Weekly Grooves
All Work and No Play

All Work and No Play

July 31, 2020

This week’s topic is inspired by an article by Erik Vance in The New York Times titled, “Where the Wild Things Play”  about how we could learn some of the lessons from the animal world when it comes to play.


We want to explore this through a behavioral science lens and see how important play is – not only for wild animals – but for human animals as well.


Almost all intelligent animals exhibit some sort of play, and this is for adults as well as juveniles. And the first thing we learn is that play is important. Humans enjoy formal play and even imaginary play in our heads. It helps us reduce stress by releasing endorphins and other neurotransmitters, it also provides us with a way to connect and bond with others. 


It's also vital to note that animals tend to play fairly. If you knock someone down, they get to knock you down. This is a key insight for us humans.  In general, we like to play fairly too as seen by how we tend to play the Dictator and Ultimatum games.  People who don’t play fair are not invited back to the playground.


Finally, play is important in building relationships and social skills that help us succeed – not only in work but life in general.  Happiness research points out that happiness tends to be a prerequisite of success and not a result of success.  Those who are happy and playful succeed more than those who are dour and overly serious.  We need to laugh at ourselves a little bit more.


© 2020 Weekly Grooves


“Where the Wild Things Play” by Erik Vance in The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/21/parenting/animal-behavior-play-games.html?smid=li-share


The Surprising Science of Happiness – TED talk – Dan Gilbert: https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_the_surprising_science_of_happiness/transcript


The Neuroscience of Fairness and Injustice – Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201408/the-neuroscience-fairness-and-injustice


“Why Play is Important” – Psychology Today:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beastly-behavior/201705/why-play-is-important


“The Importance of Play for Adults”: https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-importance-of-play-for-adults/


“The happiness advantage: the seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work,” by Shawn Achor.

Icon for podbean
Changes in How We Work

Changes in How We Work

July 26, 2020

This week we explore a recent article published in Harvard Business Review’s “The Big Idea” section titled, “Microsoft analyzed data on its newly remote workforce.” It’s written by Natalie Signer-Velush, Kevin Sherman and Erik Anderson and it compares 4-months of anonymized data from 350-plus Microsoft employees during the pandemic to the same metrics prior to the work-from-home orders.


Kurt and Tim discuss the findings and then try to decipher “why” those changes occurred via the behavioral and psychological inputs and outputs that may have been at play. 


Some of the findings are contrary to what we might think, and of course, it will be interesting to see if any of the new habits/routines continue after the pandemic is done.




“Microsoft analyzed data on its newly remote workforce,” by Natalie Signer-Velush, Kevin Sherman and Erik Anderson: https://hbr.org/2020/07/microsoft-analyzed-data-on-its-newly-remote-workforce

The Surprising Science of Happiness – TED talk – Dan Gilbert: https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_the_surprising_science_of_happiness/transcript

Behavioral Grooves #56: Liz Fosslein: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/liz-fosslien-the-smile-file/

The Hedonic Treadmill (and other biases and heuristics): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XHpBr0VFcaT8wIUpr-9zMIb79dFMgOVFRxIZRybiftI/edit

The 4 Drive Theory: http://blog.lanterngroup.com/tag/4-drive-theory


The Demographic and Psychological Aspects of Mask Wearing

The Demographic and Psychological Aspects of Mask Wearing

July 17, 2020

Megan Brenan, a research consultant at Gallup, published an article on July 13, 2020, about data collected in a recent Gallup Poll. Her article is titled, “Americans’ Face Mask Usage Varies Greatly by Demographics.”  We were intrigued because every demographic breakdown comes with some psychological components.

Facemask use in public helps to stop the spread of coronavirus, according to the latest scientific sources. However, wearing a mask has become politized beyond the facts. Brenan’s article took an in-depth look at the demographic breakdown of usage of masks and we wanted to discuss the potential psychological issues associated with them. 

We thought that there might be some psychological differences among the demographic groups. We wondered why some people are feeling like they don’t have to wear a mask, or that wearing a mask makes some people “sheep,” while others wear a mask without hesitation and can’t understand what might be motiving others to not wear a mask!

We hope you enjoy our discussion and, if you do, please leave us a quick 5-star rating!

© 2020 Weekly Grooves



Americans’ Face Mask Usage Varies Greatly by Demographics: Megan Brenan Gallup: https://news.gallup.com/poll/315590/americans-face-mask-usage-varies-greatly-demographics.aspx?utm_source=join1440&utm_medium=email

The Masks We Wear (and Don’t Wear): Shawn Burns Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/presence-mind/202006/the-masks-we-wear-and-don-t-wear

Confrontation over face masks and the psychology behind why some people resist them: Jessical Flores USA Today:  https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/07/14/across-usa-face-masks-seen-some-lifesavers-others-seen-them-violations/5437469002/

The Masks We Wear (and Don’t Wear): Shawn Burns Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/presence-mind/202006/the-masks-we-wear-and-don-t-wear

Using Diversity to Bring a New Lens to Old Problems

Using Diversity to Bring a New Lens to Old Problems

June 27, 2020

This week, Tim found an article published by the American Economic Association with Harvard professor Mario Small, PhD called “Rethinking racial discrimination: how sociology can help economics diversify its perspective.”

