How to Powerfully Begin Every Presentation Reply

Communication expert Gary Hankins explains the 4 ways to grab attention and focus the audience on your subject. This powerful strategy and many more are in his highly acclaimed book The Power of the Pitch: Transform Yourself into a Persuasive Presenter and Win More Business available at

Suspicious? Use This 30-Second Ploy to Discover the Truth Reply

By Chris Simmons

When you suspect someone of wrongdoing, you can use a simple psychological ploy to force them to reveal what they’re hiding. Known as the similar scenario or the allusion power play, this technique uses a query to expose an individual’s unconscious attitudes and thoughts. According to Dr. David Lieberman, a noted expert in the field of human behavior, this protocol is the verbal equivalent of the inkblot test (also known as the Rorschach test).

In using this tactic, do not refer to the suspected misconduct, but tell a story about a third party engaged in identical behavior. Since the individual is not being accused, he/she will not be defensive. However, their response will clearly demonstrate whether they are being truthful.

To demonstrate, let’s use a frequent area of concern – a cheating spouse/significant other. Rather than accusing your loved one of having an affair, tell him/her that you think a colleague is having an affair. Do it rather casually when you are face-to-face so you can watch for body language “tells.” Deliver your story quickly to maximize the element of surprise. Do not “buildup” the event as this could give your partner time to prepare or make them apprehensive.

For example, while clearing the table after dinner, you could turn to your significant other and say:  “Hey Gorgeous, guess what happened at work? I think my boss is having an affair with that new 20-something he just hired.” Now watch the reaction. An innocent person will immediately ask questions and willingly discuss the topic with you. Conversely, a guilty party will be uncomfortable and seek to change the subject as a means of putting distance between themselves and the errant behavior.

I recall a time we used the allusion power play in Afghanistan. We had an intelligence source we began to suspect was working for the Taliban, or possibly al-Qaeda. Had we accused him, he would have denied it (and if he was a double agent, he would have employed countermeasures to mask his exploits). Instead, we told him we appeared to have a problem with Taliban penetration of our spy network and needed his help in creating more safeguards to protect our operations and personnel. Rather than reacting negatively and asking if he was a suspect, our source was proud we respected him so much that we had sought his assistance.

He created a list of detailed recommendations. Although he had displayed the “innocence response,” we were concerned that his espionage service might have played a role in his reaction. As a result, still not absolutely convinced of his loyalty, we thanked him for his efforts and told him we needed more options in our array of tactics, techniques, and procedures. He happily developed a diverse range of additional alternatives. Still not satisfied, we pressed him to develop even more sophisticated options. He complied – quite successfully. Now absolutely convinced of his loyalty, we “promoted” him and shortly thereafter (based on hard evidence) jailed several of his colleagues for having attempted to frame him.

I have never known the allusion ploy to fail, even when it appeared highly likely that an individual was guilty, as in the above scenario. It is, in essence, an instant psychological test. By not accusing an individual, you side-step their natural defensive behavior. Then, by telling a story or asking for their help in stopping the suspected behavior, you create an artificial trap – one that’s smart enough only to catch the guilty ones.

Dr. Jack Brown on Nonverbal Communication Reply

Presentation of of Dr. Jack Brown at CSI World’s 33rd Annual Crime Stoppers International Training Conference, October 3, 2012 Las Vegas, Nevada. Video recorded and posted by Scott Mills, Crime Stoppers International Social Media Adviser.

Note: The audio quality is poor during the introduction, but improves significantly once Dr. Brown takes the stage at 2:23.

Your Use of Pronouns Reveals Your Personality 1

by James W. Pennebaker, Harvard Business Review

The finding: A person’s use of function words—the pronouns, articles, prepositions, conjunctions, and auxiliary verbs that are the connective tissue of language—offers deep insights into his or her honesty, stability, and sense of self.

The research: In the 1990s, James Pennebaker helped develop a computer program that counted and categorized words in texts, differentiating content words, which convey meaning, from function words. After analyzing 400,000 texts—including essays by college students, instant messages between lovers, chat room discussions, and press conference transcripts—he concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

The challenge: Can insignificant words really provide a “window to the soul”?

Professor Pennebaker, defend your research.

