Fed 1789 and Web 2.0 as Falling Apples

Take this report as pure personal experience from one guy. I couldn’t be more wrong in the details or the outlines and to generalize from my experience is the height of scientific folly, but it’s still great persuasion.

We know that the ObamaCare website is in trouble and not because the peasants are marching in torchlight parade on the White House or torturing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on The Daily Show, of all places. We know it because President Obama says so.

There’s no sugarcoating it,” he said. “The website has been too slow, people are getting stuck during the application process. And I think it’s fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am.” He later added, “Nobody is madder than me about the fact that the website is not working as well as it should, which means it’s gonna get fixed.”

He had to say this because of the Direct Experience Persuasion Play®™© he ran in front of the grand website opening. Try it. You’ll like it. Now, this. When the Other Guy tries what you suggested and They don’t like it, you’ve got to change the persuasion play . . . to the I’m Mad As Hell And I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore Persuasion Play®™©.

Network Mad As Hell

After five years as President, Mr. Obama still hasn’t learned that his emotional state has nothing to do with Executive Branch operation or effectiveness. He’s now talking about bringing the best and the brightest on board to fix the technical problems with the ObamaCare website as if more experts will change things for the better. Mr. Obama apparently still fails to grasp the nuanced, inter-connected complexity of Executive agencies that will also elude the best of the best and the brightest of the brightest. The complexity approaches chaos and everyone who’s worked in the Fed knows exactly what I mean.

Worse than complexity as chaos is IT. The Fed simply does not do Information Technology beyond Wiki type sites with static factual entries. The Fed is not noted and probably never will be noted for doing any interactive IT with any level of competence. It ain’t what government is meant to do. The Fed is great at one-way communication: Somebody speaks and everyone else listens; then Somebody else speaks and everyone listens; and on and on until almost all Somebody’s have spoken. Anything remotely approaching transactional and simultaneous communication is anathema to the Fed.

Imagine just for fun that the Fed ran its websites like Facebook with all those gobbly-gook legal disclaimers, transparent privacy violations run as apologies, and massive personal databasing. Sure, the website would run great, but we’d have revolution on the Right and Left marching on Washington DC.

When ObamaCare passed I missed the importance of the website operation and it’s only been recently that I’ve got up to speed with the shocking realization that Obama thinks he can create Amazon.com at HHS. I would have thought his embarrassing failure to keep his own personal Blackberry device in operation would have taught him about the limits of Fed IT, but clearly he learned nothing from that simple, but telling, personal example. They let him keep the device, but with so many limitations on it that it was no longer the device he once loved. Apparently Obama ate the Blackberry and learned nothing.

And, my own experience with Fed IT is more diagnostic. I came on board in 1998 and was immediately plunged into Agency IT policy and procedure because I could actually write HTML code and keep it running on professional websites for academic departments and professional associations. I was nearly a CDC IT genius and got assigned to a Task Force Advisory Committee to study the problem.

We hired some best and brightest outside guys to evaluate the CDC website and from the first minute of their public report I was laughing so hard I had to leave the room to keep from getting fired. The prior group of best and brightest IT consultants had designed the CDC website with a flat file structure which meant there was only one directory called something like /cdc and all files from all Centers, Institutes, and Offices fell into that one directory.

That meant there were tens of thousands of files like data88.dat and summary93.txt or organizationalchart.jpg or regulationchanges73.txt all dumped into one common directory. With dozens of teams, sections, branches, and divisions among all the Centers, Institutes, and Offices you can guess how many files called data88.dat existed and all were in the same directory at /cdc. Thus, any link on a webpage that called for /cdc/data88.dat could access any one of a dozen different files and the one that actually popped up could vary depending upon the computer making the request, admin settings that hour, or the activity of solar flares on the sun. And these were just static files, like Wiki entries providing basic factual information about telephone numbers, tobacco usage statistics, or organizational work tables. Nothing remotely interactive occurred.

