Detailing Muggles and Mavens with Money

One great distinguishing feature between persuasion muggles and mavens is attention to detail. Persuasion muggles, like muggles of all areas in all ages, often get the big picture, but miss the crucial detail that makes the big picture both big and picturesque. Read this abstract on an experimental analysis of the effects of money.

Does the cue of money lead to selfish, greedy, exploitative behaviors or to fairness, exchange, and reciprocity? We found evidence for both, suggesting that people have both sets of meaningful associations, which can be differentially activated by exposure to clean versus dirty money. In a field experiment at a farmers’ market, vendors who handled dirty money subsequently cheated customers, whereas those who handled clean money gave fair value (Experiment 1). In laboratory studies with economic games, participants who had previously handled and counted dirty money tended toward selfish, unfair practices—unlike those who had counted clean money or dirty paper, both of which led to fairness and reciprocity. These patterns were found with the trust game (Experiment 2), the prisoner’s dilemma (Experiment 4), the ultimatum game (Experiment 5), and the dictator game (Experiment 6). Cognitive measures indicated that exposure to dirty money lowered moral standards (Experiment 3) and reduced positive attitudes toward fairness and reciprocity (Experiments 6–7), whereas exposure to clean money had the opposite effects. Thus, people apparently have 2 contradictory sets of associations (including behavioral tendencies) to money, which is a complex, powerful, and ubiquitous aspect of human social life and cultural organization.

The abstract gives up a little detail about a big concept. Take a big thing like money and alter a little thing like whether it is clean, crisp, and new or dirty, wrinkled, and old and you get completely different persuasion effects from it. When money is “clean” Other Guys tend to react with greater fairness, justice, and morality. When money is “dirty” Other Guys react in a dirtier way themselves. And the Windowpanes in these six experiments are generally Large, so the effect is striking and easy to manipulate in a noisy Local.

Analytic bonus! Realize that this detail can operate as a persuasion Cue and not a persuasion Argument. The money is the same thing in each case and retains its economic value regardless of its hygienic state; it’s not like the filthy lucre is no longer a store of value that trades. In persuasion terms, whether crisp or wrinkled, money maintains its Argument quality as a store of value.

A muggle would assume that details are only important on the Central Route with high WATT Other Guys carefully scrutinizing the Local. Goodness, to find details, you’ve got to have WATTage!!! But, alas, again we see the muggle failure here. Even with low WATT surfers of the Peripheral Route, details are apparent, observable, and important. The details are seen, but not considered. Observation is not elaboration!

See practical persuasion lessons.

You can use money as a persuasion Box, a set up in the Local that predisposes Other Guys. Dirty money Boxes Other Guys as sinners while Clean money Boxes them as saints. And in this brief moment of low WATTage, you’ve now got Other Guys predisposed to hit either sinner TACTs or saint TACTs. If you cannot figure out what to do next now, then you don’t know Jack Kennedy or Bolivian Banks.

But see the impact of detail. It’s not the money, honey, it’s the look and feel of the money. It’s not the money, honey, it’s the WATTage of the Other Guys.

Yang, Qing; Wu, Xiaochang; Zhou, Xinyue; Mead, Nicole L.; Vohs, Kathleen D.; Baumeister, Roy F. (2013). Diverging effects of clean versus dirty money on attitudes, values, and interpersonal behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 104(3), Mar 2013, 473-489.

doi: 10.1037/a0030596

P.S. Beyond my small observations from just the abstract, I’d encourage you to see the big value from this six experiment package. It’s another great example of full cycle research that takes a hypothesis and turns it like a diamond, considering many facets, rather than just one. And while the quality of light from any one light may illuminate, the combination of them all reveals.

Peace, Prosperity, and Randomized Controlled Trials

Gina Kolata at the New York Times provides an interesting article about the uses of randomized controlled trials in a new Fed agency created as part of ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act.

The idea seemed transformative. The Affordable Care Act would fund a new research outfit evocatively named the Innovation Center to discover how to most effectively deliver health care, with $10 billion to spend over a decade.

Again, this was yet another provision in that legislation I hadn’t heard much about, kind of like with that calorie count silliness. But, hey a billion bucks a year on intervention effectiveness is a lot money to test what works and what doesn’t. That means, of course, my beloved randomized controlled trial wherein you randomly assign Other Guys to controlled conditions, count the change, and open the Windowpane. Medical practice is rife with tradition, ritual, and the skulking effect of profit which sometimes obscures what works from what doesn’t (see Prostate Cancer as the Poster Boy). How can you not love an Innovation Center that produces the best available science to understand life and death?

But now that the center has gotten started, many researchers and economists are disturbed that it is not using randomized clinical trials, the rigorous method that is widely considered the gold standard in medical and social science research. Such trials have long been required to prove the efficacy of medicines, and similarly designed studies have guided efforts to reform welfare-to-work, education and criminal justice programs.

Kolata itemizes through example a series of projects the Center has funded that don’t even have control group much less random selection or assignment. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been awarded from the Innovation Center to continue doing what has already been done. But with improvements! Here’s my favorite.

Instead, the Innovation Center has so far mostly undertaken demonstration projects; about 40 of them are now underway. Those projects test an idea, like a new payment system that might encourage better medical care — with all of a study’s participants, and then rely on mathematical modeling to judge the results.

. . . then rely on mathematical modeling to judge the results.

Read the good news! Tooth Fairy Tales are now Innovative! Yeah. They get funded by something called the Innovation Center, so by definition they must be Innovative. Talk about eating the menu! But, there’s a good reason the Innovation Center is doing this.

Dr. Patrick Conway, the director of the center, defended its reliance on demonstration projects, saying they allowed researchers to evaluate programs in the real world and regularly adapt them. “Does it look like it is working?” he asked. “If it does not look like it is working, we can stop.”

He said that the center has had trouble getting such studies to yield solid results because those in the control groups — who do not get the innovation being tested — tend to drop out.

Control group dropouts. While a few experimentalists reading this are laughing out loud, most of you don’t get it. But, it’s kind of like listening to a child explain sex to an adult. Study dropouts plague all forms of research, not just experiments. For a guy at this level to say something like this to a reporter is world class silly.

