Robbers Cave Experiment — PsyBlog

http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/09/war-peace-and-role-of-power-in-sherifs.php

 

Sherif’s Robbers Cave experiment, a classic study of prejudice and conflict, has at least one hidden story.

The typical retelling of Sherif’s classic Robbers Cave experiment highlights the resolution of intergroup prejudice, but recent interpretations suggest a darker conclusion that demonstrates the corrupting influence of power.

The Robbers Cave experiment, a classic study of prejudice and conflict, has at least one hidden story. The well-known story emerged in the decades following the experiment as textbook writers adopted a particular retelling. With repetition people soon accepted this story as reality, forgetting it is just one version of events, one interpretation of a complex series of studies. As scholars have returned to the Robbers Cave experiment another story has emerged, putting a whole new perspective on the findings.

First though, the more familiar story…

Conflict and prejudice

In this experiment twenty-two 11 year-old boys were taken to a summer camp in Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma, little knowing they were the subjects of an experiment. Before the trip the boys were randomly divided into two groups. It’s these two groups that formed the basis of Sherif’s study of how prejudice and conflict build up between two groups of people (Sherif et al., 1961).

When the boys arrived, they were housed in separate cabins and, for the first week, did not know about the existence of the other group. They spent this time bonding with each other while swimming and hiking. Both groups chose a name which they had stencilled on their shirts and flags: one group was the Eagles and the other the Rattlers.

Name calling

The two groups now established, the experiment moved into its second phase. For the first time the two groups were allowed to find out about each other and soon the signs of intergroup conflict emerged in the form of verbal abuse.

A little name-calling wasn’t enough, though. The experimenters wanted to increase the conflict substantially. To do this they pitted the groups against each other in a series of competitions. This ratcheted up the antagonism between the two groups, especially once all the team scores were added up and the Rattlers won the overall trophy for the competitive activities. They didn’t let the Eagles forget it.

The Rattlers staked their claim to the ball field by planting their flag in it. Later on each group started name calling at the other and singing derogatory songs. Soon the groups were refusing to eat in the same room together.

Making peace

With conflict between the groups successfully instigated, the experiment now moved into its final phase. Could the experimenters make the two groups kiss and make up? First of all they tried some activities in which the two groups were brought together, such as watching a film and shooting firecrackers, but neither of these worked.

The experimenters then tried a new approach. They took the two groups to a new location and gave them a series of problems to try and solve. In the first problem the boys were told the drinking water supply had been attacked by vandals. After the two groups successfully worked together to unblock a faucet, the first seeds of peace were sown.

In the second problem the two groups had to club together to pay for the movie they wanted to watch. Both groups also agreed on which movie they should watch. By the evening the members of both groups were once again eating together.

The groups ‘accidentally’ came across more problems over the next few days. The key thing about each of them was that they involved superordinate goals: boys from both groups worked together to achieve something they all had an interest in. Finally all the boys decided to travel home together in the same bus. Peace had broken out all over.

Sherif reached an important conclusion from this study, and other similar work carried out in the 1940s and 50s. He argued that groups naturally develop their own cultures, status structures and boundaries. Think of each of these groups of boys as like a country in microcosm. Each country has its own culture, its government, legal system and it draws boundaries to differentiate itself from neighbouring countries. From these internal structures, the roots of conflict in both the groups of boys and between countries are created.

One of the reasons Sherif’s study is so famous is that it appeared to show how groups could be reconciled, how peace could flourish. The key was the focus on superordinate goals, those stretching beyond the boundaries of the group itself. It seemed that this was what brought the Rattlers and the Eagles back together.

The other story

What is often left out of the familiar story is that it was not the first of its type, but actually the third in a series carried out by Sherif and colleagues. The two earlier studies had rather less happy endings. In the first, the boys ganged up on a common enemy and in the second they ganged up on the experimenters themselves. How does this alter the way we look at the original Robbers Cave experiment?

Michael Billig argues that when looking at all three studies, Sherif’s work involves not just two groups but three, the experimenters are part of the system as well (Billig, 1976). In fact, with the experimenters included, it is clear they are actually the most powerful group. Much of the conflict between the two groups of boys is orchestrated by the experimenters. The experimenters have a vested interest in creating conflict between the two groups of boys. It was they who had the most to lose if the experiment went wrong, and the most to gain if it went right.