The Fed is Corporate with the capital C. It is bureaucracy, organization, a place for everything and everything its place, hierarchy, sequence, charts, tables, regulations and on and on with the accumulations of an orderly democracy. Everyone, Democrats and Republican, can agree on file cabinets. Web 2.0 is simply contrary in spirit and operation to the philosophy, history, and Constitution of the Fed.

Yet, Mr. Obama is soldiering on believing that his best and brightest can change 250 years of law, regulation, enforcement, and habit. Hear the echoes of the close to The Great Gatsby.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

The past, of course, is Hope and Change, circa 2008. The end of aspiration is not achievement but that original aspiration because what you aspired to cannot be achieved. Desire without fulfillment only leaves desire.

The Dissonance for Team Obama must be stupendous. The consequence here is an obvious failure at the end of a path freely chosen. While Republicans present many barriers, they did not hinder the website. In terms of the Dissonance path, Team Obama picked freely chosen actions that produced negative consequences and no easy External Attributions to explain it. The failure is all theirs. So instead of turning the cold heart of persuasion to the Local and doing a hard count of the change, Team Obama is getting mad and believing that more anger, more passion, more aspiration will fix the website.

We might see a ceremonial seppuku from Secretary Sebelius as the ultimate authority for operational failures. That would only mean more Dissonance Reduction and not a cold hearted persuasion analysis. Sacrifice looks like responsibility when it is only distraction: You still can’t use the website.

You see my persuasion argument depends upon an analysis of the Local that has nothing to do with liberals versus conservatives or finding the best and the brightest, but just looking at the Falling Apples. This is all starts with the unbridgeable difference between Fed 1789 and Web 2.0.

Selling Less Power with More Persuasion

Consider Opower.

The company has hired a team of behavioral scientists and added “big data” analysts from such companies as Yahoo, Amazon and Google. It now works with 86 utilities in the U.S. and abroad and expects to invest $40 million in R&D this year. “For the last five years, we’ve been running the largest behavioral science experiment in the world,” Alex Laskey, Opower’s president, told a gathering at The Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference in March.

That effort, by Opower’s reckoning, has saved the company’s customers more than $320 million in energy costs. And that translates into 2.8 terawatts of energy, or enough to power 550,000 homes for a year.

And, if you visit Opower’s website you see that they really are selling less power with more persuasion. They’ve conducted dozens of true field experiments with actual customers and collected not just scenario self reports or attitudes or intentions, but actual energy usage as billed by the power companies. And, underline that statement, true field experiments, where they randomly assign customers to either the persuasion Treatment or Control with all that usage data to count the change. This is business doing persuasion with the scientific method.

A major persuasion play from Opower is Uncle Norm+.

It’s the social pressure in the messaging to customers that’s essential, says Mr. Yates. “You can’t just compare people; you have to imply a judgment,” he says. ” ‘You use less energy than your neighbor! Great job!’—with a smiley face.”

Here’s an example of the kind of persuasion message Opower sends out to customers.

Opower Persuasion Message

You see Feedback, Comparison (When Others Are Doing It, You Should, Too), and rewards with For Me? And, remember, randomly assigned to customers with that great usage data from the power companies. And, Opower has actually hired outside evaluators to run the data as with this Journal of Public Economics.

Opower ran persuasion interventions in 12 areas with a total of just over 500,000 households. Over half of the households received a randomized persuasion play (about 300,000) and Opower collected over 21,000,000 data observations on energy usage. That’s a lot of data which means that very small changes can be described as “statistically significant.”

Just as Mr. Yates claims in his public comments, this paper finds a consistent 2% decrease in energy usage in households randomly assigned to a persuasion play. Now, how do customers get a 2% change? The researcher explains:

How do the percent ATEs translate into these real-world behaviors? The 2% mean ATE translates into 0.62 kWh per day. An air conditioner running at full power uses about 1 kW of power, so this treatment effect is equivalent to turning off an air conditioner that would have been on for 37 min each day.

