Social engineering lecture by Dr. Ellen Langer (Harvard University) - Part II - Learning conditionally

The episode number 7 of the Social Engineer podcast features an interview with Harvard psychologist Dr. Ellen Langer. This is a second post with learning points extracted from her words on mindfulness. Here you are (most of them are literal, or slightly summarised, statements from Ms. Langer):

Minute 20: Expectations. Someone publishes in a newspaper an ad asking for a 1 USD banknote. He made a lot of money. Many people just sent the dollar. They were expecting something nice in return. Actually, our brain is wired to expect that.

Minute 21: There is nothing better to provoke rejection than stating: " What you have to do is..." We do not like to be told what we have to do. However, we welcome requests.

Minute 22: The foundations of manipulation rest on offering a choice to the interlocutor. The manipulator's task will be to guide them through the choice. E.g. "[adapted]...If you would like your child to have eggs for breakfast, just ask her how would she like the eggs and not whether she would like to have eggs for breakfast".

Minute 23: A second opinion does not matter very much. We associate the word second with something less important.

Minute 25: If you need 20 minutes from someone who is really busy, start asking something along these lines: "Could you devote me two hours this afternoon?" They will answer "No way". And then you introduce your real request: "What about you give me 20 minutes?".

Minute 28: The question determines the answer. Compare these two questions:
- Why am I a failure?
- Why am I a success?

Minute 29: Another example of framing, look at these two sentences:
- You are wonderfully spontaneous.
- You are terribly impulsive.
We refer to a similar reality but within different frames. People always try to confirm hypothesis.

Minute 35: The role of people in messages, especially in messages asking NOT to do something. Two cases:
- Keep off the grass.
- Ellen says keep off the grass.
We tend to follow de-personalised messages (first case) more than personalised messages (second case).

Minute 37: (Almost) everything we experience is the result of a previous decision. Once the decision is made, most of those decisions are accepted mindlessly.

Minute 39
: Mindlessness maintains the "status quo".

Minute 45: Information has no single understanding. This statement can be applied to fight against stress. Stress is a way to understand reality.

Minute 47: Learning conditionally: "This could be a table rather than this IS a table".

As mentioned already in part 1, this content is excellent - thanks to Ms. Langer and to the social-engineer.org crew!

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