The article explores how – with only 3% of economists identifying as black in a recent AEA survey – economists are lacking a diverse perspective.  Dr. Small argues this inhibits creativity and innovation in the field of economics and is particularly true as it relates to how racial discrimination is studied in economics.

He argues that economics could learn from sociology in the way the field embraces different perspectives and uses each to paint a more accurate and holistic understanding of issues. He points out that there are currently only two main perspectives on discrimination in economics – “taste-based and statistical-discrimination,” neither of which reaches the underlying issues. 

In this episode, Kurt and Tim explore the article with a slightly different lens. We have seen how diversity of race and gender and age and political affiliation can lead to more engaging discussions, improved creativity, more robust innovation, and hence better outcomes, in science, business, and our personal lives.

We hope you enjoy our discussion and please share it with a friend if you found it helpful.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves



Rethinking racial discrimination: https://www.aeaweb.org/research/economics-racial-discrimination-mario-small

HBR: Does Diversity Actually Increase Creativity?: https://hbr.org/2017/06/does-diversity-actually-increase-creativity

Ethnic Diversity and Creativity in Small Groups: McLeod, Lobel & Cox: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1046496496272003

Hidden Brain: Creative Differences: https://www.npr.org/2019/01/24/687707404/creative-differences-the-benefits-of-reaching-out-to-people-unlike-ourselves

Implicit Bias Review: http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/implicit-bias-training/resources/2017-implicit-bias-review.pdf

Diversity and black leadership in corporate America: https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/02/success/diversity-and-black-leadership-in-corporate-america/index.html

Kimberle Crenshaw, JD: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimberl%C3%A9_Williams_Crenshaw

April Seifert, PhD in Episode 24: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/april-seifert-on-digital-exhaust-analysis-and-gender-stereotyping/

Race and Intelligence: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_intelligence

April Seifert, PhD – Episode 24 of Behavioral Grooves: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/april-seifert-on-digital-exhaust-analysis-and-gender-stereotyping/

GI Joe Effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GimHHAID_P0


If You Can Work from Anywhere, Where Will You Live?

If You Can Work from Anywhere, Where Will You Live?

June 19, 2020

We saw an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “When Workers Can Live Anywhere, Many Ask: Why Do I Live Here?” and it got us thinking. Millions of white-collar workers have been displaced from their offices and are being told they are on indefinite work-from-home status. And many of those workers are opting to leave the big cities where the virus has been most aggressive.

In addition to the temporary exodus to more rural settings, some people are leaving big cities to find permanent solace in the countryside.

This got us thinking about how humans are predictably irrational about decisions about their futures. The biases about future happiness go hand in hand with changing where you live.

The article that got us thinking about this was written by Rachel Feintzeig and Ben Eisen. Together, they do a great job of assembling data on the movement during the heart of the crisis and notes that even with a major recession hitting the global economy, many people feel the need to move.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves



“When Workers Can Live Anywhere, Many Ask: Why Do I Live Here?” from the Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2020: https://www.wsj.com/articles/when-workers-can-live-anywhere-many-ask-why-do-i-live-here-11592386201

“Is It Time to Let Employees Work from Anywhere?” by Prithwiraj (Raj) Choudhury , Barbara Z. Larson and Cirrus Foroughi, August 14, 2019 in HBR: https://hbr.org/2019/08/is-it-time-to-let-employees-work-from-anywhere

Remote Work Statistics: Shifting Norms and Expectations from February 2020: https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/remote-work-statistics/#:~:text=Remote%20Work%20Is%20Increasing&text=Over%20the%20last%20five%20years,or%203.4%25%20of%20the%20population.

“U.S. Workers Discovering Affinity for Remote Work,” Gallup Polls, April 3, 2020: https://news.gallup.com/poll/306695/workers-discovering-affinity-remote-work.aspx

Schkade, D. A., & Kahneman, D. (1998). Does Living in California Make People Happy? A Focusing Illusion in Judgments of Life Satisfaction. Psychological Science, 9(5), 340–346. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.00066

“The evolution of decision and experienced utilities” by Robson and Samuelson, Theoretical Economics, September 2011: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.3982/TE800

Dan Buettner: On Quality of Life, “Thrive”: https://www.wbur.org/npr/131571885/how-to-thrive-dan-buettner-s-secrets-of-happiness

Dan Gilbert: On Predicting Future Happiness. https://positivepsychology.com/daniel-gilbert-research/#:~:text=Daniel%20Gilbert%20completed%20his%20Ph,emotional%20state%20in%20the%20future.

