Friday, July 13, 2012

Are You Mental? Of Course You Are

This week didn't have to have a Friday the 13th in it for me to know it was going to be challenging. Dog sick. Car sick. As early as Tuesday, I knew I was in for it. But while waiting to hear from my dog's vet and my car's mechanic, I came across a couple of interesting items that might have some bearing on social communications, among other things in your small nonprofit world.

Automatic Drive

This piece from the UK based PsyBlog describes how keeping ourselves a little bit in the dark about our progress can help us keep our motivation high. The results of the study mentioned show that everything has its good and bad sides, and cognitive biases are no different. Although biases like the Dunning-Kruger effect and the worse-than-average effect can be problematic, the bias to over or under estimate our progress can help us to maximize our efforts toward our goals. After you've read the article, think about how these biases may be affecting your mission goals.

Predictably Irrational

This book by Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke, was on my list for a while and I finally got around to starting it while hanging about in the vet and mechanic waiting rooms. Ariely is an excellent writer, with a talent for breaking down his experiments and their results into something easily-digestible. And what does he experiment on?

The 'hidden forces that shape our decisions.'

I don't think you'll have to go far to understand how knowing why and how we choose to do one thing over another can affect how you perceive yourself and your stakeholders. Further, I think reading this book may have influence on how you structure projects or experiment with social communications.

For example, in one experiment on procrastination, he and his team discovered that students who are dictated deadlines for papers ended up scoring better than those who set their own deadlines (second-best grades) and those who had no deadlines (worst grades):
"Interestingly, these results suggest that although almost everyone has problems with procrastination, those who recognize and admit their weakness are in a better position to utilize available tools for precommitment and by doing so, help themselves overcome it."
The insights and experiments are extremely well-drawn and Ariely logically extends the results to such societal conundrums as sex-education and healthcare. Well worth reading. Here he is on YouTube:

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