February 16, 2022

Favorite Psychological Tendencies

Want to know how to the world works? Use psychological tendencies to your advantage. Here’s a long list of some of my favorites


-Automatic tendency of humans to reciprocate both favors and disfavors

-This is so intense that it occasionally reverses the course of reciprocated hostility. Pauses in war have occurred do to some minor favor from one side leading to another favor on other side

-Most famous example: Ben Franklin would ask men of higher status an unimportant favor like lending Franklin a book. Thereafter, the man would admire and trust Franklin more

-Wise employers prevent this by not letting employees accept any favors from vendors.

-Standard antidote is to train oneself to defer reaction. You can always tell a man off tomorrow if its still a good idea”


-The quantity of a mans pleasure from a ten dollar gain is less than the displeasure from a 10 dollar loss. Losses always hurt more.

-Give a man something he greatly wants and then have it jerked away at the last second. He acts almost as if he’s had it the entire time.

-This is why gambling is so dangerous. Good gambling provides a lot of near misses and each one triggers Deprival-superreaction

-Another good example is open auctions where social proof will drive up bids


-People are easily willing to spend hundreds of dollars of upgrades on a car for 50,000$ but will avoid spending 8$ at the movies

-Want to take advantage of this? Price your products high but split it into several small parts

Reason Respecting

-People will respect something when there is a reason or explanation for it.

-Simple rule as a leader: If you tell someone to do something you have to tell them what, where, when and why.

-This tendency is so strong that even if u give a meaningless or incorrect reason compliance still increases. A good e.g. of this is people jumping to the head of lines in front of copying machines by saying: I have to make copies”.


-Exploited by advertisers every day

-E.g. the purchaser of a shoe polish for mens shoes likes pretty girls so he chooses the polish with the pretty girl on the polish

-Persian Messenger syndrome: Ancient Persians would kill the messenger of bad news

-Hatred/dislike can also occur with association. People will under-appraise the competency and morals of their competitors/enemies

-Antidote is to develop a habit of welcoming bad news. Tell us the bad new first, the good news can wait

Appeal to Emotion

-Emotion can trump reason almost any day

-No further explanation needed

Actions affect emotions

-Force A to help B and A will often end up liking B

-This works in reverse. Maneuver A into deliberately hurting B, and A will often disapprove of B. This is how gangs manipulate new members.


-Makes people strongly prefer people like themselves. Experiments show that the finder of a lost wallet containing identity clues will be most likely to return the wallet when the owner most closely resembles the finder.

-Easy way to combat this is to judge people based on what they say, and avoid what they look like. Hiring someone? Avoid face to face interviews

-Force yourself to be objective when thinking about yourself, your family or friends, etc

Availability Mis-weight

-People tend to over-appreciate/like things/objects/relationships that are easily available to them

-An idea or a fact is not worth more just merely because it is available to you

Stress influence

-Light stress can slightly improve performance whereas heavy stress causes dysfunction

-Heavy stress can break you

-Pavlov had a set of conditioned dogs. They were subjected to heavy stress during a flood. Immediately thereafter Pavlov noticed that many of the dogs were no longer behaving as they had. Good e.g. of this is when a persons love for people turns into hate when joining a cult

-Pavlovs findings noted that that the dogs hardest to break down were also the hardest to return to their pre-breakdown state. Any dog could be broken down and that he couldn’t reverse a breakdown except by reimposing stress.

Power of Incentives

-Incentives can work for you and against you

-Fedex had a problem at one of their airports. Despite throwing more money, people, moral persuasion they could not get all the boxes sorted overnight. j What ended up working is that they paid per shift but everyone could go home when all the planes were loaded

-Sales associates getting paid by commission. Morale is hard to keep up but it makes them efficient machines. You also need to incentivize the right commission. Xerox in the past had an issue where sales associates would get a higher commission for older products.

-Consultants always have an incentive to say that you need more consulting

-Avoid rewarding your employees for things that can easily be fixed

-Manipulate your own behavior by eating the carrots (do the hard/unpleasant tasks) and before you get dessert

Over-ask Always

-Want to negotiate well? Demand more than you actually need and then negotiate to what you want

-Famous researcher Cialdini went up to a bunch of random people and asked them to supervise a bunch of delinquents on a trip to the zoo for a weekend. His positivity rate was 1/6. He repeated the experiment but first asked people if they would devote one weekend a month for the next 2 years to supervise the delinquents. 100% of people said no. Then he had a follow up question where he asked will you at least spend one weekend taking them to the zoo. This raised his acceptance rate to 50%.

You can be cognizant of these paradoxes and still enjoy them.

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