The Intelligence Trap – Revolutionise your thinking and make wiser decisions

Author: David Robson

Very important in making decisions is a psychological view of one’s own leadership. Namely a view that prevents you from falling for the “intelligence trap”. What exactly is that?

In fact, the intelligence trap is a direct result of some people’s inability to think outside of their expectations, to come up with an alternative view of the world where their decision is wrong rather than right. People with very high intelligence are more subjected to this than people with moderate intelligence. Nobel laureates sometimes suffer from this, so often that there is a term for it: “Nobel disease ”.

An active intervention to this pitfall can make use of so-called “ evidence- based wisdom ”. This can be imparted to all ages and to anyone, although one is more likely to benefit from it with moderate intelligence.

A first step is to understand what wisdom is. A definition of “wisdom” is: “he is wise who recognized the limits of his own knowledge” (Socrates) . Apart from that, good factual knowledge and training remain important.

Very dangerous is the fragility of the expert. For example, by relying heavily on schemes and protocols, which one must have, he may have trouble adapting to changes in the environment. Flexibility is therefore important. Personal bias is also a problem. One step towards a solution is to adapt the own thinking. This can already be done by reading about it, with inspiring examples. Placing a beginner with another, detailed, view is also an advantage because he or she does not yet know the patterns and therefore sees and can indicate differences in details of the case with regard to the general rule. It can also be done by taking a distant position. An example of this is the listing and quotation of important aspects of a situation or object, spread over several days. In addition, being able to listen to your own emotional compass is an advantage. This has to do with being able to relate the events in your environment and your (gut) feeling in the right way. After all, being able to spot deliberately crafted bullshit is a necessary skill. To this end, the author provides a list of some methods by which false truths are sometimes told.

What can save us from the pitfall are: cognitive reflection, intellectual humility, active “open- minded ” thinking, curiosity, refined emotional awareness and a “ growth mindset ”. We find these things in the nine virtues of the Intellectual Virtues Academy. These are divided into three categories as follows:

Getting started

Curiosity: the opportunity to be amazed and to investigate and ask the “why” question. A thirst for understanding and a desire to explore.

Intellectual humility: the willingness to recognize one’s own limits and mistakes, regardless of intellectual status or prestige.

Intellectual Autonomy: Having the ability for active autonomous and self-guided thinking. The ability to reason and think for oneself.

Executing well

Attention: to be there with your thoughts 100% on the matters of the learning process. Keep distractions at bay. Be with the thoughts and commitment completely on top of the topic.

Intellectual carefulness: the ability to notice and avoid intellectual pitfalls. A commitment to accuracy.

Intellectual thoroughness: the ability to seek and find explanations. Dissatisfaction with rather apparent or superficial and (too) simple explanations. Reaching for a deeper meaning and understanding.

Handling challenges

Open- mindedness : an capacity to think outside the box. Responds honestly to competing perspectives.

Intellectual Courage: Being ready to persevere in thinking or communicating with the risk of fear of being embarrassed or of failure.

Intellectual tenacity: a will to face an intellectual challenge and struggle. Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t give up.

These aspects of the eternal learning mindset apply to an individual, but how do you put together a ‘dream team’? It depends.

If you have a team where everyone has to do things clearly separately, without overlapping job content, then you can use a team of top players: there is no competition.

If you have to put together a team of competitors, where there is overlapping job content , then it is important that they are not all toppers, only about 60% are toppers, but then teamwork, being in tune with each other, weighs more.

With a crisis team, any type of crisis team, it’s the best of both worlds. In a CRT (Crisis Respons Team), for example the company fire service team, it is clearly the second. At a CET (Crisis Expert Team, where a team member might handle a file from A to Z , it might be the first. But with the CMT (Crisis Management Team), where there is little or no overlap between the participants, but there is still a need to work together because people must be able to rely on each other’s results, it is a pure cross: you need 100% toppers, but they also have to be able to work with each other. In the latter case, intellectual humility is an issue, because in this team one often has to deal with high profiles who “know very well what they are worth”. Antibodies against this are exercises in which people learn to share information and are assessed on the integration of each other’s point of view in their own thinking.

A change of mentality that can be useful to contribute positively to this is to initiate discussions throughout the hierarchy, between the different layers of the hierarchy, and to recognize and hear people as experts in the field of, for example, their own ideas about occupational safety.

