Q. Kev, Why do so many smart people have such bad memories? Are people getting old faster? Dementia?
A. While dementia is a devastatingly real issue, the reason smart people (who don’t have severe mental illness) have, on average, less potent memories, is pretty simple.
Most truly intelligent people are good at getting answers, finding patterns and knowing what results are likely in the future. People who are thinking forward have one disadvantage. They have a harder time remembering what happened today because they “spent a lot of time in 2022.”
Thus when spending your day in creative solutions for problems that are coming you do reduce your memory by some percentage points for the day. The absent minded professor has his mind on hundreds of things that he’s solving and what he wants for lunch or who he talked to on the phone last night aren’t among them.
The more you predict and forecast tomorrow or next month or next year or the next decade, the more you can expect to forget that is happening today.
You might not remember the bulk of your kids baseball game. You may not remember what you read in the newspaper, except the articles that were related to your work in the future.
The hippocampus is an amazingly small part of the brain but it is incredibly valuable to encoding and decoding memory now and also is valuable in predicting the future. It’s just not great doing both in any given short time frame.
In general, people’s memory is fading because it’s not used. You don’t have to remember how to get to the store because google maps tells you where to go and you follow. That’s just fine, just make sure you bring your charged phone with you everywhere, that there is service where you go and then let your brain work on other things while google directs you in traffic.
Of course we now enter one of the biggest reasons the average person is becoming worth less to the world.
You wonder if people’s memory is getting better because of less stress so you google, “does stress reduction improve memory.”
And SURE ENOUGH you find the drop down menu of questions that tell you that yes indeed stress reduction improves memory.
“I knew it!”
You tell me this and I tell you that your sources sucked. Now I make a different suggestion for you. Do this:
“Google, ‘does stress improve memory” and of course you come up with a drop down of questions/answers that show you that stress does improve memory.
Of course it does. It takes emotion to code in memories.
But wait again…. I didnt say STOP when you have the opposite answer, which you WILL see in just a moment.
What’s happening here? Aside from the flawed method people use to find information with google that is valid and reliable they ask garbage questions.
The better question(s) is, “in what circumstances does stress help improve memory and in what circumstances does it block memory?”
Most of the time, emotions improve memory encoding unless the emotions are TOO STRONG which can often close the door on encoding what’s going on around you.
This is how you learn.
To see how well people think, look at how politicians don’t want people with many similar core values, but disagree on one specific item to have power in legislation. In other words, they demand that the people they run a nation with be JUST LIKE THEM. Clones. Cult mentality has it’s advantages but it has far more disadvantages in most of aspects of life. Why? Because when there is no room for growth beyond the dogma; or an evolving world which one cannot master. Instead the political/religious/corporate/educational cult only has beliefs and ideas from a specific moment in time to draw on.
Q. Dr. Hogan, two questions. I read you and I read Dr. Cialdini. You have what appears to be diverging philosophies as to the current state of influence. I have two questions.
A. First, is influence really changing and how?
Second, how can you have over 60 Laws of Persuasion when Cialdini has only 7 Principles?
The landscape of persuasion and influence has shifted and sometimes completely changed in the last couple of decades.
Part of this change comes from the results of lab experiments being generalized to the real world. For example, it was once believed that people could be given incentives (bribed with money for example) to do a better job or sell more, but now we learn that when the incentives were removed the incentivized results remained in some contexts but not others.
Part of this problem comes with how much money the person was given as an incentive. Part of it was simply that the withdraw of the incentive was enough to stop the desired behaviors, increased sales, etc.
One of the big aha’s of research has been that there are a lot of variables that no one thought to measure 25 years ago in a laboratory that could only be measured in real life. And of course real life is where we all live and work, have relationships and raise kids.
A specific example is that fundraising experiments have been popular for 50 years. Asking for donations going from door to door or on the sidewalks of busy streets has been a staple for decades in understanding when people help and when they don’t.
In universities we know that if you ask for donations for a worthy cause you just might get your donation but you might get a lot MORE if you ask for something that is very uncomfortable to the subject first.
In other words, ask for a $50 donation for a group of students and people tend to say no. Immediately after no, or even before no, a $5 donation request from a group of students and more people say yes (generally because the request is for a smaller amount of money).
But then about 20 years ago researchers started asking two step questions to see what impact other requests have on the second request.
“Would you like to volunteer your weekend serving food at the prison (or for example, at the dance).” This generally bring a host of “no” responses but THEN asking for a $5 donations after the request for time, can lead to a slew of donations.
In selling this is called the Door in the Face Technique.
It’s still effective in 2021. Ask for a request that is very undesirable or difficult to commit to and then ask for a donation next.
But then researchers started catching on to what we’ve been talking about for over two decades at kevinhogan.com. EVERYTHING influences and researchers aren’t measuring enough variables so research is NOT getting replicated.
An example here is that if you are part of an experiment asking for donations from people who are walking by on a busy street you will get X number of donations.
Researchers learned early on, again, what we have written about for decades here at kevinhogan.com. People give to women when they won’t give to men.
But that’s still not enough.
Now researchers now know that if children are present on sidewalks when individuals are being asked for donations 2X the donations are given.
And of course there is more.
If people are first asked to sign a petition or do a survey before being asked to donate to the cause the survey or petition is promoting, they will give even MORE money. 2+ times X.
I make a lot of You Tube videos and try to keep them under 10 minutes.
