Resolving the Presenter’s Paradox

Deciding what information to include in a presentation is a challenge everyone faces. From the presenter’s perspective, every fact that supports the presentation objective has some value. These might be case studies, data points, primary research, or other elements that drive the point home. Some facts, like primary research studies, might have a high impact while others, like anecdotes and informal stories, have less impact. Regardless of the weight of the information, presenters believe including all favorable information improves how audiences receive and evaluate the content. Presenters believe this creates an additive effect, roughly depicted below.

paradox_additive

Unfortunately, this isn’t how audiences evaluate content. Information with less impact dilutes more impactful information. Rather than an additive view, audiences take an averaging approach. As a presenter, you might think you’re throughly convincing the audience by including every snippet of data, but the audience experiences it differently:

paradox_average

You might experience this when watching a movie. As an observer, your evaluation is based on the entire movie. If the story is captivating but falls apart in the last act, you’re likely to rate the movie less positively even though most of the move was excellent. Another example might be an offer to purchase a new smartphone on its own, or purchase a slightly more expensive bundle that includes low quality headphones. In comparing the two offers, the low quality components reduce the desirability of the bundle relative to just buying the smartphone. This focusing on the big picture instead of individual components is called holistic processing.

Presenters generally fail to recognize holistic processing because their objectives are different from the evaluators. Evaluators assess the entire presentation, while presenters build presentations from individual components which become their own objects of attention. This happens largely because presenters create content using a bottom-up, rather than a top-down approach.

Recommendations for presenters:
  • Build your storyline first, then support it with only the most relevant facts. Avoid the bottom-up approach whenever possible.
  • Evaluate potential information in the context of the overall story rather than discretely. Moderately impactful information will dilute the impact of highly impactful information.
  • Choose the right information for your audience and message. Growth-centric presentations should avoid information on risk and loss, while prevention-centric presentations should highlight it.

 

 

Source:
The Presenter’s Paradox. Weaver, Garcia, Schwarz. 2012.

Are Chinese Companies Reading Employee Emotions?

On April 30th, South China Morning Post reported that Chinese companies are using brain-reading technology to detect the emotional state of workers. The article was short on details but long on effectiveness claims. If you missed it, the device looks like this:

china neural cap

The device appears to fit directly into the uniform hat or helmet, but doesn’t feature a “wet” connection in the form of electrodes. It’s possible the inside curve touches the head, which provides the data feed, but it’s unlikely the device will provide useful diagnostic information. Even less likely is that the data will let employers understand the emotional state of its employees. Data collected using traditional EEGs only provide basic data, and that requires calibration.

That hasn’t stopped the State Grid Zhejiang Electric Power from claiming the technology resulted in a profit increase of $315M USD since its introduction. What’s more likely is that employees, aware of the monitoring, are simply working harder because they’re afraid of losing their jobs. This isn’t sustainable. Possible outcomes include increased stress, employee burnout, and, potentially, workplace accidents.

This isn’t the only place where the Chinese surveillance state is pushing its citizens. In another story from Hangzhou (Hangzhou seems to be surveillance capital of China), schools are using facial recognition technology to ensure children are paying attention. Again, the likelihood this technology is doing what it advertises is vanishingly small, but the societal impact will be real.

Using Mental Models for Forecasting

Sharing a great post from Farnam Street on mental models for problem solving. In my day job, I use a number of these methods for market and product forecasting. One of the most valuable methods is Second Order Thinking:

First-level thinking is simplistic and superficial, and just about everyone can do it (a bad sign for anything involving an attempt at superiority). All the first-level thinker needs is an opinion about the future, as in “The outlook for the company is favorable, meaning the stock will go up.” Second-level thinking is deep, complex and convoluted.

When working with technology vendors, they frequently can’t get past the first level. In their defense, the first order is what’s in front of them – often the next quarter of results. My end user clients, the folks writing checks for technology, are less concerned about the next 3-6 months, but the next 3-6 years. This is where second order thinking comes in. It’s often contentious and imperfect; predicting the future usually is, but this model gives a framework for approaching it.