Conway is an MD with a strong business administration background who obviously knows nothing about science which is pretty much how it goes in the government with MDs in charge. He is part of the old way of tradition, ritual, and profit and has no background in doing science. He does have a Tooth Fairy background with training in epidemiology so he’s familiar with that kind of counting. Is it any surprise that the money going out of his door is for Tooth Fairy Tales and not for the grind of randomized controlled trials?

Good science is damn difficult as many of my posts on the Persuasion Blog have discussed when I find good science. Persuasive science, by contrast, a Tooth Fairy Tale, is easy. You just need a facile Stat Boy or Girl and a Good Story. And that’s what $10 billion of your tax dollars is going to buy as long as guys like Conway are walking the beat. And it also helps when you are fishing in abundant waters of peace and prosperity. Note this contrast.

The situation is different in the developing world. There, randomized trials have become common in health care and other areas, sponsored by a variety of groups like J-PAL, a global network of researchers that was organized by M.I.T. and Harvard economists.

So far, J-PAL has conducted over 440 randomized trials in 55 countries, according to Amy Finkelstein, an M.I.T. economist.

When you don’t have peace and prosperity, then it is crucial that you wisely spend what little you’ve got and it turns out those in the Developing World put their limited resource on experiments while guys like Conway fund Fairy Tales. We can afford to be this careless. We can afford to featherbed the union with make-work grants. Back in the 1950s Hollywood made gritty movies in black and white with Marlon Brando about this kind of corruption. Nowadays this is how the Cool Table rolls.

I’ve got to underscore the obvious irony of elite progressive bureaucrats with Ivy degrees bringing Hope and Change with . . . Fairy Tales. Regardless of the merits of ObamaCare when they say they will use Innovation, you might expect that Innovation to include science in the study of science. But, persuasion is stronger.

I’ll go out on a very short limb here without even looking over the list of those 40 projects already awarded by the Innovation Center. Yeah, none of them are randomized controlled trials (control group dropouts!) and the rest are Fairy Tales with math modeling to prove results; we know that. But, how many awards are to Cool Table programs meaning Ivy and their Fellow Travelers? Remember BAM at Harvard? This is the same thing.

Gotta tell you. If you get a call to work at the Innovation Center, I highly recommend you take it, especially compared to that silly Nudge operation in the White House led by a postdoc. The Center has to move a billion bucks a year out the door. The joint is drowning in cash right now and they’ve got a Hall Pass from the principal to skip past standard clearance procedures because it’s all about getting a billion dollars out the door every year. Funding Big Science doesn’t get any better than this, even at the NIH which is the Old Kid on that block. Of course, funding Big Science doesn’t have to include doing any science at all. Find guys who tell Good Stories and have access to a kid with an abacus. Best of all, you can network your boolah-boolah buddies into this game or you can expand your boolah-boolah network for your next job because all this is going to end one day. The Fed always catches up to new money.

See the mess of life in the Local called the Affordable Care Act. Savvy panthers at elite Fairy Tale universities got themselves wired into a billion dollar a year program to maintain the status quo while pretending to innovate. Persuasion does not get much better than this. As I’ve noted before we’re getting close to putting 20% of the US GDP on health care broadly defined. It is the largest Bolivian Bank on the planet and perhaps in the history of the world. It makes the infamous Tulip Bulb Bubble and the East India Trading Company Bubble look like . . . soap bubbles.

If you are a smart and elite vampire and you’re not in the Health Bubble, you are playing for small beer.

P.S. Remember Take This Pill (I, II, III, IV)? This research delivered a pill (placebo or multivitamin) to 15,000 physicians for several years, then tracked through self report survey and health databases variables on the physicians. The results were null and void. No benefit (or harm!) from taking a multivitamin even though prior Tooth Fairy Tales had argued the life-altering importance of the pill. While the pill was not life-altering, the grant certainly was. Look at this (click to enlarge).

NIH Funding Multivitamin Study

NIH paid Harvard $15,000,000 over 10 years to collate self report surveys and databases on 15,000 physicians. And that didn’t include the cost of the pills which was covered by a cooperating Big Pharma. Back in my Fed days, Harvard got 100% indirects which means that Big Crimson pulled $7,500,000 off the top of this for the cost of doing business with Harvard.

You’ll recall this study began, unusually enough, as a randomized controlled trial – an experiment! – but the results were so bad that the researchers had to break the randomization and “adjust” the results for various “confounders” that permitted trivial Windowpanes to be opened with statistical significance. Kinda like what this Center for Innovation is doing so far. Say, “experiment,” but then execute Tooth Fairy Tales.

Yeah. It’s all about the science.

Tell Me A Story as Explained by a Master in Passing

With the death of the writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, we mourn the loss of a great novelist, but revel in his analysis of Tell Me A Story as a persuasion play.

He learned, in reading the works of the masters like Faulkner and Joyce, he said, that “it was not necessary to demonstrate facts,” that it “was enough for the author to have written something for it to be true, with no proofs other than the power of his talent and the authority of his voice.”

Truth without proof obtained through skill and the “authority of his voice.”


P.S. We’ve considered this master in metaphor before.

My favorite line from Marquez comes from the old man in Memories of My Melancholy Whores. He is warned of danger in walking through a rough neighborhood by a taxi driver. The old man replies,

“If it is for love, it doesn’t matter.”

My review of his last novel.

Great creative writers tend to generate diverse reviews. When I read reviews that are uniformly positive, I tend to keep on looking since it is likely that the writer and the story are bland, commonplace, and acceptable. If you read the reviews on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s work in general and “Memories of My Melancholy Whores” in particular you will find seriously divided opinions that mark a strong artistic work.

Since many of the reviews here (Amazon) detail plot, character, and style I’d like to share one strong element that attracts me past Garcia Marquez’s admirable skill in those other areas. He often writes about much older men and women and in a way that takes those old lives seriously. Most creative work with older characters is just simply bad. The characters are shallow, stereotypic, and seem to have learned nothing about life. By contrast, Marquez’s older characters are interesting people and all seem to possess at times at least a sliver of wisdom earned over their fictional lifetimes. They are not simply young people with aging bodies brooding over lost youth and what might have been. They live the life they have. They act. They think. They listen to themselves and grow even in their old age.