Power relations

The three experiments, then, one with a ‘happy’ ending, and two less so, can be seen in terms of the possible outcomes when a powerful group tries to manipulate two weaker groups. Sometimes they can be made to play fair (experiment three), sometimes the groups will unite against a common enemy (experiment one) and sometimes they will turn on the powerful group (experiment two).

For psychologist Frances Cherry it is the second experiment which makes this analysis plausible. When the boys rebel against the experimenters, they showed understanding of how they were being manipulated (Cherry, 1995). Although the Robbers Cave experiment is, in some sense, the ‘successful’ study, taken together with the other two it is more realistic. In reality, Cherry argues, it is more often the case that groups hold unequal amounts of power.

Weak groups can rebel

Unequal levels of power between groups fundamentally changes the dynamic between them. Whether it’s countries, corporations, or just families, if one group has more power, suddenly the way is open for orchestrated competitions and cooperation, not to mention manipulation. Manipulating other groups, though, is a dangerous game, and weaker groups don’t always play by the rules set for them. Perhaps this is the more subtle, if less enduring message of the Robbers Cave experiment and its supposedly less successful predecessors.

 

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The Sobering Up Effect: Why People Get More Pessimistic As The Moment of Truth Gets Closer — PsyBlog

http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/07/the-sobering-up-effect-why-people-get-more-pessimistic-as-the-moment-of-truth-gets-closer.php

 

When the chips are about to fall, mentally we brace ourselves.
What do you feel right at the start of a long-term project that you’re involved with—whether at work, school or home?

Enthusiasm? Energy? Optimism?

Then as the deadline/big day/launch/test/whatever-it-is approaches, the shine starts to come off, doesn’t it?

Happy, open-hearted optimism about how it’ll turn out tends to give way to pessimism, cynicism and downright despair.

If you’ve experienced something like this then you’re not alone. This emotional slide or ‘sobering up effect’ has been documented in all kinds of areas (studies mentioned in Sweeny & Krizan, 2012):

Results of medical tests: people who took a medical test were more optimistic when the results were four weeks away than a few minutes away.
Performance in an exam: people think their exam marks will be higher when asked one month before the results compared with 50 minutes before getting their grades.
Driving test expectations: people are more pessimistic about their own driving skills when told they have to take a test to prove it right away.
Corporate earnings forecasts: when analysts predict how much money a company is going to make, they become less optimistic the closer the release of the actual results.
And it turns out that the more important the outcome is to us, the stronger the sobering up effect.

So, how come people dampen down their expectations and optimism about an outcome as the moment of truth approaches? According to Sweeny and Krizan, there are four main reasons:

Controlling the emotions: people manage how they will feel about an outcome by changing their expectations. It feels better if the outcome exceeds your expectations. An ‘A’ grade is more enjoyable if you expected a ‘C’ than if you knew it was going to be an ‘A’. The same is true of disappointing results.
It’s out of my hands: once the test is taken or project completed; control over the outcome is gone. Although people have no control over the outcome, they can still control their own expectations of the outcome. Managing personal expectations is another way of exerting control over the situation.
From abstract to concrete thinking: when outcomes are way off in the future, people tend to think more abstractly and, therefore, more optimistically about them. When they are closer, they see all the things that could go wrong, and then they get more pessimistic.
Now we’re accountable: as the outcome approaches, people worry that their predictions might be too optimistic. It seems better to be cautious to avoid looking foolish.
While many people are hardened optimists—indeed humans as a species show a bias towards being optimistic—as the moment of truth approaches, most of us become pessimists.

That’s because, as Thomas Hardy put it:

“Pessimism is, in brief, playing the sure game. You cannot lose at it; you may gain. It is the only view of life in which you can never be disappointed. Having reckoned what to do in the worst possible circumstances, when better arise, as they may, life becomes child’s play.”

via The Sobering Up Effect: Why People Get More Pessimistic As The Moment of Truth Gets Closer — PsyBlog.

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10 Easy Activities Science Has Proven Will Make You Happier Today — PsyBlog

http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/07/10-easy-activities-science-has-proven-will-make-you-happier-today.php

A thankful message, spending on others, listening to music, happy daydreams and more…
Science can make you happier. Do at least some of these activities today and feel the positive vibrations flow. Keep it going for a week or longer and feel your mood lift.

