Tag Archives: unconscious cognitive processing

Gender-Neutral Language Associated with Greater Gender Wage Parity

Lucas van der Velde

Lucas van der Velde

Nations that use gender-neutral languages have a smaller Gender Wage Gap (GWG) than countries with clear gender differentions in their languages, reported University of Warsaw’s Lucas van der Velde, Joanna Tyrowicz, and Joanna Siwinska.

Gender-Neutral Language

Gender-Neutral Language

The team evaluated Yale linguists Benjamin Whorf and Edward Sapir’s hypothesis that linguistic categories influence perception, thinking, and behavior by examining data from the World Atlas of Linguistic Structures to determine whether the primary language spoken in a given country had a “sex-based gender system” of grammar rules like gender-specific noun and pronouns.

Benjamin Whorf

Benjamin Whorf

For example, French language links specific nouns to genders, whereas English generally uses different pronouns for men and women (“his” and “hers”) — despite the increasing use of “they” to indicate an individual of either gender, not a group of people.
In contrast, Mandarin and Finnish languages “have no system of gender identification.”

The researchers analyzed whether the primary language contained expressions that celebrate one gender while disparaging another, and compared these findings with estimates for Gender Wage Disparities (GWD) in more than 50 countries from 117 studies published between 2005 and 2014.

Benjamin Whorf

The gender wage gap may be driven by some deep societal features stemming from such basic social codes as language,” they concluded, supporting the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

Katarzyna Bojarska

Katarzyna Bojarska

Gender cues are implicitly and unconsciously used to decode a message’s full meaning in addition to its semantic content, suggested University of Gdańsk’s Katarzyna Bojarska.

She argued that when gender is not clearly specified, unconscious cognitive processing attempts to plausibly reconstruct missing gender information with non-semantic cues.

Gender Neutral Occupational Titles

Gender Neutral Occupational Titles

These findings suggest that countries that favor policies to reduce disparate earnings by gender can enable this goal by providing early training to set children’s expectations of gender equality, particularly in countries using a gendered language,

-*To what extent has your workplace adopted gender-inclusive language?

-*How does your organization’s use of gendered language relate to its wage parity practices?

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Pattern Recognition in Entrepreneurship

Steve Blank

Steve Blank

Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur (E.piphany, Zilog, and more) and Stanford consulting associate professor, argues that entrepreneurs need two types of “wisdom” or cognitive processing:

  • Pattern recognition based on a “constrain stream of data processing in the background”
  • Epiphanies that “serendipitously snap together”, outlined in Four Steps to the Epiphany.

He provides examples of pattern recognition in each of the four phases toward “epiphany” in building a business:The Four Steps to the Epiphany

  • Customer Discovery, which assesses market potential and customer preferences
  • Customer Validation, in early sales
  • Customer Creation, including strategy definition, startup launch, and iterative product  experimentation
  • Company Building, which prepares to “Cross the Chasm” in Geoffrey Moore’s model.
    Robert Baron

    Robert Baron

    Crossing the Chasm

Robert Baron of Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute echoed Blanks emphasis on pattern recognition in his Academy of Management Perspectives article,

Opportunity Recognition as Pattern Recognition: How Entrepreneurs “Connect the Dots” to Identify New Business Opportunities” which he said enables entrepreneurs to evaluate:

  • Economic value
  • Newness
  • Desirability

by comparing existing “mental models” or cognitive prototypes and real-world exemplars to new offerings.

Soren Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard

He quoted Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “…I should …wish…for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which. . .sees the possible…”

Venessa Miemis

Venessa Miemis

Venessa Miemis says that pattern recognition is a critical skill for in intelligent decision making, and cites Tor Nørretranders’s The User Illusion-Cutting Consciousness Down to Size to point out that most cognitive processing is outside of normal awareness.

In fact, his research suggests that over 99.99% of the processing in the brain happens at a subconscious level, and is therefore beyond our “control.”

Tor Nørretranders

Tor Nørretranders

She added to Blank’s description of “processing in the background” that synthesizing past
experience, intuition, and common sense and sorting out the “noise” can equip people with relative accurate “best guesses” about future occurrences.

The User Illusion-Cutting Consciousness Down to Size-Tor NørretrandersHowever, if the filter is overzealous, individuals may overlook opportunities because “cognitive dissonance” makes it uncomfortable to integrate information that doesn’t fit with an existing mental model.

Another cognitive bias is overlooking the potential impact of “wild cards” refer to low-probability, high-impact events.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced the related idea of black swans: unforeseen rare, difficult-to-predict, high-impact, rare events – such as financial crises, natural disasters.

He observed that these occurrences are often explained away when hindsight reveals individual and collective “blindness” to uncertainty and its large role in these rare historical events.
His book recent book, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, posits that randomness  enables strengthening processes under pressure and can catalyze positive change.

AntifragileHe celebrates volatility as a sign that recalibration may be more achievable than after long periods of stability enable risks to accumulate until a catastrophe.

Applied to career choices, he argues that a seemingly “secure” corporate job disguises dependency on a single employer – often an “at-will” employer, though he discounts the value of “economies of scale” in this work arrangement.

As a result, the unlikely possibility of unemployment leads to cataclysmic reduction in income.
In contrast, occupations with variable earnings, like sales or professional services, acclimates the individual to cyclic or unpredicted income reductions, and practice enables mitigation planning.

This perceptual bias impairs people’s accurate anticipation adaptation to changing.

