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Witches and Beatniks

Originally a place to promote my dark humor writing. Presently, a media psychology blog

Kale, oats, and cornmeal pancakes

Post a picture of your husband and pancakes, forty seven likes. Post a reminder that you wrote a book and need reviews, zero likes. What’s the point of having hundreds of friends on social media if none will rush to attend your every desire? It is almost as if people thought their own lives are more important than mine. How can they be so callous and heartless? An author needs praise! Constant praise! Anyways, since the photo proved to be popular, here it is again, and, why not, an excerpt of my newest novel Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love, where I mentioned the recipe.

Read it in the voice of thirty-seven-year-old white homosexual from Leitchfield, Kentucky.

 

28. Johohoe!

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m in a terrible state, hardly in the mood for my traditional kale, oats, and cornmeal pancakes. Jignesh looks rather skittish too. His face is as pale as Meryl Streep’s in The French Lieutenant’s Woman when she first sees Jeremy Irons at The Cobb in Lyme Regis’s harbor.

“Do you still feel like going to the Opera this evening?” He asks without lifting his eyes from his plate.

I put my fork down. He must be kidding me. I’m wearing my new silk robe from Ralph Lauren—since it is a special occasion, I saw no point in buying only clothes for the evening—I didn’t eat anything but steamed broccoli for the last two weeks so that I would be the skinniest man at the Dorothy Chandler—I’m having only half a pancake today and totally planning to barf it—and I have lived for the last three months with the oppressive fear on my chest of not knowing whether the man I share a roof and sometimes a bed with is going to murder me. And after what I saw on Friday morning…

“I’m really looking forward to it,” I say, giving a sad tone to my words, like that of a heartbroken Kate Winslet in Sense and Sensibility after she lost Willoughby, while trying not to scratch the table from underneath and ruin my $50 manicure from Kinara.

I cannot show myself mad, lest Jignesh gets mad too and kills me, the butter knife inches away from his hand and all. The disappointment on my face must be evident, though, for he doesn’t insist. He briefly looks at me then continues drinking his coffee in silence.

It’s been a rather uneasy two days. A rather uneasy three months, since I discovered the first body… Friday, I closed yet another week without having a single sale, and Tunisha had to let me go.

I did like Julianne Moore in Safe and started sobbing quietly. Poor Tunisha, she’s an excellent boss and awfully inspiring, but she doesn’t know what to do when white people start crying. She got all mortified like that one time when that irresponsible meth addict—what’s her face? some white-trash name like Kimberly—started crying too because she wouldn’t approve an advance on her commissions. Kimberly had terrible skin, but her hair color was just gorgeous. And it was her natural color, I imagine, you wouldn’t think that a drug addict driving a 1987 Crown Victoria full of ten years of fast food wrappers would spend her hard-earned commissions in hair coloring, would you? Not when her teeth and skin were what needed attention. Anyway, Tunisha is such a great a supervisor; she’s always super considerate. She has a brilliant future ahead within the company. The last thing I wanted was to make her feel uncomfortable. After a minute, I brushed away my tears, took a deep breath, said “thank you for everything” and that I would just go empty my desk and leave.

When I reached the door, though, all the repressed emotions came out at once. “I thought he was the man I would spend the rest of my life with,” I think I said at one point. “But he kills people!” Thank God I was bawling by then and so Tunisha couldn’t quite understand me. She called Sherise to bring me a glass of water. When I calmed down, I promised Tunisha I would do better if she gave me another chance. I even knelt down and attempted to kiss her feet. And that rug is so dusty…

Apparently Jignesh had problems at work too. What precisely, he wouldn’t tell me, but the meal we had on Friday evening was the saddest meal we’ve had since he moved in. I couldn’t talk and he just wouldn’t.

He spent the whole day yesterday at his office. Some emergency he had to deal with, he said. One can only hope he wasn’t killing more people.

I decided to visit my friend Lucille in hopes that she could—well, adopt me?

I hadn’t stepped out of the car when she came running as happy as a dog on its first day at the beach: “We’re pregnant!”

I could not ruin her day of happiness, could I? Lucille and Marco have been trying to have a baby for months—what for? It’s beyond my grasp. She has such a nice figure… Gosh, today’s pancakes are so good, I’m glad I added coconut oil to the batter instead of butter. Should I have another half? Anyways, I didn’t tell Lucille that I had lost my job. I simply let her talk and talk baby while I internally basked in my private tragedy. At last, she asked: “So how are things going between you a Jignesh?”

“Oh, marvelous!” I replied.

What else could I have said? For the first time since I met Lucille, her tone didn’t sound like a reprimand. I didn’t want her to feel disappointed.

“And tomorrow is the big day, yay!” She clapped.

“Oh, yes,” I laughed, as if I had forgotten all about it. “Der Fliegende Holländer.”

I’m positively looking forward to tonight’s performance, I can’t deny it. I know the lyrics by heart already: Johohoe! Johohohoe! Johohohoe! Hoe! Hoe! Hoe! Hoe! That and the satisfaction I know I’ll get when, once more, I check in on Facebook at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, donning my super expensive razor jacket from Rag & Bone, and then I see all those likes flowing in, especially from all those people I left behind in Kentucky who never thought I would make it as far as Cincinnati—that’s what keeps me alive.

“I never truly loved your father,” I imagine a septuagenarian self on a rocking chair telling our grown-up children. “But that was the best night of my life.”

 

Brainwashing with LIES!