Also not to be ignored is the use of statistics from near misses. After all, it has been statistically proven that a serious event is preceded by a number of near misses. That was the case with the Challenger , with the Columbia, (NASA) but actually also Covid-19 was preceded by, among others, SARS and MERS. There was a failure to learn lessons and to implement them into the future, or to persist in these lessons learned. For that you need the mentality of a “high reliability ” organization. It has been shown for this type of organization (research by Karl Weick & Kathleen Sutcliffe ) that they exhibit the following characteristics:

Expect to Fail: Employees go to work and every day can be a bad day. But the organization rewards employees for reporting their mistakes.

Reluctance to simplify interpretations: employees are rewarded for questioning assumptions, and for being skeptical of the wisdom of others.

Sensitivity to operations: Team members continue to communicate and interact to increase their understanding of the situation and look for the actual origin of each anomaly.

Commitment to resilience : acquiring the necessary knowledge and resources to bounce back after a negative event. This includes the ‘pre mortems ‘ and the discussions of near misses.

Respect for expertise: here the open communication between different layers of the hierarchy is important, and the intellectual humility of those at the top.

Tribal Leadership – Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization

Authors: Dave Logan; John King; Halee Fischer-Wright

The authors indicate that you can recognize tribes  in your organization, and what level of culture these tribes can have. The latter you recognize on the basis of language use by the members of the tribe.

But first you need to know what a tribe is. A tribe is any group of 20 to 150 people who know each other enough to stop on the street and have a chat. They often correspond to the people in your email address book and your smartphone. Often a small company is a tribe, often a large company is a tribe of tribes. A small tribe (20 people) often has only one culture, a (medium to) large tribe (50 to 150 people) can have multiple culture levels at the same time.

Tribal leadership is leadership that focuses on the language and behavior within a culture. It does not seek to sharpen cognitions, beliefs, attitudes, or other factors that we can only measure indirectly. It does focus on language use, behavior and relationship structures. To start this leadership, the leader must start practicing two things:

  1. The tribes tell him their level of culture through their language use.
  2. Upgrading the tribes to a “higher” culture level.

The authors’ research shows that the use of the following vocabulary is typical of the culture levels:

Stage Mindset Word usage – examples
1 Life sucks – clusters of ‘gangs’ – alienation Life, sucks, interrupts, can’t, stop, whatever
2 My life sucks – clusters of apathetic victims – separated Boss, life, trying, can’t, give up, quit, sucks
3 I’m great – “lone warrior”, culture of the “wild, wild west” I, my, my, job, profession, do, did, have, went
4 We’re great – radiating tribe pride relations as a partnership We, our team, do, they, have, did, committed, value
5 Life is great – innocent wondering, relations in teams Wow !, miracle, happy, vision, values, we do.

 

In addition, they also provide a number of tools with which you can upgrade from a group of a “lower” culture level to a “higher” culture level. The success factors that you have to look out for are the words that the tribe will use during their evolution to a higher level. In doing so, the leader must again keep two things in mind:

  1. The tribe must rise systematically stage by stage, it cannot skip a stage.
  2. The tribe has to master the stage for a while.

Levels from level 1 to 2:

  • The person has to see it and want it. Go where the action is: eat with colleagues, go to meetings, take up social functions …
  • Encourage a break with others with a “life sucks” mentality

From level 2 to 3:

  • Encourage making friends in dyadic (two-person) relationships.
  • Encourage friendship with people in late stage 3.
  • Show her that her work makes a difference.
  • Show what her strengths are within her competences.
  • Show her growth potential that she still has to acquire, but keep it positive.
  • Give her projects that she can do well in a short time. Don’t follow it too closely.

From level 3 to 4:

  • Encourage triads (three-person relationships).
  • Let her get to know others with the same core values, discover corresponding interests, and find opportunities where they can complement each other in terms of work.
  • Encourage her to take on projects she can’t handle alone. So let her work with partners.
  • Show her that the success comes from her own work, but that the next step is something that requires a different style: collaboration.
  • Describe role models who focus on “we”, triads and group success
  • Tell about your own step from stage 3 to 4
  • Teach her that real power is not in knowledge but in networking. Make it clear that you are on her side.
  • Encourage transparency. Encourage her to tell more than what is absolutely necessary.

From level 4 to 5:

  • Ensure her triads are based on values, benefits and opportunities.
  • Encourage the use of market conditions to make history.
  • If the market doesn’t deliver anything, create an opportunity.
  • Recruit others to the tribe who share the values ​​of the group’s strategy.
  • If the team encounters difficulties, also refer to others for solutions. Do not try to solve everything yourself (that is level 3 behavior).
  • “Change the oil regularly” with the following questions: 1) what is going well, 2) what is not going well and 3) what can the team do about it?

