Tag Archive for: Thinking Fast and Slow

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count Just a Few Ways

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” is a famous line from an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem. Counting the reasons you love someone (or like a friend, enjoy your car, prefer a certain store, etc.) is only good advice if you don’t have to count too high. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say don’t have people count past one hand. Allow me to explain.

I’ve been rereading Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. If you want a great overview of how your subconscious and conscious minds work then you’ll want to pick up his book. He touches on our irrationality, similar to Dan Ariely’s work in Predictably Irrational, heuristics (click-whir responses) as mentioned by Robert Cialdini in his classic Influence Science and Practice, as well as many other concepts about how our minds work.

As I’ve been reading I’m struck by the reality that our minds work in ways that are quite often opposite of what we might expect. For example, who would be more persuaded to buy a BMW? The person who is asked to list a dozen reasons BMWs are great cars or the person who is asked to list just three reasons? Most people would intuitively guess the person who lists a dozen reasons. After all, if you can come up with 12 reasons it must be a good car, especially when considered against just three reasons. Unfortunately you’d be wrong.

In several different studies cited in Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman clearly show people who are asked to generate fewer reasons are more persuaded than those who have to come up with many more. Why is this the case? If you can easily come up with three reasons you are probably pretty confident a BMW is an excellent car. However, if asked to come up with lots more, and you do so but struggle in the process, you start to wonder if the BMW is really as good as you think. The struggle allows doubt to creep in.

This feature of thinking is common to all people. When we can quickly come up with a few reasons we are for gay marriage or against it, for a political candidate or against the candidate, for tax increases on the wealthy or against them, or for or against anything else, we will be even more confident that our position (for or against) is the correct decision. However, if asked to list many more reasons we might just wonder how strong our case really is.

Pause to consider this if you happen to be in marketing or sales. Inundating people with reasons your product or service is the best might not work as well as hammering home three to five reasons because your prospective customer will probably easily recall two or three of those reasons. However, a laundry list of why your offer is so great will only work against you!

There’s a saying, “Sometimes less is more,” and it’s certainly the case when you want someone to believe your product or service is the right one for him or her. By the same token, when it comes to love, “How do I love the? Let me count the ways,” will work much better if you save your loved one some time and energy and just ask them to tell you two or three things they love about you!

Influencers from Around the World – Thinking Hurts!

This month’s guest blogger in the Influencers from Around the World series is Cathrine Moestue. Cathrine emailed me her article all the way from Norway! She one of the 27 Cialdini Method Certified Trainers (CMCT) in the world today! If you’d like to connect with Cathrine you can do so on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter. I know you’ll enjoy “Thinking Hurts!”

Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Thinking Hurts!
Remember the love song from the Scottish rock band Nazareth called ”Love Hurts” from 1975?  Well it turns out more good things in life hurt too, like thinking. Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel  Prize winner in economics, in his latest book Thinking Fast and Slow, explains why thinking hurts – we have two systems in our brains. He calls them rather simplisticly ”system one” and ”system two.” System one is fast, intuitive, and emotional whereas System 2 is slower, more deliberate, and more logical.
Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities – and also the faults and biases – of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior. We are not rational decision makers but highly influenced not only by external stimuli but by our very own way of thinking.
Our biases become evident when we are overconfident about our corporate strategies. We are greatly affected by loss aversion, and our cognitive biases have a profound effect when we invest in the stock market. However, even more importantly they explain why we are faced with challenges of properly framing risks we encounter at work and even when it comes to our national security!
Recently  Norwegians were presented with evidence of how painful our cognitive biases can be. Last week an offical report stated the Norwegian police could have prevented the bombing of central Oslo and caught mass killer Anders Breivik faster than they did. Presenting the almost 500-page report, the inquiry team questioned why the street outside the prime minister’s office, Grubbegata, was not closed to traffic as had been recommended seven years before.
Even our prime minister knew it was a security risk but somehow he couldn’t make a descion to do anything about it. Something else must have been seen as more important, or maybe he thought someone else took responsibility for it. Either way it seems like a classic example of system one thinking, where self-defense prevails, and in reality not much thinking is actually being done at all. Our prime minister is only human and this issue concerns us all. We are blind to our own blindness about our how we think.
The report also notes that a two-man local police team reached the lake shore at Utvika first, but chose to wait for better-trained colleagues rather than find a boat and cross to Utoeya themselves. This waiting cost many lives, and the “Clint Eastwood” mentality was nowhere to be seen, unfortunatley.
When the consequences are not just loss of money, but the loss of lives, young lives at that, the knowledge of influence and decision making becomes rather more urgent, rather more pressing.
The good news is that raising our awareness of the  principles of influence (the shortcuts we use while making desicions) combined with understanding the process of thinking  (system one and two) we have a powerful new tool. A tool that we can use to become more effective in any organization.
Even though the report mentioned here can be seen as a national humiliation there is one Norwegian company that really glows in the dark; the architectural firm Snøhetta (named after one of Norway’s tallest mountains). Fast Company ranked them on its list of the worlds most innovative companies in 2011 and the company has won culturally significant, emotionally powerful commissions such as the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, in Egypt, the new 9/11 museum pavilion at New York’s Ground Zero; and the redesign of Times Square. This Oslo and New York based company has really taken seriously that thinking hurts.


If you are the most innovative architectural company in the world you do not have a choice, you have to get out of your mentally lazy state, out of the comfort zone, out of the box thinking and into system two where creativity lies.

Snøhetta has created a method of putting itself in other people’s shoes; it fools its system one by approaching any new project with a change in roles.

The architect must think like the artist, the artist must think like the architect, the economist must think like the sociologist and vice versa. When you hire Snøhetta, in other words, you don’t purchase a signature building (though you’ll probably get one in the end). You buy into a line of thinking, and a process that aims to place equal emphasis on architecture, landscape and social engagement. It is this flexibility of thought and of cooperation between departments we all have something to learn from.


Thinking, Fast and Slow is not only a unique book but also part of an intellectual revolution in which social psychological ideas have a profound influence on politics and economists, at least in some countries. Robert Cialdini’s seminal book Influence Science and Practice has been credited for being the key mover of this thought revolution. Indeed, Cialdini, along with a team of behavioral economists including Dan Ariely, Cal Sunstein and Daniel Kahneman, was called on by Barack Obama to help him win the presidency in 2008. I only wish our government had been as foresighted. Thinking hurts but if we want to improve we better get into the habit. The “No Pain – No Gain” slogan seems to be true for sport, business and politics.

Cathrine Moestue, CMCT