Yay, people are reading my paper, A Cross Theoretical Model of Persuasion!

Its code title was BRAINWASHING WITH LIES!!! Because it is a guide on how to increase the persuasiveness of a message when dealing with stubborn people that JUST DON’T GET IT. Sometimes a fictional story is the only plausible solution.

You can download it here:

https://www.academia.edu/32450091/A_Cross-Theoretical_Model_of_Persuasion

Here’s the link to the video https://youtu.be/iXln8IXIPdA

 

 

How to increase engagement using the secrets of successful vloggers

Have you heard about Bethany Mota? Bethany is part of a generation of successful video bloggers (or vloggers) who have made a successful career by, apparently, just being themselves and playing silly in front of a webcam.

Bethany was 13 years old when she created her first YouTube video in 2009, a makeup tutorial for products she had just bought from MAC and Sephora. She made her video out of boredom, trying to reduce the stress of being bullied online by a classmate, using herself as a model and her bedroom as the location. The video and the ones that followed earned her a small community of followers. Soon Bethany expanded to outfit ideas, hair tutorials, and decoration advice. Today, she has over 10 million followers on YouTube — that is one and a half million more than Lady Gaga — 10 million on Instagram — Vogue Magazine has a little under 16 — and 4 million on Twitter — Madonna has only 1.5 million.

Do these numbers make you jealous? Don’t be ashamed if they do; they are big enough to make the best brands VERY jealous. Prada’s YouTube channel has only 66 thousand followers. Chanel has only 805 thousand. It makes one wonder: how can I replicate Bethany’s success? Was it luck? Talent? What is her secret?

As much as I would love to give you a recipe with easy-to-follow steps and accurate measures for replicating Bethany’s success on social media, such thing does not exist. Thankfully, psychology and media experts like Henry Jenkins and Robert Cialdini have studied similar phenomena before, and from Petty & Cacioppo’s Elaboration Likelihood Model we can learn how to strategize possible routes to engagement and persuasion. Here, I use Bethany’s success as an example to explain the experts’ recommendations to increase engagement.

To consume your content, your public has to be motivated

Easier said than done, so bear with me on this one. As I mentioned in a previous blog, motivation depends on satisfying the needs of autonomy, capability, and relatedness. In other words, to become engaged with a message such as a blog post, readers need to do so willingly, they need to be able to understand, and they need to relate to the contents of the message. Satisfying the needs of autonomy and capability when creating content to share on social media is almost a given. No one forces Bethany’s followers to watch her videos. They do so out of genuine interest. Bethany’s viewers are also plenty capable of understanding her videos: the videos are in English, they portray situations which are easy to relate to and understand, and, thanks to the affordances of mobile technology, her viewers can watch them pretty much anywhere, anytime, using a mobile device. Also, because of the affordances of social media, her viewers can find the videos without much difficulty because their close network of friends spread them each time one of them likes, upvotes, shares or comments on a video. The tricky part is then fulfilling the public’s need for relatedness. Who watches Bethany’s videos? I do not. I cannot relate. Do you? Unless you are a teenage girl or have one at home, you probably don’t either. Her audience is young girls mostly, specifically young girls that relate to what she talks about (makeup, hair, fashion) and find her advice valuable because they are interested in the same subjects. Should you run to Sephora and start creating makeup tutorials then? Nope. The lesson to be learned here is not to attempt to lure everyone but merely a few. Create content for a particular audience. Bethany sticks to subjects that are of interest to teenagers living a middle-class, sheltered lifestyle, and covers brands that she knows her followers can afford, like Forever 21 and Aéropostale.

Before you start creating content to spread on social media, figure out who your audience is. Ask yourself these questions: Who buys my product? How do they use it? What are their needs? How can I help them fulfill these needs?  If what you are trying to do is broaden your existing audience, then figure out who specifically you want to attract. The smaller your audience, the easier it will be to create content they can relate to. See it this way: Bethany fails to engage 99.87 percent of the population on this planet, now hovering close to 7.5 billion. The 0.13 percent she draws, however, can guarantee her an estimated $40,000 a month business.

The windy road is often the fastest

The central tenet of Elaboration Likelihood Model is that there are two routes to persuasion:

A central route that relies on the diligent consideration of rational arguments; as when I say that eating broccoli is good because of its anti-cancer properties, and you decide to start eating it because you can verify the validity of my statement and do not want cancer, and

A peripheral route that relies on heuristics and other mental shortcuts, as when I say: Broccoli is fun! It looks like a little tree! Celebrities love it! You wanna be healthy, huh, so why don’t you try it?

Taking the central route leads to longer lasting change and less counter-arguing, yet rational arguments are often BORING. Most times, it is easier to lead your audience through a peripheral route, and once engaged, give them the cold hard facts: Broccoli is high in fiber.

