Your brain on your brain on

Researchers at the University of Parody today published new findings on the effects of unimaginative neuroscience article titles on anxiety, depression, and the desire to throw shoes at your computer screen.

The research was inspired by the fact that every single time — EVERY SINGLE TIME — a study involving brain imaging is conducted on a new topic, articles pop up all over the internet with “Your Brain On” headlines. “Your Brain on Love.” “Your Brain on Literature.” “Your Brain on… whatever.”

Researchers split participants into two groups. The first was presented with a series of “Your Brain On” neuroscience article headlines, while the control group was repeatedly beaten with a stick.

Compared to the “Beatings” group, the “Headlines” group reported increased anxiety, depression and decreased will to live, however, this may be because the control group was told they had better report high scores or else the beatings would continue at considerably higher intensity.

The paper ends by indicating that science journalists should drop this article structure immediately in the name of all that is holy and righteous, and also that watching the following is advisable to all readers and writers of neuroscience.

Bill Hicks, “Your brain on drugs.” (not safe for work)

P.S. The source of the problem:

How to start a movement in three minutes

Here’s a fascinating little video about how the “lone nut” becomes a leader.  We often think of leaders as being the key points to the creation of a movement, but Derek Sivers here argues it’s the followers that matter – without them, you’re still just the lone nut!  Some interesting ideas here about conformity and group behaviour – most people like to remain with the crowd, so once enough people get involved in the movement, you reach the tipping point where these people are suddenly less comfortable not being part of the movement, and will run to join you (literally run, in the example in the video!).

Have a look, only three minutes long:

Psychologists discover behavioural law – huge finding

Important note.

Psychology has long been considered a ‘soft’ science, due to the fact that psychological constructs cannot be measured as accurately as objects in motion, for example. But researchers have now uncovered what they believe to be a behavioural “law” which has been used to successfully explain – and predict – human behaviour. So far it has been tested in 41 trials covering a range of human behaviour, and has shown remarkable predictive power in each test.

Researchers believe this calls into question the concept of free will. The behavioural law is explained through an equation, which I have copied below from the new Journal of Behavioural Law, first issue out today. Hopefully I’m not breaking any copyright laws by copying this:

Picture 2

Originally investigated as part of a research drive to help patients suffering from addiction, the wide application of the formula was discovered by chance.

“I knew my wife was cheating on me.” Said Dr Noverdad, lead researcher on the Behavioural Law Project. “I just couldn’t prove it. Me and some of the team were goofing around, and one suggested I apply the behavioural law formula to my wife. It gave a 100% chance that she was cheating. I was gobsmacked.”

When Dr Noverdad got home that night, he found his wife in the arms of another woman. “I didn’t see that one coming! But really, the predictive power of this thing is unbelievable. I think this is going to take over from the magic 8 ball as my favourite decision making tool.”

This equation could revolutionise what we know about the universe, free will, God and physics. More details as I learn more, but until then, please spread the word about this incredible finding!

(PS Happy April Fools’ Day!)

Two things I hate about internet marketing

This is the first in a new concept for a category – rants.  Less official than a manifesto, but more impassioned than a rhetoric, the rant is the most unruly of the the monologue brothers.  It’s a polemic with ‘roid rage.  It’s always useful to remember that a rant, by definition, is one-sided.  Some people use rants to make a point, others use them to blow off steam.  For me, it’s more of a hobby.  Here’s the first; two things I hate about internet marketing.

The Sales Letter aka “The Long Page”

Dear Valued Customer,

We’ve seen the long page one too many times.  You know what I’m talking about –  you follow a link to what appears to be an interesting and informative site.  Excited about the prospect of new and beneficial information, you sit and wait for the page to load.  Then, it hits you. A dreaded “Long Page.”  

Your scroll bar shrinks to the size of a pea as the true horror of the long page is revealed to you.  Bright, red, capitalised words scream at you, as a constant stream of bullet points flood your vision.  The excessive use of exclamation marks slowly hypnotises you, while warm, comforting promises entice you ever further down the page.

You keep scrolling.  Now you’re in free fall.  There’s no going back.  You’re scrolling faster and faster, reading, striving to get to the end where the magical piece of information will be revealed to you!  And then, finally, you see it –

“All these secrets and more, available for only $39.99!!!!”

OK look, I can’t keep up this pretense anymore.  I hate them.  I’ve become so repulsed by these things, that if I read one for more than 33 continuous seconds I instantly vomit.  Seriously.

You must understand, that these pages are designed to manipulate you, to bombard you with claims, promises and persuasion techniques, over and over and over, so that when you get to the bottom and see that the book is priced only *slightly* higher than one that you could buy in person and tangibly own, you’re impressed enough to buy.

The worst thing is when they are filled with NLP techniques – little methods of using language aimed at manipulating you.  Whether these techniques actually work is questionable, but the fact that they are in there at all is so…slimy.  Some of these long page writers make the sterotypical used car salesman look like Jesus.

My policy is simple – see a long page, click back.


People, apparently, are suckers for bonus items.  You know how you get a mint at the end of your meal out?  Studies have shown that if you are given the mint by your waiter, rather than take it from a bowl on the counter, you give a bigger tip.  It’s the principle of reciprocity, a part of our psychology.  You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

So when you’re buying an ebook, you’re almost sure to get a short (less than 20 pages) additional ebook, on a topic somewhat related to the main product.  It gets it’s own title and cover art, and everything is done to make it look like a stand-alone product.  It would not surprise me if the time-pressed internet shamster didn’t pull a chapter out of the finished product – or at least used chapters that didn’t make the cut of the final draft.

And why, whenever it is referred to, must it always be in full caps?  It’s not your free bonus ebook, it’s your FREE BONUS EBOOK!

And of course, it’s value must always be emphasised, to make it clear just how much the author is SACRIFICING by giving this away for free.  He’s really doing you a favour here – this thing’s worth $17!!  

It’s always a strange, non-rounded last digit, isn’t it?

Because the FREE BONUS EBOOK couldn’t possibly have a rounded off value, like $10 or $15.  No, that would be weird!  It might even seem like IT ISN’T EVEN WORTH THAT AT ALL!  

No, better to give it a price ending in 7, that way it’s clear to the victims, sorry, I mean the customers, that the FREE BONUS EBOOK has been carefully analysed, and it’s value calculated to the exact digit.


These two nasty tactics are in the malicious end of the spectrum.  If you see the long page, or the bonus ebook, there’s a good chance you’re being manipulated.  It’s that simple.  

No one puts up the long page to inform you about the product – they are doing it to push your buttons so that when you get to the bottom, you’ll want to buy.  Same with the bonus ebook, no author thinks “Hey, my actual product isn’t good enough, so I’d better whip out some more material.  Besides, this extra piece would be really beneficial to my customers!”  They are thinking “what can I write up quickly and pass off as a free gift?”  

Now, there is always a small chance that people using these methods really are credible.  I’ve wondered if they are actually so effective, that even credible sellers have to use them too, just to stay afloat.

But I doubt it.  There has to be a better way.  The long page truly is the tackiest page on the internet.  It’s the website equivalent of making jewellery out of tin foil.  Instead of a long page, why not a short page?  Instead of a FREE BONUS EBOOK why not 10-15 articles, available for free on the website?  I’m all for effective marketing, but you’ve got to keep it classy, take the higher ground.  

Ultimately, you’re probably not losing much by ignoring sites using these tactics.  There are some really good products out there, available by genuinely knowledgeable authors, and you don’t have to scroll down 18 pages of advertising to buy them either.  

And I’ll tell you where to find them, for just $39.99!!!!