 

Tribal leaders do their work for the good of others, not for themselves, and they are rewarded with loyal employees, hard work, innovation and collaboration. The tribe can complete more difficult assignments in a shorter time with a higher quality of finish.

The Psychology of Cyber Crime – Concepts and Principles

Authors: Grainne Kirwan; Andrew Power

The authors have set themselves the goal of bundling a number of ideas about the psychology of cyber crime. However, this is not easy, especially because it is not so simple to define cyber crime as an overarching container concept. They try to do that in the first chapter of section 1 (Introduction): “Creating the Ground Rules: How can Cybercrime be Defined and Governed?” The term covers a wide variety of thefts, private issues such as disputes between buyers and sellers, and all kinds of anti-social behavior. The definition they work with becomes “any activity occurring online which has intended negative consequences for others”

A first category are crimes that already exist offline, but are now facilitated by the internet. Examples are bank card fraud, theft of information, blackmail, obscenity, money laundering, etc. A second category are new crimes that did not exist before working with networked computers. Examples are hacking, denial of service, distribution of malware, …

A third category comes to mind when computer users start using online Avatars. This can be, for example, the harassing of someone online, which then continues offline.

The government can respond to cybercrime through laws; a response can come from companies with, among other things, a practical code of conduct, a technical response or a user response.

Because the internet is growing in terms of the number of users and the number of hours per user, we can speak of a term such as “cyber citizen”. That means there is a need for a framework of laws, rules and guidelines to keep order online.

The next question is “Can Forensic Psychology Contribute to Solving the Problem of Cybercrime?”. This determines the issue in Chapter 2.

Forensic psychology as a concept is well known to the general public through television series. But they provide a distorted picture. So the first question is “What is Forensic Psychology?”. In this work the broad definition is chosen that states that “forensic psychology is a combination of legal psychology covering the application of psychological knowledge and methods to the process of law and criminological psychology dealing with the application of psychological theory and method to the understanding ( and reduction) of criminal behavior ”. The authors also assume that “it will be considered to include any way by which psychology can be of assistance at any stage in the criminal justice process.”

Tasks in which forensic psychology is involved are the assessment of offenders with regard to psychological disorders, the punishment, rehabilitation and the associated risk assessment. This includes interviewing suspects and analyzing eyewitness accounts. And ultimately also profiling offenders in criminal investigations.

Chapter 3 continues with the question “Can Theories of Crime be Applied to Cybercriminal Acts?”.

After all, theoretical explanations of crimes can help society understand how and why crimes are happening. But it also helps predict future criminal behavior. In addition, the insight provides a basis for successful rehabilitation strategies, as well as preventive strategies. There are different types of theories:

  • Social theories (which views crime on a social level rather than individually),
  • Community theory that states that sometimes crime does not happen randomly in society,
  • Socialization Influence Theories, which state that psychology is important because, for example, it involves observational learning,
  • Individual Theories, which state that certain traits of the person determine the likelihood that he or she will become a criminal, and what type of criminal.

Such theories can then (perhaps) be applied to cyber crime. Important in this are:

  • Social Construction of Crime: some cases are already criminally offline, others are offline in a gray area, but are not socially accepted,
  • Biological Theories of Crime: A comparison is made with the ancient “science” of cranology. There is some evidence that the majority of cyber criminals are men, but there is very little information on how biological theories explain cyber crime. So it’s been noticed somewhat, but we don’t know why it would be true,
  • Learning Theories: A cyber criminal candidate may be put off by fear of punishment, or by guilt when he / she sees the consequences for the victim. Or he / she may induce to commit the crime online, but not to commit it offline, such as cyberbullying.
  • Eysenck’s Theory of crime: he applied conditioning learning theory to crime, and came up with the idea that people with more extroversion, neurotisism, and psychoses are more likely to engage in criminal behavior. This theory is strongly contradicted by his colleagues.
  • Psychoanalytic theories do not appear to be fertile ground for explanations of criminal behavior.
  • Addiction and Arousal Theory: it has been noted that treatment of the addiction often leads to a reduction / cessation of criminal behavior. There are also testimonials from cyber criminals that “they get a thrill” of committing the crime.
  • Neutralization theory: criminals rationalize their guilt feelings with different types of argumentation. There is also some evidence for cyber criminals doing this.
  • Geographic theories are also important in cybercrime: different countries or groups of countries have different laws, different definitions of certain types of crimes. But the ease of access to the means to commit the crime also plays a role. E.g. having a computer, servers, network, internet.

Section 2 deals with Internet-specific crimes.

Section 3 deals with online variations of offline crimes

I summarize a few things about these two sections in this Excel sheet:

Section 4 talks about crimes in virtual worlds.