 

Increase engagement by appealing to heuristics

The first thing one notices when watching one of Bethany’s videos, like this one for Valentine’s Day is that she is quite attractive. Beautiful hair, flawless skin, big eyes. Then, that she’s also quite expressive, cheery, bouncy, and even a little childish. Bethany is quite likeable! And because she is good-looking, confident, and the video looks professionally made, we can safely guess that she knows a thing or two about making things look pretty. Finally, we notice the number of people that have watched the video. Whoa! Nine million views and counting. We have not watched much of her video, but after a few seconds, we already know that Bethany is pleasant to watch, she seems to be an expert on the subject of beauty, and over nine million viewers have endorsed her message. One can only conclude that, if beauty advice is a topic that interests us, her message is worth watching. Note that we reach this conclusion before a careful deliberation on the merits of her video, but by using heuristics, mental shortcuts based on experience and driven by emotions that we use to save time every time we need to make a decision. Any decision. As humans, we prefer to guess rather than to elaborate, because elaborating takes time. The lesson to be learned from Bethany is that for your message to successfully reach your target audience, you need to convince them first that there’s value in spending time going through your entire message. The sooner, the better, because there are zillions of other things, including cat videos, potentially more interesting than your content going around on the Internet. The Internet is a cruel, nasty place, where nobody has time for the central route. Unless your viewers are super motivated to engage in your content, appealing to heuristics, the peripheral route, is a more effective way to persuade them that your content is worth their time, at least until they have enough information to decide whether the information is relevant or not.

Good, but you don’t have time for a course on consumer psychology, do you? Cialdini mentions six basic principles of persuasion based on our use of heuristics for decision-making. Above I mentioned the three most important:

1. Liking, either the speaker or the way the message is delivered: using fancy colors, music, humor, etc. You do not have to be as gorgeous as Bethany to be liked. Being funny and relatable helps.

2. Authority, recognizing that the speaker must be an expert on the matter at hand,

3. Consensus, public validation of the message.

The other three are:

4. Reciprocity, our desire to repay people like Bethany for her valuable and funny advice with our attention, first, and maybe then with a “Like,” or by purchasing their product. Think about it, how many times did a restaurant earn your business with a free sample?

5. Consistency, our desire to stick to what we commit in public. Credo Mobile marketing strategy relies on reminding the public that they are as committed to social progress and environmental causes as their customers are. You cannot use another carrier if you truly care about the environment, can you?

6. Scarcity, as in “this offer will not last!” Scarcity appeals to our fear of losing an opportunity. Sure, by now we all know that that 30 percent discount will happen again next month — but what if it does not? Taking advantage of the now is an evolutionary advantage acquired during a time when winters were harsh and summers were relentless.

 

Tell a Story

What is stronger than Superman? A story about Superman! In the Running Late for School video, Bethany starts by telling us a story. The birds chirping let us know it’s morning time, we see her tossing and turning, then when her alarm clock goes off, she pushes it off the bed table. Oh, no, she’s going to be late! Then comes the core of her message: Running Late for school? Easy & quick hairstyles under 5 minutes. If we weren’t interested in the subject before, now we are, because by following her narrative and understanding her goal—making it on time to school and still look ravishing—we got emotionally involved. We want to know whether she will make it on time and how. Yep, Bethany’s is a simple story that won’t entice everyone, but remember the only people you need to lure are your target audience. Not every message can easily be turned into a story and stories are not always the most efficient way to deliver a message because they are not as economical as simple rhetoric — it takes Bethany a full 36 seconds of introductory narrative before she starts talking; that’s longer than most commercials. However, when motivation is low, stories are your best bet to increase engagement.

How can you create an engaging story? The recipe is simple:

Identifiable characters. Bethany uses herself. It doesn’t matter who you use, as long as you make it clear that the story is about that character.

Familiar situations that your viewer can relate to. In Bethany’s video, we easily infer it is morning time inside a teenage girl’s bedroom.

Conflict. A dismissed alarm clock. Uh-oh, she’s going to be late.

Clear goals. Making it on time to school while still looking good, as stated in the video title

Resolution. Following Bethany’s advice for Easy & quick hairstyles under 5 minutes.

Note that Bethany’s story is not about how her product saved the planet from zombies, but about how using her product, beauty advice, can save an ordinary girl from an embarrassing situation. Your story should not be about what your product does then but about how it helps people succeed or avoid failure. At ePaisa, we constantly use stories to show how our product can change merchants’ lives, like this one about a man that learned that not embracing technology can be costly.

Want to learn more about creating persuasive messages? I created this video to help communicators on choosing the shortest route to persuasion based on their audience’s motivation to engage. It’s a bit long, so watch it at your own risk 😉

— Originally written for ePaisa.com

How to avoid a social media catastrophe like the one from United

Krampus with Pagonis

Oy, oy, oy. You already know what happened with United. If you don’t, here’s a mighty complete recount of how social media made United the biggest news on the internet.

Now, we’re not here to pass judgment or to speculate on how that particular incident could have been prevented. We’re here to tell you what to do in case you or one of your employees ever make a similar mistake to avoid a social media catastrophe. Because you are on the Internet, aren’t you? If not you should — with ePaisa’s loyalty and marketing tools it’s easy.

You aren’t as big as United, so you may wonder, why should I care? Let’s start by explaining why you should care.

The actual size of your Extended Network

Even if you only have a few friends and followers, you are connected to everyone across Social Media. How come? Because those friends and followers you have also have friends and followers. And the friends and followers of your friends and followers have friends and followers too. Think of it as a railroad network. Some persons have lots of connections, like the stations at Mumbai or Delhi. Some persons have few connections, like the Tenkasi station in Tamil, or the Amritsar station, in the Punjab. Still, one can travel between Tenkasi and Amritsar by changing trains a few times. People on social media act like station hubs, connecting other people, even across platforms, every time they interact with someone else’s post. Just imagine the number of hearts you’d get if @priyankachopra with her 17.1 million followers re-tweeted one of your tweets. And because social media travels through the rail tracks of the Internet, a tweet from Tenkasi may take only seconds to travel all the way to Amritsar, instead of the two and a half days it would take to travel by train.