What’s happened since the emergence of You Tube is that people have been trained to watch short videos, a few minutes in length or less. They want you to “get to the point.”
The problem is the point is not something you can get to in 3 minutes in influence. The nuances of getting a sale, getting a donation, getting a date, doesn’t come down to “a line” (generally a tacky phrase or series of words strung together to get the girl to say yes.).
Influence and persuasion have also gone past 2 x 2 matrixes where you combine contrasting variables and see which combinations work best. For example, you could test whether wearing red or blue gets more donation and put that side by side with whether people stand to the right or left of people in the process of making the request. Here you have FOUR total scenarios and ONE will do better than the other three, usually significantly so. But a few years later the study is not replicated!
Because there were more than two variables at work.
It’s very possible that on the day that one combination of variables was tested the researchers had on their Sunday best clothes. (Tie, button down shirt, nice shoes, vs. say jeans a t-shirt and tennis shoes.)
And to mess things up, donations or sales could be asked of people on the street in the rain or a hot and humid day when the next day, testing one of the other four original scenarios, the weather was sunny and mild.
Some researchers could easily be measuring the weather’s impact on fundraising combined with how they are dressed, but what is neglected are the other factors mentioned.
In any case you get results that are incomplete, even though they APPEAR to be impressive because measuring everything is very difficult, but to understand what causes people to be persuasive and others to buy or comply can get very messy very fast.
And you don’t have time in a 3 minute video to “get to the point” which is what millennials are trained to want in 2021.
Lots of people want THE ANSWER now, when there is no “the answer” to give. That means you have to tell stories to explain what is meant by “everything influences” matters.
Even though over half of psychological studies don’t come up with similar results when they are done again by other universities, what is missed is that the first AND second set of results, results that have the opposite findings, may not conflict as much as you might guess.
Sometimes the weather was bad during one experiment and good during another.
Sometimes the mood of the people on the street is different because their favorite sports team won the super bowl the day before, or their favorite political candidate was elected.
And of course sometimes you simply have lousy research designs, unethical researchers simply trying to get published and not find out what the truth about something is.
And as physicists know/have speculated, the OBSERVER often changes the outcome of the results of experiments, simply by being present.
This is really hard for a lot of people to believe, but the fact is people behave very different in the presence of some observers than they do in the presence of other types of observers vs. no observers at all.
Imagine the pastor of your church is going to stop by at the house this week. You’re going to remove some things from the living room. Imagine instead that your best friend is coming over to the house to visit. You weren’t excited about the gift they got you for your birthday but maybe you’ll bring it back into the living room for the visit.
And then there is the influence of honesty vs. appropriateness.
Lots of research revolves around the subject sharing some information with the experimenter.
For example, in 2021, people claim to be environmentally conscientious.
But the fact is that most people who you would expect to be friends of the environment, aren’t as environmentally friendly as they let on in real life.
What happens is that first, people tell you what they want you to hear and even more importantly what they think you WANT to hear.
I call this “self report.”
Anytime I see research which includes measurement of “on a scale of 1 – 7 with 1 being not at all and 7 being “almost always” where would you say you rank on the scale?
A common self report study done each year around the world is “happiness rankings.” And for this completely undefined term, researchers worldwide ask subjects how happy they are.
Then when you go to Denmark or any of the Scandinavian countries that tend to be near the top of the rankings year in and year out, and you talk to people, you find they are no happier than anyone else.
But you do discover that their EXPECTATIONS in life are moderate compared to say someone living in the U.S. where expectations or hopes and desires are often quite high, meaning that results are typically lower compared to hopes and thus people report being less happy but that is a different measurement though social scientists have pushed the happiness button for decades now and countries like Great Britain actually pass legislation to find ways to make their population “happier” again without having a working definition of what happiness is.
With all of these challenges in research you can see why researchers often pad their results with their opinions and even lie about the results and measurements that put the foundation under the results.
Today a lot of research isn’t research. It’s a series of experiments to prove the point of the researcher.
And it’s very easy to fake results and even easier to get bogus measurements to support your idea (your hypothesis).
In the book I’m writing right now, I try to bring you a collection of findings that have been generalized.
And that’s a problem as well. What is true in a society like the United States is often VERY different from what is true in South America. One example: South America has mostly collectivist cultures that literally make Asian countries look like independent, self oriented people until you make the next comparison and see that North America is far more individualized as a culture than Asia, which is indeed on average far more collectivist than South Americans.
That means that people LIVE INSIDE OF DIFFERENT FRAMES and when asked questions their answers mean very different things from country to country.
Ask a Baptist, a Catholic, a Lutheran and a Jew a question of whether they are being righteous in the eyes of God, you’ll possibly get the same WORDS from each person but the BEHAVIORS are very, very different for each of those groups to get the behavioral label.
To succeed in persuading it’s imperative to understand how people make their decisions. And most people do not make their decisions based on biases, heuristics or even the force of the persuader.
They make their decisions based upon their character, their honesty, their self interest, their desire to help their family, their tribe, and all of the contextual cues we’ve talked about in this chapter, and hundreds more.
Certainly you must master heuristics and biases, know what expendable income people have, what their faith is, what tribes they belong to. You must understand WHO is in their rolodex of the mind and how to appeal to ALL of them. And more.
And then you must be able to appeal to the contexts, the frames.
And do it ethically, with integrity with the other person’s best interests in mind so you will develop friends and loves for life.
Next up: Nested Loops, Humans as Completion Creatures