Eric Siegel Answers Eight Questions About Predictive Analytics Reply

Eric Siegel, author of “Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die” (Wiley, 2013 –, answers these eight questions:

1. What is predictive analytics?
2. Why is predictive analytics important?
3: Isn’t prediction impossible?
4. Is predictive analytics a big data thing?
5. Did Nate Silver use predictive analytics to forecast Obama’s elections?
6. Does predictive analytics invade privacy?
7. What are the hottest trends in predictive analytics?
8. What is the coolest thing predictive analytics has done?

About the book:

This rich, entertaining primer by former Columbia University professor and Predictive Analytics World founder Eric Siegel reveals the power and perils of predictive analytics, showing how predicting human behavior combats financial risk, fortifies healthcare, conquers spam, toughens crime-fighting, and boosts sales.

The Crazy Professor and “Machine Gun Hill” Reply

By Chris Simmons

Major Gunsberg was one of my History professors when I was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). The Major taught an infamous but highly desired, year-long course called The History of Warfare. Having served two tours in Vietnam as an Infantryman, he brought an edgy, philosophical, yet confrontational style of teaching to the classroom. It was pure theater and it kept us challenged and engaged.

Every day, Major Gunsberg tormented us with the same scenario:  You are leading an Infantry unit. You’ve just been ordered to take a hilltop so well fortified it is now called “Machine Gun Hill.” It’s a daylight attack. No artillery or air support is available. The hill offers no cover or concealment, so friendly casualties will be high. It cannot be bypassed – it must be captured. Pausing long enough for the words to sink in, he would then ask:  “So, how do you capture “Machine Gun Hill?”

Every possible answer we provided was wrong. Finally, on the last day of class, he told us the secret. We had been looking at the problem too narrowly. The only way to lead our men on a charge up “Machine Gun Hill” was to give them a cause in which they could believe. When committed to a cause, Gunsberg assured us, people freely make amazing – and sometimes life ending – sacrifices.

I was reminded of Major Gunsberg years later while running interrogation operations in Iraq. Many of the lower-level terrorists we’d captured began telling us they were fighting neither for Al Qaeda (AQ) or Islam. They explained to us that they did not hate Americans or members of the coalition forces. They fought because AQ had inspired them to fight for a cause – a cause worth dying for. It was a brilliantly cost-efficient and effective marketing strategy.

AQ recruiters had begun canvassing villages where poorly or uneducated residents had long ago abandoned all hope of a better tomorrow. Focusing on the young men and women, AQ wasted no time reinforcing the hopelessness of their lives and their village. The locals had little or no formal education, no schools, no hospitals or clinics, and in all likelihood, would die an early death from diseases that are treatable or preventable in many places of the world. To the young, impressionable men and women of the village, AQ’s grasp of the obvious captured their attention because the recruiters trafficked in that dangerous emotion called hope.

Their offer was surprisingly simple. If enough of them joined AQ, they would become the saviors of their village. They would do what none of their ancestors could accomplish – provide a better life for their family and the village. If enough volunteered, AQ pledged to drill a well and build a school, or at least provide a visiting teacher on a regular schedule. Likewise, an AQ medic would provide medical care for the volunteers and their families. Once again, if enough volunteered, medical care would be provided to the entire village. In some cases, a clinic was built. Recruits were told if they died serving with Al Qaeda, their families would be taken care of for the rest of their lives. By volunteering, the young men and women became immortal in the eyes of their families and friends. The message resonated and brought in a lot of “foot soldiers” to the cause.

AQ ensured they kept hope alive by fulfilling their promises to the villagers. These recruits fought us not because they believed in AQ, but simply because it provided a better life for their family while making them village heroes.

A cause to believe in – an inspirational albeit sometimes deadly thing indeed!

The Power of Touch Reply

Touch is the first sense we acquire and the secret weapon in many a successful relationship. Here’s how to regain fluency in your first language.

By Rick Chillot, Psychology Today

You’re in a crowded subway car on a Tuesday morning, or perhaps on a city bus. Still-sleepy commuters, lulled by vibrations, remain hushed, yet silently broadcast their thoughts.

A toddler in his stroller looks warily at his fellow passengers, brows stitched with concern. He turns to Mom for reassurance, reaching out a small hand. She quietly takes it, squeezes, and releases. He relaxes, smiles, turns away—then back to Mom. She takes his hand again: squeeze and release.