Going Viral

You’ve heard of videos going “viral.” Content does not go viral at random; people must spread it by interacting with it, either by sharing, liking or commenting on it. When you and a friend go down a path, and you are overcome by the scent of beautiful jasmine flowers and comment on it aloud, your friend may be the only person that hears your comment. When you post a picture of those flowers, your close network may get to learn about them too. Depending on the size of your close network (and your popularity), you may get a comment or two, but what if you post a picture of one monstrous jasmine flower devouring your friend? That may cause some more reactions, huh? For content to go viral, two things are necessary: the content should be easy to share—and pretty much everything posted on the Internet is—and the content should be relevant. Sex, food, and fear engage everyone. Then it’s all a matter of what the public cares about.

No one likes cheaters

Now, what if you post a picture of your friend doing something really, really bad, and just for fun, like burning an entire field of jasmine shrubs. Full of baby kittens. People may react to that too, right?

To increase our chances of survival, we live in societies. And to increase the chances of society to survive, we follow rules. When we follow the rules, only our close kin cares enough to give us praise. When we break a rule, strangers may step in to let us know that wasn’t cool. The bigger the sin, the more that will rise to chastise the sinner. Morality is part of what we are. As Steven Pinker puts it humans feel that “not only is it allowable to inflict pain on a person who has broken a moral rule; it is wrong not to.” And when we’re bored or feel bitter about something, taking it out on someone else feels good, doesn’t it? Tweeting about #UnitedAirlines is the modern equivalent to attending a public hanging. And because of the affordances of social media, you don’t need to put on your pants to burn the witch.

Combine our innate desire to punish the wicked with how easy it is to share content nowadays (it takes a click), and the size of our entire extended network (friends of friends of friends of friends), and you have a recipe for disaster. Remember the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion? Do something that incites the wrath of the Internet, and you will go viral, but for the wrong reasons. As of March 2017, Facebook has 1.86 billion users. As of February 2017, Twitter has 319 million active accounts. How many of them do you think didn’t hear about Cecil’s death?

So, what to do when everything goes wrong?

For a start, don’t do anything rotten. If you do, this our take:

Empower your employees.

When protocol conflicts with the fair and decent thing to do, your employees should feel confident you will trust their judgment by abandoning protocol. Train them, motivate them, and make sure they’re ready to make good decisions. The moment you hire your first employee, you lose 100 percent control on your company.

Own your mistake.

Remember that you’re dealing with the All Judgmental Internet, a monster of a million heads that hear no reasons. You did something wrong, so be ready to apologize once, apologize twice, apologize thrice and do not try to justify it by saying you were merely following standard procedures. If your procedures led you to do something morally wrong, or at least appraised by the public at large as morally wrong, then your procedures were wrong. Recognize it.

Do not blame it on someone else.

Especially not the victim. Within one day, the United CEO was blaming the victim. That is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline! Do not blame it on villainous employees, either, even if it was ultimately their fault. From the viewer’s eyes, it is your company who is at fault. Ultimately, what employees do on company time is your company’s responsibility. On the public’s eye, if your employees do something wrong it is because you did not supervise them or train them correctly. Settle things internally, but as the leader, you must publicly own blame.

Remind the public that you are more than a faceless brand.

As a company, you are a community. You are more than a “heartless” CEO and a bunch of “greedy shareholders.” You are the company’s employees. You are the company’s vendors. Show those faces! Remind the public that your mistake hurts your team too. In other words, appeal to people’s sense of compassion by reminding them that by attacking your brand they are attacking real people. Do not try to become a martyr, just show some real faces with whom the public can empathize. Remember the Domino’s Pizza scandal when a couple of troubled employees pretended to taint customers’ orders with unsanitary tricks? Domino’s CEO jumped to defend the brand and accuse the employees as disgusting. That helped, but it took months to restore the public’s trust in the brand. Had Domino’s shown how those two troublemakers hurt the owner and employees of the franchise affected, maybe the public would have shown more sympathy to the brand.

Think coldly but be empathic.

If you are too upset to deal with the public, then don’t. Have someone less emotionally affected draft all communications, but make sure that this person empathizes with who the public recognizes as the victim.

Offer a solution.

If you cannot offer a solution right away, state that you are working on one. Don’t take too long! It’s better to overcompensate a disgruntled client than to lose all future ones. United Airlines stock took a big hit in the aftermath of the scandal. The price of its shares will probably go up again, but could your business take a similar hit?

— Originally written for ePaisa.com – enabling commerce

Oy vey, I finished my Master’s in Media Psychology

Persuasion

Here’s the link to the video https://youtu.be/iXln8IXIPdA

Here’s a link the PDF A cross-Theoretical Model of Persuasion – Carlos Allende Final Capstone for those of you interested on reading the whole paper or checking references.

Motivate your employees using gamification principles

Relatedness 

How to motivate your employees using gamification principles

You’ve heard about the perks that employees have at those hyper-funded new startups: Guitar Hero hour, yoga room, video game room, unlimited coffee, unlimited beer, free lunches on Friday. You would love to offer the same, but —can you afford it? Unless among your investors is a Saudi prince, probably not. And do all those perks really keep employees motivated? I recently toured one of those startups with a friend. “Nobody ever uses the yoga room,” she told me. “And on free lunch Fridays, most of the food goes to waste because we’re so sick of seeing each other – most of us go out to eat somewhere else.”