1. Mentally subtract something good from your life

People spend a lot of time thinking about good things that didn’t happen, but might have done. But what about the good things that did happen that might not have?

Say you’d never met your partner or friend or got that job? What would life be like without some of those things we take for granted?

Thinking about what might not have been can be tremendously powerful if used in the right way. Counter-factual thinking can create meaning in life and, and can increase satisfaction with what you have (Koo et al., 2008).

So, mentally subtract something good from your life to really appreciate it.

2. Send a thankful message

Gratitude is a powerful emotion that helps us enjoy what we have.

Evoke it right now by sending an email, text or letter to someone who has helped you in some way. Thank them for what they have done for you, however small.

It’s easy and quick and one study has found that practising gratitude can increase happiness 25%. Another found that just three letters over a three-week period was enough to reliably increase happiness and life satisfaction (Toepfer et al., 2012).

3. Spend money on someone else

Money can make you happy but only if you use it in the right way (see: how to spend wisely).

One of the easiest ways is by spending it on others. So, why does spending on others increase your happiness?

“It’s partly because giving to others makes us feel good about ourselves. It helps promote a view of ourselves as responsible and giving people, which in turn makes us feel happy. It’s also partly because spending money on others helps cement our social relationships. And people with stronger social ties are generally happier.”

So, buy a friend a present today or take them out to lunch. You’ll feel good about it, I promise.

4. Get some exercise

What’s the number one strategy that people use to feel better, increase their energy levels and reduce tension? Exercise.

It doesn’t have to be a marathon; a simple walk around the block will do the trick. We all know it’ll make us feel better to get out and stretch our legs, but there are always excuses to avoid it.

If you’re at home, make time for a trip that doesn’t involve the car and does involve your legs. If you’re in the office, make sure you get out for a walk at lunch-time instead of eating sandwiches in front of the computer.

5. Listen to music

Number two on the list of all time top strategies people use for feeling better is: listening to music.

Music can influence mood in many ways but most people rate its power to manage our positive moods as the top reason they love music. We particularly like the fact that it can make our good moods even better.

Even sad music can bring pleasure as many people enjoy the contradictory mix of emotions it creates.

6. Make plans…

Remember those childhood days leading up to Christmas when you couldn’t wait to rip open your presents? The pleasure in anticipation was just incredible.

Research on the psychology of happiness shows that anticipation can be a powerful positive emotion. We enjoy looking forward to things much more than we enjoy looking back on them afterwards (Van Boven & Ashworth, 2007).

So, make a plan now and try to always have something to look forward to, however small.

7. …with friends

The best types of plans to make are with friends.

It’s not just that you’ll have the pleasure of anticipation; it’s also that you’re keeping the friendship alive.

One study of 8 million phone calls has found, not exactly surprisingly, that when people call each other back, their friendships are much more likely to survive (Hidalgo & Rogriguez-Sickert, 2007).

If an economic incentive might help motivate you to make plans with friends, then here is one from research that attempted to put a monetary value on different types of social relationships (Powdthavee, 2008):

“…a move from “seeing friends or relatives less than once a month” to “seeing friends or relatives on most days” is now estimated to be worth an extra £85,000 a year for a representative individual”

In other words: you’d have to earn £85,000 ($130,000) more a year to make you as happy as if you saw friends or relatives on most days of the week.

So, not only is staying in touch with friends good, but it’ll save you a lot of effort trying to earn more money at work.

8. List 3 good things that happened today

At the end of the day, before you go to bed, spend a few minutes thinking about three good things that happened today. They don’t have to be that amazing; just three things that made you feel a little better. You can also think about why they happened.

In one study in which people carried out this exercise, their happiness was increased, and depressive symptoms decreased, fully six months afterwards (Seligman et al., 2005).

If you’ve done some of the things mentioned here, then you’ll already have at least three things for your list.

9. Practice your signature strengths

Simply put this means doing things you are good at. Whatever it is, people are usually cheered up when they do things at which they excel.

Think about things that you are good at: it could be social skills, physical skills, sporting skills or anything really. It could be making someone laugh or giving someone a helping hand.

Then take some time during the day to use that skill. When people practice their signature strengths it makes them happier.

10. A happy daydream

If you’re less of a doer and more of a dreamer, then this activity is for you: have a happy daydream.