Pattern recognition can be increased by mindful attention to thinking processes, and frequent self-reminders to scan for perceptual bias and unconscious cognitive processing.
However, other people’s unconscious cognitive processing can be an advantage for marketers, according to Douglas Van Praet, who suggests taking advantage of these via six steps to robust marketing in Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) MarketingUnconscious Branding

  1. Interrupt the Recognized Pattern
  2. Create Comfort
  3. Lead the Imagination
  4. Shift the Feeling
  5. Satisfy the Critical Mind
  6. Change the Associations
  7. Take Action.

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How to Change Habits: Jamming the “Flywheel of Society”

William James

William James

William James, father of American psychology and brother of novelist Henry James wrote in his 1890 The Principles of Psychology, “Habit is thus the enormous flywheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor.”

Though James seemed to look favorably upon the conservative element of habit, the drawbacks of thoughtless habitual actions are clear when people consume more calories than required to complete daily activities, purchase unneeded items, react with predictable emotions in contentious situations, and keep disadvantaged groups without advantages enjoyed by powerful groups.

Charles Duhigg

Charles Duhigg

Charles Duhigg’s bestseller, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, argues that habits are a significant part of most people’s daily activities – about 40% – and that even brain injured people can form habits.

The Power of HabitHe outlines the A(ntecedant) – B(ehavior) – C(onsequence) model, initiated by a cue or a trigger that signals automatic or habitual behavior.
In a novel situation, the person shifts to a problem-solving mode to develop an appropriate response — which may require creative thinking .

However, in a more typical situation, the person executes the habitual physical, mental, or emotional behavior or “routine,” which is then rewarded — often with a reduction in anxiety or discomfort.

Duhigg shows how dysfunctional habits can be analyzed for the cue, routine, and reward, then changed by modifying the antecedent, behavior or reward.

Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis

The A-B-C approach was popularized by Albert Ellis in his Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (RET), and outlined in his more than 50 books including Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy  Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Duhigg provides examples from marketing campaigns for well-known consumer products in the U.S., including Pepsodent toothpaste and Febreze air freshener.

Timothy Wilson

Timothy Wilson

Like Duhigg’s model’s reference to earlier behavior modification approaches, Timothy Wilson of University of Virginia’s Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change, adapts principles of Aaron T. Beck’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to change habitual interpretations, attributions, narratives and personal stories that lead to social problems including alcohol and drug abuse, teen violence and pregnancies, and social prejudice.

Aaron Beck

Aaron Beck

Wilson extracts and renames three empirically-validated behavioral techniques:

  • Story editing, to craft a more optimistic, hopeful story or interpretation about a situation, often using writing exercises
  • Story prompting, in which another person provides alternate, more optimistic interpretations based on data or “social proof” from  experiences in a similar situation
  • Cognitive Behavior TherapyDo good, be good, by “acting as if” the new behavior is a well-established habit, often through serving others in volunteer work.

RedirectRSA talk

Another look at habitual, even unconscious thinking in daily life is featured in a related post, Pattern Recognition in Entrepreneurship.

Douglas Van Praet

Douglas Van Praet

This discussion shares Douglas Van Praet’s guidelines to capitalize on unconscious cognitive processing and automatic buying behavior in Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing 

BJ Fogg

BJ Fogg

An earlier post, Hacking Human Behavior: “Tiny Habits” Start, Maintain Changes showcased BJ Fogg’s work on “tiny habits” as hooks to behavior change.
His approach draws on many of the same behavior modification principles featured in Duhigg’s and Wilson’s recommendations to analyze habitual cues, routines, and rewards.

-*How do you analyze and modify habits?

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Biases in Unconscious Automatic Mental Processing, and “Work-Arounds”

Leonard Mlodinow

Leonard Mlodinow

Leonard Mlodinow’s Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior reviews evidence of automatic, out-of-awareness brain processing that handles emotional experience and routine task execution, in the same vein as  best sellers by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman (Thinking, Fast and Slow) and writer Malcolm Gladwell (Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking).

Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman

All three authors outline the potential costs of rapid mental processing: error and bias in perception and decision-making, which are less present during mindful analytic problem-solving.

Mlodinow, a Physics Professor at CalTech, has collaborated with Stephen Hawking on two books, and like Kahneman and Gladwell, is a talented storyteller who explains implications of laboratory-based research on cognition and brain functioning.

Carol Tavris

Carol Tavris

Psychologist Carol Tavris discusses the cost of similar biases in cognitive processing in Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, 

Numerous studies of erroneous eyewitness testimony demonstrate that memory is constructed of fragmentary elements “stitched” together to form a cohesive narrative.
This contrasts the notion that memory is a “snapshot” replica of an event.

Opportunities for cognitive error are apparent in this Constructivist view of perception and cognition.

Most authors suggest “mindful” practices to counteract inherent biases in cognitive short-cuts, consciously focusing in present perceptions and experiences.

Mlodinow’s previous book, The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, demystifies the use of statistics in everyday life, and prepares readers with considered questions to avoid mis-judgments based on seemingly convincing quantitative data.

He demonstrates the prevalence of chance influences in life outcomes, and the pervasive illusion that people have control over many more outcomes than they actually do.

Mlodinow reminds readers that “success” and “failure” contain random influences, and “success” is more dependent on persistence and maintaining an optimistic outlook than raw ability.

-*What practices have helped you mitigate potential cognitive bias associated with rapid mental processing and cognitive “short-cuts”?

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