Weekly Grooves
Manipulated Media – Do Labels Matter?

Manipulated Media – Do Labels Matter?

March 13, 2020

This week, Twitter created a new policy and applied it to an edited video of Joe Biden that a White House official posted, and of course, President Trump retweeted.  The material was not original – it had been tampered with. The video triggered Twitter to create a new policy banning the use of synthetic or manipulated media. In other words, videos that were not original would be in violation.

Twitter has faced push-back from activists citing First Amendment rights and the difficulty in identifying what is “fake” versus what isn’t. Their policy reads:

“You may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm. In addition, we may label Tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media to help people understand their authenticity and to provide additional context.”

The criteria Twitter laid out include: 1. Is the content synthetic or manipulated?  2. Is the content shared in a deceptive manner?  3. Is the content likely to impact public safety or cause serious harm?

 The best form of punishment for creating deceptive messaging, however, is not retweeting in disgust, but silence. According to former Twitter employee Nathan Hubbard, “Hot Twitter tip from someone who worked there: every time you retweet or quote tweet someone you’re angry with, it *helps* them. It disseminates their B.S.! Hell for the ideas you deplore is silence. Have the discipline to give it to them.”

We hope you enjoy our discussion of the behavioral science implications of Twitter's new policy.


© 2020 Weekly Grooves

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan

Kurt Nelson, PhD: @WhatMotivates



Twitter Synthetic and Manipulated Media policy: https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/manipulated-media

Politico – Biden video first manipulated media label: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/08/manipulated-media-twitter-biden-video-124116?cid=apn

“Misinformation and Its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing” by Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich K. H. Ecker, Colleen M. Seifert, Norbert Schwarz, and John Cook: http://www.emc-lab.org/uploads/1/1/3/6/113627673/lewandowskyecker.2012.pspi.pdf

“Stopping the spread of fake news with behavioral sciences” by IE University: https://drivinginnovation.ie.edu/stopping-the-spread-of-fake-news-with-behavioral-sciences/

“Fighting Fake News and Post-Truth Politics with Behavioral Science: The Pro-Truth Pledge” by Gleb Tsipursky and Fabio Votta: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3138238

“Sources of the Continued Influence Effect: When Misinformation in Memory Affects Later Inferences” by Hollyn M. Johnson and Colleen M. Seifert: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232501255_Sources_of_the_Continued_Influence_Effect_When_Misinformation_in_Memory_Affects_Later_Inferences

Common Biases and Heuristics: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XHpBr0VFcaT8wIUpr-9zMIb79dFMgOVFRxIZRybiftI/edit#

Behavioral Grooves: https://behavioralgrooves.com/

Hacking the Coronavirus and Covid-19

Hacking the Coronavirus and Covid-19

March 10, 2020

Coronavirus and the disease it’s created – Covid-19 – is alive and well and getting stronger every day. How bad is it? It’s difficult to say with any certainty in part because it’s constantly changing and it’s very complex. However, when presented with ambiguous information, our minds draw conclusions based on our biases and the decision-making heuristics our ancient brains rely on.

In this episode, Kurt and Tim discuss an article by friend and leading behavioral scientist, Michael Hallsworth, PhD. Michael leads the North American Behavioural Insights Team and knows a thing or two about behavior change.

In this article, Michael talks about what behavioral science hacks can be applied to reduce the spread of the virus and, hence, Covid-19.