Over the course of the day our minds tend to wander a lot, but directing that mind-wandering in a positive way can be very beneficial.

In this research on life-savouring strategies, positive mental time travel was found to be one of the most effective. In the study people thought back to times in their lives that gave them pleasure; moments filled with success, love and friendship.

The mind may try to fight back by travelling back to past embarrassments or failures, but keep it locked into a happy daydream for the best boost.

Go on, sit back and have a little daydream…

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Passwords

Constant bane of our computing life, but here are some resources:

Update (25 June 2017): Comparitech added.

A little commentary …

Security of a password when it comes to brute force hacking of passwords depends very much on the number of characters used in the password, since the number of combinations to be tried increases exponentially (well, not precisely exponentially in pure mathematical terms, but you know what I mean from a layman’s perspective. The maths would bore you) as more characters are added.

The common rules applied to make a password 8 characters (or at least more than 6) with at least one upper case, one digit and one special character are well and good, but really are not super-effective against a concerted hack, especially if one uses a “standard” type of password. What do I mean by a “standard” type of password? Well, in many instances, people use a word, with a capital as the first letter, then a special character (sometimes optional) then 1 or 2 digits at the end. The whole string is only 8 to 10 characters in length maximum. Knowing this type of behaviour, a hacker will apply some heuristics in their crack-search, to vastly reduce the amount of time to crack the password.

Thus, the first site above suggests that a 6 character only password with 1 capital letter could be cracked in 2 seconds and a 2 digit number could be cracked in 10 nanoseconds. If you had an 8 character password with 6 letters beginning with 1 capital and then 2 digits at the end, the site suggests it would take 6 hours to crack it (brute force approach), whereas cracking each independently and then trying all combinations of the two sets being brute-forced independently as one went would theoretically only take 20 seconds (hopefully my maths is correct).

Say adding the extra complexity of a special character just before the 2 digits would add an extra 2 nanoseconds for the special character and take 40 seconds for the whole lot to be cracked.

The same would apply if one turned the digits and special characters around (digits first, then special character then letters).

Furthermore, using a word search through a known dictionary even further reduces the number of permutations to search and the time to crack (very substantially).

The following snippet from a Wikipedia article on the subject is very informative:

Human-generated passwords

People are notoriously poor at achieving sufficient entropy to produce satisfactory passwords. According to one study involving half a million users, the average password entropy was estimated at 40.54 bits.[8] Some stage magicians exploit this inability for amusement, in a minor way, by divining supposed random choices (of numbers, say) made by audience members.

Thus, in one analysis of over 3 million eight-character passwords, the letter “e” was used over 1.5 million times, while the letter “f” was used only 250,000 times. A uniform distribution would have had each character being used about 900,000 times. The most common number used is “1”, whereas the most common letters are a, e, o, and r.[9]

Users rarely make full use of larger character sets in forming passwords. For example, hacking results obtained from a MySpace phishing scheme in 2006 revealed 34,000 passwords, of which only 8.3% used mixed case, numbers, and symbols.[10]

The full strength associated with using the entire ASCII character set (numerals, mixed case letters and special characters) is only achieved if each possible password is equally likely. This seems to suggest that all passwords must contain characters from each of several character classes, perhaps upper and lower case letters, numbers, and non-alphanumeric characters. In fact, such a requirement is a pattern in password choice and can be expected to reduce an attacker’s “work factor” (in Claude Shannon’s terms). This is a reduction in password “strength”. A better requirement would be to require a password NOT to contain any word in an online dictionary, or list of names, or any license plate pattern from any state (in the US) or country (as in the EU). In fact if patterned choices are required, humans are likely to use them in predictable ways, such a capitalizing a letter, adding one or two numbers, and a special character. If the numbers and special character are added in predictable ways, say at the beginning and end of the password,[11] they could even lower password strength compared to an all-letter, randomly selected, password of the same length.

The take-away: read all the Wikipedia articles on passwords and cracking etc, and follow the latest advice. At the moment, it appears to be to use a longer phrase (the more characters the better) and insert special characters and digits in random places in the phrase, if possible (not just at the front and the end).

 

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Mental Practice Makes Perfect

PsyBlog – http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/03/mental-practice-makes-perfect.php


Surgeons do it. Tennis players do it. But do the rest of us undervalue the mental rehearsal of challenging activities?