Let’s do a cold-hearted persuasion analysis of all this persuasion for (less) power. A 2% change is about one-fifth of a Small Windowpane, which would be a 10% change. Such a change is only statistically significant because of the huge data set with over 500,000 households and over 21,000,000 data points. If you could count the number of people in the house, you could probably determine the impact of body heat on energy usage with a dataset this large. And whether they were sitting around or moving about. Or running one air conditioning unit for 40 minutes, plus or minus.

Sure, it is a change you can count and never forget you are counting this change from an experimental design and not a Fairy Tale observational design. But, 2%? One-fifth of a Small effect is barely detectable against random variation and only becomes “statistically significant” because Ronald Fisher selected p < .05 as his standard for judging small agricultural field tests of new growing techniques in the 1920s.

Opower is making a persuasion difference and I think that 2% change is a real change given the experimental method, the real world setting, and the multiple replications. But 2% is a major disappointment and even to Yates who’s quoted as saying he’s committed to making a 7-10% difference. The only reason the 2% is compelling is because it is so cheap to produce and provides another kind of persuasion for power companies. Consider each of these points in a little more detail.

First, Opower is apparently piggy-backing most of the persuasion with existing utility communication. Opower does not run a separate campaign from the standard billing. Thus, about the only cost for the campaign is the message design and pretesting, fairly low costs. Most customers probably don’t even realize they’ve gotten a persuasive message in the bill, looking only at the bottom line to write the check or enter the numbers online. So, for that 2% change you don’t have much cost.

Second, the power companies can take this real count the change difference and run it as another persuasion play with a set of Other Guys who make a really big difference: Regulatory agencies. Power companies can take these data to those regulators and negotiate new or adjusted contracts that can earn even more profit even though the power company is actually selling less power. We live in the Green World where people are willing to pay more for less power, so even a 2% change can generate more money because of the politics of this situation.

So, the power companies are getting some juice from this, but only 2%. How could Opower get bigger change?

With that piggy-backed persuasion delivery system, I suspect that most customers don’t realize they’ve received a persuasion play with the bill. Thus, in terms of the Cascade, the Opower campaign is generating very low Exposure which means low Reception. When only 10 or 20% of the Other Guys even register the play, you aren’t going to have much behavior change in the entire population.

To solve the Exposure/Reception problem, the standard solution is more money. You run persuasion plays outside of the billing communication and you run a lot of them. You hire Kate Upton to wear a bikini while setting her summertime thermostat to 80 degrees. You’ve seen enough TV to understand here. Reception ain’t cheap, especially with a well worn and habitual behavior like energy usage.

Next, I think the Uncle Norm+ play is wrong-headed. That’s pure Cue and you want to make a long term change to an automatic behavior. People do energy like they do many routines. It’s just habit, automatic, the way they’ve always done it before. Unless you change the energy delivery system so the Other Guys must change their behavior to get what they want, you’ve got to persuade the Other Guys to change those automatic, habitual behaviors. Cues are a lousy way to accomplish this.

Feedback here functions much like a Central Route persuasion Argument, supplying crucial information. That requires High WATTage and the Long Conversation in the Head, followed with lots of reinforced trials. Then you will get a new habit. Opower needs to conduct a serious behavior analysis of the different specific actions consumers engage to use energy. Exactly when and where do specific Other Guys flip a switch, set a dial, pull a shade, etc.? I suspect somebody has done this kind of behavior analysis to identify the most expensive energy behaviors.

If Opower could provide daily feedback to consumers about energy use and cost with some kind of smart behavior analysis, that would at least provide the kind of Arguments and repeated trials needed to break an old habit and make a new one.

It. Could. Work.

Of course, the 800 pound gorilla in the room here is reality. People operate in a world that functions as a Skinner box for their behavior. They do what they do regarding energy and receive various rewards (comfortable room temperature) and punishments (the bill) and pay every month for it. People have already factored in their cost and reward structure and are as efficient at the population level as you can get. When you try to change this, there ain’t much change to get even though some zealot Phd can prove that everyone is stupid and lazy to the tune of 38.433% inefficiency. We don’t live in an ideal world which is where all the persuasion resides.