A twenty-something in a skirt and blazer sits stiffly, a leather-bound portfolio on her lap. She repeatedly pushes a few blonde wisps off her face, then touches her neck, her subconscious movements both revealing and relieving her anxiety about her 9 a.m. interview.

A couple propped against a pole shares messages of affection; she rubs his arms with her hands, he nuzzles his face in her hair.

A middle-aged woman, squished into a corner, assuredly bumps the young man beside her with some elbow and hip. The message is clear; he instantly adjusts to make room.

Probing our ability to communicate nonverbally is hardly a new psychological tack; researchers have long documented the complex emotions and desires that our posture, motions, and expressions reveal. Yet until recently, the idea that people can impart and interpret emotional content via another nonverbal modality—touch—seemed iffy, even to researchers, such as DePauw University psychologist Matthew Hertenstein, who study it. In 2009, he demonstrated that we have an innate ability to decode emotions via touch alone. In a series of studies, Hertenstein had volunteers attempt to communicate a list of emotions to a blindfolded stranger solely through touch. Many participants were apprehensive about the experiment. “This is a touch-phobic society,” he says. “We’re not used to touching strangers, or even our friends, necessarily.”

But touch they did—it was, after all, for science. The results suggest that for all our caution about touching, we come equipped with an ability to send and receive emotional signals solely by doing so. Participants communicated eight distinct emotions—anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness, and sadness—with accuracy rates as high as 78 percent. “I was surprised,” Hertenstein admits. “I thought the accuracy would be at chance level,” about 25 percent.

Previous studies by Hertenstein and others have produced similar findings abroad, including in Spain (where people were better at comminicating via touch than in America) and the U.K. Research has also been conducted in Pakistan and Turkey. “Everywhere we’ve studied this, people seem able to do it,” he says.

Indeed, we appear to be wired to interpret the touch of our fellow humans. A study providing evidence of this ability was published in 2012 by a team who used fMRI scans to measure brain activation in people being touched. The subjects, all heterosexual males, were shown a video of a man or a woman who was purportedly touching them on the leg. Unsurprisingly, subjects rated the experience of male touch as less pleasant. Brain scans revealed that a part of the brain called the primary somatosensory cortex responded more sharply to a woman’s touch than to a man’s. But here’s the twist: The videos were fake. It was always a woman touching the subjects.

The results were startling, because the primary somatosensory cortex had been thought to encode only basic qualities of touch, such as smoothness or pressure. That its activity varied depending on whom subjects believed was touching them suggests that the emotional and social components of touch are all but inseparable from physical sensations. “When you’re being touched by another person, your brain isn’t set up to give you the objective qualities of that touch,” says study coauthor Michael Spezio, a psychologist at Scripps College. “The entire experience is affected by your social evaluation of the person touching you.”

Read the full article here:

Everyone Has A Price Reply

By Chris Simmons

At some point we’ve all used the idiom “Everybody has a price.” Almost certainly, it was used as a disparaging comment. In my previous life hunting spies and terrorists, it had more sinister connotations. That said, over time I began to envision this paradigm more abstractly and in doing so, understood the more benign, everyday implications of this rule. This tenet, which I call the Second Rule of Human Nature, is closely connected to Rule #1:  Self-Interest Trumps Everything. (See The Secret to Never Getting Blindsided). In many ways, it is the corollary to the First Rule.

When conducting espionage and counterespionage operations, we studied and assessed spies to understand their motivations for changing sides. Some did it for money, others sex, while a great many were volunteers who refused payment. Their motivation was more intangible. They did it out of a sense of revenge, to feed an insatiable ego, because of personal insecurities, naivety, to make amends for past misdeeds, or a sense of justice. In every case, these individuals reached a “tipping point” where they began acting upon their motives. Espionage was the price they were willing to pay.

Now transition this scenario over to our personal life. You are at your desk at work.  You’ve been a dedicated and hardworking employee for years. The firm has generously rewarded your talents. But today, out of a clear blue sky, another company offers you your “dream job.” Everything about it is perfect. As a result, you walk away from the firm in which you’ve invested your blood, sweat, and tears for so many years. The criterion – or criteria – which constituted the opportunity to follow your “dream” was your “price.”

Perhaps the best test to identify your particular price – in the professional sense – is to answer this question. If you won the lottery tonight, would you show up at work tomorrow? If the answer is no, all you are really doing at work is “marking time.” You are waiting for the right opportunity to come around so you can walk out the door. The only question is:  What are the specifics that will lead you elsewhere? What’s your price?