Pennebaker: When we began analyzing people’s writing and speech, we didn’t expect results like this. For instance, when we analyzed poems by writers who committed suicide versus poems by those who didn’t, we thought we’d find more dark and negative content words in the suicides’ poetry. We didn’t—but we did discover significant differences in the frequency of words like “I.” In study after study, we kept finding the same thing. When we analyzed military transcripts, we could tell people’s relative ranks based on their speech patterns—and again, it was the pronouns, articles, conjunctions, and other function words that made a difference, not the content words.

HBR: Why are function words so important?

In English there are about 500 function words, and about 150 are really common. Content words—nouns, verbs, adjectives, and most adverbs—convey the guts of communication. They’re how we express ideas. Function words help shape and shortcut language. People require social skills to use and understand function words, and they’re processed in the brain differently. They are the key to understanding relationships between speakers, objects, and other people. When we analyze people’s use of function words, we can get a sense of their emotional state and personality, and their age and social class.

Here’s a simple, pronoun-heavy sentence: I don’t think I buy it.

Ooh. You just revealed something about yourself in that statement. Why did you say “I don’t think I buy it” instead of “I don’t buy it” or even “That’s ridiculous”? Pronouns tell us where people focus their attention. If someone uses the pronoun “I,” it’s a sign of self-focus. Say someone asks “What’s the weather outside?” You could answer “It’s hot” or “I think it’s hot.” The “I think” may seem insignificant, but it’s quite meaningful. It shows you’re more focused on yourself. Depressed people use the word “I” much more often than emotionally stable people. People who are lower in status use “I” much more frequently.

Can you tell if someone’s lying by their use of function words?

Yes. A person who’s lying tends to use “we” more or use sentences without a first-person pronoun at all. Instead of saying “I didn’t take your book,” a liar might say “That’s not the kind of thing that anyone with integrity would do.” People who are honest use exclusive words like “but” and “without” and negations such as “no,” “none,” and “never” much more frequently. We’ve analyzed transcripts of court testimony, and the differences in speech patterns are really clear.

Function words sound like two-by-fours: They’re important but not meaningful in creating the overall architecture.

You might even think of function words as the nails. It seems natural to pay them little regard. If you type a sentence into Google, its algorithms disregard function words, because it’s interested in content. But these words convey important subtleties—“a ring” versus “that ring.” In foreign languages, function words often convey people’s status relative to one another.

Key Numbers:  Out of 100,000 words in the average English speaker’s vocabulary, function words account for only about 500, or 0.5%. Fifty-five percent of what we speak, hear, and read in typical speech, however, is made up of these function words.

If you listened to a job interview, what would the use of function words tell you?

It’s almost impossible to hear the differences naturally, which is why we use transcripts and computer analysis. Take a person who’s depressed. “I” might make up 6.5% of his words, versus 4% for a nondepressed person. That’s a huge difference statistically, but our ears can’t pick it up. But hypothetically, if I were to listen to an interview, I might consider how the candidate talks about their coworkers at their last job. Do they refer to them as “we” or “they”? That gives you a sense of their relationship to the group. And if you want someone who’s really decisive in a position, a person who says “It’s hot” rather than “I think it’s hot” may be a better fit.

The 20 Most Commonly Used Words

How do people react to your analyses of their speech?

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James W. Pennebaker is the chair of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us (Bloomsbury Press, 2011).

Spooky Judgments: How Agents Think About Danger 1

By Wray Herbert, Huffington Post

We are watching Big Brother watching us. Whatever one thinks of Edward Snowden, hero or traitor or something in between, his revelations about sweeping NSA surveillance have gotten America’s attention. His whistle blowing has raised important questions about the balance of liberty and safety, and will heighten suspicions and scrutiny of the nation’s intelligence agencies for some time to come.

We hire and train intelligence agents to weigh risks and make judgments, and most of us want to believe that these assessments are sound. But how rational are the individual men and women who are making the life-and-death decisions that influence national security?

A new study raises some serious questions about our usual view of rationality, and how it applies to intelligence agents’ judgments about risk. Cornell University psychological scientist Valerie Reyna, one of the nation’s experts on risk assessment and decision making, persuaded a federal intelligence agency to let her study agents’ thinking. She found a pattern of irrational judgments about risk. In fact, college students were better than intelligence agents at weighing danger in a technical, logical way.