Cognitive Enhancement Weekly for May 6, 2018

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The top news item this week is the death of Ascendance Biomedical’s CEO, Aaron Traywick. Also, artificial retinas, YouTube’s apparent attack on nootropics content, and the cognitive benefits of music and language training.

Studies

Musical training, bilingualism, and executive function: working memory and inhibitory control

Early studies suggested the possibility of a cognitive advantage from musical training and bilingualism but have failed to be replicated by recent findings. To assess whether cognitive benefits from training exist, and how unique they are to each training domain, this study compared musicians and bilinguals to each other, plus to individuals who had expertise in both skills, or neither. The findings confirm previous associations between musicians and improved cognition and extend existing evidence to show that benefits are narrower than expected but can be uniquely attributed to music compared to another specialized auditory skill domain.

https://cognitiveresearchjournal.springeropen.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s41235-018-0095-6

News

Biohacker and CEO of Ascendence Biomedical Aaron Traywick Found Dead in DC

The biohacker community suffered a loss this week. Aaron was found dead in a float tank in DC. It is currently unknown if [Ascendence](https://ascendance.io%5D will continue operations. Before he died, Ascendance was planning a CRISPR-based trial for treating lung cancer.

http://www.newsweek.com/aaron-traywick-biohacker-who-injected-himself-diy-herpes-drug-found-dead-908001 https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611076/before-he-died-this-biohacker-was-planning-a-crispr-trial-in-mexico/

YouTube Is Removing Some Nootropics Channels

YouTube deleted at least three nootropics channels over the past three days, leaving members of the community confused and worried that a larger crackdown is coming. Apparently this wasn’t targeted, per the updated Motherboard article, but it leaves more questions than answers about YouTube’s enforcement and appeal guidelines.

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/9kgpk5/youtube-is-removing-nootropics-channelshttps://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/paxjvv/youtube-says-some-nootropics-channels-were-removed-mistakenl

New Studies Show Dark Chocolate Can Enhance Cognitive And Immune Health

Although doctors have known about dark chocolate’s health benefits for awhile, these new studies are the first to look specifically at the brains and immune systems of human patients. Flavonoids, an antioxidant, are credited with reducing brain and heart inflammation, but these antioxidants aren’t limited to chocolate. They’re also found in dark vegetables and fruits.

https://alivenewspaper.com/2018/04/new-studies-show-dark-chocolate-can-enhance-cognitive-immune-health/

Pupils are taking drugs to help them perform well in exams, says Dr Miriam Stoppard

It’s finals season for many college and university students, which means a raft of “smart drugs” articles. Many of these are overblown and designed to create more FUD than fact.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/pupils-taking-drugs-help-perform-12474758

Scientists develop ‘artificial retina’ in hope to restore sight to the blind

A cheap new artificial retina could soon be used to restore sight to the blind. Researchers from Tel Aviv and Linkoping have developed a small, photoactive film capable of converting light into electrical signals that stimulate light-sensitive nerve cells in the eye. It is hoped that the research could lead to the development of a wireless implant which could be inserted in the eye of a person whose light-sensitive cells have degraded. This technology may be adapted for other biological applications.

https://www.rt.com/news/425898-blind-cure-neurons-retina-implant/

Content Platforms Censoring Nootropics Content

Earlier this week, Vice reported that YouTube removed several channels that cover nootropics. I also had trouble publishing Cognitive Enhancement Weekly when MailChimp’s automated service detected a violation of its acceptable use policy. While MailChimp quickly resolved my problem, the YouTube channels have yet to be restored.

I think what’s triggering these automated responses is coverage of kratom. Kratom is an opioid-like herb promising relief from pain, depression and anxiety. The DEA has been on the warpath to ban sales of the herb and make it a Schedule 1 drug, putting it in the same category as heroin and LSD.

Prior to this week, I’ve never mentioned kratom in a mailer. The first time I did, the content was flagged. According the to Vice article, at least one the YouTube content creators believes his coverage of kratom is what triggered the ban. Platforms like YouTube have rules that are applied arbitrarily and they frequently leave no avenue for appeal. Suppressing information, especially for substances with questionable efficacy, benefits no one.