George Loewenstein, Ted O’Donoghue & Matthew Rabin on Projection Bias: https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/sds/docs/loewenstein/projectionbias.pdf



How Riot Art Creates Hope

How Riot Art Creates Hope

June 12, 2020

We were pleased when we saw an article this week in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, by Alicia Eler titled, “George Floyd Murals, Graffiti on Boarded-Up Twin Cities Businesses Spread a Message of Pain ⁠— and Hope.”  The author states, “In the wake of last week’s riots, hundreds of artists around the city are transforming boarded-up windows with messages of remembrance, hope, demands for justice, healing community and pride for minority-owned businesses.”

We wanted to explore this idea of graffiti art in situations like the one we’re in right now – not only as a way of expressing emotions but of creating something more meaningful and lasting. And in so doing, we wanted to look at the underlying psychological principles behind how art in public spaces affects us.



Minneapolis Star Tribune, by Alicia Eler: https://www.startribune.com/george-floyd-murals-graffiti-on-boarded-up-twin-cities-businesses-spread-a-message-of-pain-hope/571102672/

Healing Invisible Wounds: Art Therapy and PSTD: https://www.healthline.com/health/art-therapy-for-ptsd#1

Graffiti Psychology: Why Vandals Strike: https://www.cleanlink.com/cp/article/Graffiti-Psychology-Why-Vandals-Strike--1131

Tattooing Buildings: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psychiatric-disorder/201506/tattooing-buidings

Ogilvy “Babies in the Borough” Project: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-19398580

Video of Babies in the Borough: https://www.local.gov.uk/babies-borough-using-behavioural-insights-reduce-anti-social-behaviour

Peyton Scott Russell “Sprayfinger”: http://sprayfinger.com/?author=1


Reflecting on Protests Sparked by the Death of George Floyd in Minneapolis

Reflecting on Protests Sparked by the Death of George Floyd in Minneapolis

June 5, 2020

On May 25, 2020, a white Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by holding him down with a knee on his neck for over 8 minutes. This was done while three other officers either helped in holding down Mr. Floyd down or stood by watching. 

Mr. Floyd’s death is an unimaginable horror as it was not the result of a split-second or hair-trigger decision, but a callous, calculated effort that lasted more than 8 minutes.  

This killing kicked off a week of protests which grew darker as the nights went on.  As many as 81 buildings in Minneapolis have been burned, with 25 of them completely destroyed, and 270 businesses have been vandalized since Mr. Floyd’s death.

This hits home for Tim and Kurt. Tim lives only a few miles from the epicenter but has had people racing down his street, as they were deterred from the closed freeways by roadblocks – some of them threatening his neighbors with harm.  Kurt lives only blocks away from where some of the protests occurred and could smell the smoke and tear gas in the air, hear the chants of protesters, and see the police and national guard units patrolling up and down his street in the middle of the night as they stood watch to protect the neighborhood. The bank and post office that were burned down is where Kurt did his banking and sent his mail from. 

The loss of property in no way compares to the loss of human life – that is, Mr. Floyd’s life – and in no way compares to the hundreds of years of black suppression. These are terrible tragedies on many levels.

We’ve decided to talk about this on this podcast because it is personal for us – we have gone through a range of emotions and we thought that many of you might have been going through the same.  There have been similar incidents of outrage and protests in the past – Eric Garner and Michael Brown are just two that come to mind – but this one seems different.  Maybe it’s different because we live here and it’s so close…but maybe it’s different because it was the last straw that finally tipped the scales…let’s hope so.



Tally of Buildings Damaged in Minneapolis: https://www.startribune.com/these-minneapolis-st-paul-buildings-are-damaged-looted-after-george-floyd-protests/569930671/ 

Kareem Abdul Jabar – People Pushed to the Edge: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-05-30/dont-understand-the-protests-what-youre-seeing-is-people-pushed-to-the-edge

“Psychological Research Explains Why People Protest” Forbes, May 20, 2020. By Nicole Fisher: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicolefisher/2020/05/29/the-psychology-of-protests-reveals-why-americans-are-ready-for-action/#334d1f3bbbb6

White guy with AR-15 vs. Black guy with AR-15 video: https://www.facebook.com/KeithKuder/videos/866107570115697

Reopening Your Business with an Emotional Bootcamp

Reopening Your Business with an Emotional Bootcamp

May 29, 2020

Joseph Grenny penned an article on May 20th in HBR.com called “5 Tips for Safely Reopening Your Office.” It tapped into something we have been thinking about recently: What can be done to help people get back to work…safely?

