“Intuition is a data-driven process run on a powerful computer with millions of years of experience.”
The psychology of procrastination. Maybe I’ll write about it later…
Thanks to Wesley Crusher for helping me understand why I’m so bad at keeping this blog updated…
It turns out procrastination is not typically a function of laziness, apathy or work ethic as it is often regarded to be. It’s a neurotic self-defense behavior that develops to protect a person’s sense of self-worth.
You see, procrastinators tend to be people who have, for whatever reason, developed to perceive an unusually strong association between their performance and their value as a person. This makes failure or criticism disproportionately painful, which leads naturally to hesitancy when it comes to the prospect of doing anything that reflects their ability — which is pretty much everything.
But in real life, you can’t avoid doing things. We have to earn a living, do our taxes, have difficult conversations sometimes. Human life requires confronting uncertainty and risk, so pressure mounts. Procrastination gives a person a temporary hit of relief from this pressure of “having to do” things, which is a self-rewarding behavior. So it continues and becomes the normal way to respond to these pressures.
Particularly prone to serious procrastination problems are children who grew up with unusually high expectations placed on them. Their older siblings may have been high achievers, leaving big shoes to fill, or their parents may have had neurotic and inhuman expectations of their own, or else they exhibited exceptional talents early on, and thereafter “average” performances were met with concern and suspicion from parents and teachers.
— David Cain, ‘Procrastination Is Not Laziness’
What brands can learn from the psychology of game nostalgia
Over on The Psychology of Video Games blog, Jamie Madigan lays out the case that nostalgia is tied to social connections, which makes gaming much more nostalgic than other media:
If nostalgia is tied so closely to social connections and a sense of community, games have the potential to evoke it more than any other medium, because they are so inherently social and are becoming more so every year. Early games might have been shared experiences on the couch or via playground discussions in much the same way as movies or TV, but the majority of new games coming out this year will feature mechanics or tools that encourage players to share, compete, communicate, help, and socialise. The same can’t be said of music, movies, TV, or other common vessels of nostalgia. It seems that games might someday boost more moods than anything else in history.
To me, this underscores the importance of brands learning how to serve as a node that brings people together in interesting ways, and it think misunderstanding this could be at the root of a lot of failed digital experiences. Of course, bad ideas are bad ideas, no matter how social they are intended to be.
Our Habits Live in our Lizard Brains and our Lizard Brains are Stubborn
Charles Duhigg, a reporter for the New York Times has written a book that I’m looking forward to reading called The Power of Habits: Why We Do What We Do in Life. Harvard Business Review has posted a podcast interview with him, where he gives an overview of what the book is about.
The big idea is that habits are difficult to change because they exist in the lizard part of our brain, where cognitive thinking doesn’t occur. They are animalistic reactions. They feel automatic. Which means that trying to change the way that we think in order to kick or change a habit isn’t likely to work.
Which explains a lot of things, like why I can’t stop eating a bowl of chips and super hot salsa every night after my wife goes to bed.
So how do you go about changing habits?
What he suggests is to look at the cues and the rewards of the habits to be changed.
In his example, he was trying to stop getting a cookie at work everyday in the afternoon. He realized that the cue was the 3 o’clock hour at work, and figured out that the cookie wasn’t the reward. It was the quick break and chance to socialize with coworkers that served as the reward. Once he figured that out, he just started skipping the cookie and instead would just go find people to talk to for 15 minutes at 3.
Once those cues and rewards were identified, it became much easier to try and adjust the unwanted behavior.
People like to believe that they are rational decision makers. They are rationally wrong.
I’ve been teaching courses about planning for a few years now, and the idea that we make decisions emotionally versus rationally tends to be a difficult pill for students to swallow. I get the feeling that this common misunderstanding could be at the heart of most client/agency disagreements about the work. It’s really difficult for people who like to consider themselves or others to be free thinking, rational people, to accept the fact that they are making decisions with their gut before they get a chance to start building t-charts or crunching numbers.
This is where brands live.
Anyways, a publication that I previously only heard about in high school German class, Spiegel, interviewed Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman about the innate weakness of human thought, deceptive memories and the misleading power of intuition. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book about this, but I thought this bit from the Spiegel interview did a better job of explaining how our emotional responses are making decisions long before we start rational thought:
“SPIEGEL: You say in your book that, in such cases, we leave the decisions up to ‘System 1.’
Kahneman: Yes. Psychologists distinguish between a ‘System 1’ and a ‘System 2,’ which control our actions. System 1 represents what we may call intuition. It tirelessly provides us with quick impressions, intentions and feelings. System 2, on the other hand, represents reason, self-control and intelligence.
SPIEGEL: In other words, our conscious self?
Kahneman: Yes. System 2 is the one who believes that it’s making the decisions. But in reality, most of the time, System 1 is acting on its own, without your being aware of it. It’s System 1 that decides whether you like a person, which thoughts or associations come to mind, and what you feel about something. All of this happens automatically. You can’t help it, and yet you often base your decisions on it.
SPIEGEL: And this System 1 never sleeps?
Kahneman: That’s right. System 1 can never be switched off. You can’t stop it from doing its thing. System 2, on the other hand, is lazy and only becomes active when necessary. Slow, deliberate thinking is hard work. It consumes chemical resources in the brain, and people usually don’t like that. It’s accompanied by physical arousal, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, activated sweat glands and dilated pupils…”