If you were to undergo brain surgery, would you care if the surgeon regularly carried out mental practice of the operation? Or, would you only be interested in the physical practice?

(By mental practice I don’t mean getting ‘psyched up’ or making plans or getting in the right frame of mind; I mean mentally running through the physical movements required for the operation.)

Quite naturally you’d probably be much more interested in how often the surgeon had carried out the operation in real life, rather than in his imagination.

But should you be? What is the value of mental practice, not just in surgery, but in life in general? How much benefit is there to mental rehearsal and do we undervalue the power of mental practice?

Rehearsal

For neurosurgery specifically there is no study looking at what difference mental practice can make (although some surgeons do carry out this sort of rehearsal). But we do know that for basic surgical techniques, mental practice can benefit performance.

One study by Sanders et al. (2008) was carried out on medical students. On top of their usual training—which included physical practice—half were trained in mental imagery techniques, while the other half studied their textbooks.

When the students carried out live surgery, those who’d used mental imagery performed better, on average, than those assigned the book learning.

Another study looking at laparoscopic surgery has also shown benefits for mental practice for novice surgeons (Arora et al., 2011).

Away from the operating theatre, the main way we’re used to hearing about mental rehearsal is in sports. Whether it’s an amateur tennis player or Roger Federer, sports-people often talk about how mental rehearsal improves their performance.

My favourite example is the British Formula 1 driver, Jenson Button. In practice he sits on an inflatable gym ball, with a steering wheel in his hands, shuts his eyes, and drives a lap of the circuit, all the while tapping out the gear changes. He does this in close to real time so that when he opens his eyes he’s not far off his actual lap time.

Powerful pinkies

The reason that sports-people, surgeons and many others are interested in the benefits of mental practice is that they can be so dramatic, plus they are effectively free.

Here’s a great example from a simple study in which some participants trained up a muscle in their little fingers using just the power of mental practice (Ranganathan et al., 2004). In the study participants were split into four groups:

  1. These people performed ‘mental contractions’ of their little finger. In other words, they imagined exercising their pinkies.
  2. Same as (1), but they performed mental contractions on their elbows, not their little fingers.
  3. Did no training at all.
  4. Carried out physical training on their little finger.

They all practised (or not) in the various different ways for four weeks. Afterwards, the muscle strength in their fingers and elbows was tested. Unsurprisingly those who’d done nothing hadn’t improved, while those who’d trained physically improved their muscle strength by an average of 53%.

The two mental practice groups couldn’t beat physical training, but they still did surprisingly well. Those imagining flexing their elbow increased their strength by 13.5% and those imagining flexing their little finger increased their strength by 35%. That’s surprisingly close to the 53% from physical training; I bet you wouldn’t have expected it to be that close.

Thinking practice

This is just strength training, but as we’ve seen there’s evidence that mental rehearsal of skills also produces benefits. Examples include mentally practising a music instrument, during rehabilitation from brain injuries and so on; the studies are starting to mount up.

Indeed some of these have shown that mental practice seems to work best for tasks that involve cognitive elements, in other words that aren’t just about physical actions (Driskell et al., 1994).

So it’s about more than mentally rehearsing your cross-court forehand. Rehearsal could also be useful for a job interview or important meeting; not just in what you’ll say but how you’ll talk, carry yourself and interact with others. Mental rehearsal could also be useful in how you deal with your children, or make a difficult phone call or how you’ll accomplish the most challenging parts of your job.

Notice the type of mental imagery I’m talking about here. It’s not so much about visualising ultimate success, with all its attendant pitfalls, but about visualising the process. What works is thinking through the steps that are involved and, with motor skills, the exact actions that you will perform.

To be effective, though, mental practice has to be like real practice: it should be systematic and as close to reality as you can make it. Just daydreaming won’t work. So if you make a mistake, you should work out why and mentally correct it. You should also make the practice as vivid as possible by tuning in to the sensory experience: what you can see, hear, feel and even smell, whatever is important.

If it can work for surgeons, elite athletes and little-finger-muscle-builders, then it can work for all of us.

Image credit: Adam Rhoades

 

 

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Backup Plans, Motivation, Projects and Choices

Another PsyBlog , this time about Backup Plans, Motivation, Projects and Choices:


 

Why backup plans (sometimes) motivate, even if you never use them.