“Handwashing can stop a virus – so why don’t we do it?” by Michael Hallsworth, PhD: https://behavioralscientist.org/handwashing-can-stop-a-virus-so-why-dont-we-do-it-coronavirus-covid-19/ 

Effective Hand Washing: https://tinyurl.com/to4gpsw

Doctors Hand Hygiene plummets unless they know they are being watched: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/doctors-hand-hygiene-plummets-watched-study-finds/story?id=39737505

The long history of the hand-washing gender gap: https://slate.com/technology/2020/02/women-hand-washing-more-than-men-why-coronavirus.html

“Experimental Pretesting of Hand-washing interventions in a natural setting,” by Gaby Judah, PhD, et al.: https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdfplus/10.2105/AJPH.2009.164160

“Risk and Morality: Three Framing Devices,” by John Adams, PhD: https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

When-Then Statements: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/for-educators/teaching-strategies/behavior-strategy-when-then

Temptation Bundling: https://jamesclear.com/temptation-bundling

Donation Burnout

Donation Burnout

March 9, 2020

You’re probably familiar with the dreaded Membership Drive from non-profit organizations around the world. Whichever season it is, there seems to be a membership drive going on. In Minneapolis, where we live, the Winter Membership Drive from National Public Radio has been going on and it’s driving us crazy.

In this episode of Weekly Grooves, we explore the irritation that donors have for being asked to give more and more frequently. And not only membership and donation drives, but why we get burned out on charitable giving across the board.  

It’s not that we don’t love these non-profits. In fact, we do love them. But persistent requests for increases in donations and the frequency with which we’re being asked is fatiguing. We understand the psychology of charitable giving, altruism and persuasion, and we can say that the creative work done by many pro-social agencies is excellent. The trouble is that, as donors, we are tired of it!

Listen to this episode to peek into the behavioral science behind why donors don’t enjoy being asked repeatably to give and give more. And, we offer a few tips on what you can do about it.



Charity Burnout: https://www.energizeinc.com/hot-topics/2005/december

Psychology Today:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201305/7-ways-get-out-guilt-trips

All Biases and Heuristics: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XHpBr0VFcaT8wIUpr-9zMIb79dFMgOVFRxIZRybiftI/edit#

Nonprofit Donor Burnout:  https://www.nonprofitexpert.com/nonprofit-questions-answers/nonprofit-donor-burnout/

How to survive a public radio membership drive: https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-to-survive-a-public-radio-membership-drive

“6 Ways Fundraisers Turn Off Donors” in Small Business: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/why-donors-dont-give-2502028

National Do Not Solicit Registry (for the United States):  https://www.donotcall.gov/index.html


Garbage Language & Corporate Double Talk: The Downside..and Upside?

Garbage Language & Corporate Double Talk: The Downside..and Upside?

February 28, 2020

Corporate speak. Garbage language. Double talk. Acronyms. We are fed up with language that lacks clarity and is intended to obfuscate. We were instantly happy when we saw an article in Vulture by Molly Young that got us thinking: among all the detestable aspects of this double talk, is it possible there’s an upside, too?

In this episode of Weekly Grooves, we explore some of the psychological benefits and attenuations caused by what is often referred to as Garbage Language. In just a few short minutes, we run through some of our most irritating examples of this unnecessary jargon.

Just so you know…consider these:

“Can you parallel path this?” ...Do you want me to work on two things at the same time or deliver an alternative?

“It’s a blue ocean project…” ...Are you trying to let me know that this has vast opportunity to grow or that we’re starting from scratch?

“We should be able to deliver this for single digits…” ...Why not just say that we expect to come in under $10 million?

“We’ll need to do a deep dive on that…” ...Are you indicating we need more analysis?

“We’ll need more bandwidth to get that done…” ...What are you asking for? Do you want more or different people with the same or different skill sets to help get this done?

“We need to get aligned on this before we move forward…” ...Are you indicating that every person on the team must agree 100% with the recommendations or just most of us before we get started?

“What’s your takeaway from this?” ...Are you asking what I’m learning from our discussion or are there specific items that require action that you want me to follow up on?

© 2020 Weekly Grooves



“Why Do Corporations Speak The Way They Do?” by Molly Young in Vulture: https://www.vulture.com/2020/02/spread-of-corporate-speak.html

WeWork Filing with SEC: https://www.businessinsider.com/wework-reportedly-draws-scrutiny-from-sec-2019-11

Cristina Biccieri, PhD: https://philosophy.sas.upenn.edu/people/cristina-bicchieri

Lila Gleitman, PhD: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lila_R._Gleitman

Reclining Airline Seats – Whose Space Is It Anyway?