A reviewer has already noted one of the strongest elements in this novel that is captured in a quote one character recalls from Cicero: “An old man never forgets where his treasure is buried.” That is one helluva an observation and a powerful theme to use as a springboard for building a character and Garcia Marquez constructs an interesting man with it. And, as an aging man (although still a child by the standards of a Marquez character), the vitality, curiosity, and thriving humanness of the main male character in “Memories of My Melancholy Whores” engages, delights, and challenges me as I begin what is certainly the last half of my life.

Some people will find the characters in this novel to be uninteresting, disgusting, or predictable. It is about a 90 year old man who never married because he couldn’t give up his whores and every intimacy he had with a woman was bought. The book takes the sordid world of sex for hire on its own ground and never criticizes or moralizes about it. Very young girls are crushed by poverty, then sold into prostitution by their families as a simple matter of fact. Government officials actively purchase the services of these girls and women and protect the survival of the trade. This is not Overland Park, Kansas, circa 2000. If you cannot accept this context for whatever reason, it may be difficult to appreciate anything about this novel.

My largest technical concern with this novel cannot be fixed, so in that regard is moot. This is a short book that contains many short moments of great richness, complexity, and fertility. They are ripe for development and it almost hurts to see them end too quickly. They each appear to me like a large diamond that should be rotated slowly to view each facet, then tested under different lighting conditions to see how things change. Instead, Mr. Garcia Marquez moves from diamond to diamond quickly. I hope this is not his last book.

Finally, Garcia Marquez is my kind of writer because of his view on love. The main character in this novel is warned of danger in walking through a rough neighborhood by a taxi driver. The old man replies, “If it is for love, it doesn’t matter.” Garcia Marquez is willing to look at love through the eyes, minds, and hearts of many different characters especially those with many years on them. And he always believes in love.

There are not many writers who can say anything interesting about love and old age. Garcia Marquez does.

ABCs of Climate Change change

Consider this observation from a policy perspective piece in the New York Times.

But there has not been a huge public outcry to endorse new climate change policy. Polls consistently show that while a majority of Americans accept that climate change is real, addressing it ranks at the bottom of voters’ priorities.

You see the ABC, the Attitude Behavior Consistency, or in this case, the ABnotC, the Attitude Behavior not Consistent. Under many circumstances attitudes are consistent with behavior – you do what you feel and you feel what you do. And, we know that when attitudes and behaviors are inconsistent, that can produce Dissonance which nobody wants. We are highly motivated to be ABC when possible.

The Climate Change ABC we observe in the NYTimes quote is a problem of a different order. As we’ve seen with a lot of good experimental research exactly focused on Climate Change attitudes and beliefs, we find that for most Other Guys, their attitudes are weakly held and change with the slightest variation in the Local. Make a room warmer and Other Guys believe there’s more Climate Change; make a room cooler and they don’t.

Soft attitudes like that produce the ABnotC in the quoted paragraph. Other Guys poll strongly about Climate Change attitudes and beliefs, but when you poll them about behaviors, Climate Change policy moves drop to the bottom. Other Guy attitudes about Climate Change are so weakly held that when asked about political actions, other attitude issues like economics, jobs, immigration, gay rights, and so on, pop higher and stronger.

I’ll ask you now to reflect on this graphic from the ELM chapter in the Primer.

ELM Outcomes

Persuasion change can be assessed four ways: Magnitude, Persistence, Resistance, and Prediction. How much change? How long does the change last? Does the change resist counter-attacks? Does the change drive future action?

And, you’ll note from the graphic, a comparison between the two routes, Central or Peripheral with each of these change outcomes. While either an Argument or Cue based approach can produce the same Magnitude of change, you see differences between the routes on Persistence, Resistance, and Prediction.

Now, combine this persuasion knowledge with that original New York Times quote. Other Guys have favorable attitudes about Climate Change, but those attitudes do not persist, resist, and as we clearly see in the quote, do not predict action. The implication is apparent. Climate Change changers have achieved Peripheral Route, Cue-based change. All of the changed attitudes and beliefs about Climate Change are weak, contradictory, and vague in the minds of Other Guys.

If you are a Climate Change changer, you might understand this line of analysis and are probably explaining the outcome like this. The deniers are lying liars who are confusing Other Guys with those lying lies. No wonder Other Guys show ABnotC rather than ABC!

You may believe that if you wish, but such thinking both violates the Rules and fails a basic understanding of persuasion principles. Blaming the opposition for your persuasion failure violates the Rule:

Great Persuaders Don’t Need Kindness from Strangers

If you think that deniers are killing your case that means you are worse at persuasion than they are and that you can only be successful in persuasion when you have no competition. We’d all be professional athletes or actors winning all the awards if guys like LeBron James or Meryl Streep weren’t around, right?

Worse than the Rule violation, is the misunderstanding of persuasion principles. Other Guys do not necessarily develop weak attitudes because of competition and conflict between information sources. They primarily develop weak attitudes because they’ve been exposed to Cue-based Peripheral Route persuasion plays.

While Climate Change changers think they have been using science as the foundation of their persuasion, the persuasion outcomes contradict that perspective. If indeed the Climate Change changers had taken Other Guys down the Central Route with High WATT processing of strong Arguments based in science, then you would . . . what? Right. Look back at the ELM graphic. You would achieve attitude change that was persistent, resistant, and predictive. And that quote from the New York Times explicitly contradicts that conclusion.

Look more carefully at the persuasion plays from Climate Change changers and you see, not science as Argument, but science as Cue. You only need to see two words to catch this distinction: Scientific Consensus. Those two words have become the persuasion short hand, the headline, for basic Climate Change persuasion. Scientific Consensus.

As we’ve noted before, Scientific Consensus is not an Argument, but a Cue. The assertion that 97% of experts agree is not crucial information about the science of how climate change happens, its impact on humanity, or how humanity should respond. It is only a Cue that points to Authority, Dr. Doctor, Phd.

As long as Climate Change changers in particular and muggles in general miss this difference between an Argument and a Cue and the WATTage difference each requires, then you will always find a source like the New York Times making observations about your persuasion like the quote that opened this post. Everyone agrees with you, but no one will do anything about it. The persuasion failure is fundamental and begins with the source.