According to a recent study by Dale Carnegie Training Global Leadership (2016) that considered 14 countries, including India and the US, only 22 percent of full-time employees plan to stay in their current jobs for the long term. 16 percent are currently looking for a new job, and 29 percent intend to start looking for a new job. Considering how expensive, painful, and tiring it is to hire and train new employees, those aren’t good numbers! The same study explains what’s best to keep employees happy: sincere appreciation and praise, effective leadership, and reliable leaders, leaders that seem honest with others and themselves. For employees that always see their employers as reliable, job satisfaction grew to over 80 percent.

“What nonsense is this!” You’ll say, “I have to be nice? I pay my employees to do their work. I don’t have to explain my actions, and if they don’t like it, there’s a long line of others that would love to have a job!”

Well, if money is what drives you, there is an important reason why you want to keep your employees motivated other than reducing hiring and training costs: increased productivity. A highly motivated employee performs better.

Should you invest in a PlayStation, then? That’s not exactly what I meant by gamification principles. Gamification is not turning things into a game, but using elements of games use to increase engagement. What many successful  games do is apply the principles of self-determination theory. Let’s put some psychology on this. You already know you have to be nice (which is cheap) but let’s explain why, so you will be more motivated.

 

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

According to the Self-Determination Theory, people are intrinsically motivated to perform a task when the task is inherently pleasant. We play games because we derive pleasure from the activity. How do you feel every time you pass a level on Candy Crush Saga? You feel good! It’s the dopamine working inside your brain. The tougher the level, the better you feel. You may not have done a victory dance when you passed the first level, but didn’t you do one when you passed level 45? Now, how do you feel when you have to do chores? Take out the trash, drive through heavy traffic—you don’t dance much, do you? You are extrinsically motivated when the motivation to perform a task comes not from the pleasure the task will bring you but from a separate outcome: you take the trash out to keep your house clean; you drive because you need to get to work, and you work because you want to get paid.

Your employees are extrinsically motivated. If they were intrinsically motivated, they’d work for free! You cannot transform extrinsic motivations into intrinsic motivations unless the separate outcome (reward) becomes the task.  Most times that’s impossible, but you can make the separate outcome more attractive: free beer, free coffee, yoga room, higher pay… or apply some dirt-cheap psychology to convert external regulations, the separate outcome, into integrated regulations, regulations that we follow not only because they lead to a reward but because we have made them part of our concept of self.

Self-Determination theory also says that motivation increases as we satisfy the needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. These are psychological needs we all have the urge to satisfy, just like the need for food and shelter. We want to control our own decisions. We want to feel capable. We want to belong. We’re not walking machines, we’re social animals!

 

How can you make your employees feel more autonomous?

Stop micro-managing. Train your employees properly on how to do their work instead. Give them responsibility. You do not have time to train them? You have less time to hire constantly. Explain to your employees what’s expected of them, give them the tools to do it, and then let them run free. Let them make decisions. That’s how you learn to play video games! A short basic tutorial, you jump with button A, you run with button B, the mushroom-looking guys are the bad guys, and then you’re free to run through the hills and rescue the princess. You’ll spend some time exploring the world, and your employees will spend some time exploring what they can do with the newly earned responsibility and maybe making mistakes. That’s alright. Of course, in video games, you have unlimited lives (you can always restart when you die), and you don’t find the first boss till the end of the third level, but video games also start easy. Give your new employees only the autonomy you both feel comfortable with. As they get more experienced, give them more. Then some more.

“But training is expensive!” you’ll say. Then use tools that are both empowering and easy to use, like ePaisa point of sale. 

 

How can you make your employees feel more competent?

By letting them know they’re doing a good job – just like in video games. Every time you grab a coin in Mario Bros, you hear a little ca-ching! Every time you defeat an enemy, you gain points. Every time you finish a level, you hear this catchy song. Video games constantly let you know that you’re doing a good job and rewarding your efforts with cheap praise. Our response? We become addicted. We spend HOURS trying to defeat the boss so we can hear a silly song and get a message saying, “Thank you Mario, but our princess is in another castle!” and then continue playing for another hour or so. Same with a job: a little praise here and there works wonders. Why? Because when we verify that our efforts are paying off, we feel happy. And happiness makes us release dopamine, to which we’re all hooked. Likewise, when something prevents us from achieving that goal, we feel angry. And when the goal is no longer attainable, we feel sad. That’s the function of emotions, to indicate our progress towards a goal, and serve as directives for behavior on how to achieve that goal. Emotions fade with time though. If something is too easy, you may feel happy at first but then bored. Boredom is an emotion that indicates that a goal is no longer attractive. What do you do when video games get too easy? You stop playing. What does a video game need to do to keep you hooked? Get increasingly difficult, not so difficult that you cannot pass the level, just difficult enough to keep you interested. Same applies to a job: Praise your employees, so they know they’re progressing, but keep them challenged, so they stay interested. If the job is too difficult, they’ll quit. If the job is to easy, they’ll get bored.

Many tasks at work are either difficult or tedious and therefore boring, which reduces motivation. How can you easily increase your employees’ competence? Give them ePaisa! Okay, yes, this is an infomercial but you’re getting lots of good advice and ePaisa does increase competence, by making tedious tasks, like controlling inventory or keeping detailed records of sales easy, so your employees can do more! Keep reading.

 

How can you make your employees satisfy their need of relatedness?