Reclining Airline Seats – Whose Space Is It Anyway?

February 22, 2020

How do you deal with someone reclining their airline seat while you’re trying to read? And how do you deal with someone behind you who doesn’t want you to decline your seat?  This very small encounter can create heated exchanges, as seen in the video links below.

The resolution could be very simple when viewed through a behavioral lens. The first question is about ownership: who owns the space – the person wanting to recline or the person wanting to read?

In this week’s episode, we apply the behavioral lens to a situation that need not be so difficult if the drink and snack cart is handy.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves


The video that sparked the conversation: https://www.today.com/video/viral-video-shows-airline-passenger-punching-woman-s-reclined-seat-78666309643

The Endowment Effect and other biases: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XHpBr0VFcaT8wIUpr-9zMIb79dFMgOVFRxIZRybiftI/edit#

How to Resolve Seat Disputes: Use Behavioral Economics. https://evonomics.com/resolve-fights-reclining-airplane-seats-use-behavioral-economics/

41% of Fliers Think You’re Rude: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/airplane-etiquette-recline-seat/

Don’t Want Me to Recline My Airline Seat? You Can Pay Me: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/28/upshot/dont-want-me-to-recline-my-airline-seat-you-can-pay-me.html

The Knee Defender: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knee_Defender

Tale of Two Markets: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.00757.x

Coase Theory: https://www.intelligenteconomist.com/the-coase-theorem/

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan

Kurt Nelson, PhD: @WhatMotivates

How Do We Deal with Disinformation?

How Do We Deal with Disinformation?

February 14, 2020

We saw an article in The Atlantic that caught our attention because of its hook into behavioral science: our willingness to believe disinformation. In this week’s episode, we talk about the underlying behavioral science into why we humans are so susceptible to information that is not accurate.

What can we do? We can use the OODA loop to interrupt our too-quick decision to simply accept suspicious content: Observe – Orient – Decide – Act. The OODA loop, in a very simplistic manner, uses these four elements in this way: to take in and observe the context in which you’re seeing this information; orient yourself with the source in a critical way; make a decision by asking, “if this is from someone I might not trust, would I still believe it?”; and take action by deleting content created to DIS-inform you.  

And since our podcast is relatively new, we are very interested in knowing how you think we’re doing. Please leave us a review or drop us a line. @THoulihan or @WhatMotivates

© 2020 Weekly Grooves



“The Billion Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President,” by McKay Coppins in The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/03/the-2020-disinformation-war/605530/

Disinformation: “False information, which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media.”

Misinformation: “False or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.”

Conspiracy Theory: “A belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for a circumstance or event.”

The Donation of Constantine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donation_of_Constantine

The National Enquirer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Enquirer

The Daily Mail: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Mail

The Messenger Effect: https://www.nber.org/papers/w25632.pdf

OODA Loop: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OODA_loop

Leveraging the OODA Loop with Digital Analytics to Counter Disinformation, by Jami Carroll (2019): https://search.proquest.com/openview/0a78c42e27ef89dab1bd4969bd6d0974/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=396497

Viktor Frankl: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Frankl

FactCheck.org: https://www.factcheck.org/

Snopes: https://www.snopes.com/about-snopes/

Gallup Polls Believing in the Media: https://news.gallup.com/poll/267047/americans-trust-mass-media-edges-down.aspx

Iowa Caucus Conspiracy Theories – How to Inoculate Yourself

Iowa Caucus Conspiracy Theories – How to Inoculate Yourself

February 7, 2020

Listeners, especially in the United States, are already aware of the debacle from the Iowa Caucuses and how the Iowa Democratic party used a new app to help streamline the caucus results. You’re probably also aware that the processes and technologies failed, and results were not available for days afterward.