The practical lesson is . . . theoretical! If you don’t master the principles of persuasion then you will fail. Forget your passion or the importance of the issue or how many Fellow Travelers you can find or how much resource you’ve got. Bad persuasion begins with error and blunders on from there.

When your persuasion produces change that doesn’t produce action, you are failing.

the Hemingway Grammar Mashup Persuasion Play®™©

I’ve been reading Ernest Hemingway lately and have noticed an interesting writerly tactic he employs that has persuasion applications. The tactic turns on grammar. He writes sometimes in American English, but with Italian grammar.

Hemingway uses enough English syntax and semantics so that the words hit Americans, but the sentences themselves would earn the writer a whack of ruler across the wrist or knuckles from a strict teacher of English. He ignores prepositions that English requires, but Spanish or Italian does not. Consider this example from Across The River And Into The Trees.

The Paris edition of the New York Herald Tribune lay on the bed beside his three pillows. He used three pillows, as Amaldo knew, and his extra bottle of medicine, not the one that he carried in his pocket, was beside the reading light. The inner doors of the armoire, the mirrored ones, were opened in such a way that he could see the portrait from the side. His scuffed slippers were by the bed.

I’ll buy it, the Colonel said, to himself, since there was no one else there except the portrait.

This is straightforward English grammar. Of course, it is the Hemingway style, but realize the standard grammar. Now, notice how the grammar changes when the Colonel begins to think about the Italian woman he loves.

‘Here’s to you, Daughter,’ he said. ‘You beauty and lovely. Do you know, that, among other things, you smell good always? You smell wonderfully even in a high wind or under a blanket or kissing good night. You know almost no one does and you don’t use scent.’


While my Italian or Spanish is exceeded only by my fluency in Pig Latin, even I can see the grammar shift in this paragraph even though it directly follows the earlier quote. It just reads and sounds funny to American eyes and ears even though it is understandable. And it doesn’t sound funny like an accent or a dialect. The grammar, the sequencing of language functions, is different. And, I think, that difference is the one between American English grammar and Italian grammar.

Realize this goes way beyond standard persuasion plays that take a foreign word or two and puns to sell, say, tacos, as in Live Mas and this charming Super Bowl ad.

Taco Bell Live Mas

Hemingway makes a more sophisticated language persuasion play, not through semantics, but through syntax. (Gee, imagine one of the greatest writers in the world coming up with that?) This is a kind of cross wiring between functions the human mind tends to run unconsciously in the background. We observed something similar with the research on keypad pressing numbers and letters with iGizmos and how numbers could function like letters in a word. Like this.

Thus, people liked typing 5683 (love) more than control numbers that had no word equivalent. And if you typed 36723 (force) compared to 84193 (no word) you recognized the word FORCE faster on a response latency test. Finally, in your search for a florist, you liked typing 356937 (flower) more than 242623 (chance).

The Hemingway Grammar Mashup Persuasion Play®™© runs two different things into each other in a similar fashion. For unilanguage people like me, Hemingway uses the play as subtle character nuance or development. Here, the Colonel observes his room with standard English grammar, but when he thinks about his love, a young Italian woman, his thoughts become so complex that it takes the grammar of two languages to capture them.

If you do persuasion with Other Guys who swim in multilingual seas, you’ve got to grasp this concept. My ugly American infacility with languages kills me here and I cannot develop even bad examples of English made persuasive through German or Chinese grammar. But, if you are fluent in multiple languages and have the mind and heart of a panther, you should be thinking interesting thoughts right now.

Let’s get out of here with Hemingway and the ending of The Old Man And The Sea.

“What’s that?” she asked a waiter and pointed to the long backbone of the great fish that was now just garbage waiting to go out with the tide.

“Tiburon,” the waiter explained. “Eshark.” He was meaning to explain what had happened.

“I didn’t know sharks had such handsome, beautifully formed tails.”

“I didn’t either,” her male companions said.

Up the road, in his shack, the old man was sleeping again. He was still sleeping on his face and the boy was sitting by him watching him. The old man was dreaming of lions.


Quilting versus Lumosity for Brain Games

Getting older? Losing your keys, your smartphone, your mind! You could save your mind with the science of Lumosity, brought to you in part by the Cardinal scientists at Stanford. Or you could just use plain old science. Like this.

Researchers recruited about 300 older adults (60 to 90 years old in good health) then randomly assigned them to 6 different treatment conditions, 5 aimed at mind saving and 1 a control. Before each condition began, all the Older Other Guys took a battery of standard measures of cognitive performance. They then went through 1 of the 6 conditions (5 treatment, 1 control) that lasted 3 months. At the end of 3 months the Older Other Guys took that same battery of cognitive performance measures. All of this took place in a local strip mall with a space called the Synapse Center.

This is called a pre-post experimental design in a one-way analysis of variance with six levels. It’s pretty good science with the largest weakness the absence of random selection of the original pool of Older Other Guys. It starts with a convenience sample of nearly 300, but then does science with that randomization to controlled conditions. Given the constraints of the practical world (it would cost a fortune to define the population then induce randomly selected Other Guys to participate) this is about the best science you can do in one project. What’s also very nice about this science is the number of treatments which provides comparison between competing variables, each assumed to have some kind of effect. Consider those treatments. Begin with 3 Productive Engagement treatments.

Photo condition
Participants were instructed by a professional photographer who trained them to use cameras and develop computer skills required to use professional photography software for photo editing. This condition was particularly demanding of episodic verbal memory and reasoning, given that participants had to remember many complex verbal instructions to use both the software and camera. On average, participants spent 15.84 hr (SD = 1.95) per week working on projects.
Quilt condition
The quilt condition had the same format as the photo condition and was under the direction of a professional quilting instructor. All participants learned basic skills and progressed to complete complex, individual projects using computer-driven sewing machines. On average, participants who completed the program spent 15.93 hr (SD = 2.55) working on projects per week.
Dual condition
The dual condition included training in both digital photography and quilting for 6.5 weeks each; in the final week of the study, participants could complete projects in either class. The order of the two types of training was counterbalanced across participants. The instructors were the same as in the photo and quilt conditions. This condition had more breadth of stimulation but less depth in each particular domain. On average, participants spent 18.11 hr (SD = 4.48) working on projects each week.