This is not so much about pure crime over the internet, but about crimes against people, who, among other things, present themselves as avatars. Chapter 12 asks the question “Crime in Virtual Worlds: Should Victims Feel Distressed?” This includes property crime, such as theft of property, but also crimes against persons, such as their avatar, including rape, stalking, etc., which can also continue offline. The question of police action and preventive action is addressed. But there appears to be mainly anecdotal data, not so much a large mass of empirical data.

Finally, Chapter 13 deals with “On-Line Governance”: what is needed in online government, what else is needed, how do political tendencies emerge, and how has “Second Life” been important in the past. But also: is a “Virtual Government” an added value? ”. Or should the government stay away from the Virtual World? E.g. because it is hopeless, or even unwanted?

The Tipping Point – How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

The idea behind “The Tipping Point” is that you should look at upward trends as an epidemic. Regardless of whether it is a kind of shoes, an illness, or children smoking, curbing crime or problem drug use and curbing it, or a wave of teen suicides in an environment where suicide in that age group did not originally occur, or awareness for safe behavior at work. The central idea is that ideas, products, messages and behavior spread like diseases do: exponentially or not.

Chapter one deals with the three rules of epidemics.

After all, there is more than one way to start an epidemic. It is a function of people who transfer infectious agents, the “agent” in itself and the environment in which the “agent” operates. When an epidemic “starts”, if the situation is out of balance, a social epidemic happens because something happened in at least one of those three areas. These three “agents” of change are called “The Law of the Few,” “The Stickiness Factor,” and “The Power of Context.”

These three rules give an idea to get an understanding of the “social epidemic” phenomenon. It also indicates how we can reach a “tipping point”. The key element here is often that “the devil is in the details”. And often everything works in one situation and not in another. As a result, even testing is sometimes not a luxury. Gut feeling sometimes has to make a step aside.

Chapter two is about “The Law of the Few”.

Three types of personalities are discussed therein: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. These people are essential for so-called social epidemics but are often overlooked for recognizing their importance in our lives.

Connectors are usually the (connecting) central party in a social network, as at the top of a pyramid. You often find them in your network by thinking about people you know by constantly repeating the question: “… whom I know through …”. They often introduce you to their network, we use such people more often than we think.

But Connectors are not the only kind of people who are important / useful when starting a social epidemic. Connectors are “specialists in people.” We trust them to bring us (spontaneously) in contact with other people. In addition, there are people we rely on to bring us into contact with new information. Someone who provides this is a “Maven”. That word comes from Yiddish and means “someone who gathers / accumulates knowledge.” They use their knowledge to keep the market advertising fair, for example. A seller who displays “price reduction” but does not implement it is caught by them. After all, most of us hardly pay attention to the price. But they can be the fear of an unfair shopkeeper in that area. But they do not only exist in terms of market prices. They might as well notice errors in a professional trade magazine of their interest. Or correct a specialist in his own domain.

But they are not passive collectors of information. Once they have solved their case, they also want to tell about it. They want to use it to help others. They take you to make purchases in the best places, for example, or they make purchases for you. They usually solve other people’s problems by solving their own problem. But the opposite is also true: a Maven solves his own (emotional) problems by solving those of another.

What is the difference between a maven and a connector? A connector tells 10 friends about a good restaurant and 5 try it. A maven advises 5 people about the same restaurant and 5 try it. A maven lays much more empathy in his story, so that his advice is relatively more followed. They both have a different strategy, different motives, but both, each in its own way, can trigger a social epidemic.

But there is a third social select group of people: the salesmen. They understand the art of convincing those people who were not yet convinced of the message. They are just as important in tipping a social epidemic as the maven and the connector. Who are they and what makes them so good at what they do?

They love their customers. In conversations they sometimes ask rhetorical questions. They like to help people. They have energy and are enthusiastic. They have charm and likeability. They are happy and optimistic.

Chapter three is about “The Stickyness Factor.”

In the late 1960s, a TV producer, Joan Gantz Cooney, came up with the idea of ​​sesame street. This became a social epidemic in which the alphabet was taught to children. The goal was to spread literacy as a virus in children from disadvantaged families. For 30 minutes and 5 times a week.

The “law of the few” says that the nature of the messenger is a critical factor to “tip” a social epidemic. But the idea / product / message must also be good enough. Is it “memorable”? such that it can bring about a change? Being successful also depends on the stickiness factor. That sounds like it’s straightforward. If we want our words to impress, we often speak emphatically. We also speak louder than. We repeat our claims. Repeating 6x before one remembers it is the maxim of marketing. Coca Cola has hundreds of millions of dollars for that. Sesame Street does not have that. Are there other more subtle ways to make something stick?