The delay has caused a plethora of online conspiracy theories and that’s our topic for this week. In the absence of good data, we make it up.

Some of the richest conspiracy theories Kurt and Tim found include: 1.) The Democratic party didn’t like the results that they were seeing, so they were changing them. 2.) The Russians or the Chinese had hacked the app and were messing with us. 3.) The Republicans had hacked the app and were trying to rig the election. 4.) Hillary Clinton had helped build the app and was using it to get back at Sanders. And our all-time favorite conspiracy theory (5.) involves the Illuminati and how they were controlling the outcome. 

With all this swirling around, Kurt and Tim discuss why it’s humans to engage in conspiracy theories and some of their psychological underpinnings, the personality types that are most prone to believing a conspiracy theory, and what we can do to inoculate ourselves from this sort of thinking.

We are reason-seeking machines and are more likely to ask “why” before we fully understand “what” happened.

Join us for a quick review of why we experience conspiracy theories in the first place and what we can do about them.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves

Kurt Nelson, PhD: @WhatMotivates

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan


Online conspiracy theories flourish after Iowa caucus fiasco:  https://apnews.com/8ae0e5172130f81265172fbd3e65094a

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories, 2017, Douglas, Sutton and Cichocka:  https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0963721417718261

The psychology of conspiracy theories: Why do people believe them, John Grohol PsyD: https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-psychology-of-conspiracy-theories-why-do-people-believe-them/

Closed Belief System: https://issuepedia.org/Closed_belief_system

Conspiracy theories: the science behind belief in secret plots, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2013/sep/05/conspiracy-theories-science-belief-secret-plots

Fundamental Attribution Error: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error

Hanlon’s Razor: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon%27s_razor

Illuminati: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20170809-the-accidental-invention-of-the-illuminati-conspiracy

Lantian, A., Muller, D., Nurra, C., Douglas, K. (2017). “‘I know things they don’t know!’: The role of need for uniqueness in belief in conspiracy theories,” Social Psychology, 48, 160-173

Mercier, H. & Sperber, D., “Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory” BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES (2011) 34, 57–111 doi:10.1017/S0140525X10000968

Motivated Reasoning: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivated_reasoning

Oliver, Eric on “Big Brains” Episode 25: https://news.uchicago.edu/podcasts/big-brains/science-conspiracy-theories-and-political-polarization-eric-oliver

Pareidolia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia

Pattern Recognition: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pattern_recognition_(psychology)

Pattern Recognition: The Science Behind Conspiracy Theories, Steven Novella: https://www.thegreatcoursesdaily.com/why-do-we-give-into-conspiracy-thinking/

Project Mogul: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Mogul

Resulting (Annie Duke): https://www.annieduke.com/how-to-make-the-right-decisions-even-when-you-dont-have-all-the-facts/

The Iowa Caucuses - Do They Matter?

The Iowa Caucuses - Do They Matter?

January 31, 2020

Weekly Grooves is the podcast where we explore topical issues through the lens of behavioral science. Tim Houlihan and Kurt Nelson, PhD have worked in the world of behavioral interventions for more than 20 years and we each run our own consultancies. In Weekly Grooves, we view the headlines through the lenses of behavioral science.

The Iowa caucuses are on February 3, 2020, and the media is abuzz with who will win Iowa and take the “front runner lead” for the Democrats. So while we’re interested in the politics of this, we’re actually more interested in the psychology of being the “front runner” and what that entails.