The Other Guys are not only thinking, but They are also doing what They are thinking. Thus, each condition is not simply acquiring information, it is using that information, too, but under thoughtful guidance with external feedback and standards, plus a strong social element with that class setting.

Now, 3 control conditions for comparison.

Social condition
The social condition mimicked a social club: It involved instructor-directed activities, such as cooking, playing games, watching movies, reminiscing, and going on regular field trips organized around a different topic, such as travel or history, each week. The social-group curriculum relied as much as possible on participants’ existing knowledge, with no formal knowledge acquisition. Games could be won largely by chance, with low requirements for strategy. The social activities involved no active skill acquisition. As in the productive-engagement conditions, participants in the social condition were directed to complete 5 hr of common structured activities and 10 hr or more of additional activities on-site with other group members each week. The social-condition participants spent an average of 15.90 hr (SD = 1.63) on social activities each week.
Placebo condition
For 15 hr per week, participants performed a structured set of activities that relied on activation of existing knowledge or activities that have not been reliably linked by empirical evidence to cognitive improvement but are commonly thought of as being cognitively engaging. Each week, participants were provided with an assigned packet of materials for 5 hours’ worth of activities (i.e., documentaries, informative magazines such as National Geographic, word games relying on knowledge, and classical-music CDs) and were asked to select at least 10 hr of additional activities from the “Brain Library” (a collection of magazines, DVDs, CDs, and crossword puzzles). Participants recorded the time they spent on the activities and visited the site for a few minutes at a scheduled time each week to pick up and drop off weekly assignments. Participants spent an average of 17.22 hr (SD = 2.50) on these activities each week.
No-treatment condition
Participants in the no-treatment condition were required only to complete a weekly checklist of their daily activities, which was dropped off at the research site at a scheduled time each week.

See all the great comparisons to the Productive Engagement tasks. Start with the no-treatment control; it functions as a secular time control, just seeing the non-intervention history of Other Guys. Social control obviously gives a comparison on the social dimension; maybe just hanging out with others in a group is the Special Sauce and you don’t need new learning. Finally, the placebo condition, which could also be called the Lumosity Plus Mozart treatment; no socialization here, but lots of cognition as you listen to all the notes Wolfgang crammed into a bar of music or as you play those groovy, colorful, and active brain exercises on Lumosity-like activities.

And remember, the battery of tests on cognitive performance before and after the three months of treatment. The tests measured four types of cognition: Processing Speed (sheer quickness of accurate responding), Mental Control (maintaining focus against competing sources of information), Episodic Memory (short term memory recall), and Visuospatial Processing (spatial short term memory).

Sincerity Sidebar: I sure hope you are still paying close attention and thinking with more than the Brooks Effect. Do you see the science here? Do you get the difference between press release Tooth Fairy Tales and this work? None of these guys called a press conferences and dressed up in a lab coat. This is science, kids. And if you cannot see the difference between this and that, then you deserve the panthering you are going to get every day of your life . . . back to the opera!

Quick summary. Older adults are randomly assigned to Nothing, Placebo (Lumosityness and Mozart), Socializing, Learning Photography, Learning Quilting, or Both Photography and Quilting. They are pre and post tested on standard tests of cognitive function: Processing Speed, Mental Control, Episodic Memory (short term memory), and Visuospatial Processing (perceptual). The treatment ran 3 months and about 15 hours each week.

Now, I’m going to hit you with a Pretty Picture that shows the pre-post change for each condition on the four cognitive measures. There’s a lot going on.

Saving Your Mind Fig 2

Orient. The color bars represent each condition. The size of the bar represents the amount of change. You see four panels, one for each cognitive measure. The horizontal lines with asterisks indicate statistically significant difference between the marked conditions. The y axis (the vertical of the graph) is the standardized change, the d effect size where Small is .20, Medium is .50 and Large is .80.

Begin by looking at the results for the Placebo condition which was essentially Lumosity plus Mozart CDs; it’s the orange bar on the extreme right for each panel. Notice that this condition is never the best and usually the worst at improving any kind of cognitive function. Note in particular that the Placebo treatment is the worst at Episodic Memory or short term memory, the key element in cognition.

Now look at Mental Control (top right panel). While all conditions showed a gain, no condition made a larger difference. Just being directed toward some kind of activity helped all the Other Guys improve their ability to focus on information even against a noisy and distracting background.

The primary good news is with gains in Episodic Memory (short term recall) for the information active condition of Photography and Quilting. In particular, the Photography condition shows a near Medium+ Windowpane gain in short term memory function which I find astonishing. The Quilting condition had a Small Windowpane effect and when combined with Photography, it actually reduced the short term memory advantage of the Photography training.

More generally you can see that the effects of any condition on any kind of cognition tend to be Small Windowpanes. You would need a statistician to detect these changes. Stated another way, if you watched any treatment group do a task and also watched the control group do the same task, you’d have trouble guessing which group did what. That’s a Small effect. It is there, but it is a change you have to count with fingers rather than a change you can see.

While the results on short term memory for the Photography training are Medium and obvious and statistically significant (!!!), I’m still wary. The tests are verbal which means the Other Guys read or hear a list of words then have to say or write them back either immediately or after some delay. A Medium gain here, especially with an average age of 70, is really strong.

I’d be worried about a detail like miscoding a test result for a couple of people or maybe just having a couple of outliers in the Photography group who had extremely low pretest scores and then woke up during the 3 months. Each condition had about 30 participants and outliers can really pop the mean. Consider a procedure called Winsorizing. If you dropped the highest and lowest scores in each condition and re-ran the analysis, the Episodic Memory would probably still improve in the Photography condition, but more like a Small Windowpane and not that Medium effect size. Stated another way, I’d really like to see the size of this effect replicated in other samples.

Past my Professor Poopypants pooposity, please see all the wonderful science in this detailed effort. This is work that makes a serious contribution to the literature, especially on interventions with cognition and the aging mind and body.