Opower faces an interesting practical persuasion problem with obvious rewards for themselves. They are a venture capital enterprise supported through Kleiner Perkins which enjoys the presence of Al Gore as an investor. Mr. Gore knows how to get well while doing a little good as we’ve seen.

Al Gore Kleiner Perkins

Gore’s unspoken potential role here makes me curious about just who the Other Guys really are. While the persuasion play runs on public consumers and does get some change from Them, it appears the intervention is a persuasion play aimed at regulatory agencies who control the rates energy companies can charge. As long as power companies make a good faith show here, regulators can give price advantages without even a Small Windowpane of real energy change.

Misattribution and the Promised Land

A foundational element of human persuasion is attribution, or how you explain yourself in the world. People make internal attributions: I caused this to happen. People make external attributions: Something outside of me made this happen. The psychology between internal and external attributions is hugely different as this Scripture illustrates.

The Israelites are gathered on the opposite shore of the River Jordan waiting to cross to the Promised Land. They will face war with a fearsome tribe before they can gain that Land. The Lord speaks to them.

4 “Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out from before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 6 Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Deuteronomy 9:4-6

A constant error people always make with God is seeing Him as their personal genie. God is this magical thing that delivers goodies to good people just because they are good! The faith and theology of God is a very different proposition as The Bible testifies, yet people persist with this fundamental misreading of God.

In this text we see how people can misattribute God and themselves. We’re still in Deuteronomy which means the Israelites have not yet crossed the Jordan and taken to the Promised Land. Yet, they are already seeing that future event as a reward because they are such good people. God is giving them this cool bonus simply because they are good! I made this happen!

This despite constant messaging from God about the nature and purpose of the Promised Land. God is accomplishing multiple goals here: Punishing evil-doers in what will become Israel and delivering his Chosen People to their new homeland where they can live in the Covenant.

You see the prideful convenience of the attributions these Israelites engage. They are forgetting about the Covenant and how to live and their failed human nature and now wish to attribute or explain the Promised Land as their due.

God gets in front of such attributional folly with His warning about righteousness. He wants everyone to understand before the fight, before the victory, before the entrance to the Promised Land exactly why things will happen as they happen.

You should ask why God does this. Why is God making people think about attributions even before an event? He could behave like a vain and vengeful god who has a parade in his honor before the event and then another one after like every dictator in history. Instead, He’s making people think about themselves and their role in events and how that is related to God.

This is an incredibly nuanced and subtle play from God and contradicts those comic book criticisms of God. Clearly, He is persuading the Other Guys who He knows have volition and human nature.

Cognitive Dissidence

Smart progressives spot Cognitive Dissonance on the right faster than George Costanza spotting raccoons. Today:

Even though he lives in Washington and works in government, he dumped his subscription to The Washington Post. He explained: “It was the treatment of almost any conservative issue. It was slanted and often nasty. And, you know, why should I get upset every morning?” He added that The Post was “shrilly, shrilly liberal.”

Just another guy in Washington who can’t stand hearing anything that doesn’t comport with his worldview? Well, this one happens to work on the United States Supreme Court.

As Justice Antonin Scalia might say, “Boom!” His interview with Jennifer Senior in New York magazine suggests that the tendency to limit one’s sources of information to avoid dissonance is not the province of a bunch of narrow-minded, politically obsessed characters who send mass e-mails from their mother’s basement.

So. When a conservative drops a liberal information source, it must be Dissonance, the cognitive klonger that arises when the Other Conservative tries to hold inconsistent progressive pieces of information in His head. It’s so obvious that even journalists can see it and throw the word Dissonance into the conversation without mentioning the classical music of Charles Ives.

Unfortunately the Cool Table is wrong here. This is not Cognitive Dissonance. It is Cognitive Dissidence. In this instance, the conservative Scalia is not dropping the Washington Post because he experiences Dissonance at the progressive slant, but because he experiences Dissidence.

Now, mere exposure to information can be a part of Dissonance. The classic example is with smokers and anti-smoking ads. Smokers confront information about a behavior they willingly perform that, gasp, can kill them! As a result, smokers tend to avoid sources that may feature anti-smoking information and when confronted with the information try to minimize processing it. The Dissonance here springs from the inconsistency between thoughts of being a smart and safe human who engages in a self-killing behavior and that inconsistency produces the selective exposure to information sources.

