Meeting room Hacks Episode 9 - Priming for meeting success
How to use cognitive biases to your advantage
First things first - grab a copy of Thinking, Fast & Slow. It’s a book we highly recommend to pretty much anyone working behind a desk.
In the book, Daniel Kahneman argues that the human mind is driven by two components: a rational side and an intuitive, spur of the moment side. One is great for in-depth analysis, one for on the fly decision-making. Both sides are prone to errors, the latter more so than the former - we’ll be reviewing 1 bias conveyed in the book and you’ll hopefully learn how to avoid it or use it to your advantage.
First things first, some caveats: biases usually affect people in a given mental state. This can vary with people’s backgrounds, emotional well-being and so on. So take everything you read with a grain of salt.
What is priming?
If you’ve been reading our posts, you are no stranger to priming. We talked about priming in our very first Meeting Room Hack, when we told you how to boost your testimonials’ power with Facebook ads. Simply put, priming is influencing the mental response to a stimulus by exposing the mind to another one (generally related in some way).
For instance, prof. Kahneman explains how priming the body can influence the mind. He tells of an experiment involving college students (the best lab rats) some pens, some frowns and happiness. The experiment was simple - 3 groups of students were asked to gauge their happiness levels - some were allowed to behave naturally, some to hold a pen in their mouth (so as to force them to smile) and some to frown. Their responses were molded by their physical status - the smiling students reported a rather high happiness index, the frowning students a lower one and the control group was close to the average between all groups.
The experiment primed some students to look happy, while others to look unhappy, influencing their responses.
Here’s another example for priming - just read the following words:
And now state what this 4 letter word might be: M**T.
Chances are, you thought of meet, though meat, mist and melt were also possible words. But your brain tried to fit the new word with the list you’ve previously read.
How can I use this in a meeting?
As always, glad you asked! Since you can’t force people to hold pens in their mouths, you can however play another card - mirror neurons. Smile at people, be generally nice and make them feel comfortable. You’ll be priming them to be satisfied. And you’ll also be a kind person, which is always a good thing.
But there is more you can do - consider the list of words above. You can put up posters around the office that prime people to be in a certain mood, when given the chance. Just avoid being cheesy or over the top. Some nice images or colours that evoke a certain feeling can work just as well as words.