There are a number of behavioral factors that make the front-runner a great position:  The Bandwagon Effect – people want to be part of the winning team. The Availability Bias where the front runner gets more media exposure, making them more immediate in memory. The Mere Exposure Effect is how we tend to develop a preference for things merely because we are familiar with them. The Hot Hand Fallacy could also positively impact the person who wins – or even who beats expectations.  But being the front runner does not always lead to victory. In this episode, we’ll discuss how these play a role in our behaviors.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves

Kurt Nelson, PhD: @whatmotivates

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan


All Biases and Heuristics: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XHpBr0VFcaT8wIUpr-9zMIb79dFMgOVFRxIZRybiftI/edit#

Importance of being inspiring: http://www.leadershipchallenge.com/resource/inspire-a-shared-vision-how-important-is-inspiring.aspx

How Will We Remember Kobe Bryant

How Will We Remember Kobe Bryant

January 31, 2020

Weekly Grooves is the podcast where we explore topical issues through the lens of behavioral science. Tim Houlihan and Kurt Nelson, PhD have worked in the world of behavioral interventions for more than 20 years and we each run our own consultancies. In Weekly Grooves, we view the headlines through the lenses of behavioral science.

This week, we were struck by the way people were talking about Kobe Bryant after his sudden death in a helicopter crash in which he and eight other people perished, including his 13-year old daughter, Gianna. Kobe was only 41 years old.

And while his life is abundant with great accomplishments, both on and off the basketball court, he spent some time in the headlines for not-so-nice things. And what Kurt and I want to look at today is how we remember them after they’ve died or how we think of people as they grow old.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves

Kurt Nelson, PhD: @whatmotivates

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan


Kobe Bryant Achievements: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_career_achievements_by_Kobe_Bryant

Kobe Bryant Sexual Assault Case: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kobe_Bryant_sexual_assault_case

Human Memory, a book by Gabriel A. Radvansky. Third edition published in 2016. https://books.google.com/books/about/Human_Memory.html?id=AjglDwAAQBAJ

“Chapter 17 - The Amygdala and Emotional Arousal Effects on Object Recognition Memory” by Benno Roozendaal, Areg Barsegyan, Yanfen Chen. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128120125000173

 “Praise is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall,” by Alina Tugend, The New York Times, March 23, 2012. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your-money/why-people-remember-negative-events-more-than-positive-ones.html


How To Keep Your Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

How To Keep Your Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

January 31, 2020

This is Weekly Grooves' inaugural episode where we explore topical issues through the lens of behavioral science. Tim Houlihan and Kurt Nelson, PhD have worked in the world of behavioral interventions for more than 20 years and we each run our own consultancies. In Weekly Grooves, we view the headlines through the lenses of behavioral science.

We are not good at keeping resolutions. January 17th is the Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day – the day that it is attributed with having the most people abandoned their New Year’s resolutions. It is often a day of celebration, and among some people, it’s even considered a holiday. But according to a study conducted by US clinical psychologist Joseph Luciani, PhD, around 80 percent fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

What can be done? We have some ideas and we urge you to get re-engaged in your resolutions with tips in our super-fast episode on habits.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves

Kurt Nelson: @whatmotivates

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan


“A theory of goal setting & task performance.” Locke & Latham: https://tinyurl.com/trx5tg4

“Goal commitment and the goal-setting process: Problems, prospects, and proposals for future research.” John Hollenbeck, Howard Klein: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1987-26774-001

“Immediate Rewards Predict Adherence to Long-Term Goals” Kaitlin Woolley, Ayelet Fishbach: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167216676480?journalCode=pspc

“Wishful Seeing: More Desired Objects Are Seen as Closer” Emily Balcetis and David Dunning: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797609356283

“Executive function and the frontal lobes: a meta-analytic review.” Julie Alvarez, Eugene Emory: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16794878

“Writing Down Goals: Does It Actually Improve Performance?” Robert Weinberg, Deanna Morrison, Megan Loftin, Thelma Horn, Elizabeth Goodwin, Emily Wright, and Carly Block: https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/tsp/33/1/article-p35.xml

Benjamin Gardner, PhD: https://www.nirandfar.com/goal-setting-hack/

Bryan, Gharad, Dean Karlan, and Scott Nelson. "Commitment Devices." Annual Review of Economics 2.1 (2010): 671-98. https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.economics.102308.124324