It’s important to note that highly active and involving tasks for the Photography and Quilting conditions produced more benefit than mere socializing and especially that FauxItAll Lumosity persuasive science, some from Stanford. Good grief, quilting can hardly be considered a revolutionary new activity made possible through apps ‘n iGizmos in the iPostModern World. Can anything be more old fashioned, your Great Grandmother’s Oldsmobile? People have been quilting for hundreds of years and it runs at least as good as Brain Games. Yeah. Technology changes everything.

You techie adherents may find joy with the Photography condition because it required the use of computers and software like Photoshop . . . which has been around now since 1990. Come on. We’re talking the PC revolution here not SM2.0 with Big Data and Big Analytics.

And that’s another reason I’m wary with the Episodic Memory results for the Photography training. That training is highly visual and procedural and is not word training in the sense of studying grammatical forms or poetry construction. You might obtain similar gains with a Furniture Making Condition. Perhaps it is working in a new world of highly structured concepts and actions that works here?

I’d be curious to compute the caloric expenditure for each condition. A lot of exercise research has demonstrated practical improvements in cognitive function from running or lifting or biking. The mind begins with the brain and if you work the brain with exercise, it maintains existing function and when restarted, exercise can activate old function. Perhaps the Photography condition required participants to get more exercise while taking pictures?

And, there goes Professor Poopypants, pooping all over the place. Let’s get out of here before we get pooped into oblivion.

1. This is science. Not persuasive science. Just science.

2. Moving the body and the mind improves cognitive performance. Not a lot of improvement, but it is improvement.

3. This took 3 months and 15 hours a week. Most effects are Small. Do you really believe that Lumosity a few minutes a day every now and then can have any practical effect? Heck even Lumosity with a lovely Mozart piano sonata for 3 months and 15 hours a week ran even with a pack of little old ladies and gentlemen in the quilting circle.

4. For you panthers working the jungle of aging Other Guys, you can still see the good news in the results. That Placebo condition did show pre-post gains. Put that in your next PowerPoint or Flash or YouTube. Independent researchers prove that Lumosity enhances your Episodic Memory, Mental Control, and Visuospatial Memory! Tell the truth! Just not the whole truth!

Finally. Read the paper. It’s good, hard work.

Denise C. Park, Jennifer Lodi-Smith, Linda Drew, Sara Haber, Andrew Hebrank, Gérard N. Bischof, and Whitley Aamodt. The Impact of Sustained Engagement on Cognitive Function in Older Adults: The Synapse Project. Psychological Science, first published on November 8, 2013


P.S. The best science to date on maintaining cognitive function across aging is . . . sorry . . . physical activity. Yeah, you can learn a new skill at the Synapse Center or fake it with a Brain Game, but if you want to keep your head on straight as long as possible, run, baby, run.

Counting the Facebook Change: WATtapping

Let’s use Facebook to shoot fish in a barrel. Instead of trying to get Other Guys to hit a TACT that requires them to leave their app ‘n iGizmo, get dressed, and go out in the Local called reality, let’s hit the WATtapping TACT. While sitting in their preferred Digirati attire with their favorite app ‘n iGizmo, let’s run a Facebook persuasion campaign that only requires WATtapping for everything including your product or service. Everything about this persuasion is only digital.

Consider this convenient case.

20 Dollar FB Ad Experiment

An online marketer discloses how he counted the change with only a $20 ad campaign with Facebook. While he calls this an experiment, it is not. There’s no treatment group that gets Something and a control group that gets Something Else or even Nothing. He runs the same ad for everyone then observes what happens. If anything positive happens, you can call the intervention some kind of success, but compared to anything else, who knows? But, to his everlasting credit, he does offer details of his study and I think he’s telling the truth.

He begins with a population of Other Guys who are already his Facebook fans. They follow his work through Facebook. Already. As Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook CEO, might put it, they are Leaning In. For this intervention he wants his fans to hit the TACT called “enrolling in my 7-Day Free MLM Boot Camp.” This boot camp is apparently an online text description of how to be more successful at marketing. He creates an ad for this TACT through the Facebook Sponsored Ads program and the ad goes out to his existing fans (approximately 7700) and their friends (about another 17,000 people). Here’s what he gets.

20 Dollar FB Ad Results

He gets 19 new leads and converts 4 to hit the TACT. And remember, to hit the TACT all the Other Guys have to do is WATtap a couple of times and they are enrolled in the Free 7-Day Boot Camp which they can then WATtap through at their leisure. They don’t have to get dressed and leave the house or even put down their iGizmo. They don’t even have to pay for anything whether with PayPal or BitCoin or a credit card number. Just point and click, WATtap. And these guys were Leaning In.

This marketer then repeats his experiment several times with pretty much the same results. A handful of Other Guys (existing fans) who got a persuasive message to hit a WATtap TACT actually exert enough energy to click a mouse button a few times. He asserts that he does make money from this activity through affiliate sales which means he takes the new contact information he garnered and sells that to someone else who then bombards the hapless new Other Guy with emails for products and services that have nothing to do with the Free 7-Day Boot Camp. The marketer does not detail how much money this generates, but confidently asserts that he will recoup his advertising cost within a few weeks. Past recouping the advertising cost, the online marketer is silent.

As I noted earlier, I believe this guy largely because the results are so bad that anyone who would fess up to this has got to be honest.

Consider the Local.

Start with Other Guys who already know you and “like” you.

Hit them and their friends (hey, friends with benefits, right) with a simple message making a free offer.

All anyone ever has to do is click on a link. That’s all the energy behavior of this TACT requires.

For twenty bucks you get four or five new contacts you can then monetize through the work of somebody else. Maybe. Hopefully. Probably.

That’s Facebook persuasion for you. For 20 dollars you can hit nearly 25,000 Other Guys (your fans and their friends) who are already leaning in your direction and get 4 or 5 clicks with a new email address. And, if all goes according to plan, somebody else will someday send you some money that will cover your $20 persuasion budget.

Let’s enjoy this case study as persuasion panthers. You’ve convinced guys like this online marketer that Facebook persuasion works. He gives you $20 right now regardless of any outcome. You put that in your bank along with the thousands of other marketers like this guy. This guy comes back several times with these small budget persuasion experiments. You always cash his check before anything happens and regardless of what happens you get his money.

