Brain, Behavior, Story – SXSW17 liveblog

Christopher Graves, founder and president of the Ogilvy Center for Behavioral Science, has drawn a full Salon E at the Marriott. This will be my last session at South By Southwest this year. I hope there are a few brain cells available to learn something. @cgraves


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Len Edgerly March 15, 20171:29 pm

This guy’s a live wire, working the room in an energetic way.

60 second story: has to be real, you have to take part for real. Then flip flop it. Can be about anything. Total bedlam ensues. 400 people telling stories.
A song. If I Only Had a Brain. sing a long.
I went back to original research on brain. What we thought we knew about crafting a story was wrong, along with persuasion. I was a journalist. Am trying to take the science into our world without undermining the science.
Three axioms. Gage’s Brain. He is holding my constant companion in 1848, working in Vermont. Working on railroad. His job was to blow stuff up. Drilled hole in rock. Asks for drill sound effects. On 9/13/1848 he put in black powder and it blew a hole in his brain. He survived. 8 weeks later he wanted to come back. Personality shift. He could no longer make a sound decision.
Len Edgerly March 15, 20171:38 pm

Antonio Damasaio: Descarte’s Error. Emotional part of the brain is the one that makes decisions. You might think you are being rational. Emotional brain will win out. You need rational in order to explain your decisions.

Timothy Wilson experiment. Two groups sit in front of 5 posters. Asked to rate them. When done, up front is a bin with posters. You can pick any one you want. One group took Gaugin prints, not cat. Second group asked to write a description on choice. They chose kitty poster. I’m not following this. Asking humans why they made a choice doesn’t work out so while.
Accident #2: How change a mind. If you think that they didn’t change their minds at all. Did they believe death penalty worked as deterrent. Some yes, no. Gave research proving it. They did not change their minds. You only piss them off with evidence. They went the other way, back into their beliefs.
Len Edgerly March 15, 20171:46 pm

Charles Lord coined phrase confirmation bias. Huge human thing, falls under motivated reasoning, filter bubble.

Drew Western’s The Political Brain. Put people in with transcripts of Presidential candidate. Brain okay with your opponent flip flopping. When opponent, went crazy.
For humans, we anticipate physical pain when proved wrong.
Why debunking myths about vaccines hasn’t convinced dubious parents.
1. More facts, more polarization.
2. Repeating the myth inadvertently popularizes it. We as a species when hear something repeated tend to think it’s true. Novelty is a threat. You begin to think it’s true. A name sticks. It’s the way the brain works. Never do a fact versus myth campaign. Research showing link between vaccines and autism was fake.
3. Affirmation works – but we rarely use it. If I say, “wow. you’re a pretty brilliant guy. You must have done some deep research and I know you love your kids. why do you believe this.
4. we consistently underestimate the power of narrative as a tool when effectively practiced.
Len Edgerly March 15, 20171:53 pm

Proofiness. Charles Seife book. You can move people with pseudo science. Trivial graphs and formulas increase ad persuasiveness and :product efficacy. Be careful with this one. Don’t use it unethically.

What works: Narrative Transportation. Fiction readers develop more empathy. You get where people are coming from.
Do you know anybody who watches Real Housewives, Khardasians etc.
Raymond Mar out of Austria: the more people are immersed in story the more they will align attitudes with themes of story. Doesn’t seem to matter if you label it fiction or not. Narrative fiction is more effective than analysis, essays. It’s more subtle, not a blatant attempt to change someone’s opinion. Particular characters in a story can affect the way people think and feel. Reading about an unintelligent character performed poorly on a test.
Disclosing that it’s fiction does not make it less effective. Bullet points, legal brief don’t work. Has to be a story. Empathy for a character works both ways, emulating someone good OR getting stupid by reading about a stupid character.
Len Edgerly March 15, 20171:57 pm

Video about a father’s daughter marrying another woman. You have to decide if you are going to lose your child. Once we saw how happy they were made the trepidation go away. You come to terms with it. It’s supposed to be this way. Video shows him speaking at her wedding. Very moving story. Find your understanding. It’s an Expedia ad.

Graves: you identify with the guy’s struggle. Use this form, narrative transportation. It’s slow, but it’s deeply rooted in the way we are.
Len Edgerly March 15, 20172:03 pm

Accident #3: 1992 Gicacomo Rizzolatti in Italy, trying to map the brain’s firing of neurons. He used monkeys. Put tiny probe at brain place that fired when monkey put food to mouth. Neurons that fire together, wire together.

The sound of neurons firing is like Geiger Counter. Someone ate a treat while monkey was watching. Neurons fired as if monkey had eaten it. Mirror neurons are earliest roots of empathy in the brain. Monkey brain thinks I’m eating now.
On the same wavelength. Vulcan mind meld. Dr. Spock.
Princeton researcher measured brain while story told. Then told story to someone else and found that a good story the brain would mirror it. Imagine if your story understood this, trying to understand and move people. I think every great writer knows that. It’s the concreteness effect.
When I speak in concrete language v. abstraction. Hate is an abstraction. He slammed glass and yelled FU. It has a different impact. How do companies talk. Synergy, innovation, paradigm.
Len Edgerly March 15, 20172:05 pm

If you are crafting a narrative, try to draw it. How do you draw a paradigm. Your brain can’t digest as quickly as concrete language.

Correlation between concreteness (imaginability) and believability.
Immigration is abstract. “I will build a wall.” You can picture it in your head. Thus the power of Trump.
Len Edgerly March 15, 20172:11 pm

Thinking Fast and Slow, Nudge – fantastic books.

Social Norms – who else believes this. Solomon Asch experiment. When everyone in group gives wrong answer, subject ends up conforming. Stanford experiments showed horrifying examples. But it can be used for good.
Convert communicators – people who thought one thing and have changed their minds. More effective if they have difficult time. Clinton’s last spots had Republicans saying they were voting for her. Former ISIS members. Who has changed their minds.
Robert Cialdini, author: when people out or sync with others in room, brain area associated with puzzlement lit up and area associated with physical pain. It was painful to be out of sync with group.
Don’t lecture people to good behavior or give impression that the negative norm is the prevailing one.
Len Edgerly March 15, 20172:16 pm

Why do you just not get me? Yale research. Polling up to election. Pollsters missed larger group. Matthew Macwilliams article said one trait predicted Trump supporters. Parenting style. respect for elders, obedience, well-behaved, good manners. There is a strong leader and obvious pecking order. If you understand people who see world that way.

Hierarchical/individualistic people, even with science knowledge, against climate change mitigation. It’s a proxy for something else. Going off the grid a better way to approach them. Get inside their head to find out what scares them, motivates them.
Len Edgerly March 15, 20172:24 pm

Your expert is my idiot and vice versa. What do you do when there is no irrefutable evidence?

Someone in FL did disentanglement on climate change issue. What if I didn’t put your identity in play? Let’s never talk about the why of climate change. Do you think it’s flooding more often, and worse, do you worry about tourism? Yes. Want to help? Yes. Didn’t force people to be wrong.
Don’t make people chose between knowing what’s known and who they are.
The identifiable victim effect. What works getting donations to charity? A story of one little girl works better than including the facts. Combo pack with facts, effect goes down.
Bill Clinton was a master of this. An identifiable individual. Stalin and Mother Teresa agreed. One person versus a million.
Photo of dead boy on beach, a refugee.
Google ad with one Dad writing to his daughter.
Len Edgerly March 15, 20172:25 pm

Details, not message. More effective.