Cognitive Dissidence, by contrast, arises when a conservative reads stupid, shallow, and insulting information from progressives writing about conservatives. The conservative Dissents, quite a different persuasion response. And, just in case you are a progressive yourself, Cognitive Dissidence also occurs when you smart lefties listen to Rushbo or read the Weekly Standard and that stupid, shallow, and insulting information from conservatives opining about you.

A skeptic doesn’t experience Dissonance while reading the Holy Bible anymore than a believer experiences Dissonance while reading Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins. They do, however, each Dissent from that other perspective.

It is a persuasion-interesting conceit, however, to throw the Dissonance penalty flag at others who merely disagree with you. It is persuasion-interesting because such flag-throwing is potentially indicative of Dissonance Reduction in you! When other people dissent from beliefs or positions you hold dear, that can elicit disconfirmation and now you are on the Dissonance Path. To remove that sense of klonger you get when others dispute your beliefs is to denigrate them rather than argue in defense of your beliefs.

“Why are these Other Guys disagreeing with me? The Other Guys must be idiots in the throes of Dissonance! Gee, I feel better at that conclusion. I don’t have to think about why that idiot disagrees with me and whether my beliefs might actually be wrong.”

It’s kind of like reading the letters of the Freudians who broke ranks with the master with all sides noting the neuroses, defense mechanisms, and penis envy of everyone but themselves.

P.S. Seinfeld, The Glasses.

GEORGE: What, you’re gonna take her word over mine? I’m your best friend!

JERRY: Yeah, but you’re blind as a bat!

GEORGE: I was squinting! Remember that drive from Wortsborough? (snapping his fingers) I was spotting those raccoons.

JERRY: They were mailboxes, you idiot. I didn’t have the heart to tell you.

GEORGE: (noticing something) Hey look, a dime.

(George walks over to the other end of the room and picks up a dime)

GEORGE: Heh, Mercury head. You mind?

JERRY: (Stunned:) No, keep it.

Persuasion with Big Data

If you read the Persuasion Blog you know I think that Big Data is a farce, the worst kind of persuasive science that only fools the practitioners. You can now hire a kid with an undergraduate degree in Big Data which tells you everything you need to know about Big Data. When a 21 year old can discern the psychology of everyone on the Internet from a terabyte of cookies, we are eating a rich persuasion dessert.

We’ve already noted one technical problem with Big Data. Much of the data is incorrect! Knowing a lot about someone is not the same thing as actually knowing that someone as we’ve seen with a prior post on the errors in those Big Marketing Big Data sets. It continues.

According to his long secret personal dossier, Stephen Chong gave up on education after high school, stayed single, votes but is not registered with a political party and has no car. In reality, the assistant professor of computer science at Harvard has a doctorate, is married, cannot cast his ballot in the United States because he is a foreigner, and owns a car, albeit in his wife’s name.

Or this.

Adam D. Smith, an associate professor at Penn State University, did not mince words after seeing his dossier. “The data they had on me stank. As far as I could tell, the only interesting correct thing they had on me was the details of my home purchase (which are of course publicly available),” he said. “They had several important things wrong about me — notably marital status, number of children, vehicle information.”

And it goes on. But here’s the persuasion dessert. How do people know these errors exist in their Big Data files? Because Big Marketing is showing it to them!

Acxiom does deserve credit for acting first among top data brokers to allow consumers to view their files. “It’s quite unusual to see a company make clear how much data it has about you, to this extent,” said Micah Altman, director of research at MIT Libraries.

We’ve seen Acxiom before and knocked their below average performance, but now they’re showing persuasion that is beyond good and evil. They are letting you see their incorrect files on you . . . so you can correct them for nothing for Acxiom!

A Peitho nomination to Acxiom although the play is pretty obvious. Even sincere academics catch it.