Let me be cynical about it: humans are effing gullible. The one person we love the most in this world is our own self, that’s why we need constant affirmation. It isn’t just vanity but an evolutionary advantage: we prefer those that are nice and complimentary to us because being surrounded by that kind of people increases our chances of survival. Friends will fight with you against enemies. Friends will feed you in the case of need and keep an eye on your stuff and protect it from thieves. It works both ways, when you feel that you are part of a team, you fight for your friends and you protect their resources. Before being rational, we’re social animals, don’t forget that! Your employees need to know they’re part of a team. They need to know that you are all working together for a common goal. Not to make you rich, but to make everyone working for the company live richer lives. They need to be proud of their team. They need to feel that work is like family. That’s why video games always start with a clear inclusive mission: rescue our princess. Help us defeat tyranny. You are our only hope.

Tricks to increase relatedness? An all-expenses-paid bonding seminar to Hawaii, which will drive you out of budget… Or just the occasional “How do you do?” to let know your employees they are important to you. Spend some time explaining to your employees what you’re doing and why their work is important. Let them know that even if they feel as if they were the smallest crew in the big machinery, that little screw is important. In games, you play with your team. You may not be able to choose who is in your team or which team you join, but it’s your team, and you’re loyal to that team simply because it is your team. Again, this is an evolutionary advantage: we have a tendency to prefer those that are close to us, because being close knit increases our chances of survival.

One final advice, for the shy: What if it’s not in your nature to be “nice,” to give praise, and make everyone feel welcome? What if you’re too “results-oriented” and just cannot praise those needy millennials for everything little thing they do? You got a box behind the ear every time you did something wrong, that’s how you learned! Well, if you cannot be nice, hire someone that can. I used to work in this office with a very negative vibe. Everyone in the sales team was always angry and tired. Productivity was very low. Then this girl came who wasn’t the brightest, or the fastest, and needed help constantly because she didn’t know too well how to use a computer; But boy, was she kind and joyful. She improved everyone’s mood because she always had a kind word and made everyone feel useful. She made that office a pleasant place to be and taught us how to be nice to each other. The result? Productivity grew. A lot.

— This post was originally written for the ePaisa.com blog

 

 

Unemployment Reflections

So, I’m unemployed, yay!

I’m actively looking for a day job, writing my capstone (dissertation) and editing my new novel: COFFEE, SHOPPING, MURDER, LOVE, a dark comedy about angry gays killing people. This morning I reached this, which I wrote a few months ago. How à propos!

Read it with a deep Southern accent!

[Charlie, who recently lost his job too, laments his situation]

I wish I could help Jignesh [his lover, who started a money laundering business]. Well, I better help, I’m all smeared into this murder catastrophe [two bodies, so far]. I need to find a new job, that would be a proper way to help, wouldn’t it? But I’m so depressed, so incredibly down by this perilous situation that I spend the whole day on Facebook and visiting porn sites. I only check Craigslist for the personal listings… God, the things one reads there. Let’s have a party in pantyhose… It’s rather unsettling.

I entertain some time cleaning. Dusting the shelves, fluffing the cushions. I start a mental list of the changes we need to do in our home. We could use a new dining table… And I think this house needs to be tented. The wood in the window frames is all rotten, and I haven’t had the bravery to check yet, but I bet the attic is vermin infested.

Dear God, I know he’s an infidel, and a sinner, and that the whole thing is illegal, but please help Jignesh succeed in his business endeavors and send us the miracle we need to get rid of those bodies. Touch Mike’s heart so he gets a bonus this month. And the next too. And the next too, and so forth, at least until I find a job and can take care of my own expenses… What could I do that doesn’t involve any actual effort, I wonder, scrolling down on my Tumblr newsfeed… Oy, nice peaches…

To think of all those lazy people on disability and me in the most complete wretchedness, depending on a man I’m not attracted to. I can’t even enjoy wasting time on the internet without feeling a lump form in my throat. The government should send me a monthly stipend to compensate me for all my suffering. I had a rough childhood. Discriminated. Prosecuted. Forced to leave my paternal home and move to Southern California to escape a reactionary life on a hyper-caloric diet, and once here, never discovered. I am too pretty. Too meek. Too sensible… Matteo has a forty percent sale. Would it be too extravagant to purchase new sheets, considering my dire circumstances?

Changing Hearts, One Meme at a Time

 

If a friend asked you to photocopy the photo of a man someone told her is a murderer and then distribute it among all your friends and acquaintances with the specific purpose of ruining that man’s reputation, you probably wouldn’t say yes, would you? Even if your friend offered to release you of most of the burden by paying for the photocopies and distributing them herself using your contact list, the fear of committing slander would prevent you from spreading what may not be but a malicious rumor. And yet, we spread unconfirmed claims among the members of our social network all the time, whenever we share a meme without confirming first whether the information it contains is correct: Roma stealing babies, corrupt politicians, presumed rapists and pedophiles of a certain ethnicity, selfish celebrities. We call attention on reprehensible attitudes basing our judgment not on concrete evidence and logical arguments, but in one evocative image and a few stirring words.

The present paper attempts to explain what makes us agree with the content of a meme and persuades us to share it in the absence of strong evidence to justify its claims.

A meme’s potential to convince individuals of the veracity of its content and worthiness to be shared relies on its simplicity, the viewers’ ability to understand the concepts portrayed within the meme, transportation, the viewers’ attitude, and the viewers’ perceived norms towards such concepts. Viewer’s attitude can be changed by appealing to emotion.