Before reading a new article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, I never thought of a backup plan as something that might be motivating in itself.

Surely all the benefit of a backup plan accrues when the main plan goes wrong and there’s something to fall back on?

While coming up with a ‘plan b’ might be necessary, I always thought of it more as a chore. (Ho-hum now I’ve made my main plan, instead of getting started, I’ve got to spend more time thinking about an alternative plan).

But when you start to think about it, backup plans don’t just make sense as, well, backup plans, but also as a means of driving you forward at the precarious early stages of a project.

That’s because our motivation to succeed is heavily tied in with our expectations of success. No one drives to a shop that they are pretty sure is closed. What feeds our motivation is knowing that we have a good chance of achieving the goal.

It sounds obvious but it leads to a non-obvious conclusion. It means that a little more time spent thinking about a backup plan or alternative ways to get where you’re going will help you, even if you never have to actually use them.

Opportunity drives motivation

A new study demonstrates this nicely using a coffee shop customer loyalty programme (Huang & Zhang, 2013).

Participants were told they had to get a card stamped six times to get a free coffee. One group in the study, though, was manipulated into thinking that they had more ways of collecting stamps than the other group. So, some people thought there were more ways of reaching their goal than others.

Again: actually there weren’t more ways of getting stamps—the experimenters were trying to remove the better known advantage of a backup plan (that you might need to use it) and just look at the effects on motivation of thinking there are more ways to achieve your goal.

What they found was that those who thought there were more alternatives for collecting the loyalty stamps were almost twice as likely to join the programme.

They also checked this out in different contexts and got the same results again and again. When people thought there were more opportunities to donate blood, write reviews of movies, or memorise word lists, they demonstrated more motivation.

Backfiring backup plans

Backup plans, then, can sometimes have a motivating effect, but not always; there is a twist in the tail.

What about when you’re half-way through your project or towards that goal of yours? You’re starting to feel very confident that you will get there. What kind of effect do more alternatives for reaching your goal have then?

When Huang and Zhang looked at this, they found the effect reversed.

When people already had five stamps on their loyalty card, more ways to get the sixth and final one actually de-motivated them. Similarly when people thought the blood drive had almost reached its target, rather than being right at the beginning, fewer options lowered their motivation to donate.

This might seem a little strange, but it chimes with other research that has looked at the psychology of choices. Generally speaking, choices are more pleasurable at the beginning of a project. But once we’re on the road to success, options go from being a pleasure to a pain.

So backup plans, or alternative means of achieving our goals, start out reassuring, but end up as distractions.

This means that the use of options in motivation should be arranged like a funnel. At the start (the wide end), more options pump up initial motivation; but later on, when success is all but assured, options slow us down. Once the end is in sight (the narrow end), it’s far better to forget about backup plans and push on for victory.

Just the same is true when motivating others: give people options to get them interested at the start, but towards the end, they should be reduced to avoid distraction.

 

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How to do Brainstorming

PsyBlog strikes again, this time about brainstorming. As per usual, like this blog and here is what he has to say:


 

For many years brainstorming has been a very popular way for groups to generate new ideas, especially in business.

This is despite the fact that many studies have shown that groups actually produce fewer and less creative solutions than people working on their own. This was confusing: we are used to thinking that ‘many hands make light work’, and ‘two heads are better than one’.

The research showed, though, that many hands and heads made people nervous, lazy and blocked (for a more in-depth discussion see: Brainstorming Reloaded). In fact people perform better on their own at coming up with new ideas than in a brainstorming group.

This is highly perplexing. What we see from the creativity research is that great ideas often come from bolting together two so-so ideas. In other words: brainstorming should work.

Electronic Brainstorming

Now what’s emerging from the productivity research is that brainstorming is a good technique, but it needs a little tweaking.

Two candidates that provide a new twist on a promising formula are ‘Brainwriting’ and ‘Electronic Brainstorming’. Both use the basic brainstorming rules developed almost half a century ago by the advertising executive, Alex Faickney Osborn:

  1. Don’t criticize.
  2. Focus on quantity.
  3. Combine and improve ideas produced by others.
  4. Write down any idea that comes to mind, no matter how wild.

The pretty simple twist in Electronic Brainstorming is that it’s done online using any kind of internet chat method, like Microsoft Messenger. The only requirement is that all the participants can see the other ideas as they scroll down the screen.