“My feeling is that this is bait to get people to clean their data without even paying them,” said Murat Kantarcioglu. The professor of data security and privacy at UT-Dallas found that almost all of his data was wrong, other than the fact that he is male and interested in child development.

And Facebook had to partner with guys like this because their own Big Data files weren’t hitting the TACT. (Gee, maybe Facebook needs to give their guys more than 6 weeks of stats training?) Man, the worst kept secret about Big Persuasion is that there is no change to count!

Sincerity through Logos

Alas, see it.

Yahoo Logos

Yahoo seeks to save itself from irrelevance and destruction with a new logo after spending $750 million for good will on a $1 billion purchase of Tumblr. You see the difference? Well, read this to understand.

On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator. I think it’s one of the most incredible software packages ever made. I’m not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :)

So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team: Bob Stohrer, Marc DeBartolomeis, Russ Khaydarov, and our intern Max Ma. We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish, and we had a ton of fun weighing every minute detail.

This from the new CEO of Yahoo, Melissa Mayer. Right. The CEO of a publicly traded company spent the weekend redesigning the logo. With feeling!

Wonder when Pinch Sulzberger will seize upon this to save the New York Times.

Biasing unBiased Experts

The great quality about expertise is that it cannot be biased by obvious things like money. Experts know the truth and speak the truth and deliver the truth. And all the experts know that. That’s why they are experts!

Except when experts get hired for one side. Like this.

We sent recruitment correspondence to a broad group of practicing forensic evaluators, offering “gold standard” training (and continuing-education credits) on the two most commonly used measures in sex-offender risk assessments: the PCL-R and Static-99R (Helmus, Thornton, Hanson, & Babchishin, 2012). This training was offered at no cost to participants who could commit to returning a few weeks later to spend 1 day scoring offenders at a pay rate typical of forensic consultation ($400). We received more than 100 applications from practicing, doctoral-level forensic clinicians. Of the 118 clinicians who participated in the risk-measure training, 108 returned to score files for the experiment.

These experts are forensic evaluators who testify in court proceedings for either the prosecution or the defense to provide expert evidence, in this case concerning sex offenders. The experimenters provided actual training that would give expert credential in this area to people already working as forensic evaluators. Here’s the trick. As part of the training . . .

Participants returned about 3 weeks later to score offender files. They were randomly assigned to either a prosecution-allegiance or a defense-allegiance group and were deceived to believe that they were a part of a formal, large-scale forensic consultation paid for by either a public-defender service or a specialized prosecution unit that prosecutes SVP cases.

Now, assignment to either prosecution or defense should make absolutely no difference in expert assessment of scientific information. Each evaluator received a “file” on offenders that included scores and results from tests they were trained on as part of the credentialing process. And the “files” were the same with the same test information, regardless of whether from the prosecution or the defense. The only thing that is varying here, is the allegiance of the evaluator, or more baldly, who was writing the check.

Overall, the risk scores assigned by prosecution and defense experts showed a clear pattern of adversarial allegiance. As expected, allegiance effects were stronger for the PCL-R, a measure that requires more subjective clinical judgment, than for the Static-99R, a measure that requires less clinical judgment (see Table 1). For the PCL-R Total score, independent-samples t tests indicated that prosecution-retained evaluators assigned significantly higher scores than defense-retained evaluators for Case 1, t(94) = 4.15, p < .001; Case 2, t(94) = 3.73, p < .001; and Case 3, t(97) = 2.71, p = .008; but not Case 4, t(62) = −0.33, p = .97. Cohen’s d for the three cases with significant effects ranged from 0.55 to 0.85, and were similar in magnitude to effects (d = 0.63–0.83) documented in a sample of actual SVP proceedings (Murrie et al., 2009).

Focus on the Cohen d’s, ranging from .55 (Medium) to .85 (Large) on the Windowpanes. These are obvious difference that do not require careful counting to see. Evaluations were wildly skewed to favor the party that was writing the check for the evaluator’s services.

