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Corporate trainer, coke zero fiend. Writing on human behaviour, psychology, productivity, philosophy and other stuff. Join my newsletter @

The evolution and science of lying

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When we see such universality in moral rules, we know that they combat a tendency for people to do otherwise, and serve an important human need. The pancultural condemnation of lying is clear evidence that all humans are tempted to lie, and that lying is a threat to group cohesiveness and coordination everywhere.” — William Von Hippel, The Social Leap

People lie.

As a society, we seem to have become hyper-aware of lying over the last year. Perhaps we’re apprehensive of the ever-polarising mainstream media. Maybe it’s partly due to the rapid pace of the world since late 2019: When…

On the human fear of uncertainty and the certain end to 2020

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Scientifically speaking, I think we could call 2020 a shitstorm.

The hedonic treadmill and why one shiny new thing won’t change it all

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I’ve been exploring new work opportunities lately. And I’ve found myself thinking some silly thoughts.

Things like, “if I get that work, my life will be made.”

And, “This is going to change the game for me, I’m going to level up my happiness x100 if this happens.”

This kind of language is dangerously close to the absolutist if/then frame of happiness.​

Have you ever thought to yourself, if I could just get that promotion, I’d finally be happy…?​

Or maybe it wasn’t about work or a promotion. Perhaps it was if only I could win that award, or…

The ultimate foes of productive teamwork

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If you’ve ever been to university and had a group assessment task, you’ve probably encountered the social loafer.​

You know who I mean: That person who is technically in the group, but if they weren’t it would make precisely zero practical difference to everyone else.​

The loafer will rock up to the occasional group meeting, smile and nod when people are discussing the task, and agree with everything being said. But when crunch time arrives, and the rest of you are frantically trying to put the last pieces of your assessment together, the social loafer is nowhere to be seen.

The planning fallacy, optimism and what to do

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” — Douglas Adams

The Sydney Opera House is one of my favourite buildings. I think it’s a stunning reflection of Sydney’s beauty and energy, and I’ve spent many an evening there, seeing a play, having a drink, and enjoying the sprawling views of the harbour.

The building was commissioned in 1958.

“Should be done by 1963”, everyone decided. The budget was $7 million.

1963 comes and goes.

In 1964, Tokyo hosts the Olympic games.

In 1968, Kennedy is assassinated.

In 1969, Neil Armstrong takes…

How reactance influences human behaviour

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Freedom has been a hot topic in 2020.

Most of the world has seen restrictions over many of the little things we took for granted.

While many (myself included) would argue that such impositions were an integral part of the best-known approach to a greater threat at the time, of course we’ve all been affected by them. Some others have pushed back against lockdowns, in their own way. Some may be asking: What, exactly, should freedom look like?

Alas, as much as this article seems to be heading towards big, deep topics, it will not get heavy. There’ll be…

The power of habit loops

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According to Aristotle, how we choose to behave defines who we become.

When confronted with an ethical business dilemma, how we respond is what makes us a just or unjust person. How we choose to deal with anger and emotion determines whether we are temperate or self-indulgent or irascible. It’s the daily choices we make that determine our identity: Our habits.

William Durant described Aristotle’s thesis in a nutshell:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Known as the practical philosopher, it’s unsurprising that Aristotle emphasised action and functional improvement…

Context, expectations and inattentional blindness

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One morning in 2007, just before 8 am, a Metro station in Washington saw its usual rush of commuters pass through on their way to work.

Little did these commuters know, this was no ordinary morning.

Because at the Metro, set up and ready to start busking, was one of the most elite classical violinists in the world. Joshua Bell would go on to perform for almost a quarter of an hour, as 1,097 commuters passed by.

The Washington Post organised the performance to see if the beauty of some of the most highly regarded music performed by one of…

The Spotlight Effect and Illusion of Transparency

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Humans are self-conscious creatures.

If you’ve ever accidentally worn mismatching socks, or woken up with a pimple you can’t hide, or worn an outfit that defies your usual wardrobe style, you have probably felt it. That sense that everyone is looking at you; judging your appearance or noticing that flaw.

By the time you get home, you may have convinced yourself that your socks or pimple or slight alteration of appearance is the talk of the town.​

Surely everyone in the office noticed as soon as you got to work in the morning.

The thing is… they probably didn’t.

The Spotlight Effect

Patience and the kids these days effect

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

​“No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”- Epictetus

There are suggestions that patience is close to extinction. That now, waiting for just 16 seconds for a site to load, or 22 seconds for a TV show to stream properly is all it takes to grind our gears.​

Waiting in a line for only 30 seconds, it seems, is long enough to start making us twitchy.

Are we losing our patience?

Sonia Diab

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