just chance and that’s okay. Such logic is good for Future Research and favorable press reports, but is it good science?

You Cannot Persuade A Falling Apple.

Simply Because You Can Count It, Doesn’t Mean You Changed It.

Exercise Engagement as a Moderator of the Effects of APOE Genotype on Amyloid Deposition. Head et al. Arch Neurol.2012; 0: 20118451-8.


Persuasion in Quotations

She called politically controversial scientific topics the group’s “ecological niche,” since the group’s goal is to try to keep the politics out of science education: “Our big concern is that science education not be politicized. We see it happening with climate change science. We’d like to do what we can the help teachers from keeping it from getting worse.”

This from Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Without taking anyone’s side, except for the Rules of Persuasion, consider Scott, the NCSE, and the AAAS.

Public education is an inherently political process. The democracy that creates public education trumps all other cards and players. Everything about public education must be political or it cannot exist. Yet, in this example, Scott et al. seek an exemption for a faction called science. They believe that one group of citizens engaged in the political process of public education should be allowed to determine what other factions say and do in public education because Science is bigger than Democracy.

NCSE has not achieved its stated goals with the science of evolution in public education precisely because of their incorrect understanding of the relationship between Democracy and everything else. Now, it will add climate change into that failed mix.

You Cannot Persuade a Falling Apple.

All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere.

Great Persuaders Don’t Need . . .

Persuasion Is Strategic or iBooks versus Papyrus

Apple is hitting the textbook market hard. They claim textbooks are in their DNA! To that end they’ve devised new book apps for the iPad.

At the event, Mr. Schiller unveiled iBooks 2, a new textbook experience for iPad. “These are beautiful books. Interactive, gorgeous, fun, engaging. Kids are really going to love to learn with textbooks in iBooks.”

The TACT is Other Guys will love to learn with textbooks in iBooks.

Notice that the TACT is not the Other Guys will learn math, biology, psychology, art history and on and on. The TACT is love to learn with iBooks.

There is no research that demonstrates a particular vehicle of content increases learning. In fact, learning improves through a process, a how-to, the what you do, not what you do it with. An iBook carries content just like a beaten papyrus with a Dialog of Plato scribed onto it. No one learns better on either technology. But, of course, I’m an idiot on this assertion.

“Finally a mainstream company like Apple is turning its attention to the huge problem of actually reinventing the book,” said Matt MacInnis, chief executive of Inkling, in an interview before the event. Mr. MacInnis, a former Apple employee, started Inkling after noticing students considered technology and textbooks to be rivals.

See the Persuasion Strategy in the Persuasion TACT.

If the Other Guys love learning on iBooks, They must buy iGizmos. Apple merely Ding Dongs groovy iPads with the image of a textbook as if you can stamp out learning like a brand name. Learning doesn’t work that way, of course, but it will be interesting to see if Apple can persuade educators (who must support it), parents (who must demand it) and politicians (who will fund it). Hey, the educational establishment hates the count from testing, but I’ll bet they’ll love the science of learning with iGizmos. Sure, it’s the device, not the teacher.

Hey, mavens. Run clinical trials on learning with iBooks versus that beaten papyrus. Apple might fund it! Get those Observational Tooth Fairies to help with the math.

Hey, mavens. Revise your last textbook into an iBook format. Probably got an app for that. Just pour your old fashioned book, byte for byte, into an iBook and presto-chango: Learning!

Easy. Ripe. Luscious.

No More Apples (Falling) in School Vending Machines

Kids are fat. I wonder why. Look around and do some Health CSI. Hmmm, I spy . . . vending machines in the school cafeteria!

WASHINGTON — The government’s attempt to reduce childhood obesity is moving from the school cafeteria to the vending machines. The Obama administration is working on setting nutritional standards for foods that children can buy outside the cafeteria. With students eating 19 percent to 50 percent of their daily food at school, the administration says it wants to ensure that what they eat contributes to good health and smaller waistlines. The proposed rules are expected within the next few weeks.

We recently looked at a fairly compelling analysis of the relationship between school vending machine access and childhood obesity. Despite a huge sample size, no analysis revealed even a statistically significant effect much less a Windowpane you could see through. There’s no there, there, yet that science means nothing to the Obama Executive branch. Everyone knows that vending machines make kids fat, so off with their heads!

I encourage you to read the entire NYT article. They do a great job of balancing the many interest groups in this issue. We hear from everyone.

Except the authors of that contrary study. All the news that’s fit to print! Hey, if the Obama Administration don’t need no stinkin’ science then who’s the NYT to speak truth to power?

Past the politics see the bad persuasion. We clearly have an obesity problem and it starts young. If you’re gonna put the time, resource, and personnel on it then you should at least try to change things rather than just reward your political allies. Yet you can already count the change with vending machines. And you won’t find it on the waistlines of American kids.

I’ve recounted before my frustrations in the government at getting anything done because of all those blundering sincere Factions who follow the Greek tragedy of killing what they love. I had to distract them to get anything done. Nowadays, you have to distract the government if you want any change you can count . . . beyond votes.

Power Corrupts Persuasion (and Science, too).

Age Kills Cognition In All Ways!

Tim Salthouse continues his grim assault on understanding the impact of aging on cognitive function. He’s got some good news.

Although the pattern of influences varied across different cognitive abilities, the results revealed little or no age differences in the relative contributions to change from different levels in the hierarchy.

Stated another way, age kills cognition no matter how you conceptualize, measure, or structure it!

Psychologists typically view cognition as a wide set of processes and outcomes that can be seen as specific (your score on a standard vocabulary test) to general (your score across many different tests). Here’s a graphic that will make sense if you do modeling with lines, circles, and boxes rather than with pretty boys and girls.

As we age (T1 to T2), it is possible that we get worse at specifics (those boxes at the bottom of the clumps), we get worse in general (the circles at the top), or both. Salthouse finds in an Observational Prospective study that, yep, we get worse at all things cognitive as we age. Our scores on a specific vocabulary test decline and so do our scores that measure general cognitive function.

The “good news” here is for researchers trying to figure out why I can’t remember where I put my keys. They can probably look at just one or two different types of cognitive function and generalize out to all others. Simplifies the research task for them while doing nothing to help me find the keys!

Yeah. Vitamins. NYT crossword puzzles. Mozart. Me? You’ll find me with a bottle of champagne and the blonde at the end of the bar . . . looking for my keys.

Salthouse TA. Does the Level at Which Cognitive Change Occurs Change With Age? Psychol Sci. 2011 Dec 2. [Epub ahead of print]

doi: 10.1177/0956797611421615