Now, I’m labeling the play here as the Check Writing Effect when many other factors contribute to the bias. Prosecution activates thoughts about predators while defense activates thoughts about false accusation, for example. The research itself does not look at the mechanisms of effect, but just notes the bias and the size of it. The persuasion point for us is that experts get biased on the very thing that they are not supposed to bias on: Their expertise.

Consider here the dynamic we observe between persuasion and science: Falling versus Fallen Apples. Experts deliver the Falling Apples, right?, but here we see that they are extremely vulnerable to Fallen Apples themselves which renders their judgment about Falling Apples questionable. Anyone who tries to make a case based on experts deserves the beating they will often receive as their expert gets depantsed in public on the stand under oath for bias.

Expertise, authority, credibility and on and on with the parade of knowing and speaking the truth is almost always a persuasion Cue, a short cut on the Peripheral Route. You don’t have to think for yourself, just ask the expert. Cues almost never withstand High WATT scrutiny, as this research demonstrates.

Never fear an expert. They are Bolivian Banks who see themselves as Fort Knox.

Daniel C. Murrie, Marcus T. Boccaccini, Lucy A. Guarnera, and Katrina A. Rufino. Are Forensic Experts Biased by the Side That Retained Them? Psychological Science, first published on August 22, 2013.


Disinterest as Play for Sex

Hey, fellas. Wanna sure-fire way to persuade your lady to have sex? Follow these steps.

1. Maintain a stable intimate relationship.

2. Figure out when she’s not in the fertile phase of her cycle (i.e. not ovulating).

3. Act bored, unconcerned, or distracted about her and the relationship.

So says recent research in Psychological Science. Quickly, now. This is observational and longitudinal research on a small group (N = 50) of young couples collected in a convenience sample. And, it is not replicated. So, all the caveats about shakers of salt and shots of tequila! That said, the research delivers results that conform exactly to those three steps.

Researchers surveyed and interviewed young (average age around 21) heterosexual couples in long term intimate relationships. Women were specifically tested for phase of their cycle to identify when they were either ovulating or not. Additionally, both the men and the women reported on a variety of questions about sexual behavior and relationship involvement.

As part of a theory based on evolutionary psychology, the researchers hypothesized that women would be more sexually active when: 1) they were not ovulating and, very importantly, 2) their man seemed less invested and involved in the relationship than she. And that’s exactly what they found.

By contrast, both female investment and male investment had robust or nearly significant effects during the luteal phase: Female investment positively predicted female proceptivity (at a level close to significance), t(47) = 1.90, p = .066, ηp2 = .073. Male investment negatively predicted female proceptivity, t(47) = −2.76, p = .008, ηp2 = .137.

Proceptivity means having sex and is clearly, though oppositely, related to relational investment. Women who are not in their fertile phase report having more sex, a lot more sex, a change you don’t need to count, when they think they have higher relational investment than the man. The Windowpanes, Medium to Large on those comparisons, are pretty obvious.

So. Assuming this observational, small convenience sample research would replicate across many different conditions, what’s the persuasion?

Clearly it moves two ways. The most obvious way and the one that leads this research is that women in intimate relationships use sex to persuade men who seem to be drifting emotionally. When women think he might be losing interest or commitment, then sex is the persuasion play. The less obvious way is the way I started this post. Men can feign disinterest at the right time to motivate the Other Guy, in this case the woman in the relationship, to have more sex.


This effect appears to occur without awareness from men. If they find themselves having more sex they probably don’t realize the relational implication of it, that women are moving to affect involvement, interest, emotional commitment and so on. Left massively untested in this study was the impact of that sex. Did men report higher investment later? That is the change that needs counting here. If indeed women are being persuasive with their sexuality, then male investment should increase, but only with sex when she’s not fertile.

Somehow, I suspect, most people are not offended at the idea of women having sex more often with their partner as a relationship repair strategy. He’s drifting, what can I do? Yet, clearly, this research says that women doing this also operate with the cold heart of persuasion, of doing this to get that and the less the Other Guy knows, the better. It may be for the good of the relationship, but persuasion always has a cold heart, even in a warm bed.