An internet meme is an image, usually accompanied by text, that is copied and spread rapidly through the internet (Oxford Dictionary). Memes tend to be humorous. Some are innocuous like the “I has feet” lizard (Rahimi, Pinterest), but some are inflammatory, like this one from the British National Party (BNP) implying that the refugees taken by Germany are a threat to the UK (BNP Facebook post, 2015).

According to the Reasoned Action Theory (RAT), volitional behavior, or intention, is a function of four determinants: “one’s attitude toward the behavior in question, one’s injunctive norm, one’s descriptive norm, and perceived behavioral control” (O’Keefe, 2015; p. 99). Based on this model we can express a meme’s power to persuade viewers about the veracity of its content and worthiness to be shared as a function of the viewers’ ability to both understand its message and share it (the perceived behavioral control in the RAT model); the viewers’ attitude towards the subject portrayed within the message, and the viewers’ perceived norms, i.e. the public’s opinion.

Since the viewers’ ability to understand a meme and the perceived capability to share it are conditions sine qua non to change intention, we explain their effect first.

We have a natural need for cognition (O’Keefe, 2015). That’s why we spend hours at a time following the thoughts of strangers in Twitter and browsing our friends’ posts in Facebook. Yet “we have very little attentional capacity,” (Ware, 2010; Kindle Location 192) and tend to avoid high elaboration, in order to save time and energy (Ware, 2010), especially when the matter has little relevance to us, as the elaboration likelihood model predicts (O’Keefe, 2015). Now, because most memes consist of only one image and one or two lines of text, they require a minuscule effort to process. We may not be willing to invest our time reading or listening to arguments that attempt to convince us that Obama is a terrible president, especially when we think he’s not, but reading a meme with a similar argument not only is easy but almost unavoidable when it appears in our news feed. Reading a meme is a bottom-up process in the sense that we get tuned to interpret it (Ramsøy, 2014). Avoiding it requires a conscious effort. Its distinct image pops out “because of automatic mechanisms operating prior to the action of attention” (Ware, 2010; Kindle Locations 680-681) resulting from the parallel processing within the visual areas of the brain, leading us next to read the accompanying text, then to decide whether we agree or not with its message, and if we do, whether to share it or not. Because of the affordances of social media (see Ellison, Steinfeld, Lampe & Vitak, 2011), the perceived capability to share is almost a given: it takes one click

Seeing a meme is also a top-down process, though, in the sense that we are drawn to read memes based on our previous experience with other memes: many are just fun to read and it is the promise to have a good laugh that makes us pay attention.

Simplicity is not enough, however, for a meme to successfully convey its message and persuade us to spread it. The concepts implied must be understood, and because memes are by definition, very brief, this understanding depends heavily on our semantic memory, our “general knowledge about the world, concepts, language, and so on” (Eysenck & Keane 2010; p. 255). A Scumbag Steve meme (See Samjowen, 2011) brings to mind a cascade of semantic concepts: millennials, men that wear jewelry, fur, and designer clothes; the naiveté implied by rosy cheeks and a slightly opened mouth, etc. Separate, all these concepts have different meanings. Brought together they imply arrogance, stupidity, self-centeredness, and conceit. Memes combine narratives and rhetoric: They use emotion and the cultural heritage of the audience as persuasive tools (Weida & Stolley, 2013). An evocative image has the power to transport us, if only for a fraction of a second, especially when we’re bored and looking to be entertained (Green & Brock, 2000) as it is often the case while using social media, and transportation can lead to a change of beliefs (Green & Brock. 2002).

Which bring us to the next determinant, attitude. Once the message is interpreted, viewers’ decide whether they agree with it. Memes do not contain strong arguments. The emotions aroused are the evidence that support their claims. While agreement with a meme’s message can be affected by transportation, mostly it depends on the viewer’s previous attitude towards the subject. According to the summative model of attitude, attitude is a function of the strength with which an individual holds a series of beliefs about a subject and his evaluation of these beliefs (O’Keefe, 2015). A meme that calls to punish presumed rapists and pedophiles, like this one (BNP Facebook post, 2014) is so blatantly racist that it may cause reasonable doubt about its veracity, but at first glance, due to transportation and in the absence of deep elaboration, the decision on whether to agree to it will depend on whether the viewer assigns a heavier weight to his rejection of rape or the need to be politically correct, since the ultimate message is one of discrimination.

Using a simpler example, a person with a positive attitude towards President Obama will most likely disagree with a meme that shows Robert Downey Jr. rolling his eyes and the accompanying text “my face, every time Obama starts talking” (Memegenerator.net) and probably will not share it, unless intended as a joke, or to raise awareness on the matter. Now, what if this same person, let’s call her Claudia, has a somewhat neutral attitude towards Obama but a positive attitude towards the actor, and the actor’s opinion weighs more in her decision than any beliefs she may hold about the President? Claudia may conclude that if Robert Downey Jr. feels that way about President Obama’s talking, Obama is probably a bore, and she may decide to share the meme. In this case, an injunctive norm, the belief that Robert Downey Jr. dislikes Obama, together with transportation, have a persuasive effect on Claudia’s decision. Granted, her belief is assumed as true due solely to heuristics: Claudia does not know the actor, but it’s in a meme, and in her experience, memes tend to contain the true, so that must be the actor’s opinion.