Grenny’s work adds to a growing library of articles about how companies can reopen by focusing on structural and process components. Many articles speak to the importance of taking people’s temperatures before they enter the building, creating physical distancing cues or structural changes in the office, protocols for what happens if someone does come down with COVID-19, and others. They are all important, but they are not the whole story.

We haven’t seen much of a behavioral science approach to how employees and customers feel about coming back to work. 

This episode considers the emotional issues of returning to work. As our friend, Anurag Vaish at FinalMile says, “Risk is a feeling, not a number.”

© 2020 Weekly Grooves



"5 tips for safely reopening your office space": https://hbr.org/2020/05/5-tips-for-safely-reopening-your-office

A leaders toolkit for reopening: https://sites.google.com/view/reopening-toolkit/home

Emotional Intelligence: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/emotional-intelligence


Suggestions for How To Deal with Quarantine Fatigue

Suggestions for How To Deal with Quarantine Fatigue

May 22, 2020

This week, we saw an op-ed piece in Elemental Medium called, “Quarantine Fatigue is overtaking us. We could have done better.”  It was written by Gabe Zichermann and he outlined a few of the human hardships that have manifested themselves in quarantine. The fatigue factor that accompanies them is real and worthy of exploration. However, thought the author went farther and offered a bit of controversial advice – if we get a do-over – on how we should have handled it. 

Zichermann lays out three contributors to fatigue and makes some recommendations for what should have happened, or as he calls it, a “do-over.”  The three areas are 1) human contact, 2) shame and stigma, and 3) boredom and restlessness. 

Kurt and Tim dive into the piece to discuss the behavioral science behind public shaming, our need for human contact, and how to stimulate creativity through boredom.



Elemental Medium:  “Quarantine Fatigue is overtaking us.  We could have done better.”: 


Forbidden Fruit https://www.independent.org/publications/tir/article.asp?id=335


Losing Your Job Might Cause You to Save More

Losing Your Job Might Cause You to Save More

May 15, 2020

This week, Matt Egan in CNN Business wrote a piece called “Americans create new economic threat with their own savings.” In it, he wrote that credit card debt is declining as American’s are spending less AND are paying down their balances.

This information piled on top of a conversation we had on our other podcast, Behavioral Grooves, with Mariel Beasley, the Director of the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University. She shared current research that lower-to-middle income Americans are saving MORE during the pandemic.

On one hand, that’s totally rational because we don’t know how long the crisis is going to last and we need to save for what will sure to be additional expenses. On the other hand, increasing your savings when you don’t have a job doesn’t make sense.

In this Weekly Grooves, we discuss some of the research literature on scarcity, fear, and the common mistake made by gamblers to place risky bets when their winnings are down. We also discuss the possibility of anticipated regret as a possible explanation for savings behaviors.

We hope you enjoy it and that you’ll share this episode with a friend.

© 2020 Weekly Grooves



Egan, Matt, “Americans create new economic threat with their own savings” CNN, May 12, 2020: https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/12/investing/jobs-coronavirus-consumer-spending-debt/index.html

Carrns, Ann, “How to Build an Emergency Fund in the Middle of an Emergency,” The New York Times, March 20, 2020: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/your-money/coronavirus-emergency-fund.html “Each extra dollar saved” reduces the likelihood of having to skip bill payments, said Mariel Beasley, a co-founder of Common Cents Lab, a financial research group at Duke University.

Kahneman, Daniel, & Tversky, Amos, Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, 47, 263–291, 1979: https://www.uzh.ch/cmsssl/suz/dam/jcr:00000000-64a0-5b1c-0000-00003b7ec704/10.05-kahneman-tversky-79.pdf

Loudenback, Tanza, “The pandemic spurred Americans to finally start saving money, but it's unclear how long the new habit will last,” Business Insider, May 14, 2020:  https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/us-savings-accounts-increase-during-pandemic-emergency-funds-2020-5

Shafir, Eldar, “The Psychology of Scarcity,” American Psychological Association, February 2014:  https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/scarcity

Weber, Bethany & Chapman, Gretchen, “Playing for peanuts: Why is risk-seeking more common for low-stakes gambles?” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Making, 2003: https://tinyurl.com/y884upe7

“Covid-19 Crisis: Mariel Beasley on Increasing Short Term Savings During the Crisis,” Behavioral Grooves, May 13, 2020, episode 146: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/covid-19-crisis-mariel-beasley-on-increasing-short-term-savings-during-the-crisis/

Unemployment Rates in the United States from 1929 to 2019: https://www.thebalance.com/unemployment-rate-by-year-3305506

Behavioral Grooves: https://behavioralgrooves.com/

Kurt Nelson, PhD: @whatmotivates

Tim Houlihan: @THoulihan

Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App