The difficult thing is not reaching the customer. The hard thing is to make him stop at the message, read it, remember it and then act upon it. To see what works best, direct marketers do extensive testing. They sometimes work with a dozen variations on the same theme. Conventional marketers have predetermined fixed ideas of what makes their advertising work: humor, splashy graphics, celebrities who recommend the product. Direct marketers do not have these securities. They are the real students of stickiness. The most intriguing conclusions about how to reach the customer come from them.

There is something deeply counter-intuitive with the definition of stickiness that emerges from the book’s examples. We all want to believe that the key to making an impact lies in the inherent quality of the ideas presented. None of the examples in the book changed the content of what they said. They tipped the message each time by tinkering with its presentation. To the presentation of their ideas. A pause after a question a second longer than normal, a muppet behind the word to be read, a large speaking “big bird” next to a person in the street, a small “gold box” in the corner of an advertisement …

The lesson of stickiness is that there is a simple way to package information that can make it irresistible under the right circumstances. All you have to do is find it.

Chapter four is about “The Power of Context (Part One)”

The great example in this chapter is the rise and fall of crime in New York.

Viewing crime as an epidemic comparable to the success of sesame street is somewhat peculiar. Some epidemics need no more than a product and a message. Crime, however, is not about a situation, but an almost infinitely varied and difficult set of behaviors. Malicious behavior is contagious, as the New York case showed.

Epidemics are sensitive to conditions and circumstances of the time and place in which they happen. For example, there is more crime in dirty metros than in clean and tidy subways, both the vehicles and the subways. Crime happens more at night, protected by the dark, than during the day. This is relatively straightforward. The lesson of “the power of context” is that we are more than just sensitive to changes in the context. We are extremely sensitive to it. And the nature of the contextual changes that an epidemic can bring is very different from what we normally expect.

  • Grafitti cleaning up of metro sets and in metro stations. Potential victims are intimidated by it and criminals think they are less likely to be identified and caught.
  • Keep garbage off the streets
  • Replace broken windows (also: broken windows theory: crime is the result of disorder): a broken window leads to anarchy: crime is contagious.

The “broken windows theory” and “the power of context” are the same theory. It states that a criminal does not have fundamentally intrinsic reasons and does not live in his own world. It is someone who is acutely sensitive to his environment, who is alert to all sorts of incentives, and who is persuaded to commit crimes based on his perception of the world.

A great success too: by checking for ‘petty crimes’ such as not paying the metro (‘fare beaters’) and responding to this with police intervention, fines and loss of time in police stations, other crimes with large percentages also went down, such as murder, etc. So there is indeed sensitivity in a complex system. Behavior is therefore a function of social context. Instead of solving big things such as tackling social injustice, structural economic inequality, unemployment, racism, social neglect…, to stop crime this theory says rather that what really matters are the small things.

People can show affection and transfer emotion. This suggests that what we think are internal states, preferences and emotions, is actually powerful and imperceptibly influenced by seemingly insignificant personal influences (“law of the few”). The same applies to our preferences, emotions and behavior from an environment instead of from a person.

Chapter five: “The Power of Context (Part Two)”: the magic number 150.

This is about the role that groups play in social epidemics.

E.g. the size of the group of people in a movie theater also determines how well the film scores in polls. Group decisions and evaluations also produce different results than individual ones. This is partly due to peer pressure and social norms and a number of other types of influences (see previous chapters) (and size of the group) that can play a role in tipping a social epidemic. For example, a connector can be a person with many ties with groups instead of individuals. Such a person realizes that if you want to make fundamental changes in behavior and thoughts, such a change of exemplary behavior needs a community around them (the exemplary ones), where their behavior and thoughts can thrive.

A lesson from “The Ya-Ya Sisterhood” (a book) and from (religious) connectors (e.g. John Wesley) is that small, close-knit groups have the power to increase an epidemic potential of a message, product or idea. A question is “what is a group”? And what are the most effective types of groups to start an epidemic? Is there a rule of thumb? “The rule of 150” provides an answer to this. It is a fascinating example of the peculiar and unexpected ways in which the context helps determine the course of social epidemics.

In small groups people are more closely involved with each other. This is important for the success of community life. Both for the individual and for the group. If your group becomes too large, you do not do enough together. Then you have too little in common and you grow apart. And then the group becomes less close and falls apart. Multiple clans then form within the group.