How could she arrive at that conclusion? Facebook shows us first the posts from those who we explicitly mark as “show first,” and from those with whom we interact the most (Bereznak, 2014). Because we tend to connect in social media with those that are akin to us (Johnson, Zhang, Bichard, & Seltzer, 2011), the memes we get to see in our news feed come, most likely, from individuals that share our attitudes. The weight we assign to our closest friends’ opinions acts then as an injunctive norm, impelling us to agree with what they share. Likewise, the fact that a meme or a series of memes expressing similar concepts seem to be everywhere, acts as a descriptive norm. In other words, consensus has a weight in the decision whether to accept the content of a meme as true.

The decision whether to share or not a meme, relies on whether we agree with its content or, at least, find it relevant enough to be shared. To persuade a viewer of the veracity of their content and worthiness to be shared, memes rely on the viewers’ ability to understand their message, which is a function of the viewers’ semantic memory, previous attitudes, emotions aroused by inducing transportation, as well as other heuristics such as consensus and credibility, and internet and social media affordances, that make them incredibly easy to spread.

 

References:

Bereznak, A. (2014, June 30). How Does Facebook Decide What Shows Up in Your News Feed, Anyway? Retrieved February 18, 2016, from https://www.yahoo.com/tech/how-does-facebook-decide-what-shows-up-in-your-news-90375237489.html

British National Party. (2015, September 13). Let’s get Britain Out of the EU! (Facebook Post). Retrieved February 18, 2016, from https://www.facebook.com/OfficialBritishNationalParty/photos/pb.71523830069.-2207520000.1455825408./10153614247940070/?type=3

British National Party. (2014, September 10). More than 1,400 young British girls. Retrieved February 18, 2016, from https://www.facebook.com/OfficialBritishNationalParty/photos/pb.71523830069.-2207520000.1455829039./10152703897090070/?type=3

Ellison, N., Lampe, C., Steinfeld, C., & Vitak, J. (2011). With a Little Help From My Friends: How Social Network Sites Affect Social Capital Processes. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A networked self: Identity, community and culture on social network sites. New York: Routledge.

Eysenck, M., & Keane, M. (2010). In Cognitive psychology: A student’s handbook (6th ed.). Hove, Eng.: Psychology Press.

Green, M. C., & Brock, T. C. (2000). The role of transportation in the persuasiveness of public narratives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79(5), 701-721.

Green, M. C., & Brock, T. C. (2002). In the Mind’s Eye: Transportation-Imagery Model of Narrative Persuasion. In M. C. Green, J. J. Strange & T. C. Brock (Eds.), Narrative Impact: Social and Cognitive Foundations (pp. 315-342). Mahwah, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Johnson, T., Zhang, W., Bichard, S., & Seltzer, T. (2011). United We Stand? Online Social Network Sites and Civic Engagement. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A networked self: Identity, community and culture on social network sites. New York: Routledge.

Memegenerator.net. (n.d.). My face every time Obama starts talking. Retrieved February 17, 2016, from http://cdn.meme.am/instances/65869316.jpg

O’Keefe, D. (2015). Persuasion: theory and research. SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Rahimi, S. (sharer). Animal cuteness. In Pinterest website. Retrieved February 17, 2016, from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/165718461262104868/

Ramsøy, T. (2014). Introduction to neuromarketing & consumer neuroscience. Neurons Inc ApS. Kindle Edition.

Samjowen. (2011). Scumbag Steve. Retrieved February 17, 2016, from http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/scumbag-steve

Stevenson, A., & Lindberg, C. A. (2010). New Oxford American dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Apple Widget

Ware, C (2010). Visual thinking: for design (Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive Technologies). Elsevier Science. Kindle Edition.

Weida, S., & Stolley, K. (2013, March 1). Using Rhetorical Strategies for Persuasion. Retrieved November 16, 2015, from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/588/04/

Forest of Fortune, by Jim Ruland

Forest of Fortune isn’t an ordinary novel. More than a narrative, it is a trip to the lives of others, three tortured souls whose paths never really cross but have in common one place, the Thunderclap Casino.

fof-cover-small-194x300

This is a very manly book. Ruland doesn’t care about adorning his characters with any likable features; the stench of vice, poverty, self-centeredness and low self-esteem is present on every page, yet you come to love that same stench because Ruland draws his characters in a way that it is impossible not to feel for them. My personal favorite was Pemberton—maybe a gender bias. At the beginning of the book, we follow him through a binge of alcohol and cocaine, visiting characters who, for those living in Los Angeles, will sound a little too familiar. There’s always a Kiki around. After such a night, you cannot stop reading. Pemberton is ending his own life yet you can’t help but enjoy with the same desperation as he does every shot and every line the author invites you to have with him. Others will empathize more with Alice, drowned in sadness, and Lupita, having a good time but guilted by what she sees as selfishness. All and all, you may think you have nothing in common with these three people, still, you will connect with them as if they were your best friends.

I couldn’t decide at first whether I liked the ending or not so I had to read it a second time. I decided I loved it. It was appropriate, if too soon—I wanted more. I definitely loved the trip all throughout precisely because it takes you nowhere. Now, to be one hundred percent honest, Ramona could have been edited out, you can’t reach the same level of empathy with her, still, I’m looking forward to Ruland’s next work of fiction.

After reading this book, the four words he uses to describe himself on his website, “writer, sailor, punk, rat,” make you nod and say: “yeah!” with a big smile.

You can read more about the Jim Ruland’s book here

 

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