The Neuroscience of Changing Other People’s Minds with Tali Sharot: PYP 253

Tali Sharot is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, and director of the Affective Brain Lab. Affective, as in emotions and motivation. Brain, as in processing and decisions. Drawing on recent groundbreaking work in behavioral economics and neuroscience, Sharot shows us how to navigate the intricacies and predictable biases of minds; our own and those of others.

Dr. Sharot is the author of the new book The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others. When I saw the title, I knew I had to discover what she knows about influence: how we can do it well, and how we often screw it up.

I wasn't disappointed. There are thousands of books on persuasion and influence out there; few if any are as scientifically rigorous and practical.

I was delighted when Dr. Sharot agreed to talk about her insights and recommendations on the podcast. And the Atlantic Ocean, often stroppy when it comes to facilitating Skype calls, cooperated beautifully so that we could achieve darn good audio quality.

Dr. Sharot and I discussed:

  • why very smart people suffer more from confirmation bias than the rest of us
  • how to deal with confirmation bias without reinforcing it
  • the UCLA vaccination intervention
  • “there's always something we agree on”
  • brain studies of pairs of people agreeing and disagreeing
  • the evolutionary origins of confirmation bias, and why we don't believe people who claim to have seen pink elephants
  • how to talk to someone who believes in the health benefits of a paleo diet
  • “if we enjoy eating meat, we don't want to believe that it's not good for us”
  • the strategic deployment of carrots and sticks
  • the amazing “Go/No Go” brain circuit, and the mixed message of inhibition as a means to a reward
  • a new and empowering reinterpretation of the famous Mischel “Marshmallow Study”
  • the butterfly effect in groupthink
  • what would our phobias look like if they were rational and statistically based?
  • why we fear flying more than driving
  • we should be very scared of medicating ourselves
  • the importance of giving our counterpart a feeling of control and agency when we're trying to influence them
  • “under threat, we automatically absorb cues about danger”
  • “change their state before you change their mind”
  • the first step is always awareness
  • and much more…


The Influential Mind

The Optimism Bias

The Affective Brain Lab website

The Affective Brain Lab on Twitter

The Skin Rash / Gun Control study: Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government

Marc Guitart-Masip button-pushing experiment: “Action Controls Dopaminergic Enhancement of Reward Representations

Sean Taylor's study of manipulated initial ratings: “Social Influence Bias: A Randomized Experiment

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