In a company, if the group becomes too large, it can happen that sales do not know the R&D, nor production, etc. It then becomes more difficult to (quickly) answer the customer’s question. There is no benefit of unity: the people in a complex company have no common relationship and no common knowledge / memory. In psychology, this is called a “transactive memory.” Much of what we know and remember is stored outside our brains. E.g. birthdays in a birthday calendar.

Due to the right group size, peer pressure is also optimal, which increases the liability of one’s own duties and increases the efficiency of the performances.

Chapter six: Case Study, “Rumors, sneakers, and the power of translation”.

With high-tech products, there are often two groups side by side in the word-of-mouth continuum, which communicate little with each other: the Innovators and the Early Adopters. They are visionary and want revolutionary change. They buy new technology before it is completely perfect. They have small businesses, they are just starting and they are willing to take huge risks. They are followed by the Early Majority, which are often large companies. The goal of visionaries is to make a “quantum leap forward”, which is from pragmatic to make a percentage improvement.

A lot of high-tech fails if the Early Adopters find no way to transform it into an idea for the Early Majority, to give it a better ‘Gestalt’, a better, simpler, more significant configuration. That is “translation.” What mavens, salesmen and connectors do with an idea to make it contagious is to change it so that strange details fall away and others become exaggerated so that the message acquires a deeper meaning. Translating the idea of ​​innovators into something that others can understand.

Chapter seven: Case Study, “Suicide, smoking, and the search for the unsticky cigarette”.

Suicide, it turns out, is contagious. It is not rational or even necessarily conscious. It doesn’t seem like a convincing argument that someone did it for you. It is more subtle than that. More like pedestrians crossing a red light. Someone took the lead. Like a kind of imitation. You get permission from the person who gave the example. It may be conscious or not. Suicide of a celebrity has the same effect. In the case of lots of publication through the media, this gives permission to do the same. That can cause suicide epidemics.

Mutatis mutandis: rebellious nature of youth, impulsiveness, risky behavior, indifference to others and precociousness: the cigarette-problem. This seems simple, but it is complex and essential why the war against smoking fails among young people: they want to get rid of a wrong image: they want to believe that smoking is not cool. Wrong ! Smokers are cool and are imitated, so anti-smoking campaigns fail because they are beside the question.

There is also a difference between “contagiousness” and “stickiness”. Contagiousness is a function of the person as a messenger. Stickiness is first and foremost a characteristic of the message, the product, itself.

A first way to fight smoking is to prevent the example functions: the “cool kids” who no longer smoke. A second possibility is that the followers no longer look at the examples, the cool kids, but that they redefine what is cool and look for their examples in adults who do not smoke. But parents often do not have such an influence on their children. So the second option is a lot harder.

Is it bad that teens are experimenting with cigarettes? Because the cool kids do it etc. but as long as they have limited smoking with nicotine levels below the addiction threshold, the use is not sticky. Smoking is then more like a fall than the flu: “easily caught but easily defeated.” Instead of fighting experimentation, we must ensure that there are no major consequences.

Chapter eight: Conclusion “Focus, Test and Believe”.

A first lesson from the Tipping Point is that starting a social epidemic requires that you concentrate the resources on a few key areas. If you want a word-of-mouth epidemic, you have to focus on mavens, connectors and salesmen.

Second lesson: The world does not match our intuition. People who succeed in setting up a social epidemic don’t just do what they believe is the right thing. They voluntarily test the accuracy of their intuitions. To prevent errors on a large scale.

Communication between people has its own set of very unusual and counter-intuitive rules.

Third: The basis must be a firm belief that change is possible. That people can radically change their behavior and beliefs under the influence of the right approach. Because nobody is only inner-directed. Peers are very important.

However, by working on the size of the group, we can get new ideas into effect. Even by tinkering with the presentation of information, it can become more sticky. By finding the right people with social power, we can shape the course of a social epidemic.

Often only a small push is needed to start an epidemic.

Psychology of Risk Taking Behavior

Author: Rüdiger M. Trimpop

The topic – how the psychology of risk-taking behavior works – is split into questions.

Research implications of a motivation for risks

Is there a Personality Factor when taking risks?

The sample of people does not exist out of professional risk takers (soldiers, fire brigade, police, civil protection, stuntmen, race car drivers, …) but mainly of young white men and university students from a medium-sized Canadian city.

Evidence for a general risk-taking personality trait, statistically significant, was not as strong as some theories predicted. This may be due to the sample, but most theories had comparable samples, resulting in doubt that the level of influence that personality traits may have on risk taking.

The conclusion is that risk factors of personality traits play an important role in the risk-taking behavior, but that their role is less important than that of situational factors. The results have important implications for risk-taking research and for safety measures (eg Task-specific selection and risk training).

