Monthly Archives: August 2009

True False Confessions

Surveillance videoWould you admit guilt for something you didn’t do, just because someone accused you? What if they told you they had video?

In a recently published Applied Cognitive Psychology study, working with a large group of people, all of whom had done nothing wrong, 100% admitted guilt when told there was video evidence of them stealing – or were shown video doctored to make it look like they had stolen. 87% confessed as soon as asked, the remaining 13% waited for a second request – even though each and every one of them knew they hadn’t stolen a thing.

Of people told instead that the partner sitting right next to them had done the stealing, after viewing an altered video,a full 50% signed a statement describing how they had seen the accused partner stealing – even though it had never happened. Some even inserted additional details not shown in the video.

In times when children readily edit video on their computers, the implications are somewhat staggering. But as I puzzled about what else the study’s design might allow it to imply (thanks to David DiSalvo‘s description at NeuroNarrative), my mind headed off in a completely different direction.

Could executive leaders, facing difficult times, inadvertently trigger similar responses by falsely accusing team members of performance lapses, errors, or bad decisions that are the responsibility of others – or of actions that may not have happened at all. This could explain some who seem to have learned the wrong lessons or formed off-base opinions of their team members. It could also help to explain the paralysis some managers seem to inspire in their direct reports, regardless of who is cycling through.

What does your experience say? Have you seen co-workers admitting to bad behavior that wasn’t their own?


GM's Volt viral advertising imageHave you heard the big buzz about the awesome new Volt EREV scheduled to come out next year?

Chances are if you’ve heard about it, it hasn’t been with a positive spin. I’ve heard about it on NPR, where its not-yet-EPA-verified 230 miles per gallon claims were questioned, and on a few marketing sites critiquing the many missed opportunities of the campaign.

Over at Dim Bulb marketing, Jonathan Baskin does a fantastic job of summarizing the campaign’s most crucial failures in three short points we can all apply to our own work. From his observations on making the mileage achievement more tangible to some simple but thoughtful suggestions for creating the viral campaign GM wanted (Hint: customer’s perspective, not GM’s), his comments are likely to have executives at GM incredulously slapping their foreheads.

If GM missed these points with all of the people, dollars and experience it devotes to marketing and advertising even now, it seems pretty likely that the rest of us forget to think about them sometimes too.  Thanks for the topical reminder Jonathan.

YOU Also Inspire With Music

You Too Can Play (c) Lorre Zuppan 1970

Do you have friends who say, “I love music, but I can’t play anything.”? I have always been a firm believer that almost everyone has musical talent – they just haven’t had the opportunity to discover what they’re good at yet. And this study confirms my belief. (I love it when that happens.)

It turns out that most everyone has the ability to inspire emotion in others, simply by playing a single piano note. Yes, a single note; I think you can do that.

In this study musicians and non-musicians were asked to express one of eight emotions by playing a single note on the piano: impetutousness, tenderness, resoluteness, etc. Not only did the musicians and non-musicians play the notes statistically the same on every measure except tempo, the musicians and non-musicians recruited to listen to the players were able to equally match the emotions, regardless of the player’s or listener’s status. (Thanks to Dave Munger at Cognitive Daily for the understandable version of this study.)

Which just goes to show that we all have many gifts, musical and otherwise. Probably the biggest obstacle is discovering just which gift is yours. I hope you resolve today to go out, discover and share another of your talents. You could even send some musical chills up our spines.

This Monty Python skit on the Argument Clinic somehow reminds me of projects being implemented regardless of the input, advice or opposition of those they affect. Seeing this – well, it puts a whole different emphasis on the importance of change management. Or maybe it’s just a profession only a lawyer could love…