The Stanford (University) Prison Experiment 3

The Stanford prison experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted from August 14 to 20,1971 by a team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo at StanfordUniversity. It was funded by a grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research and was of interest to both the US Navy and Marine Corps in order to determine the causes of conflict between military guards and prisoners.

Twenty-four students were selected out of 75 to play the prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Roles were assigned randomly. The participants adapted to their roles well beyond what even Zimbardo himself expected, leading the “officers” to display authoritarian measures and ultimately to subject some of the prisoners to torture. In turn, many of the prisoners developed passive attitudes and accepted physical abuse, and, at the request of the guards, readily inflicted punishment on other prisoners who attempted to stop it. The experiment even affected Zimbardo himself, who, in his capacity as “Prison Superintendent”, lost sight of his role as psychologist and permitted the abuse to continue as though it were a real prison. Five of the prisoners were upset enough by the process to quit the experiment early and the entire experiment was abruptly stopped after only six days. The experimental process and the results remain controversial. The entire experiment was filmed, with excerpts made publicly available.

A Dog’s Perspective on How People Communicate Reply

Author Otto_cropped 

By Otto                           

One of life’s daily joys is laughing at all the people who act like I can understand anything you say.

Hello? I am a German Shepherd puppy! I have two functioning brain cells and they are focused on important things in life – like chasing cars, cats, and rabbits. I do NOT speak English!!!

That said, I am a master at nonverbal communication. When you first see me after coming home from work, you squat down and make that funny face when you speak. I know you are happy to see me and want to hug me and rub my head. I also appreciate the occasional tummy rubs.

But truth be told, I am responding to your body language and the pitch, inflection, speed, and volume of your voice. I have no idea what you are saying. When you speak, all I hear is the teacher’s voice from the old Charlie Brown cartoons (

Don’t believe me? Okay, try this. You always come home and happily say “Good Otto. Who’s my boy? What did my good boy do today?”  Tomorrow, walk in and say: “Otto you idiot. You pooped on the rug again! You are such a bad boy.” If your vocals sound the same as they do normally, I won’t have a clue that you are mocking me.

By the same token, when you yell at me to stop chewing on the cat, I’m responding to your angry sounds and gestures, not your swearing.

As a dog, I understand the importance of nonverbal communication better than most people. Our entire relationship is founded on my ability to comprehend your diverse range of messages. Your words convey the message’s content, while the nonverbal behaviors convey the intent. I am 100% dependent on the nonverbals. The amazing part is most people don’t understand their communicative success is almost as dependent on the nonverbal cues as it is for me. So, who is the dumb dog now?

Want to Know What Someone Really Thinks? Reply

By Gretchen Rubin, PsychCentral

The other weekend, I was trying to remember something I’d read in Tyler Cowen’s book, Discover Your Inner Economist: Using Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist. And I looked it up — so interesting!

Sometimes when we ask a question, we know that people might be reluctant to give a true opinion. Maybe they’re worried about angering someone else, or appearing unsophisticated, or admitting what they actually think or do. Tyler Cowen made an observation that I think is absolutely fascinating, and one that provides one clever solution to this non-disclosure problem. Click through to read what it is.

He writes:

“To get a person’s real opinion, ask what she thinks everyone else believes… If people truly hold a particular belief, they are more likely to think that others agree or have had similar experiences.

For instance, if a man has had more than thirty sexual partners, he will more likely think that such behavior is common. After all, his life is one ‘data point,’ and that data point presumably weighs heavily in his mind. Furthermore the man with more than thirty partners probably knows a higher percentage of other people with thirty partners or more. This will further encourage him to make a high estimate of how many partners other people have had…

[People] tend to assume that other people have had life histories at least somewhat similar to their own. When we talk about other people, we are often talking about ourselves, whether we know it ourselves.”

So imagine that you’re considering sending your children to a particular school. Asking your friend, “What complaints do parents have about the school?” instead of asking, “How do you like the school?” might elicit a better answer.

Or maybe you’re considering going to a particular doctor. A person might not want personally to express criticism, but if you said, “How do most patients feel about that doctor’s office?” you might hear more.

This sounds surprising, but imagine how you would answer questions such as, “Do you think most people get along well with their in-laws?” “Do you think most people cheat on their taxes?” “Do you think most people love music?” “Do you think most people go to sleep after midnight?” Isn’t your inclination to respond with an answer that’s true for you? And yet the answer doesn’t feel like self-disclosure!

If this kind of thing interests you, you might also enjoy reading about why a mirror can make you behave better, and five more tips for boosting self-control.