And, guess what? You get to watch the results of this guy’s experiment (and all those other marketing guys doing these small budget persuasion experiments) and you have even more data about it than you give him and the others. You get to learn about Facebook persuasion without having to pay anything for it. In fact, you get paid to observe this! Most importantly, you learn how to set the price point for small budget Facebook persuasion experiments so that you attract and keep these guys coming back for more. You run your own experiments with the kind of information you provide and what kind of Pretty Pictures you give and you automate this process so that every hour of every day you get a ticker tape feed.

Then you take the results from all these small budget persuasion experiments, combine them into types and segments and case studies and use that information to demonstrate the effectiveness of Facebook persuasion to other Sauds and Aleuts with larger budgets, showing them what works and doesn’t work.

Then the bigger fish put down larger budgets, doing pretty much what this one independent online marketer does but with Kate Upton or Jay-Z or a riff from a Rolling Stones or Beatles song and probably gets slightly better results than this experiment because the Big Boys at the Big Marketing Cool Table are a lot smarter than this online marketer.

That and Kate Upton.

Count the change, vampires. Count the change. Even in this small, homegrown example, a Facebook persuasion play should be shooting small fish in a small barrel, yet you can’t find a sardine in the can. Good grief, you couldn’t construct a better test of the persuasion power of Facebook than this beautifully simple, direct, and almost sincere application. And you get trivial changes that are coming in at break even costs. This online marketing guy is humping a lot of expense himself in this operation and is not including them in his calculations.

You see the persuasion with Facebook. It’s what they do to you to get the change they can count. And this only occurs because Facebook enjoys a jungle with few competitors. Right now, Google is still the lion with Facebook barely a hyena in the advertising hunt. And the existence of just these two killers is destroying the price structure for their advertising rates. A third killer would only further erode price and profits. Twitter, anyone?

Now we’re talking competition or else getting caught in price-fixing which Do No Evil Google will never do. Ad prices fall farther and maybe our online marketing guy and the dentist make a real penny of profit on a twenty dollar persuasion campaign.

Everyone keeps believing that apps ‘n iGizmos are a persuasion machine just like newspaper ads and radio ads and TV ads were and, while reduced, still are. iAds never count much change when you do a hard count on that change. I’m sure that Facebook has a couple of amazing slides on experimental persuasion campaigns they ran, but that’s taking the top of the distribution out of the meta-analysis. Add in all the Facebook experiments and give me that mean.

If you are buying persuasion, the last thing you can permit is for the Other Guy to run persuasion on you. Count the change.

the Cold Pressor Persuasion Play©™® with John Cheever

You may know John Cheever’s name from an infamous episode of TV comedy series, Seinfeld, where everyone discovered that George Costanza’s father-in-law had had a brief gay fling with Cheever as revealed in a box of letters, the only surviving item from a cabin fire set from Kramer’s Cuban cigars. John Cheever was a great writer who received a Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for his book of short stories. He was also a persuasion theorist.

A family is meeting at their summer vacation cottage on the Atlantic in New England. Like most families, there remains ancient tensions between adult siblings and one in particular drives everyone else to frustration. Yet, as Cheever the persuasion theorist reveals, they stumble upon a persuasion play as this paragraph narrates.

And now I remember that while Lawrence was visiting us, we went swimming oftener than we usually do, and I think there was a reason for this. When the irritability that accumulated as a result of his company began to lessen our patience, not only with Lawrence but with one another, we would all go swimming and shed our animus in the cold water. I can see the family now, smarting from Lawrence’s rebukes as they sat on the sand, and I can see them wading and diving and surface-diving and hear in their voices the restoration of patience and the rediscovery of inexhaustible good will.

Goodbye, My Brother, page 10, The Stories of John Cheever.

This, of course, is a variation on the cold pressor task so beloved of behavioral researchers. Just insert your body or a part in freezing water. If you’ve never fallen into a winter creek, you have no idea how compelling the cold pressor task is. It dominates you like Mike Tyson back in the day.

Typically the task is employed as the first independent variable in a study. You complete informed consent and stick your arm in that bucket. Then after a bit, you do something else, most often the dependent variable, such as watch the monitor that shows your blood pressure elevating like a rocket. Here we see Cheever as theorist perceiving the cold pressor task as something that modulates an existing condition. When unhappy Other Guys willingly go for a swim – which is a cold pressor task – they will emerge from the freezing brine with a new and favorable attitude!

The trick here is to get the Other Guy to willingly engage in a cold pressor task. Cheever’s argument is that if you can get her willingly in the water, she will change. Sure, you can get compliance in the lab with money or credit, but in the Local called the mess of life? This, of course, is where we separate the mavens from the muggles.

Here’s how I’ve done it with Melanie.

I use this persuasion play when it is either raining or cold and we’re having an argument. We’ve gotten stuck in the mud of grievance with neither party having the willingness or ability to turn the other cheek which means a Long Night ahead. So, I dare Melanie to take off her clothes and run around the outside of the house, naked, with me. As I make this dare, I strip. Melanie cannot resist a dare and also finds the sight of me naked and unmanned to be funny. By now she is undressing and giggling and putting on a pair of sneakers, then we’re out the door. I surprise her, I challenge her, and, sigh, I amuse her into the cold and wet.

I wish we’d learned the Cold Pressor Persuasion Play®™© when we were first married. Then we employed all the conflict management tactics from the interpersonal communication and human relations and counseling literature. Lots of listening. Active and reflective listening. Perception checking, I hear you saying. Descriptive feedback. Yada-yada. Still produced a lot of Long Nights. Racing your naked spouse in the rain around the house on a cold night works much faster.

Now, we have lived almost all of our married life out in the woods with no neighbors nearby. If you live in the city or a tight suburban tract, you might want to think carefully about running outside your house naked with your significant other. You might modify this play to include squirt guns filled with cold water for example. Or jumping into a cold shower together. That’s your challenge. As the Rule says:

Drive with Science, Putt with Poetry.