Now, turn this around with my leading example of men faking disinterest at a different time of the month to get her to have more sex. That seems absolutely cold hearted.

And, now we see the impact of Sincerity and our perception of vampires, panthers, and persuasion. Women sincerely want a better relationship and therefore have more sex. Men insincerely want more sex and will fake the relationship to get it. Men in this instance clearly operate beyond good and evil!

This then adheres to my concerns about bringing persuasion into intimate relationships. As I’ve noted before, you cannot count the change with love and hope to find, make, or keep Love. Sure, men could very effectively acquire more sex very simply. Just track her cycle and hang out with your buddies too much during the wrong time of the month. But the gain of more sex would probably end soon with the loss of love as the woman would someday spot the play and look for a more reliable partner.

Let’s get out of here.

These results are pretty consistent with the larger literature on male and female sexuality in committed heterosexual relationships. For men, sex is usually just sex, but for women it is a lot more complicated. During fertile periods, women have sex for reasons strongly based in biology and evolution and survival. Now, it appears, during non-fertile periods, women have sex for relationship maintenance reasons.

Persuasion plays appear for both lovers. Women use sex persuasively to repair investment imbalances. Men could use persuasion just for the sex! Take the Local of an intimate relationship, identify the Box of that time of the month, then run the Relational Investment Play!

As usual with persuasion we think out of all sides of our mouth. Count the change.

But, what is the change you seek?

Nicholas M. Grebe, Steven W. Gangestad, Christine E. Garver-Apgar, and Randy Thornhill. Women’s Luteal-Phase Sexual Proceptivity and the Functions of Extended Sexuality Psychological Science, first published on August 21, 2013.


Internet Advertising Changes Everything

This is a great time to be an advertising pro because nobody knows what works, but you’ve got to keep trying because advertising used to work so well when you had a technology lock on the audience. Now, with the Internet and iGizmos, that technology lock is broken and the advertising models don’t work so well any more. Will it get better?

Much of the Web relies on advertising income, but anti-ad technology could put a dent in that revenue. A recent report from the Web service PageFair said that on average 22.7 percent of visitors to 220 Web sites were using ad-blocking software, which automatically removes most ads from a Web page.

Gee. Nearly 1 in 4 Other Guys are killing your persuasion before it gets started. At least in the good old days with broadcast TV, the Other Guy had to leave the room to do that.

A lot of persuasion success back in those good old days had nothing to do with persuasion and everything with that technology lock. You can prove your worth if you can count the change with your Internet persuasion. Lots of sheep getting sheared nowadays who once were Mad Men.

Great Persuaders Don’t Need Rich Uncles, Kindness from Strangers, or Third Party Vote Splitters . . . or Technology Monopolies

Behave To Believe

We typically think of persuasion as an inside-out process. You change the way Other Guys think or feel or value or believe and then you get the behavior from Them. However, as we’ve seen, most notably with Dissonance, sometimes the act of doing itself produces huge internal changes in thinking or feeling. And, when properly done, Reinforcement Theory operates similarly. After awhile Other Guys do not need the full When-Do-Get cycle, but instead take the external behavior from punishers and rewards and internalize it into beliefs, attitude, norms, values, and on and on.

As with this very early example.

6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9.

As a persuasion play this is an obvious application of outside to inside change. God calls on people to act and not simply as automatons engaged in a mindless ritual, but to act to change beliefs. And see the subtlety here in the action. God not only tells everyone to act, but also to teach. As we’ve seen in prior secular persuasion plays, getting the Other Guy to teach is a great way to motivate internal change in Them. The act of teaching generates a deep and complicated Conversation in the Head over the things you’re teaching. You will see things from teaching that you would never see while taught.

Now, of course, some people never develop that desired internalization from external action whether with faith or just plain politeness in the world. They only look for the consequence and never the lesson. That’s called volition. You always have the choice to take the obvious or learn the lesson.

P.S. The Old Testament bursts with examples of this external change in sharp contrast to the New Testament. You could call the Old Testament the Book Of Outside-In and the New Testament the Book of Inside-Out.