What is our motive for looking for risks?

Most theories of expected utility considered no emotional, nor physiological components, of the positive aspects of risk taking, nor the importance of non-materialistic rewards. The RHT (Risk Homeostasis Theory) also does not regard risk (taking) as something one can desire or a pleasant undertaking, but as a purely extrinsically motivated activity with risk tolerance. However, people look for intrinsic as well as extrinsic rewards. E.g. therefore also pleasant emotions and pleasant excitement. The literature on emotion, motivation and the interpretation of such studies suggest that these factors are more effective for adressing of motivations for risky or safe behavior than important rewards, which (the latter: rewards) one obtains with more focused behavior.

The tests also postulated that the subjects generally test their limits, try their luck and risk their chances by taking risks. Nobody took a completely safe course, everyone followed some too risky reactions. This explains the intrinsic need, desire and motivation of the subjects to take risks. However, the differences between where, how and how much risk they want are large.

The conclusion is that people feel intrinsic reward for taking risks, such as hormonal pleasure experiences, stimulation of a physiological pleasure center, emotional pleasure, the experience of small differences between the desired – and the target level of risk, of the unity of action-oriented – and targeted risk-taking behavior. We therefore take risks for both the intrinsic pleasure and the extrinsically favorable benefits.

The power of incentives

Risk motivation theory (RMT) and Risk Homeostasis Theory (RHT) both state that incentives for safe behavior are a powerful motive for reducing risk-taking trends. Changes in the risk content of a situation will lead to a higher involved control and therefore to compensation behavior. Externally introduced safety benefits are virtually canceled out. External incentives for safety also manipulate the intrinsic motivation of subjects by changing the desired target level of a risk. The target level of a risk is influenced by a higher advantage of safe behavior and higher cost of risky behavior, so the subject chooses a less risky strategy.

An additional finding is that target levels are constantly adjusted according to the perception of the risk level of the subjects.

This suggests that incentives should be used for safer behavior. Social rewards are stronger than financial ones. Social incentives are more likely to trigger intrinsic motivation. The data also suggests that incentives work better than punishments to stimulate safe behavior. So “Fame” works stronger than “Fortune” or “Pain”.

This also applies to phobias: people with a phobia keep their behavior until an alternative behavior is realized that is more rewarding than the avoidance behavior with regard to feelings such as fear.

Whether incentives work most effectively on a physical, economic or social level, or if being presented as conditional for good performance or rather as opportunities in a lottery, can depend on the individual, the situation, or the culture and is worth further investigation.

How can we master and control our risk motivation?

People strive for increasing control and we adjust our behavior according to the situation / needs, even when the perception of that control is an illusion. When a situation or an illusion of a situation with more uncertainty and unfamiliarity presents itself, we become more careful, until a less risky situation presents itself.

In gambling, such as throwing a die with a 50% chance of the outcome of three or less versus a result of four or more, many engaged in some form of superstitious behavior, such as throwing harder for higher numbers, or e.g. systematically gambling for low numbers after a few times high numbers. Or assigning their success to the previous course of the day, their happiness in love, the moment of the day, etc.

Most people do not realistically perceive their own situation, but have a positively colored illusion about themselves, their skills, and their ability to control the environment. Such findings confirm the importance of involving individual perceptions of personal control, even illusory, when analyzing risk-taking behavior. They show that the perception of control, or lack of control, leads to corresponding risky or safe behavior. “Don’t worry, I’ve got it all under control” is a famous final phrase just before an accident. Giving the feeling of control with seat belts, ABS, four-wheel drive and helmets, etc., therefore leads people to riskier, ill-considered, or even careless behavior.

How do we compensate for perceived risks?

An important underlying assumption of Risk Homeostasis Theory (RHT) and Risk Motivation Theory (RMT) is the behavioral compensation for observed changes in risk content. People show compensation behavior to reduce a difference between their perceived and their desired level of risk. The risk-taking strategy variable DFO (Deviation from Optimal Response Pattern) also showed these behavioral shifts as a result of changes in the probability of punishment. This was predicted by the RMT, which states that each change results in a new perception and the target level of risk reset.

What distinguishes RMT from RHT?

RMT is based on RHT with its compensation behavior feedback loop for perceived difference between desired level and target level of risk. RHT, on the other hand, does not take into account the frequent, continuously shifting target levels of risk nor the risk-seeking tendency of people.

RMT is an extension of RHT by stating that physiological and emotional processes undergo the same compensation functions as the rational cognitive processes on which the RHT primarily focuses.