The science of the Cold Pressor Persuasion Play©™® demonstrates that it really changes the Other Guy, but the poetry of the play is getting her willingly wet. Now, if I knew the circumstances of your Local, I might be able to make suggestions, but do you really want me to know you and yours that well?


P.S. What’s great about the science of the Cold Pressor Persuasion Play©™® is that even when you know why you are doing it, it will still make a change you can count on. Often awareness of the persuasion principle kills the play; not with this one.

P.P.S. This is a type of Embodiment Persuasion effect. Change the outside to change the inside.

An Acxiom to Grind

While reading the morning papers I found this interesting paragraph.

In March, Acxiom published a white paper describing this process, along with the results of a study it conducted of banner-ad campaigns by more than 50 companies over roughly two years. It found that, on average, the ads drove $9 of sales for every dollar spent – primarily in physical stores.

Hey, some real live research on digital marketing from a Big Marketer we’ve seen before, Acxiom. Sure, it’s only a White Paper for Thought Leadership, meaning it is a General Semantics Persuasion Play®™© wherein you eat the White Paper thinking you’ve consumed Thought Leadership when you’ve just had a glass of Peitho Diet Water©™®. But, still. It’s getting quoted in the Wall Street Journal and it is available online.

Except it isn’t.

On Monday April 14, 2014 I repeatedly tried to access this White Paper along with various other examples of Acxiom Thought Leadership and kept hitting a 403 Access Forbidden page. Then I noticed something even more entertaining. Consider this screen shot (click to enlarge).

Acxiom White Paper Comments

This from the White Paper landing page at Acxiom. On this page Acxiom quietly extols its Thought Leadership on all things marketing with an emphasis upon digital while leading you to 403 Forbidden Access and an active comment function that markets . . . other marketers!

Shaego! Breastpumps! BillionaireBrains! And some even have active links to spam farms!

Acxiom provides an advertising platform for the lowest kind of persuasion on the web. No human edits the comments, apparently that function is handled by a super secret Acxiom PHP script adapted from its marketing system. All digital, all the time with no human intelligence ever needed! Just like Acxiom marketing. Or Thought Leadership!

You could call this a Persuasion Engine . . . running in reverse.

Yeah. Big Data. Big Analytics. Big Social Media. Big Marketing. This. Changes. Everything.

P.S. The WSJ article describes Acxiom experiments which follow the Cascade from Exposure to actual purchase Behavior in a store. Acxiom randomly (!!!) assigned Other Guys to either Ad or No Ad and then tracks out to purchase. Acxiom has so much data from so many sources that it can measure most of the stages of the Cascade with linked data (anonymous, of course!) making it possible to follow persuasion from beginning to end. The article asserts from reading the 403 Forbidden White Paper that $9 of in-store sales flow from every $1 of advertising. Really. Pay $1 and get $9 in sales. Really.

I’d like to believe that all of this is true, the experiments, the tracking through the Cascade, the 9 to 1 return, but then I see that White Paper page that leads to 403 Forbidden Access and a comment function that delivers more spam than Hormel sells in a year. How can Acxiom be all things wise and digital and present a web page that functions this badly? And, if this is what their own web work looks like, can you trust their databases, their experiments, their analyses, their White Papers?

P.P.S. Or, maybe Acxiom truly knows the Queen of Tomorrow and behaves this badly to throw everyone else of the scent? I’m the persuasion genius who looks like the persuasion idiot so you don’t realize just how dangerous I really am!

Pedaling Persuasion

While dreaming of persuasion . . .

Smoking tobacco is the single biggest risk for premature morbidity and mortality in the US. While a small percentage of smokers will show few negative effects, most smokers will die 8-10 years sooner than nonsmokers and with many more preceding years of ill health.

Smoking is also a blast. You look cool as hell. You get to use cool as hell gadgets. You get the thrill from the nicotine. You create fabulous moments as when the glow of the cigarette illuminates the curve of your lover lying beside you.


Biking is the most dangerous form of personal transportation in the US. Biking takes a trivial amount of both transportation time and distance, but accounts for 2% of transportation fatalities.

The 677 pedal cyclist deaths in 2011 accounted for 2% of all traffic fatalities during the year.

And as bad as that is, biking kills at much younger ages, even younger than smoking. Biking is overwhelming attractive to the same kind of personality that like to smoke, males who like risks. You see that in the fatalities, almost always men who have safer options but pick biking instead. Consider this appeal for a charity bike run.

Assault on the Carolinas

Biking is also a blast. You look cool as hell in those bad black spandex outfits. You get to use cool as hell gadgets. You get the thrill from the pump. You create fabulous moments as when the glare of an on-coming headlight illuminates the curve on which you will die.

Like smoking, biking is a public health menace and should be banned.

Hey. How come bikes aren’t inspected every year? They run on the same roads as cars. How about this? Require odometers and usage clocks on all licensed bikes. We can collect good data (maybe even Big Data!) on actual usage then have a better base rate to run fatality and injury incidents against. Who is against a scientific study that counts the change with usage and biking death or disability?

Still not convinced? Let’s try this persuasion.

In 2011, 677 lost their lives in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes, just under two people every day of the year in the U.S. While lower than the 732 fatalities in 2001, this number represents an increase from the 618 bicyclist fatalities reported in 2010.

Now. Compare that to this.

In 2010, unintentional firearm injuries caused the deaths of 606 people.18

More people are killed in biking accidents than in firearm accidents! And more people have accidental “access” to guns than have accidental “access” to biking. Think about it. Best guess is that about 40% of American households have a gun in them which means a possible gun accident every day for over 125 million household occupants.

By contrast, a recent population survey of bike riding found 18% of people 16 and older rode a bike at least once in the year which means at least once a year 60 million people were at risk of a biking accident. Please model out however you wish those 60 million people and how many days they biked. But by any count it will be less than the daily exposure to a gun in the house with 125 million people. Yet the number of deaths are almost equal. At minimum given the numbers on exposure we’ve got here, accidental deaths from biking are at least twice as high as from gun, a near Medium Windowpane.

We need gun control (that cannot get passed for a variety of persuasion muggle reasons), but for a risk that is at least twice as large as the risk of accidental death from a gun, people demand more biking!

. . . awakening I wonder whether I’ve been dreaming or have just opened my eyes.