A Field Guide to Behavioral Science

Who welcomes change? Basically, nobody – except maybe a baby with a dirty diaper! Behavioral science is an umbrella term that covers the realms of social psychology, behavioral economics, and sociology among other fields. As applied in business or government, behavioral science is often a matter of creating small “nudges” in designing changes to human behavior in hopes of achieving buy-in rather than resistance from those who are wedded to the status quo. Khan and Newman, who co-edited and contributed to this book, are candid about the challenges involved in enacting real change in organizations. Without executive buy-in, and a few quick wins to placate the doubters, the odds of enacting change get pretty long. For more tips, listen in as In this episode focuses on a pair of behavioral science applications relevant to business: running human resources (HR), and promoting innovation.

Released today: episode #102 of my podcast series “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Zarak Khan and Laurel Newman, discussing Building Behavioral Science in an Organization. Click this link to get to the new episode.

Zarak Khan is a Senior Behavioral Researcher at Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight, as well as a Behavioral Science Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and a board member of Action Design Network. Lauren Newman is a behavioral scientist at Edward Jones, and a former psychology professor at Fontbonne University.

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Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc. His latest book, available on Amazon is Blah, Blah, Blah: A Snarky Guide to Office Lingo.

“Palace” Intrigue

Researchers who study chimpanzees have found they will forgo food, if need be, to maintain a clear view of their leader’s face. Survival depends on knowing how your boss is feeling. Is now a good time to seek a favor? Or is it best to hide and stay out of harm’s way? Human beings are genetically 99% the same as chimpanzees, and we behave similarly. For us, too, palace intrigue provides both entertaining gossip and vital survival tips.

Let’s start with the entertainment. Anybody who watched the final night of the Republican National Convention last Thursday was treated to Melania Trump revealing her true feelings about Ivanka Trump. Melania’s forced smile turned to lip-curling scorn and a glassy-eyed stare the moment Donald Trump’s favorite child passed by the First Couple to join them at the podium. A jealous rivalry for the president’s affection and attention underlies the moment. That the Donald finds his daughter attractive enough to have basically lusted after her on an episode of Howard Stern’s radio show is an open secret.

As to survival, we’re all screwed if the Donald has his way. The second photo shows Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director Stephen Hahn apologizing for hyping the benefits of a Covid-19 plasma therapy the day after Trump bullied Hahn into doing so. Hahn’s forehead wrinkles make his concern transparent. Add in other shenanigans like preferring not to test asymptomatic people (to hide the dimensions of the pandemic), and you’ve got a serious case of Trump trying to have the government protect his re-election interests over our health interests as citizens. Welcome to the jungle.

Data Manipulation

$3.3 Trillion Dollars of Greed, Fear & Inertia

Released today: episode #17 of “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” podcast series, featuring Paul Offit, the author of Overkill: When Modern Medicine Goes Too FarListen to the clip below and click on the image to get to the new episode.

Why Do Unnecessary and Often Counter-Productive Medical Interventions Happen So Often? 

Offit is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. A prolific author, he’s also well known for being the public face of the scientific consensus that vaccines have no association with autism.

Topics covered in this episode include:

  • The degree to which opportunities to make money and avoid law suits drives the behavior of doctors, though inertia and unwillingness to accept advances in knowledge are also common explanations for being at times too active in treating patients.
  • How the marketing campaigns of pharmaceutical companies can warp treatment plans.
  • The conclusions from countless studies that in at least the 15 common medical interventions covered in this book, many patients are better off with more basic, common sense approaches like eating well, exercise, et cetera.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.