RMT states that people take risks for intrinsic rewards associated with performing risky activities, and that this process also has a compensation feedback loop.

All in all, the RMT extends the RHT with the following:

  1. a) Postulating multi-target levels of risk that require constant compensation and may never achieve a homeostatic controlled risk optimum.
  2. b) The strong emphasis on individual motivation processes, rather than collective behavior of a larger population.
  3. c) The importance of emotional and physiological aspects in the assessment and evaluation of risk-taking behavior.
  4. d) The addition of action-oriented rewards (desire for risk) to the goal-oriented rewards (risk tolerance).

Can we describe risk-taking behavior holistically?

The big difference between the RMT and other theories is that it combines many facets of risk taking in a single holistic model. It takes into account the desire to take risks, as well as the desire to control it. It involves processes that do not consciously take place, such as physiological and basic emotional processes. RMT emphasizes emotional, physiological and cognitive aspects of risk-taking, and a behavioral compensation feedback loop, designed and developed to optimize the overarching benefits of risk-taking.

The components of the ‘Risk Motivation Theory’ (RMT)

Implications of a Risk Motivation for the “Real Life”

Although it seems obvious that people are more cautious when there is great danger, this theory also implies that people voluntarily increase their exposure to danger when the perceived risk is low. This has implications for industry, traffic, health issues, and personal life. The findings teach us that if we make the environment safer, people will compensate for this increased safety by taking more risks.

Implications for reducing accidents

This is important for the design of the workplace for the reason of reducing accidents. The less active input an employee has when working with machines, the higher the chance of boredom, too little excitement and therefore compensation with risky behavior. E.g. duels with oil barrels, or races with fork lifts.

That is why it seems important to involve the employees in the design and execution of their job. The amount of responsibility that one experiences is probably proportional to the amount of risk that one experiences. Risk-seeking behavior must therefore be considered if accidents are to be avoided.

Although programs for encouraging safe behavior have some long-term effect, habituation can be expected that people simply get from the (increased) rewards, and after a while they take more risks. It can help to periodically change the nature of the rewards, and make them flexible, tailored to the person’s needs, individual needs and differences, and by using non-material incentives in addition to material ones. Praise and fame often have a greater effect on intrinsic motivation than material rewards.

Security measures, controlled and imposed by the government, may best be used in family circumstances. By learning from childhood safe behavior and rewarding them for displaying risk-conscious behavior, one could be much more effective than changing adult behavior. The same is true for forming the desired behavior of an employee from the start of employment.

Another important factor in risk-taking is risk perception. If a risk is not seen as such as a threat, one cannot respond to it as such. So recognizing danger must be learned and trained, otherwise accidents will happen anyway. An example is the difference in the handbrake-wheel combination in a bicycle compared to a motorcycle. With a bicycle, the right hand brake belongs to the rear wheel. With a motor, it is the front wheel. If this is not known, this will lead to accidents.

The insurmountable desire for challenges in our daily lives

However, one must also realize that no matter how high the reward or punishment may be, most people still take risks. After all, taking risks is important for survival, and is intrinsically and socially rewarded. Instead of eliminating all risks, one should therefore channel into equally risky actions for the individual, but which are less risky for society. E.g. taking risks with a race car are more tolerated than taking the same risks with a truck with toxic waste.

We must therefore try to let people actively choose which risks they take, and limit the situations in which they take them, as well as look for other situations or locations where and when they want to take risks. People must learn to estimate the costs and benefits of this action.

Anticipation of having fun, and the actual experience of emotions and physiological arousal are very intense under risky circumstances. The increased pleasure provides a powerful incentive to sort out situations that can give us that feeling back.

However, how much risk and intensity is still felt by someone as pleasure is subject to situational and personal differences. Testimonials show that the higher the perceived risk, the higher the pleasant excitement, and the higher the amount of energy spent on controlling the hazard. E.g. how much people think, test, buy protection and spend money to control the dangers for public figures on a race track is probably proportional to the danger for the individuals involved.

The effects of illusion of control has potentially important implications. Most of us have the illusion of control, optimism and skills. We may all be at risk to the level that we feel comfortable with. As we overestimate this level, we may all take too high risks. This has consequences for our survival as a species. Namely, if no other factor compensates for this phenomenon, we should have died out already, or this will happen soon.

A personal conclusion from the author

Given the insatiable motivation of people to do more, he hopes that our drive for more risks will be accompanied by a proportionately strong drive to master and control risks and the environment, so that one does not have to take the ultimate risk, just to to know what happens in the hereafter. Perhaps the consequences of taking that risk would ignore the optimum level of the challenge.