Newsletter - June 2020

Hey, Groovers…

Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse…it got worse.

Like everyone else around the world, we watched the video of George Floyd being killed by an officer of the law on May 25th. However for us, the event took place – literally – just down the street from where we live. Like many of you who receive this newsletter, Minneapolis is our beloved home, and these recent days have been surreal for us.

We both live close enough to the epicenter of the protests and the riots to experience more than just the emotional devastation from the event.

Kurt lives only blocks away from some of the protests and could smell the smoke and tear gas in the air, hear the chants of protesters, and see the police and national guard units patrolling up and down his street in the middle of the night.   The bank and post office that were burned, were where Kurt did his banking and sent out his mail.

Tim is about 2 miles away from the epicenter, but his proximity to a freeway entrance caused drivers deterred by roadblocks (to keep people off the highways after curfew) to race down his street in frustration and anger.

Mr. Floyd’s death is an unimaginable horror as it was not the result of a split-second or hair-trigger decision, but a callous, calculated effort that lasted more than 8 minutes.

As humans, we are reason-seeking machines. And right now, we’re trying to make sense of the horrible and the absurd.

Kurt and Tim are creating a special podcast episode dedicated to the behavioral aspects of the events related to George Floyd’s death and we hope you check it out here on Friday, June 5th.

We are hurting right now.  All of us.  Are we hopeful things will get better? Of course we are. We believe that Minneapolis and the rest of the world can be a place where all citizens are treated equally under the law and respected for the human beings that they are.  It’s just not happening today.

Thanks, and keep on grooving!

~ Kurt & Tim



Highlighted Behavioral Grooves Podcast: Gary Latham: Goal Setting, prompts, priming and skepticism

Gary Latham, PhD is one of our behavioral science hero’s.  He, along with Edwin Locke, PhD, developed Goal Setting Theory.  We were very excited to have him as a guest on the show and he did not disappoint.  Witty, charming, insightful and full of laughs, this episode reviews goal setting theory and subconscious goal priming – touching on a number of other topics as well.  Listen to over 50 years of stories that Gary has to share.

Kurt’s Reading

Behave” by Robert Sapolsky has to be my favorite book of 2020 so far.  It is a deep dive in the neuroscience of behavior.  This is not easy reading – Sapolsky gets into the details of our brains talking brain structures, detailing how neurons work, and outlining neurotransmitters role in behavior.  Throughout it all, Sapolsky weaves information together in a way that informs and captivates.  It is slow going to read, but worth every minute.

Tim’s Reading

An upcoming guest, Joel Weinberger, PhD, wrote an excellently-compiled narrative called “The Unconcious: Theory, Research and Clinincal Implcations.”While mostly intended for serious inquiries into the ways unconscious processing impacts our daily lives, there’s plenty for practioners to take away from his work, co-authored with Valentina Stoycheva. Dating back to Descartes, the authors start with an historical perspective, then lead the reader through contemporary research into the unconscious, and end by weaving together neuroscience and psychology. Fascinating and highly recommended if you’re looking for a deep dive into the tremendously important role the unconscious plays in our daily lives.

Kurt’s Music

With the past weeks happenings, I’ve been finding that I needed solace and calm.  It also means that I didn’t have much emotional capacity to pick my songs – so, I turned to Pandora and have been listening to the “Calm” station.  It is a soothing mix of accustic and piano music that has been a balm for me in these troubled times.

Tim’s Music

A few weeks ago, Aline Holzwarth at The Center for Advanced Hindsight enlisted Kurt and me in creating Ultimate Behavioral Science Playlist. You can listen to the dozens of songs on Spotify, or here on YouTube, in case you’re protesting how badly Spotify pays artists for their work. I promise there’s something interesting and likable for nearly everyone (except hardcore classical fans).



Available at our Behavioral Grooves website, iTunes, Spotify, and just about anywhere you catch your podcasts, we have new podcasts including the COVID-19 Special series and regular episodes, as well. You can check all of these podcasts, and more, at our Behavioral Grooves website at https://behavioralgrooves.com/.


Next Meetup: 06-18-2020 @ 6:00pm CDT

Date: June 18, 2020

Time: Gather at 6:00pm Central Time

Online Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85186452562

Speaker: No speaker. We are asking the Behavioral Groove community to share what they are going through in these troubled times, how they are dealing with things, how we can help out our community and make a difference in our world – all with a behavioral science lens.

Topic: Coping with Troubled Times.


Behavioral Science Principles for June

Clustering illusion

The tendency to overestimate the importance of small runs, streaks, or clusters in large samples of random data (that is, seeing phantom patterns). It also addresses why we see faces in clouds but not clouds in faces – we humanize things that aren’t really there.

Hawthorne effect

The act of monitoring someone can affect their behavior, leading to spurious findings. Also known as the Observer effect.

Fuzzy trace theory

According to this theory, memories are encoded generally (gist), as well as specifically (verbatim). Thus, a confabulation could result from recalling the incorrect verbatim memory or from being able to recall the gist portion, but not the verbatim portion, of a memory.

For access to our complete list of biases and heuristics, check out our evergreen document on Google Docs: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XHpBr0VFcaT8wIUpr-9zMIb79dFMgOVFRxIZRybiftI/edit?usp=sharing


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Notes of interest

Kurt and Tim have both been guests on a number of podcasts recently.  If you’re interested in hearing them being asked the questions, instead of asking them, check these out:

Human Capital Innovations Podcast: Kurt talks about behavioral science and work

The Tracy O Show: Talking pandemic and the strange behaviors that it brought out

The Brainy Business: Tim is talking with Melina Palmer on goals and other things (not yet released)


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Reviews, Ratings & Patreon

Lastly, we’d appreciate you sharing our podcast with a friend or taking a moment to write us a review.  If you don’t have the time or inclination to recommend us to friend or write a review, we have also started a Patreon account you can sponsor us directly.

Each episode hour that we produce takes over eight hours of our combined time (sometimes more), as well as hard costs for hosting, transcription and web services.  We don’t currently have advertisements or big corporate sponsors, so we appreciate any support you can provide.  The link to give is https://www.patreon.com/behavioralgrooves – we appreciate it!


Kurt Nelson, PhD / 612-396-6392 / kurt@lanterngroup.com

Kurt has over 25 years helping organizations understand their employees.  His company, The Lantern Group, is a Behavioral Design & Communications Agency focused on Employee Motivation, Company Culture, and Organizational Friction.  He has a passion for trying to understand “why we do what we do,” skiing (downhill and water), the Timberwolves, good books, and good beer.  Find out more at www.lanterngroup.com

Tim Houlihan / 612-386-5886 / tim@behavioralchemy.com

Tim founded BehaviorAlchemy, LLC, nearly 3 years ago after nearly 20 years at BI WORLDWIDE, a global incentive agency based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At BIW, Tim was the Vice President of Reward Systems with corporate responsibility for $300,000,000 in revenues for products distributed to over 1 million participants in 49 countries and 32 languages. Tim is also a committed Americana singer-songwriter with 6 self-published records and performs more than 35 gigs each year.


Is your company maximizing its human capital?  Does your leadership team know how to leverage behavioral insights to improve performance?  Do you need help in developing incentives or understanding how you can maximize motivation?  We can help you take that leap through an organizational diagnostic, consulting engagement or a custom podcast for YOUR company? Give us a call!

© 2020 Behavioral Grooves


Disclosure: some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase, we will earn a commission. This helps us offset some of the costs of the podcast and running the monthly meetups.  Note, you can always bypass these links and just buy them directly. 

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