Reyna actually predicted that she would see these results. She is the originator of what’s called “fuzzy trace theory,” which posits that decision makers simultaneously confront problems in two very different ways. We deliberately and painstakingly calculate risk based on the quantitative information available — like solving a math problem — but we also process, very rapidly, the simple but meaningful “gist” of the situation. Since calculation is so taxing, in time and cognitive energy, gist thinking is often the best option, especially for decisions under pressure.

Gist thinking is paradoxical. For example, study after study has shown that children tend to employ slow and deliberate calculation, but as we get older, we rely more and more on rapid, impressionistic gist thinking. Similarly, experts in fields like finance and emergency medicine come to rely more on intuitive gist thinking, the more experienced they are. This developmental “reversal” is well documented but counterintuitive, since we expect maturity and experience to improve all cognitive performance.

Based on this body of evidence, Reyna predicted such a cognitive reversal in intelligence analysts as well. She recruited volunteers from an unnamed federal intelligence agency, mostly special agents with an average of seven years with the agency. For comparison, she also recruited a group of college students and another group of post-college adults. She tested all the volunteers on a series of what are called framing problems, which assess the tendency to make risky choices. Here’s an example:

A dread disease is threatening a town of 600, and you have the authority to make choices. Do you: Save 200 people for sure, or choose the option with 1/3 probability that 600 will be saved and a 2/3 probability that none will be saved? Or, alternatively, do you pick the option where 400 will surely die, or instead a 2/3 probability that all 600 will die and a 1/3 probability that nobody dies?

These two choice scenarios are identical, except that one is framed in terms of gain, the other in terms of loss. A fundamental tenet of decision making theory is that rational people are consistent in their choices, regardless of whether the odds are framed as gain or loss. But many people switch in this scenario from risk-seeking to risk-avoiding. Fuzzy trace theory says that this is the result of focusing on the “good” gist — all saved, or none die. Even explained this way, however, it’s nevertheless a cognitively biased form of decision making — and not what one would expect in a professional intelligence agent.

But that’s precisely what Reyna found in her experiment, described in a forthcoming article in the journal Psychological Science. Based on 30 gain-loss framing decisions, not only did the federal agents exhibit larger framing biases than college students, they were also more confident in their judgments. The post-college adults occupied an interesting middle ground between the students and agents: They were as flawed in their choices as the students — sometimes more so — but less cognitively biased than the intelligence agents.

These results show that experienced intelligence agents think irrationally about risk and loss, even when human lives are at stake. If it’s any comfort, Reyna concludes that this distorted judgment is the ironic consequence of a cognitively advanced style of thinking, an intuitive style perhaps more suitable for finding meaning in the murky world of spies and counterspies.

The Science of Siblings Reply

Francine Russo, Parade Contributor

How your brothers and sisters shape your life—long after you’ve stopped sharing a room

What can Maggie, Bart, and Lisa tell us about family dynamics? Click here to find out what the experts say.

Growing up in North Miami Beach, Tobi Cohen Kosanke, now 48, adored her brother Keith. Seven years older, he was a “laid-back surfer dude,” while she was a “chubby, nerdy” little girl. Tobi knew she could never live up to Keith’s cool persona, so while he was quitting school, experimenting with drugs, and focusing on riding the next wave, Tobi threw herself into school, with her brother’s encouragement. The hard work paid off: She went on to earn her Ph.D. and become a geologist. “I hung out with the geeky kids, the good kids, the smart kids, because of my brother,” she says. “I loved Keith, and I know he was proud of me, but I owe my success to taking the road that he didn’t take.”

Tobi’s story is not unusual. Of all the factors that shape your personality—your genes, your parents, your peers—siblings are at the top, according to one major theory of human development. If you think about it, the relationships with your sisters and brothers will likely last longer than any others in your lifetime. Research shows that even in adolescence, you spend 10 to 17 hours a week with them—and experts are finding that their impact continues long after you’ve left the nest. Study after study has shown that the ways you interact with each other growing up can affect your relationships, your happiness, even the way you see yourself throughout the rest of your life.

Article continues here:  The Science of Siblings