Brainwriting, on the other hand, is a little more old-school and involves sitting together and writing down your ideas on Post-It notes. Participants initial their ideas and put them in the centre of the table for others to see. No talking is allowed.

A new study has compared both of these techniques and found that it is Electronic Brainstorming that produces the most non-redundant new ideas (Michinov, 2012).

The drawback of the Brainwriting method is that each person has to reach forward and pick up other ideas and people don’t do this as much as they should.

In contrast, Electronic Brainstorming allows (forces, even) every member to see what the other’s are saying with little or no effort. It means that the group is exposed to the flow of ideas with very little effort.

On top of this it solves some of the problems with face-to-face brainstorming. When it’s done online, each person doesn’t have to wait for the others to stop talking and is less worried about being evaluated (plus brainstomers don’t have to be in the same country!).

This probably helps to explain why people report finding Electronic Brainstorming to be a satisfying experience.

One final tip: Electronic Brainstorming research suggests the best results are gained in groups of 8 or more.

 

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Persuasion

Once again, PsyBlog posts  an useful article on a rather easy persuasion technique: BYAF – go here (subscribe to his blog and buy his book).

This is what he had to say on the subject:


 

I’ll admit it. A few of the techniques for persuasion I’ve covered here on PsyBlog have been a little outlandish and impractical.

Things like swearingtalking in the right ear and pouring coffee down someone’s throat. The studies are interesting and fun but not widely useful.

The question is: which persuasion technique, based on psychological research, is most practical, can easily be used by anyone in almost any circumstances and has been consistently shown to work?

The answer is: the ‘But You Are Free’ technique. This simple approach is all about reaffirming people’s freedom to choose. When you ask someone to do something, you add on the sentiment that they are free to choose.

By reaffirming their freedom you are indirectly saying to them: I am not threatening your right to say no. You have a free choice.

A recent review of the 42 psychology studies carried out on this technique has shown that it is surprisingly effective given how simple it is (Carpenter, 2013). All in all, over 22,000 people have been tested by researchers. Across all the studies it was found to double the chances that someone would say ‘yes’ to the request.

People have been shown to donate more to good causes, agree more readily to a survey and give more to someone asking for a bus fare home.

The exact words used are not especially important. The studies have shown that using the phrase “But obviously do not feel obliged,” worked just as well as “but you are free”.

What is important is that the request is made face-to-face: the power of the technique drops off otherwise. Even over email, though, it does still have an effect, although it is somewhat reduced.

The BYAF technique is so simple and amenable that it can easily be used in conjunction with other approaches.

It also underlines the fact that people hate to be hemmed in or have their choices reduced. We seem to react against this attempt to limit us by becoming more closed-minded.

The BYAF technique, as with any good method of persuasion, is about helping other people come to the decision you want through their own free will. If they have other options, like simply walking away, and start to feel corralled, then you can wave them goodbye.

On the other hand, respecting people’s autonomy has the happy side-effect of making them more open to persuasion. You can look good and be more likely to get what you want. Nice.

 

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Fear of Loss

Now here’s a quote for you:

Employees do not fear change – they fear loss: loss of status, loss of power, loss of freedom to make decisions, and loss of purpose.

It comes courtesy of Judith Glaser and her DRIVE methodology, part of her Creating WE offering.

Makes sense really – and completely re-frames the whole “change management” chestnut that is rolled out in organisations all the time.

 

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Getting Things Done – Boost Your Productivity

No, this is not an article on the GTD todo list or task management system.  But it is in the same field – a simple method of organising yourself and your day so that you actually end up achieving what you want to achieve (and not procrastinate with following interesting tidbits of trivia and doing urgent work (see my previous post on achieving priorities) or just wasting time to get through another day – and paycheck).

This article is by Sami Paju who blogs on positive psychology, productivity and human performance according to his blog byline.  I have just come across this blog, but it is rather interesting and serves up useful tidbits (there I go again, wasting my time on tidbits – just like I am not supposed to do!).  Subscribe to his blog and give him a go.

The productivity article, some of which I have reproduced below to give you a flavour of the full thing, is about organising what you should be doing into chunks of 30 or 60 minutes in a calendar, as proper diary entries – just as if they were important meetings which you have to attend (and be prepared for).  It certainly works and worth remembering whenever you hit a rut.  Enjoy … …

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